Monday, May 18, 2009

Post 19: New York State of Mind

Sunday, May 17, 2009: I’m sitting in my small room at All Soul’s College, Oxford, thinking about my long stay away from NY, and especially the last few days. All Souls provides past visiting fellows a room for the night several times a year when in town. I’m in Oxford for the night visiting Milo, whose college, Merton, is just a few minutes away on foot. This is the tail end of a trip that started early Thursday morning and that is the beginning of the end of my mini-sabbatical away from New York.

I took the Eurostar from London to Paris, and met up with Nancy. We had a nice afternoon at Musée du Quai Branly looking at the amazing collection of primitive art from around the world. We then had a lovely meal at Le Petite Cour, which I highly recommend. Wonderful setting, tasty food, and not too pricey. Friday started at the Pantheon in the morning. After lunch we went our separate ways for a few hours before rendezvousing to spruce up for the Fyssen Foundation Award presentation that evening. This year’s recipient was Simha Arom, a musicologist who brought in African drummers to make some interesting points about rhythm. We then made our way to Al-Dar, a very nice Lebanese restaurant in the Latin Quarter.

On Saturday, while Nancy visited contemporary art outposts I spent Saturday at the International Symposium sponsored by the Fyssen Foundation. The topics were wide ranging and fascinating explorations from anthropology, evolution, molecular biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. Each talk was cutting edge in its filed, and the day was stimulating and challenging.

There is no way to describe the Foundation’s 30th anniversary party Saturday evening other than, “ooo la la.” The event took place in the Hall of Evolution at the Natural History Museum. The hors d’ourves came in a trio of glasses stacked one on top of one another-- the waiter provided detailed instructions about how to proceed. The main course then appeared, also in a kind of vertical presentation with 2 roasted quail legs adorning a slab of foie gras which rested above some sort of artichoke concoction. Finally, the “surprise” dessert appeared. Dozens of waiters came out in a line, each holding a glass covered tray with a glowing white ball on top. The ball, which looked like it was filled with radioactive milk, and cover were removed to reveal several softball size dark chocolate balls, one of which ended up in front of each guest, along with some raspberry sauce around it on the plate. The waiter then poured warm chocolate sauce over the edge of the ball. As he snapped his fingers, a hole opened in the top oaf the ball, revealing a bed of mixed berries inside. It was a wonderful experience all around. Merci beaucoup to the foundation for a wonderful weekend.

When I get back to Cambridge I have to start looking towards NY. It’s been a fabulous 6 week stay in Europe, but it’s time to get my mind back on my life in New York. So the song of the day has to be Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind. I don’t have it yet, but will by Saturday.

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