Welcome to another installment in the weekly New York State of Mind Amoeblog in which I run down such things as Leonard Cohen taking Manhattan and other concerts and events around the five boroughs in the week ahead, including a free Saturday afternoon performance in Flushing, Queens by The Toomai String Quartet. I also report on Macy's exquisite South Asian themed floral garden (photos left, above, and below), which offers the perfect meditative escape for those who need a breather in busy midtown Manhattan. Also offered is a look at a hip-hop fanatic's cool homage to New York City-themed raps, plus the (futile?) search by ever-hopeful homeless New Yorker Mary Lou for her lost cat Simon.
What is most striking about the ongoing The Painted Garden: Macy's Flower Show, which effectively captures the landscapes of southeast Asia with lush displays of tropical flora and is on exhibit in a long wide tent set up in Herald Square (6th Ave & 34th Street) outside its flagship store, is how peaceful and meditative it is...provided you arrive early in the day (it opens at 10am) before the crowds arrive and get inside this greenhouse filled with gorgeous lush floral displays with Southeast Asian motifs, soothing water fountains, and a hypnotic soundtrack of traditional Indian flute music playing on the overhead speakers. Even though you are in hectic midtown Manhattan, you can forget that while inside this lovely space. I stopped by the other day when the wait to get in was only a few minutes and the cost: free. Note however that the flower show runs everyday from 10am to 9pm through Sunday, April 7th in Broadway Plaza, Herald Square outside Macy's.
The above official-looking metal sign is one of about thirty custom made signs, each bearing lyrics from well-known NYC rappers' hip-hop songs, that NYC born and raised rap fanatic Jay Shiels recently had manufactured and strategically placed in the vicinity of each NYC location referenced in the corresponding hip-hop hit (all on his own dime). Fittingly titled Rap Quotes, this self-described "homage to New York hip hop" is the latest project by Shiels who, two years ago, installed his Metropolitan Etiquette Authority street sign project around town. For this latest project, the lifelong hip-hop fan has painstakingly matched exact locations of song lyrics with places to put up his signs. This included such spots as the Harlem intersection of 139th Street and Lenox Ave. (see above), which references the late, great Harlem rapper Big L's song "Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous" - the title track of his 1995 debut album. Other NYC rappers immortalized in the Rap Quotes project include Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Mos Def, and GZA. Since Shiels recently mounted his unique signs, some have mysteriously gone missing overnight which, according to one local news report, is not surprising. "I knew people were going to steal them," he told one local paper. More info and updates by following Shiels on Twitter@TheRapQuotes.
Next week MAC, one of my fellow WFMU DJs who programs the wonderful weekly Antique Phonograph Music Program and plays music exclusively off of old antique cylinder and phonograph players, will be appearing at the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in the ongoing series Rhapsodic City: Music of New York. The series is "devoted to exploring some of the unique musical stories of the 20th century." At the NYC history themed event, he will dig into his deep historic collection to play a set of prohibition-era 78s off of two phonograph players. The second half of the two-hour performance will be broadcast live on WFMU. 7pm to 9pm, Tuesday April 9th. No cover. More information here.
Above are two video versions of Leonard Cohen's great song "First We Take Manhattan" - one by Jennifer Warnes from 1987 on her album Famous Blue Raincoat: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, and the other by the artist himself a year later on his album I'm Your Man. Only the Paula Walker-directed video for Warnes' version was filmed in New York City. The video features Stevie Ray Vaughan playing his trademark guitar on the Brooklyn Bridge and also features a silent cameo by Cohen himself. Hopefully Leonard Cohen will perform this song in his sets when he performs two anticipated weekend shows in the Big Apple at Radio City Music Hall - Saturday and Sunday (April 6th & 7th) at 8pm. Tix are pricey ranging from $70 to $250. Radio City in midtown Manhattan is located at 1260 Sixth Ave. More info here.
Other shows and concerts in the week ahead include The Black Crowes at Terminal 5 at 8pm on Friday April 5th. (Tix $60 - more info), and hot new Australian rock quartet San Cisco who play the Bowery Ballroom on Monday, April 8th at 8pm. Tix are $15. More info here. The Carnegie Hall / Weill Music Institute presented free neighborhood concert series show out in Flushing, Queens this weekend by The Toomai String Quartet. Concert is at 2pm on Saturday April 6th at the Queens Library in Flushing at 41-17 Main Street (near 41st Ave.). More info here.
Finally I leave you with a story sure to tug on your heart strings at least a little since it is about the (most likely) futile search by this sweet homeless lady name Mary Lou for her lost cat Simon. Back at the beginning of the year Mary Lou lost Simon - or rather was stolen from her - about seven blocks north of the location she currently calls home: a tidy encampment of her belongings neatly parked under the awning of the 7/11 on 8th Ave. near 25th Street in the Chelsea district of Manhattan. Mary Lou, who is an artist and subsists on the generosity of folks who purchase her hand-painted pieces of art (some of cats), inherited her feline companion last summer from a friend who had passed on, she told me in the short video clip below. She is offering a reward ("a mobile phone case") to anyone who finds Simon who, she told me, she will not stop posting lost cat signs for "until I get him."