'Tis the season of ten-best listmaking and I, for one, am nervous.
For compulsive types like me, the fact that it always falls between Christmas and New Year's makes it even worse: I'm just in the middle of making my own to-do lists of all the chores that I have put off (the dreaded receipt sorting, medical insurance chasing, address book recopying) all of which threatens to disintegrate in a keystroke if I don't renew the virus protection immediately.
If I were still in school and had to do that what-I-did-over-the-vacation essay today though, I would probably end up with a lot of head scratching. I start out gangbusters with my tasks, but into the midst of all this angst come other people's lists of things I should have seen and missed, or must see very soon or risk missing. I end up chewing eraser tips and fretting about the things not done; the road not taken.
The movies and books I've missed don't concern me as much for they will eventually appear at my exemplary local video and book stores. But what about all the museum and gallery shows, performance pieces and dance premieres that I have no way of recapturing?
I try not to read the lists until late on Sunday night so as not to ruin the entire weekend (this year, made even more complicated by Christmas/New Year's falling on Sundays). I get a mug of peppermint tea (to refresh me), a large glass of water (to hydrate as I start to hyperventilate), a package of Ghirardelli 60 percent cocoa bittersweet chips (to keep me going), at least two pads, multi-colored Post-its and two highlighters, my $6.49 paper cutter from Target and get into bed.
But on Christmas Day, I was still up reading the NY Times Book Review at 1:31 am! I not only read the reviews for the review and make lists of those books I want to read, but inevitably, the author of the review recommends four or five other books that relate to the topic at hand, and so I have to put them on the list too. So multiply this times three (LA Times, Wall St Journal) plus any magazines I've picked up in those year-end doctor visits, plus NPR, plus the personal recs of my show biz buddies who've already seen everything for award season. Exhausting.
For the LA misses, I have only myself to blame. I resolved early on this year that an hour and a half to get downtown to Redcat or Disney Hall or MOCA was easily worth the get, but I occasionally lost that battle to the couch. So, for example, I actually briefly considered flying to Paris when I discovered I had missed the entire run of the Bill Viola "Tristan" and its next and only stop was at the Opera Bastille.
For the international or New York failures though, I try to cut myself a little slack. I resolved to go to NY every other month last year. I tell everyone it's because my mother is getting on in years, but she and I both know that I run around like a frantic madwoman while I'm there and I hardly get to spend any time with her at all. We communicate by notes left on the foyer parquet since she hates her cell phone and she's apt to be out herself at the theater. It's not just that I want to see everything; I also still have that good-girl gene that compels me to accomplish it all. (No one else in my house has this disease: four sons, a husband and male dog are totally unconcerned with keeping up). Even so, I missed the Memling show at the Frick which closed this past weekend. Thus I'm filled with longing and regret.
But one of my resolutions is to be more positive this year, so in the spirit of the glass being half full, here's my list of the ten best of the things I DID do in 2005.
1. The Gates, Central Park
Whoever didn't get this amazing, collective, spirited, Orange moment is a Scrooge. All those smiling people, and it wasn't even that cold.
2. Alenka Korenjak's installation outside the Museum of Modern Art of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Ms. Korenjak had collected hundreds of pairs of shoes and boots which had been dipped in pink urethane and lined up as if the phantom patrons were waiting their turn to enter the museum. She said she wanted to comment on the exclusive/inclusiveness of this city which is in full artistic flower and which is the only major city I've seen where you can literally eat and drink right next to the river. Plus where else is legal tender emblazoned with the likeness and work of an architect (Joseph Plecnik)? Hurry.
3. Ballets Russes
The great Leon Danelian of the Ballets Russes had his Russian ballet mistress Madame Seda snap us on the legs during class with a ruler but I loved them both anyway. But the genius of this film by Geller and Goldfine is that you don't have to be an ex-dancer to fall in love with these artists. Ok all you guys that hate to go to the ballet -- give this one a chance.
4. Walk the Line
James Mangold directed the divine Reese Witherspoon. The last time I saw Reese ( I don't know her, its just that in LA we call all our local movie stars by their first name) we were on line together at the bakery and she was so pregnant and so teeny, she was ALL belly. And, bless her, unlike those queens of anorexia, she bought tons of pastry. When she shows up in this movie, she walks away with it and Johnny Cash. She's sexy and charming and can put over a song as well as the Minnelli girls and you could easily understand why he would have left that whiny first wife. Don't let everyone tell you it's just "this year's Ray". Go.
5. Ghost Ships
On July 7th, at 8: 45 am, I was on my way to Victoria Station in London to finally meet Robert McNab, the author of this sweeping, romantic, erudite book about the love triangle among Paul Eluard, Gala Eluard (who became Gala Dali eventually) and Max Ernst. After a long email correspondence, I was excited Robert had agreed to see me. His route that morning took him on the Paddington line-- he was on the train behind the first train that was struck by the suicide bombers. He's fine, but needless to say, he didn't make our meeting. Ghost ships into real ghosts. Sadly, I still haven't met him.
6. Charleston Farmhouse
The reason McNab had proposed meeting me at Victoria was that I was at last planning to travel by train to the extraordinary dwelling in Sussex that housed Vanessa and Clive Bell, Duncan Grant and the whole mish mash of their lovers, friends and children that was the Bloomsbury group. It's normally only an hour or so from London by train. That morning, terrorized and suddenly meeting-less, I got on the Lewes-bound train anyway. The commuters (who had just arrived in town but had jumped right back on the train once the announcement of the rail service suspensions came) took me under their stiff-upper lips. Miraculously, the train did leave and arrive on time and once there, I shared a taxi to Charleston with a couple from Indiana who had also decided to continue their pilgrimage to the hand-painted home that makes everyone who goes there feel they have missed a profound living experience. We spent a few hours at this bucolic remove, a surreal but welcome counterpoint to the events unfolding in the city. The three of us, feeling somber and frightened, made our way home aided by lots of wonderful British emergency workers in neon green vests. It took a total of three trains and most of the rest of the day and I eventually arrived back in Chelsea-- on foot. Re: the couple from Indiana. If you read this, please contact me. We shared the fears and the glory of England that day yet we never exchanged last names.
I love clothes and some people think I put myself together pretty well. But I was put firmly in my place by Mrs. Iris Apfel at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. The designation of "fashion-forward" didn't exist when she began wearing, not just collecting, the high-low innovative combinations of textiles and style on display. The exhibit is a complete inspiration--and artists (and people) of all stripes should see this for lessons in how to march to your own drummer.
I am not a "Desperate Housewives" junkie--I can hardly sit though a whole hour. But I watched every minute of this BBC America series about the fab four females who take the leading British soccer team and its collective male hubris down. Go girls!
9.Sant Ambroeus Restaurant
On Madison Ave. After a depressing migration to lower Manhattan, St A is BACK! Emblematic, along with Eli Zabar's E.A.T.,of a certain Upper East Side-meets-Milan world, a collective "Madonna" went round the hood when it closed. The same overpriced salads; the tufted peach coffin lining décor replaced by stripes. Heaven.
10. The Smithson Barge
I walked for a mile in the wrong direction trying to connect with Robert Smithson's posthumously fabulous floating Eden that made various stops around Manhattan island. Getting desperate, knowing that a miss that day was a miss forever, I flagged down a NYC transit mini bus that was technically only allowed to carry people in some kind of social welfare program. The driver took pity on me and took me back downtown and dropped me right by the new Richard Meier-designed apartment tower in the west village. I ran across the street to the riverside park which was filled with mini soccer stars and grownups enjoying the sunny, blustery day. I peered out into the harbor--and then spied the trees and brush that made up the bucolic temporary oasis that Smithson had envisioned so long ago. The added bonus: the marvelous tug that was towing the barge. The tug captain knew what special cargo he had and made elliptical flourishes worthy of the Indy 500 as he preened for the amazed onlookers.
Just making that list made me feel a little better. But, The Los Angeles Times, not content with having had a hand in my year-end cultural collapse, perpetuated their salt-in-my-wounds approach and published ANOTHER list on Thursday with things to do for the NEXT 52 weekends.
Tag, you're it.