Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Low Country, High Culture

It's been an exciting, busy few days. Last Wednesday was one of those fantastic New York evenings. It started with a quick spin through the "Drawing Connections" exhibition at the Morgan Library. An interesting and ultimately successful concept, and I clearly need to brush up (read: learn anything at all) about Mannerism. Luckily, I was just given a new book about that subject, so I can delve right in!

After uncustomarily eschewing a cocktail I headed over to Lincoln Center to hear an all-Tchaikovsky program. My new friend, Johannes Moser, the cello soloist that evening, was good enough to comp me a ticket. The concert started with a selection from Swan Lake, and the first piece was the Intro to Act II, which is in my opinion some of the most heart-rendingly beautiful music ever written. The strings were luscious, the harpist flawless, and the brass did an excellent job. I liked Maazel's conducting even better than I do Seiji Ozawa's on the recording I have. Johannes played the Rococo Variations splendidly. He embraced the Mozartean aspects of the piece (that wonderful, playful ask-and-answer achieved by one instrument in this case), and then transitioned flawlessly into the extremely Romantic sections without letting them get sappy. Fabulous playing, and he couldn't be a more down-to-earth, nicer guy. But don't just take my word for it--read the review.

The next morning I was up bright and early to fly into Atlanta, where my good friend Rutledge picked me up and we headed out to Savannah, she to her conference and me to sight-see. Savannah really is a beautiful town, and the architecture and old-growth tree-lined streets are truly charming. And so much history. I was kind of sleepwalking, and I only had a little time, so there definitely needs to be a return visit. We then headed out to Beaufort, South Carolina to visit our dear friends Don and Selene, who have a Low Country house on Lady's Island. That is one beautiful part of the country: again, I just am a sucker for those mammoth oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. The quiet stillness, the way the sun dapples the calm water as it wends its way among the marshes--fantastic.


L to R: (Don, Marilyn, Selene, Rutledge, Charlie)

And, as usual, Don and Selene are the hosts with the most. They arranged a low-tide kayaking tour, and we saw egrets and ospreys diving for fish in the river, saw fritternaries with Monarch butterfly-like wing patterns, a male blue crab (a "Jimmy") who had just mated with a female (a "Betty") and had clasped her to him to protect her while her shell was soft and she was vulnerable to predators, oysters, and shrimp.
We got to enjoy some fresh-caught crabs from the traps attached to their dock as well. After our other good friend, Marilyn, arrived, the trip also included a tour of downtown Beaufort, which was an extremely wealthy community ever since Colonial times and had the old mansions to prove it, and then an evening boat ride to dinner where we saw a bonnet-head shark and a playful dolphin, who accompanied us part of the way to the meal. Excellent food (including my unfortunate discovery of the delicious glazed cinnamon biscuits made by Hardee's--if I lived in the South I'd weigh about 20 pounds more thanks to those) and even better hospitality.

Last night, my friend Declan Kiely, a curator at the Morgan Library (they have so many events going on these days!) gave an interesting behind-the-scenes talk about some of the great items in their collection, including a fragment of the first trans-Atlantic cable, a letter from George Washington (and information about an early system of copying handwritten letters and his concerns about preventing forgeries), materials relating to the attempted assassination of J.P. Morgan, Jr. and the consummated assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday (with some great, pithy quotes), correspondence from Hitler (mainly for the watermark), and other items. Fascinating. It's just such a stimulating place to be.

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