David Hockney could paint your grandmother’s cat and it would be a masterpiece you’d pay $37 million for if she had a cat and you had $37 million.
We went to New York recently. After four days, most people say the same thing: “I’m glad I was there and happy to come home.”
If you didn’t — go and come home — within a week, most of us would be sleeping on a vent. It might be a nice vent, a warm vent, but a vent nonetheless.
New York is not expensive. Not if you’re gloriously rich or if you buy the airline tickets using credit card miles, stay with friends and don’t dare do it again for five years or until your credit card balance loses its radioactivity.
New York is about compression. Packing it in. Walking, seeing, talking, eating, being dazzled, entertained and stimulated. All in one epic New York day, epic days being a New York speciality.
We started our first day with the David Hockney exhibit at the Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Calling it the Met makes you sound as if you’re a sustaining member and listed on the wall in gold filigree right underneath the Keck Foundation.
I didn’t know much about the English-born and longtime L.A. resident Hockney except that his name was fun to say. You can roll “hock” from the back of your throat and if you say it with enough throat English, bystanders should be diving out of the way.
The smart aleck second-grader inside of me disappeared as we walked through the rooms hung with the Hockneys.
The paintings were so wonderful, colorful and fun I didn’t want to leave. People were smiling, laughing and having the time of their New York lives. When do you see that in a museum? Usually museum-goers have pained expressions on their faces as if they swallowed a bug and washed it down with pond water.
The Hockney exhibit was like being invited to a party on the beach and finding it included a clambake, pina coladas served in coconut shells and comfortable chairs on which to sit and watch a surprise fireworks show.
You definitely wanted to be Hockney’s friend because if you were, he probably painted you. If you weren’t his friend, the next best thing would have been to come back as a swimming pool, a diving board, a pair of sandals, the Grand Canyon, a naked person, the ocean, a Beverly Hills housewife, Mount Fuji or Mulholland Drive, because he painted those too.
Every painting was a showstopper. If I had been a painter — and my art career peaked in first grade with my astounding palm and leaf paintings — I’m not sure whether the Hockney display would have inspired me to greater heights or inspired me to greater heights so I could jump.
His last paintings were from 2017. Hockney is 80 years old and still painting. So much for early retirement.
We spent 90 minutes there. Usually, after 90 minutes, it feels like you’ve taken the SAT test.
This was different. Rather than exhaustion, it was a feeling of being pleasantly sated. As if we had eaten, but not overeaten. It was like having some good sushi, a side of tempura and rice candy for dessert.
The day was young. Hockney would have been a good week anywhere else but New York wasn’t anywhere else. After plowing through some mighty meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots and peas at a diner (Sue had a sensible salad), it was time for Springsteen on Broadway. This is Bruce Springsteen's one-man show (two if you include his wife, Patti Scialfa, who joins him for two numbers) at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
Although he sings a few songs in service of the narrative, this is not a concert but rather biographical sketches of growing up in New Jersey, including the difficult relationship with his father, the good one with his mother, playing in bars, VFW halls, supermarket openings and for anybody who would have him. He talks about blowing town and vowing never to return (sound familiar?). Springsteen came home and lives 10 minutes away from where he grew up.
His show is about making promises, breaking promises, building a life that has all of life’s richness, sadness and joy.
“I’m a fraud,” he said at the beginning. “I’ve never worked in a factory, been in a factory, or even held a job, yet many of my songs are about that. Don’t believe a word I say.”
Springsteen is both ruthlessly careful with language and lyrical. When Clarence Clemons, his longtime friend and saxophonist died, he said, “Losing Clarence felt like losing the rain.”
Two hours and 20 minutes, no intermission. No one moved. When the show was over, no one wanted to move.
It was funny, touching, joyous, entertaining and sad, but never sad enough to give up:
“We can meet in the land of hopes and dreams.”
New York can be a reminder. A reminder that life is rich, life is worth living and it makes sense to compress and live as if it were your last epic, New York day.