New York City.
Gritty. Dazzling. Crowded. A little shabby or forlorn in places, a bit unreal in others. Oh, but it’s wonderful. Two minor vignettes from a recent trip:
After four days in NYC, I feel like I’ve caught the rhythm of the place. I’ve visited many of my favorite haunts already, so what to do?
We were sitting in the lovely lounge at the Yale Club, enjoying after-work drinks, when I spotted a discarded New York Times near our table. Odd that it hadn’t been picked up, but there it was and so I read: Forró Tonight!
The article “A Two-Step Invasion of Brazilian Energy” gave enough description of the forró phenomenon to intrigue us. So apparently this music and dance craze is sweeping the hot clubs in NYC, but what appealed to me was the description of it as the “music of maids and taxi drivers.” I can relate!
Best of all, a big show tonight. So off we go to Lincoln Center, to “Mestres Do Forró Nordestino: Tribute to Luiz Gonzaga” at Damrosch Park. It turns out that the show is a tribute to Luiz Gonzaga on the centennial of his birth.
The music is a cross between samba and Cajun, a saucy, can’t-stand-still kind of music. And since it’s Brazilian, it’s more sensual and sexier than you can imagine any accordian-fiddle-drum-triangle combo can be. Forró is danced in pairs, sometimes close and tight, sometimes wild and loose. Always joyous.
Gonzaga is the grandfather of Forró, and all the musicians seemed quite proud to be paying tribute to him and introducing his music to New York City on a hot summer night. We saw Walmir Silva, who reminded us of some of our old-boy rugby friends, and also, the extraordinary Quarteto Olinda in their first New York City appearance. Hope you’ll take a listen (here for Quartero Olina or find other forró from your favorite music site).
We join the throngs of joyous dancers under the stars. We leave, sweaty, and happy with a new beat in this grand city.
We’re leaving McSorley’s in the Village (a special place, see previous posts about McSorley’s 1, 2, and 3). We hail a cab and greeted by a young man with a handsome, round face, and a big toothy grin.
“Hello!” He greets us like old friends, completely open. “Where do you want to go?”
Grand Central Station, we say. “OK, OK,” he says, still beaming. “Where is that?”
Wha? We’re laughing now. What? You’ve never been to Grand Central Station?
“No,” he says. “You see, this is my first day on the job. I am new at this.” His English is good, but halting — he is from somewhere else. And the big smile again. “Do you know how to get there?”
I tell him, and I’d like to believe he learns at least a couple of the major thoroughfares on the way. He gets us there safely, and we give him a healthy tip and wish him luck in his new job. I can still see his face smiling back at us; he’s positive that all will be well.
I worry about him later, but then I think of his smile and his attitude.
He will do fine.