I spent a few days in New York City earlier this month for the final presentation of a student team I was advising in the Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness in Latin America program at Columbia Business School, and took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a couple of the activities I loved most when I used to spend a lot of my time in the city (in those days I still worked at Lehigh).
I ended up catching three performing arts events, two from the Mostly Mozart festival in its closing weekend and a Broadway show. The All-Mozart program on Saturday August 11 in the David Geffen Hall was supposed to be sold out but I was tremendously lucky to land a ticket that a patron had returned, just twenty-four hours before the performance. This had me sitting very close to the stage and with a perfect view of pianist Stephen Hough's hands on the Steinway piano during the concerto part of the program (I love the piano and observing a pianist's hand is one of my favorite activities when I attend a recital).
I returned to Lincoln Center the following day for the Mark Morris Dance Group in the Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hal. In between the two, I dropped by the Ethel Barrymore theater on 47th St for a matinee of the Tony-winning Band's Visit. I also had time to swing by the Rubin Museum of Art for its spellbinding exhibition on the Second Buddha. The Rubin Museum of Art was always one of my "special places" when I used to be in NYC a lot and it gave me great peace to be able to return. (One thing I didn't have time to do that Sunday was getting lunch, but the breakfast at Nice Matin was delicious and I had a wonderful dinner at Sweetgreen and great cortado and conversation at the Irving Farm Coffee Roasters on the Upper West Side.)
My favorite moments were Stephen Hough playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No 21 with Louis Langree conducting the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, "Love Song Waltzes" by the Mark Morris Dance Group, and every single moment of the Second Buddha exhibition at the Rubin. My least favorite moment was sitting through the 90 minutes of the Band's Visit, which I found mediocre. There is no character development and for a play about an Egyptian police orchestra stranded in a small town in Israel, one would at least expect some sort of increased understanding between two peoples at loggerheads by the end of the play. Instead, the main female character (the Israeli bar owner) vaguely chats more with the Egyptian orchestra conductor before it emerges she's having an affair with a married man, whom she is very upset to see with his wife (well, it's his wife, isn't it?), and then has a one-night stand with one of the other musicians in the Egyptian band. What in the world. People don't change, people don't grow, it is a play with music rather than a musical and why did I just waste one hour and a half of my life staring at this? The music was beautiful, but there is no doubt the Band's Visit wouldn't have garnered so many awards if it had faced stronger competition that year.
Anyway, a funny thing happened while I was in New York. I realized I didn't care about moving there anymore. Maybe I will some day, maybe I won't, but it is not one of my goals anymore. It used to be, when I worked in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and yearned for more culture in my life, more art, more theater, more literary events, more of everything that I like in life. Now that I have found all of that in Dallas, with its outstanding and abundant cultural events, I don't need New York City to fulfill that drive in me. Dallas is a lot more convenient to navigate as well, more affordable, and I find myself in awe of the amazing programs at venues such as the Dallas Museum of Art for its Arts & Letters series, the SMU Meadows School of Art for its performing arts events, the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture for its literary discussions, and of course the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Opera for their wonderful concerts and productions, all of them within 5-7 minutes drive of my home and with an extra 5-7 minutes if I come from work. It doesn't get any better than that. I don't know what life has in store for me - maybe I will stay in Dallas and maybe I won't. But as far as culture is concerned, Dallas has fulfilled my wildest dreams and some. I don't need to dream of moving to New York City anymore.