August 30, 2011

Indiafest 2011

On Sunday, August 7, I headed over to the Huntington Hilton for an event called Indiafest 2011 presented by the India Association of Long Island. By the time I arrived at the hotel (mid-morning), the parking lot was already jammed and I could see people walking about everywhere dressed in colorful saris and salwar kameezes. I stepped into the lobby to find it lined with vendors selling clothing, jewelry, food, religious items, as well as many booths specializing in Mehndi (the art of applying henna to the skin as a temporary tattoo).

I wandered through the makeshift bazaar, stopping often to sample food or to check out some imported goods, and made my way down the Hilton's packed corridors to the main ballroom. The stage set up there showcased a program of traditional Indian dance and music acts. With no seats available, I found a spot to stand along the rear wall where I waited for the next feature, a Fashion Show by International Fashion Designer Sushma Patel. After a few local politicians hogged up the lectern with thirty-plus minutes with incessant pontification, the runway models were finally introduced and sashayed on to the stage amid bright spotlights and lively dance beats. While fashion really isn't one of my interests, I did very much enjoy the experience of seeing such an elegant and beautiful display. Very exotic!

I was so inspired by the sights and sounds of Indiafest that I headed directly from the Hilton to the Kirin Palace for a meal of curry, naan bread, and a drink of Mango Lassi. Namaste!

"Command those who are rich in this present world
not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain,
but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything
for our enjoyment."

~1 Timothy 6:17


August 25, 2011

Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium

Most of the weekends this August have been a bit rainy, but I haven't let that dampen my adventurous spirit. A few Sundays ago, I grabbed my umbrella and headed out to the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport. 

The Vanderbilt museum consists of a large grounds with a stately mansion, carriage house, marine museum, pristine gardens, and, of course, the planetarium. There is also a plan afoot for the restoration of the Normandy Manor, the original caretaker's cottage. When unveiled in September of this year, the manor will serve as the museum's Design Show House. The entire property is surrounded by a great stone wall. As you pull into the gates, you ride through two pillars with a huge wrought iron eagle perched on each one. There are a lot of cobblestone paths that lead to the various sites; the cobblestones are very charming, though a little bit hard to walk on until you get used to it, especially in the rain. I soon found out that I chose to visit the Vanderbilt at a good time as the Planetarium would soon be closing for extensive renovations and upgrades.

The first thing I did was to take the mansion tour. William Vanderbilt was a prominent scientist/adventurer. His house was constructed in the 1930's during the depression era. Grand in every sense of the word--beautiful architecture at every turn, smooth limestone walls in the foyer, ornate woodworking, an organ room that featured pipes that run from the vaulted ceiling to the floor (about twenty feet in length) covered by a great tapestry--the type of place where you can see the time and care that went in to every grain of wood, every stone. Mrs. Vanderbilt had a walk-in closet that was larger than most living rooms, it was able to hold our entire tour group (over 15 people) with ease. She had a separate dressing room, its walls were made up entirely of over-sized mirrors, so she could check her appearance from every angle. The bedrooms were absolutely palatial. The Vanderbilt home housed 35 servants and had many different wings and floors, including a trophy room and 2 kitchens. The breakfast room window lent a perfect view of the Long Island Sound, over-looking Northport Harbor. There were several sailboats cradled on the swells, just an idyllic and serene setting. I stared out of the window, allowing my imagination to transport me back to that time and I dreamed of what it must have to been like to actually live in such a house...

In the basement of the mansion, we find evidence of Mr. Vanderbilt’s love of car racing. Many old photographs adorn the walls and miniature models are set up to depict racing scenes. In the attached garage, we can even view Mr. Vanderbilt’s car. One poignant story tells of how Mr. Vanderbilt's son was killed during an auto racing accident. Mr. Vanderbilt was devastated and immediately began building a trophy room to honor his son's memory.

Certain areas of this complex are set up to be viewed as museum exhibits, showcasing mammals, marine creatures, dinosaurs, and some historical artifacts. One room had a miniature model of the entire mansion depicted in great detail. Very fascinating.

On the opposite side of the grounds is the Vanderbilt Planetarium. The lobby of the building is set up with many exhibits dedicated to space and science. The hallways are lined with beautiful photographs of nebulae and constellations. The focal point is an 8-foot high model of the moon (in intricate detail) that rotated on an axis. I bought a ticket for the laser show in the planetarium theater. The show featured music from Broadway and movies. I reclined comfortably in my theater seat and stared up at the domed ceiling as the Phantom of the Opera washed over me. The laser show illuminated the faux sky above me like a psychedelic ballet and I just relaxed and drifted away on the experience. It was heavenly; I can hardly wait to see what the new and improved planetarium will offer next year. :)

“Riches won’t help
on the day of judgment,
but right living can save you from death.”

~Proverbs 23:4-5


August 20, 2011

Bob Dylan/Leon Russell

Question: What is it like to see a living legend in concert at the Nikon Theater at Jones Beach on a warm August evening with the full moon reflecting off of the Atlantic Ocean in the background?

Answer: Magical.

Bob Dylan. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24 of 1941. Singer/songwriter. Musician. Poet. Political satirist. Voice of the 1960s. An artist that I've always wanted to see. Last Saturday evening, the 70 year old icon took the stage before an audience that was about two-thirds full. It took me a while to get into this concert as it started off very slow and mellow. Bob was off to the side of the band standing at a keyboard looking almost immobile, his voice gravelly and a bit hard to understand. With the crowd being so sparse, I decided to take a walk around the theater. Soon, I heard the lyrics to "Tangled Up In Blue" and I had to stop where I was to dance in the aisle. By the time Dylan had emerged from behind the keyboard and was ripping on his harmonica, my ear had ironed out the sound and the concert had won me over. For the rest of the evening, I was dancing and trying my best to sing along with Bob (not an easy task, Live Dylan is drastically different from Recorded Dylan).

The band was tight and dynamic. It was a great set that included many classics like "Highway 61 Revisited," "Ballad of a Thin Man," "Like a Rolling Stone," and the anthem "All Along the Watchtower." If there was one thing that I missed, it was the familiar sight of Bob Dylan strumming on his acoustic guitar; opting to play mostly electric guitar or keyboards, he never touched an acoustic. This was not a mind-blowing concert by any means, but it was a fun, feel-good type of night and it definitely prompted me to rediscover a few of Dylan's classic albums.

Warming up for Dylan was Leon Russell. Revitalized by his recent collaboration with Elton John, he brought a gritty, bluesy style of music to the venue. With a voice reminiscent of Willie Nelson and an appearance somewhere between Walt Whitman and Santa Claus, Russell jammed through a set that featured quite a few cover songs: The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," B. B. King's "Hummingbird," Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven," among others. A highlight for me came when the guitarist showed off some great Robert Johnson-esque stylings. I wasn't familiar with any of Leon's original material, but the group had a good sound--ideal for a Jones Beach night that would end with Bob Dylan. Much enjoyed!

"Shout for joy to the Lord,
all the earth."

~Psalm 100:1