What's Tony Thinking

Live from New York


We are in NYC for a week, during which I’ll join friends at Mockingbird’s Spring Conference. This link will give you a run-down on the speakers and access to streaming main talks on line. The keynoter is Esau McCaulley, a theologian who moonlights as a NYT columnist. The link is to a recent piece on so-called “Christian Nationalism.” He also writes about aspects of the African-American experience, Christianity and American culture.

I’ve been writing for the Mockingbird website for the last six months or so, and enjoying working with people who are part of it. The conference is being held at Calvary – St. George’s Episcopal Church in the Gramercy/ Flatiron neighborhood of lower Manhattan. Gotta say, NYC is looking good, Majorie Taylor Greene to the contrary.

One big difference from Seattle, very little graffiti — at least that we’ve seen. I get that some graffiti qualifies as art, but a lot of it in Seattle is just vandalism that says “urban decay.” Anyhow, we have been surprised to see how graffiti-free and generally good NYC looks. Streets and restaurants are busy. Lots of flowers, public seating areas, outside restaurant seating. The Farmer’s Market at Union Square is colorful and fragrant of flowers and baked goods. Looks like NYC has recovered well from the days of pandemic lockdown.

Yesterday we went to the 9/11 Memorial. Very beautiful, powerful and somber. I’m sure many of you have seen it. It’s kind of the reverse of the usual fountain where water jets skyward. A huge dark square, with a deeper square within, water cascading down the sides, suggesting the collapse into the earth of the towers, but the water also a sign and spring of life in the depths. Photo at right.

As others have remarked, one is struck by the diversity of the names inscribed in the marble at the rim. Like New York and America itself, the people who died there that day are from all over the world. We found it moving to be there. While I have been in NYC since 9/11, this was my first visit to the 9/11 Memorial.

In the evening we went to “Wicked,” which is till packing them in at the Circle in the Square Theater, and justifiably so. It’s a beautiful production. As well as saying some things about people who are different and sexual minorities, it seemed to me that the show was commenting on the post-9/11 era of fear and silencing in America after the attack and during the Iraq War. While the attack itself was a terrible, hideous evil, it has seemed to mark a point into our devolution as a more fearful and anxious people.

Still, and at least yesterday, the throngs of people and NYC itself seemed an affirmation of life. Walking the streets, people streaming around us, I was struck that amid so many people not a one is the same as another. As, we are told, with snowflakes, each one of us different. Perhaps a banal observation, but true and somehow heartening.

Before the show dinner at an Italian restaurant in Gramercy that seemed quintessentially New York. Owners and wait staff mostly Italian, speaking Italian. Elegant, everything from background music to table linens to pasta dishes and wine just right. The Mockingbird Conference starts this afternoon. Before then, this morning, we plan to visit the Whitney Museum and walk the new Highland along the Hudson.

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