A blog about Hudson, New York


Sandwich Board Servings

 
unnameddoepic Anyone concerned that Warren Street might be transforming ever so slowly into a high-end shopping mall will take comfort in the sidewalk signs on the 400 block, which certainly express a personal — if not occasionally otherworldly– way of selling things. – Scott Baldinger

 

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Change We Can Believe In

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It might be hard to believe now. But there once was a time when people bemoaned the miraculous transformation of Hudson’s historic Warren Street from a nearly abandoned strip of what was considered “obsolete” old buildings to a decorative arts center so sophisticated that it became as renown as it tended to be pricey. Now some might be concerned about its changing identity from a town made up of businesses that primarily sell antiques and home furnishings to one that focuses equally on other areas of style—and food– with the arrival of so many new non-antique stores that even a daily passerby could be forgiven for not being able to keep track. The 400 block is the most glaring example.

Just in the last year we’ve seen Kosa (clothing) moving from a spot on the 500 block to 443 Warren, only now to be replaced by the newly opened Hudson Clothier. Hudson and Laight Gallery has been replaced by Cesare + Lili, “a luxe beauty bar” at 437.  Harvey’s Counter has been replaced by a boutique of scarves and shawls, fig & bella, at 443. Up a block, at 527, Savor the Taste is setting up to take the place where Mark Frisman Antiques once was. And most dramatically, Matt McGhee’s high-end, year-round Christmas store, fresh from Greenwich Village, will be taking the place of the boutique Laloon in the handsome building at 445, some time around Thanksgiving.

To this observer, although almost none of the wares at these venues seem to have been chosen with him in mind, the town’s gradual shift from its first reincarnation is far from something to be concerned about: Jane Jacobs herself addressed this issue in her essential The Economy of Cities. The major premise of her book is that one-business towns (Detroit for instance),  i.e. those that lack  diversity in their economic backbone, are far more vulnerable to distress, if not complete collapse, than those that have nurtured it.  Granted, “style” here –in whatever form– is roughly equivalent to “automobiles” in Detroit, but the ever-changing form that it has been taking recently is a sign that people are as beguiled by our town as ever, and that our motors are running smoothly.   –Scott Baldinger

Race to the Middle

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Chis Gibson, Republican            Sean Eldridge, Democrat

Mid-term elections in recent years have made Halloween genuinely ghoulish for most of the last two decades, just about ruining the holiday for me. This year is no exception, with our Republican incumbent, who votes the Tea Party line far more often than not, masquerading as a moderate and gaining substantial support from 41 percent of Democrats. Moderation is quite a  costume for the congressman. What shocks me is that this is the same area where registered Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the liberal Zephyr Teachout over Andrew Cuomo (who would be regarded as more than liberal enough by most of the nation), and they seem to have bought the Gibson act hook, line, and sinker. According to The New York Times, Democrats interviewed said they liked Gibson “because he’s down to earth,”  “a good man” and “because he’s run a positive campaign.”

Frankly I can only attribute this impression to the local public radio station, WAMC, and the obsequious treatment of Mr. Gibson by the station’s president and omnipresent host, Alan Chartock (“WAMC: all Chartock all the time”). Chartock, who is someone  I generally admire, concur with politically, and also find very annoying to have to listen to all day, is notoriously unctuous to politicians from all parties, but, during a recent interview, what he did with Gibson had me switching to Shostakovitch in a heartbeat. Essentially he let Gibson play the “reasonable non ideologue” role to the the hilt, and — at least for as long I was able to listen –not once challenged him on his voting record: no on the Affordable Care Act, of course but also anti- Planned Parenthood, abortion rights, same sex marriage and a sundry other pieces of legislation, including stopping the government altogether, just to ruin President Obama’s day. In reality, his worthy Democratic opponent, Sean Eldridge, would win any sensitivity contest, but it’s doubtful that doing so would be of any help at this point. –Scott Baldinger

Shrubs I Hate

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All too soon, we’ll be grateful for any vestige of greenery in the great — or not-so-great — outdoors. But, in the meanwhile, I can’t help feeling irked at the very sight of a few plantings “gracing” some of our public places.

The one that gets my goat every time I see it in town is the privet bush.  I’m hardly what you might call a horticulturalist, but you don’t have to be an expert to realize that this species seems to be the default botanical of the city’s public works department, and its abundance, sizing  and oddly scalped manicuring throughout two of our  parks, the one at Seventh Street  and Promenade Hill, are just too depressing to ignore. They all look as if they were  pruned by Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre rather than by Edward Scissorhands, let alone any of the legion of gifted landscapers who make this town their home and who would no doubt offer their advice and loving hands purely as an act of civic generosity, if only they were asked. In the meanwhile all I want to do is rip these mothers from their roots, particularly the ones surrounding the railroad tracks in the 7th Street Park.  Here’s one small example from which we would all benefit by taking a cue from New York City’s High Line —take pride in the tracks and stop trying to camouflage them with what now looks like a pile of sticks with some leaves attached. (As for safety, one could be sure that the sound of a massive freight train blasting its horn til your ears are popping and traveling at five miles an hour towards you, would be sufficient enough protection.)

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Another planting that is a scrunched eyesore, just by placement and lack of proper care, is not a shrub but two very shrubbish-looking cedar trees, placed on either side of the entrance canopy of the county office building, formerly the Sixth Street  School on State Street. To my mind’s eye, there should no foliage here whatsoever –the building is a remarkable enough example of the Romanesqe style to stand on its own;  in addition to getting rid of the trees and the awning, a good cleaning (and improving the now ungainly fenestration) will reveal a structure of dazzling color that will make its unique massing all the more delightful. Once properly bathed and repaired, there should be no need to dress up a building like this with anything. –Scott Baldinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dot of Art

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ArtsWalk continues again this year, and one can’t help the feeling that it’s presence in Hudson seems to diminish every year, albeit with a  number of exceptions mostly in the five and six hundred blocks.  Well we’ve always got art in spades, with more quality galleries in town than ever and effective art in nearly every antiques and home furnishings store, as well as in just about all of the town’s restaurants. No one is a better curator than the Red Dot’s Alana Hauptmann. As she does wonderfully for her bar/restaurant for nearly every holiday except Purim, Hauptmann has this year killed two birds with one stone, doing an ArtsWalk exhibition on her own and getting a leap on Halloween with some effectively bizarre yet handsome shadow boxes/assemblages by Dennis Herbert, a longtime Hudson resident. If you want to see more of Herbert’s work, you can make an appointment to visit his gallery, a converted garage at 75 North 2nd Street. The number is (518) 828-2574. — Scott Baldinger

Color My World

 

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A sign that appropriate colors for residential facades aren’t all being completely displaced by gray and black include these two (or shall we say, five ) fine examples: the Gothic Revival house at 619 Union Street (above) and the row of four townhouses at State and Sixth Streets (below), the latter of which have gone through various changes from  the (now chipping), uniformly light green of the original renovation of about a decade ago. Notice how good the gray townhouse looks in counterpoint to the yellow and white adjoining it: neutral space highlighted by the brightly positive on either side.    –Scott Baldinger

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Getting Syria

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Saint Simeon’s Column outside Aleppo. Copyright 2009 Peter Aaron

Talk about inspired real-estate staging! There are a number of examples of commercial  interests and brilliant  artistic talent combining to create works—or the display of works –that have great cultural impact: The first two Godfather movies come to mind, a big Broadway show like The Lion King perhaps, not to mention nearly every good movie every Hollywood studio ever made.  In Hudson, it took the need to rent out the beautiful ground floor space at 555 Warren Street, owned by Mark McDonald and formerly the locale of McDonald’s own store and then NP Trent, which just closed its doors, to come up with the ad hoc exhibition Under Siege: Monuments of Syria, a show of epic and now painfully relevant photographs by Peter Aaron and Lynn Davis. They were taken in 2009,  before the civil war in that besieged nation – and the destruction or severe damage of many of said monuments. (Aaron has arranged a “before and after” display on a table in the center of the room, the “after” shots taken from other sources.)

The Aaron  photographs, which are both black and white and in color, were recently on display in ArtSpace in Germantown; here, instead of being spread out over a couple of rooms next to a veterinary office, they fill out one side and the center of the grandly cavernous space in one of Hudson’s best buildings, whose walls have been painted an elegant medium tinted gray by the sponsor of the event, HOUSE Hudson Valley Realty’s James Male, beautifully offsetting Aarons’ and Davis’ images of the surprisingly photogenic nation.  (“I got a great reaction to the show in Germantown, despite it being in a defunct shopping mall next to the dump,” Aaron says.)  Davis’ hugely sized timeless black and white photographs of the Roman ruins of Syria are, as always, monuments in and of themselves; four of them more than adequately fill the wall opposite the one devoted to Aarons’ work.

The show will be open September 27-28 and October 4-5, from noon to 5 p.m, with an artists’ reception on October 4 from 5 to 8 p.m.  –Scott Baldinger

 

 

 

 

Where’s “Sid and Nancy”?

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Tonight and tomorrow  Basilica Hudson will be showing three films by director Alex Cox, including his well-known Repo Man, as well as two other works, Straight To Hell Returns and Walker,  the latter starring Ed Harris as a 19-century American soldier of fortune who became the dictator of Nicaragua. Walker was penned by Hudson’s own Rudy Wurlitzer (who is also famed for his screenplay to Little Buddha)  and both Cox and Wurlitzer will be available for extended Q&A’s.  An exciting event no doubt. Oddly missing though, considering the musical background of Basilica’s co-founder Melissa Auf Der Mar,  is perhaps the director’s most sensational effort– Sid and Nancy, about the life and sordid end days of The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious (played wonderfully by Gary Oldman) and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Choe Webb).  Just wondering….pourquoi pas?  – Scott Baldinger

 

 

Memories, Observations, Resentments

A dear Hudson fellow–  an intelligent, older but still “with it” kind of guy — recently expressed excitement about the upcoming NYC theater season previewed in this past weekend’s New York Times Arts and Leisure section. Pronouncements like these always inspire mixed feelings in me: excited interest on the one hand and, frankly,  feelings of sadness and resentment on the other, knowing that I’ll probably miss most, if not at all, of the new shows, living far enough from the source to make attending (not to mention covering for a major publication, which I used to do) too much of  a project.

So it was with some dread, and then relief, that I looked through the section. Two of the shows– revivals of The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Scott Ellis, and the great Bernstein/Comden and Green musical On the Town, directed by John Rando, are transplants of productions I had already seen (and reviewed very positively) — the first at The Williamstown Theater Festival and the second at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield.  I was fortunate enough to have seen the original production of another prominently advertised revival – On the Twentieth Century—a good Cy Coleman musical adaptation of the wonderful Howard Hawks/Ben Hecht film, Twentieth Century, as a youngin’ in 1978 . (It starred the late great Madeline Kahn, as  well as Kevin Kline, John Cullum, and even Imogene Coca and was directed, terrifically, by Harold Prince– while the new production stars Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher and is directed by the ubiquitous –and always dependable — Scott Ellis. Still, if need be, memories of the original will serve nicely.)  Ditto Hedwig and the Angry Inch (a thrilling discovery when it debuted starring its creator, John Cameron Mitchell, in 1998);  Side Show ( a stunningly dark musical about circus people that sadly flopped in its first incarnation in 1998);  and even A Delicate Balance. (The Gerald Gutteriez 1996 production of this Edward Albee play featured the luminous Rosemary Harris, plus Elaine Stritch, George Grizzard, and Elizabeth Wilson, and at the time, I thought  it couldn’t be beat; it is now being revived in a production starring Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and  Bob Balaban  —all favorites perhaps, but once again, if need be, I’m happy enough with  my memories).  The wonderful Helen Mirren, in  The Audience, playing Queen Elizabeth II once again, would no doubt be fun —but certainly feels like a retread, if not downright audience pandering. (The Queen is very available on DVD.)

Which only leaves Kenneth Lonergan’s  This Is Our Youth, Larry David’s  Fish in the Dark,  David Hare’s Skylight, Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, and older-running shows like The Book Of Mormon  and perhaps Kinky Boots to feel a twinge at the possibility of missing. Though who says I definitely will?  There’s always Amtrak and the TKTS booth—or, in lieu of that, going under the bed covers and watching Rehab Addict  — a TV show not about Lindsay Lohan  but a spunky woman who likes to restore old homes using everything original to the house,  which can –and perhaps should –be seen on the DIY network, particularly by certain individuals involved in what seems like WAAAY too many “revivals” in town.

Thinking of that today, I coincidentally ran upon this oddly phrased yet observant little sign posted on the street facing yet another suburbanized, Frankenstein-like production being patched together by Eric Galloway’s Galvan Foundation at Warren and Fifth Streets. Yes, it’s true,  I made recommendations and finally approved plans for it while on the Historic Preservation Commission, but, as theater people know, it’s sometimes hard to know how the pieces will come together until the curtain is about to rise, particularly when this “impresario” is involved –Scott Baldinger unnamed

A “Barn” Razing

Well,  no, it wasn’t exactly a barn, at least not of late, but the Cherry Alley garage of 518 Union Street, which fell victim to an electrical fire a few weeks ago. The building happened to be one of my alley faves: a tall corrugated metal structure, painted bright red and crawling with (poison?) ivy. Design-wise, I’d say it was a combination of early Frank Gehry and mid-career Morticia Adams,  and while its passing is certainly no General Worth-like loss, or anything to grieve over in particular, I do regret not having taken a photo of it while it was still standing.  (In fact, I think I did…but heaven knows where the hell it is.)

What struck me the most in recent weeks since its passing is its super-quick dismantling– so fast it seemed as if we were living in a community of hell-raising Amish all of a sudden.  By the time I had written my last blog post til this one, with quite some time in between,  the structure has gone from this (first image copyright and courtesy of Michael Weaver of the Register-Star and Columbia Page)

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to this:

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to this:

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to this:

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