Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria

Columbus proudly stands over his vessels

Dear Postcards from New York Reader,

Three tiny ships that changed the world; See them floating on the pedestal standing in the center of always-busy Columbus Circle.

High above them, their great Admiral Cristoforo Colombo looks over the horizon, intent and resolute, the way one imagines he once looked over an endless sea of water from the deck of the Santa Maria. Hand on his hip, his lucca (long coat) below his knees, leggings, and balloon trousers, long locks under his cap, even today he is a commanding presence.

When Constantinople (present day Istanbul) fell to the Turks in 1453, all the land routes to India and China, in use from the days of Marco Polo, were suddenly lost. European kings, queens, merchants, nobles and townspeople anxious for markets and eastern products, made new trade routes imperative. 1488 saw Portuguese sailors successfully circle Africa's Cape of Good Hope, while Colombo sought a western route, against all odds and at great peril.

What made this voyage so adventurous? For millenniums, ships navigated the Mediterranean almost always close to the shoreline or within a day's sight of land. When the Portuguese circled Africa, however rugged the journey, they were never far from the coastline. Colombo's crews saw nothing but water for more than 30 days! Any wonder their panic increased with each passing day. Several times, they threatened mutiny.

The captains of the Nina and the Pinta secretly prepared to turn back. With his life in danger, Columbo resigned to abandon his mission on October 11, and decided to turn the ships around. Then, in the early hours of the 33rd day, the cry came from the lookout on the Nina, (Rodrigo de Triana), "Tierra! Tierra!" (Land! Land!)

With Colombo's "discovery" of the New World, modern history begins. The Atlantic would soon overshadow the Mediterranean's former trade dominance.

The Columbus Day Parade and a special exhibit in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station through October 13*, give us special reason to pause and acknowledge Colombo's and other Italians many significant contributions to our history. Amerigo Vespucci gave his name to two continents. Giovanni da Verrazano, Fiorello LaGuardia, Mother Cabrini, Maria Montessori are others we remember, to name just a few.

For Kids

After the Parade, make it a day; Take the Staten Island Ferry and visit the Garibaldi Meucci Museum.

On a personal note, I pause to remember that centuries ago the name Cable ended with a "z", Cablez. Colombo, thinking he had reached islands off the coast of India and China, named almost all the islands of the West Indies. St. Kitts, a particular favorite, was named for his patron saint, St Christopher. This is the home of my paternal ancestors, and in the 1780's, my family founded the first newspaper on the island, The St. Christopher Star.

GĂ©rard Depardieu's stirring portrayal of Colombo gives us some sense of his many trials during his great discovery in 1492 - Conquest of Paradise.

Jacqueline Cable
For Postcards from New York

* Do not allow the week to pass without visiting the sumptuous exhibit of Italy's many beautiful regions at Grand Central Station. There are exquisite Vespa's and Maserati's on display begging to be driven.

Address to Remember: Columbus Circle, New York, New York 10019.

Directions: From Times Square, MTA 1, A, C, E, to 59th Street, or M10 or M104 Bus to 59th Street.

Photo by Joseph Knight

©Copyright 2007 The Cable Group

Monday, October 1, 2007

Invitation to the Dance

Juilliard Dance

Dear Postcards from New York Reader,

To the beat of cheery, sun-drenched music in Twyla Tharp's "Deuce Coupe" (inspired by the Beach Boys) these brightly clad dancers dazzled a sold-out standing room only crowd at the New York City Center last Wednesday evening to kick off the annual Fall for Dance Festival.

This not to be missed, once a year event features a vast and exciting mix of some of the world's best known, and little known dancers, dance companies and choreographers. Best of all, the tickets are offered at the amazing price of $10 for every seat in the house!

Fall for Dance is a rare opportunity to see, be inspired and delighted while experiencing a wide and varied range of dance forms; From classical ballet (Kirov, New York City and the Royal Ballet of Flanders), modern dance (Paul Taylor, Juilliard, Armitage Gone), tango and Latin (Ballet Hispanico and Mariela Fanganillo), tap (10 Foot 5), African (Kyle Abraham and Urban Bush Women) and Hip-Hop (Via Katlehong and Compagnie Kafig), there is something for every dance enthusiast.

Every year sees new additions to the already exploding number of dance companies throughout the country and the world. It has become impossible to stay on top of the latest choreography, the newest dancers and developments in this ever-evolving art form.

Seize the moment; you have a choice of 28 companies performing through October 6. Discover which styles of dance and which companies you enjoy most; Then mark your calendar to see how much more intriguing they are when they return for their season performances at the Joyce Theatre, City Center, Juilliard and Lincoln Center.

Fall for Dance is your invitation to the exhilarating, mesmerizing and always beautiful world of dance.

For Kids

At $10 a ticket, there is no better way to introduce youngsters to the "art" of dance. If they become restless, or don't like it, you will not feel quite so bad about leaving early.

Jacqueline Cable
For Postcards from New York

P.S. Yes, the shows are sold out, but have no fear. Join the waiting line for cancellations; It's long, but worth the wait. Bring something to read. After all, waiting in line, for movies, baseball tickets, theatre tickets, and the annual chocolate show is a New York pastime in itself.

Address to Remember: New York City Center, West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.

Directions: From Times Square: MTA A, C, and 1 to 59th Street Columbus Circle, N, R, Q and W to 57th Street and 7th Avenune, E to 53rd Street and 7th Avenue, short walk to theatre.

Photo by Stephanie Berger

©Copyright 2007 The Cable Group