Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

End of an Era—or Just the Beginning

MOVING INTO 21st CENTURY REALTIME CORNER FOR IWSGers or
If your [writerly] past calls, don’t answer

Picasso's fragile crystal 20x20 ft curtain "le tricorne" greeted Four Seasons' diners until sold for a queen's ransom

Picasso’s fragile crystal 20×20 ft curtain “le tricorne” greeted Four Seasons’ diners until sold for a queen’s ransom

The Four Seasons—New York’s world-famed dining emporium-par-excellence at 52nd Street and Park Avenue changed the face of Midtown dining, as did Mies van der Rohe’s magnificent Seagram building, built in 1958, with panache and display more suited to High Empire. The building’s frontage made ‘scandalous’ display of a grand plaza and fountain on Park Avenue’s precious real estate frontage.

Mies van der Rohe's 1958 Seagram Building of 35 stories, with the Four Seasons on its mezzanine floor

Mies van der Rohe’s 1958 Seagram Building of 35 stories, with the Four Seasons on its mezzanine floor

The Seagram Building quickly became an icon of the growing power of the corporation, that defining institution of the twentieth century. In a bold and innovative move, the architect chose to set the tower back from the property line to create a forecourt plaza and fountain on Park Avenue which revolutionized Uptown architecture.

Mies van der Rohe, an adoptive American from the European Bauhaus school of architecture which enlivened German and British design after the drudgery of two wars, completed the building with his own interior design—lobby, elevators, individual furniture, lighting and trademark leather chairs on every office floor, asking his assistant Philip Johnson—architect on the contemporaneous Guggenheim Museum two blocks away, to go wild in creating the restaurant.

Craig Claiborne, then food editor of The Times, reviewed the Four Seasons two months after its July 29, 1958 opening.

“Both in décor and in menu, it is spectacular, modern and audacious, perhaps the most exciting restaurant to open in New York within the last two decades.”
Craig Claiborne

Even Mr Claiborne was impressed by the Park.Ave. Lobster Mousse and Salmon belly flown in from the River Spey!

The Four Seasons cost $4.5 million to open, nearly $40 million in today’s dollars. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which opened the same year, cost $3 million. The restaurant closed with an auction of its valuable Jackson Pollock and Joan Miró art last week, 58 years after the day it opened.

Go, wondrous creature, mount where Science guides
Go, measure Earth, weigh air and state the tides
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run
Correct old Time and regulate the Sun
Alexander Pope 1733


OPULENCE OF NATURE—Do We Need Another Wake-up Call?

Expounding on the luxurious nature of that past era makes the mouth water. Those candlelight dinners were nightly celebrated by Wall Street and Washington’s Great & Good, with the world’s foremost champagne on hand, Black Forest Gâteau with genuine cherries imported from, yes, Germany’s SchwarzWald—changes of napkins, matches and décor to reflect each season: green for spring, red for summer, brown for fall, white for winter. We would be hard-pressed to find such opulence now in a public place. Even downstairs, at the Brasserie, the eggs Benedict were to die for.

But such opulence does—or did—still exist until recent years.

The Miners’ Canary

Klamath river salmon no longer on menu at August Salmon Festival

Klamath river salmon no longer on menu at August Salmon Festival

Take the situation in Nature, for example—northern California to be specific: ten years ago all the rivers ran approximately the same course, feeding fish, humans and trees without discrimination or interruption.

Abrupt change, they say, doesn’t happen overnight. But, tell that to the tribal residents and neighbors on paucity-running Klamath, restricted water-hours-Trinity, or the not-so-wild-and-scenic Smith rivers. The Hoopa Trinity statement by Tribal Chief Ryan Jackson says it all:

[This warning is] not just a miner’s canary—it is the tsunami siren notifying North Coast communities of impending environmental catastrophe and cultural devastation
Ryan Jackson, Hoopa Valley Tribal Chair, Trinity River Watershed

Endangered Species Act law suit by Hoopa Tribe of Trinity County initiated by the Elders because symptoms displayed in the famed Trinity River bed show signs of decay and death. The Tribe’s warning to authorities in neglect is that river disease is killing not just the food supply, but the planet’s lifeblood.

Somewhere in this song of great traditions there is an Era-ending note. It may sound slightly off-key. It may not sound terribly writerly to those of my cohorts and colleagues under the tutelage of our Grand-Chef Alex.

But I guess we have to admit it’s here—now—and we’re going to have to deal with it.
Thanks for listening.
©2016 Marian Youngblood

Advertisements

August 3, 2016 Posted by | art, authors, blogging, culture, traditions, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment