The Sad Art of Missing Out

Written by Christopher Moore on . Posted in Opinion Our Town, Opinion West Side Spirit, Our Town, Our Town Downtown, West Side Spirit.



In NYC, crossing things off your cultural to-do list isn’t easy

On July 16, I decided to go to an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, so I went online to get additional information. One particularly compelling detail emerged: the exhibition had closed July 15.

I missed it.

It’s a familiar feeling and extends way beyond museum exhibits. Last year and the year(s) before, there were the plays (Good People, with Estelle Parsons, among others), movies (Winter’s Bone) and concerts (Barbara Carroll, any night she performs and I’m not there). Yes, living in New York City means being right in the center of it all. Swell. But living here also means missing more than most Americans are ever even offered.

So many of us walk around with a list, sometimes in our minds and sometimes on our schedules, of things we hope to catch before they leave. I stopped my Time Out New York subscription after becoming too good at chronicling, at any given moment, what gallery opening was happening without me. Keeping track of club dates and Restaurant Weeks and music festivals, even when out of town, eventually made me wonder about my own mental health.

Other cities are different. There are places where you catch a touring Broadway show and a few fine other performances, throw in a night at the opera or symphony, see the occasional flick…and you’re done for the calendar year. The local performance center shutters in the summer. You’re keeping up—at least enough to feel equipped for dinner-party chatter.

Our town is different. Right now we’re heading into the dog days of August, right? But not really—not here. There’s that Monet garden recreation at the Bronx Botanical Gardens through Oct. 21. The Jewish Museum, at 92nd and Fifth Avenue, has an unusual exhibit on the artist Edouard Vuillard, one of my favorites. At least I think he’s one of my favorites, but that hypothesis needs to be tested—before time runs out on Sept. 23. Oh, the plays. Don’t I need to see Tribes, that interesting off-Broadway one in the Village? And what about that woman from England on Broadway, the one pretending to be Judy Garland?

There are ways to play this game successfully. The experts advise going right after the opening crowds leave the exhibit/play/whatever. Don’t wait. That’s easier said than done, though, especially when there are jobs to do and lives to live and money worries. Some people even choose buying groceries over theater tickets.

The most precious commodity remains time. It gets eaten up. At summer’s start, I wrote in my Google calendar an exact date for that trip to the Museum of the City of New York. The day came and I didn’t go.

So I never saw The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011, which was a smart look at longterm planning in the city. At least that’s what the New York Times said on its front page. And what my mom said after she went and issued a report. Mom won this round.

Sometimes, though, I score. My pal Liz and I went two weeks ago to the Morgan Library, which leaves me a bit cold when I see the books locked up there like they’ve done something wrong. But the Winston Churchill exhibit, especially the audio of his fantastic speeches, made it all worthwhile. What an election-year treat, seeing a political leader who rallied people in common cause instead of talking down to them and dividing them up into special interests.

So much to see and do. That’s one of the things that drew me to the city. Then, amidst all the rushing from the reading at Barnes & Noble to the Film Forum retrospective, I realized the ultimate irony: My favorite thing to do here is simply to walk down a street.
There’s a lesson there. But I might miss it, hurrying to get to the next big thing.

Christopher Moore is a writer living in Manhattan. His email address is ccmnj@aol.com and he’s on Twitter @cmoorenyc.

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