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O Captain! My Captain!

When I introduced my future husband, Charlie, to my family as the love of my life, they didn’t bat an eye, but when they learned he was a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan who hated the New York Yankees, there were a few raised eyebrows. Knowing, though, that the only place to be in New York City this past Thursday was Yankee Stadium, for Derek Jeter’s final home game, Charlie spent a small fortune to buy six tickets for all of us. That’s the power of Derek Jeter. The rain finally stopped by 7:05 p.m., and Jeter stepped on the field for his first ovation of the evening. As video tributes from fans, teammates and rivals played on the gigantic Diamond Vision screen, we chanted, “DER-ek JEE-ter” and “Thank You, Jeter!” over and over. (He later described the game, fittingly, as an “out-of-body experience.”) It didn’t matter that Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda surrendered two consecutive home runs in the first inning to give the Baltimore Orioles a 2–0 lead; New York had already been eliminated from the postseason. This night was all about Jeter. Every time he stepped up to the plate, the Stadium erupted and cameras flashed as though it really were a World Series game. The Yankees took a 5–2 lead into the ninth inning, but relief pitcher David Robertson gave up two home runs, allowing the Orioles to tie. Yet Robertson’s blown save set up the perfect ending to Jeter’s Yankee Stadium farewell: In classic fashion, Captain Clutch hit a game-winning single on his final at-bat. The crowd exploded, the tears flowed, and another serendipitous Jeter play was added to “the Dive,” “the Flip” and the home run he had delivered as his 3,000th hit. stadium_insetWaiting to congratulate him on the field were his former teammates Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez—and of course his beloved former manager, Joe Torre. “They’re like my brothers,” Jeter said, “and Mr. T. was like a father.” As the crowd continued to roar and chant his name, Jeter crouched, seemingly overcome with emotion, at the shortstop position he had occupied for 20 seasons. Jeter arrived in New York in 1996 as a 21-year-old rookie; after 3,463 hits, 14 All-Star Games and five World Series wins, it was all over. “Everyone has a dream,” the perpetually classy Jeter said. “Mine happened to be playing baseball for the Yankees.” And now, at the age of 40, after giving his fans one storybook ending after another, Jeter will begin producing books in his own right. The first title for Simon & Schuster’s newly launched Jeter Publishing imprint, The Contract, will be a children’s book about his amazing life. The outpouring of love for Jeter during the game was palpable. Fans cried openly as Mr. November tried to keep his own emotions hidden. “Don’t cry!” Jeter replied when asked what he’d been thinking during his last Yankee Stadium at-bat. Modest to the end, he told the cheering crowd, nearly 49,000 strong, “I want to thank everyone here. I’ve said it time and time again. Everybody, the fans, are saying, ‘Thank you, Derek.’ I’m saying to myself, ‘For what?’ I’m just trying to do my job. Thank you guys.” As we left the Stadium, my niece Ashley broke down in tears, wrapped her arms around Charlie and sobbed out her thanks. Jeter told The New York Times he wants to steal the sign that hangs in the clubhouse tunnel, the one that reads, “I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.” I don’t know if Jeter left with his souvenir, but I do know I thank the good Lord for making him a Yankee—to my mind, the greatest Yankee of all time. Photos courtesy of Colin J. Warnock CONNECTS_Derek Jeter

by Colin J. Warnock

Sep 30, 2014

Long Live the Queens

Is there any performing art more exciting, fun, engaging and glamorous than drag? With RuPaul reigning over the airwaves, Hedwig dominating Broadway and Conchita Wurst in first place at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, drag is in the spotlight. That’s certainly true in New York City, where many queens get their start and where Wigstock, the first major drag fest, rocked the East Village throughout the 1980s and 90s. Wigstock’s days are, sadly, behind us, but thankfully, Bushwig, a Brooklyn-based drag fest that this month held its third celebration of all things outré, has taken up the cause and is quickly burgeoning into a tradition beloved throughout the borough. Held at Secret Project Robot in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, the fest attracts queens and queers who eschew garden-variety cabaret acts for weirder material. Performers range from downtown mainstay Penny Arcade to recent Paper magazine cover girl Merrie Cherry, and the dress code includes everything from glittery beards to wigs fashioned from household goods to nothing at all. In addition to local news outlets and even a documentary crew working on a feature-length film about the festival, this photographer was on hand during the peak moments of Bushwig 2014. BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH1 A demure queen greets the crowd channeling Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH2 Drag queen Biblegirl666 (right) channels Adore Delano and Bianca Del Rio—or is it the other way around?   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH3 As readers may imagine, this robe didn’t stay on for long.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH4 Bushwig regular Didi Boniva looks like Edith Head’s hot daughter.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH5 A flawlessly coiffed audience member throws some charming shade.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH6 A color palette like a Jack White music video, a seamless eyebrow coverup and redraw, and perfectly matched wig and facial hair? Helvetika [sic] Black gets a 10 for makeup!   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH7 Bushwig mainstay Untitled Queen, who last year performed Missy Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” as the Wicked Witch of the West, turned the tables and appeared in fairytale princess garb.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH8 Bushwig admission is discounted for everyone arriving in drag. Photos courtesy of Scarlett North-Cavanaugh CONNECTS_Bushwick-Bklyn

by Scarlett North-Cavanaugh

Sep 30, 2014

Recovered Memories, Hard Truths

Last year, that redoubtable rag The New York Review of Books—what my grad-school chums used to call “The New York Review of Each Other’s Books”—celebrated its 50th year of publication. Tonight, HBO will broadcast The Fifty-Year Argument, a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi feting the journal’s founding, history and legendary editor, Robert Silver. I discovered NYRB in college; it was where I first saw the name Jacques Derrida. I immediately stole the public library’s copy of Of Grammatology, which I won’t pretend I read, back then, with even the petite-est soupçon of comprehension. It was in the NYRB’s pages that I first encountered poems by C.P. Cavafy; one, “The Bandaged Shoulder,” instantly taught me that poetry could set my mind and soul on fire and give me a hard-on, all at once. And the NYRB introduced me to Stephen J. Gould, Garry Wills, Cynthia Ozick, all sorts of writers I never met up with on my syllabi. I think every college student ought to be given a subscription, gratis, on the day he or she matriculates. But enough praise. When assigned this post, I found that thinking about the NYRB tripped two memories I’d plumb forgot I had. The first is both amusing and not. Back in pre–internet dating days, NYRB was renowned for its personals, which purportedly enabled like-minded intellectual types (mostly hets) to hook up for romantic walks on Hamptons beaches and “maybe more.” My dear friend the late Romanian poet Nina Cassian, who 25 years ago was exiled in New York, lonely and hunting for a husband, decided she’d give the Review’s personals a try. Rather to her amazement, her ad worked: She landed scads of dates. But the guys were invariably widowers or divorcés who just wanted to snare a replacement wife to cook for them, vacuum the apartment, do the laundry, etc. They all seemed fundamentally uninterested in a glamorous, scintillating, accomplished, witty, sexy woman who was constitutionally incapable of household drudgery. Nina’s stories about these losers were hilarious, but it was also depressing to learn that most men are pigs—even NYRB readers. (Nina did eventually find herself a suitable mate, but not through the New York Review.) The second memory concerns David Levine, who produced thousands of caricatures (like the one pictured above) for the Review from just after its founding until shortly before his death in 2009. It suddenly came back to me that once, with a mutual friend, I visited Levine’s studio in Brooklyn Heights. How could I have forgotten such a privileged and interesting experience? Levine was grumpily charming and disheveled (as was his studio), and he was timidly eager to show us his “real” work, opening flat-file drawers and pulling out dozens of muddy-hued watercolors—portraits, crowd scenes, beachscapes—that were both delicately rendered and psychologically disturbing, like Prendergasts painted with Daumier’s palette and sensibility. They were really very good, but Levine wasn’t famous because of them. The caricatures were his paying gig, and he seemed to resent it. Maybe I had my first glimmer, then, of the hard truth that what you’re paid to do—especially if you’re great at it—can rob you of who you want to be, and what you’d like to be known for. In The Fifty-Year Argument, writer Colm Tóibín, himself a frequent NYRB contributor, says of his early experience of the journal, “The New York Review of Books actually mattered, as a crucial part of our lives.” I feel similarly. The NYRB opened worlds to me, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from it, both directly and, as you see, indirectly. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia CONNECTS_NYRB

by James Waller

Sep 29, 2014

The Wonderfully Prolific Passenger Pigeon

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, a bird once so numerous in the eastern half of North America that a flock passing overhead could block out the sun for entire days. These wild doves traveled in packs of hundreds of thousands, or even billions. In 1813 John James Audubon described what it was like to encounter their cacophonous, uncountable masses: Afterward, he wrote, it looked “as if the forest had been swept by a tornado.” It’s hard to imagine such a scene today. As Audubon presciently noted, “I have satisfied myself, by long observation, that nothing but the gradual diminution of our forests can accomplish their decrease.” As it turns out, Audubon was only half right. Habitat destruction chipped away at the population of several billion birds, certainly, but hunting also played a great part. At nesting grounds pigeons were slaughtered by the millions—knocked from their nests, smoked out, shot at and netted—then shipped to markets all over the East. The passenger pigeon simply could not coexist with modern humans. Passenger pigeons were colonial, and the huge flock size was a key to the species’ survival. At a certain point its numbers became too few to sustain breeding success. “Eventually,” Errol Fuller writes in his 2014 book The Passenger Pigeon, “the slump to zero began to become apparent, even though there were still millions of individuals left. And when the tipping point came, the fall was unbelievably fast.” In 1857 a committee of the Ohio state senate, responding to a bill proposing protection for the apparently declining game bird, reported: “The passenger pigeon needs no protection. Wonderfully prolific, having the vast forests of the North as its breeding grounds, traveling hundreds of miles in search of food, it is here today and elsewhere tomorrow, and no ordinary destruction can lessen them, or be missed from the myriads that are yearly produced.” Not long afterward, “elsewhere” was nowhere. Soon the hunters, Theodore Roosevelt among them, were fruitlessly searching the bird’s breeding grounds for nesting pairs that would save the species, but it was too far gone. The last passenger pigeon was a bird named Martha who lived her final 12 years at the Cincinnati Zoo, outlasting George, her only conspecific, by four years. The anniversary of Martha’s death has incited reflection on what we have learned—and not learned—in the century since. Conservation efforts took off in earnest at the turn of the 20th century, and have surged and slumped ever since. Martha’s centenary was honored with the release of two publications: the National Audubon Society’s Birds and Climate Change and the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s The State of the Birds 2014. The Audubon team compiled and interpreted 30 years of data about birds and their whereabouts to conclude that 314 species are likely to lose significant habitat within the next 65 years. The State of the Birds report looks at a century of conservation triumphs and failures as a map for future planning. In hindsight, the Ohio senate’s dismissal of efforts to conserve the “wonderfully prolific” passenger pigeon seems absurd. Climate change denial will undoubtedly appear in the same light one day (indeed, to many it already does), though this time the consequences of inaction will be far more dire than the loss of a single species, even one of seemingly countless numbers. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia CULTUREMAP_Climate-Change-Discontents

by Amy K. Hughes

Sep 26, 2014