Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax...

Having caused considerable consternation by his obstinate absence from the blogosphere of late, your scribe hastens to play catch-up by offering the following notes concerning recent events in Town:

1) The Art Barge. Well, it's really a large vessel known as the "Seafair", which came to Greenwich last weekend laden with oodles of objets d'art. Following instructions, your scribe registered online, and was duly rewarded with a boarding pass for Saturday morning. Cleverly bypassing the $10 valet parking fee by parking a block away at a Town lot, he approached the registration desk and tendered his driver's license. This was promptly swiped through a magnetic reader as though it were a credit card - something new to your scribe - and a computer fisheye camera took a picture that was even less flattering than that on the license itself. Mostly it consisted of shadow, but, like a silhouette, it provided a vaguely recognizable semblance of the scribal head. Thus accoutered, he headed for the gangplank and climbed aboard.

Major art dealers from NYC, London, Paris, and elsewhere had each rented booths to display their wares. Much of it left your scribe cold, but there was an interesting black-and-white early Norman Rockwell hung next to a charming 18th-century Dutch genre painting, both of which attracted the scribal eye. (You can see, dear reader, that the limited space aboard led to some odd juxtapositions.)

The best of the bunch, in your scribe's humble opinion, were a large Twachtman painting of a tulip tree in Greenwich, and an exquisite Thomas Cole wilderness landscape. The Twachtman may have been painted in his own back yard; an acclivity in the distance may have been Round Hill. The Cole was an archetypal Hudson River school of textbook quality. Respectively, they were offered at $1,000,000 and $2,750,000; and if your scribe had chanced to win the large Powerball jackpot last month, he would no doubt have sprung for them both in a flash.

Tongues were still wagging aboard about the abrupt departure of the former White House chef the evening before, who after a tiff with the owner had walked out with all his staff, leaving the hungry multitudes unfed. Another rumor had it that the captain had also nearly quit; however, your scribe was assured by the captain himself that this was not the case. The captain even offered him a personal tour of the bridge, which was, as you may imagine, state-of-the-art high tech.

Curiously, your scribe saw only one couple he knew from Greenwich. The rest all seemed to be from someplace else. But hey - that's typical of Greenwich Avenue, where the outsiders have taken over, so why shouldn't it be the same on shipboard?

The ship has now sailed away to Long Island. There were many lookers, but few if any takers here in Town. One wonders if the reported $10,000 - $30,000 weekly rentals the dealers are paying for their booths are worth it...not to mention food and lodging and their own time. The weather on Saturday, BTW, was gorgeous; you scribe did not envy the merchants who had to spend it in the windowless bowels of the art barge dealing with all the gawkers. He himself had brought a book to read, and after making his run-through of the galleries retired to the top deck, found a comfy chair, looked out over the sun-dappled harbor, and imagined himself lord of all he surveyed. Not a bad way to spend a beautiful fall weekend in Greenwich.

2) But Saturday afternoon inevitably gives way to Sunday morning, and your scribe was not to be deterred from his weekly churchgoing just because of the presence in the pulpit of the man the New York City tabloids have dubbed "the randy reverend." With every intention of trying to keep an open mind, your scribe positioned himself in the balcony in order to get a good overview of the proceedings.

The ushers made a great show of setting up extra chairs to accomodate the expected hordes, and in fact a handful of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian people did make the trek out from the City to hear their former senior minister preach. One FAPC woman seemed to think that Greenwich is Podunk, and behaved herself accordingly, clapping loudly after the hymns and grabbing Tewell's hand as he walked down the aisle. One suspects that the people from the Social Register may be taking a hard look at her before allowing her back in The Book next year.

The music, by the way, was in fact outstanding. Kevin Estes had brought in a number of instrumentalists, and they and the choir did an excellent job on excerpts from the Faure and Brahms Requiems. (Requiems, you ask, dear reader? Your scribe has no comment.)

Tewell himself was a surprisingly unprepossessing man, stoop-shouldered and small of stature. When he got into the pulpit, he literally danced his way though his highly-choreographed delivery, with feet and arms in constant motion. Clearly he had done this sermon, or something like it, many times before; the gestures were well-rehearsed, and the inspirational anecdotes and stories which comprised the bulk of his text came trippingly off his tongue as though they were fresh from the pages of the Reader's Digest.

Naturally, your scribe was curious as to what, if anything, Tewell would say about his marital misadventures while at FAPC. Taking the bull by the horns, Tewell mentioned his dear wife and children in the very first sentence he spoke, and sprinkled references to family and grandchildren throughout his speech. Did it seem forced, dear reader? Well, yes, frankly, it did; most people manage to get through a sermon without going on and on about their wonderful wives and families. But not Tewell.

The low point was an anecdote that he no doubt thought was hilariously funny. He claimed to have been in an important meeting one day when his church administrator called him on the phone and said it was extremely urgent that he meet with Tewell right away. All protestations were brushed aside; clearly the world would end if Tewell did not leave his meeting forthwith and come to the administrator's office.

When Tewell entered the office, the administrator closed the door and told him to take a seat. What was so important, Tewell asked, that he had to leave his meeting with such urgency? The administrator replied, "It's about the 'A' word."

Well, dear reader, you could have heard a pin drop on the floor of First Prebyterian Church. But Tewell was merely playing with us; it turned out that the administrator had discovered asbestos in the building. When it became clear that adultery was not going to be mentioned, nervous titters of relief broke out. And Tewell forged ahead as though adultery were the last thing on his mind.

It was a cheap trick, and in very poor taste. But there you have him, gentle reader, in all his bedraggled showmanship. Your scribe is a great believer in karma, and clearly Tewell is no longer the gifted and magnetic preacher he was once reputed to be. These days he is merely an entertainer, and not a very good one at that. "Facile" is the word with which your scribe summed up the performance.

But of course, this is Greenwich, where people admire the emperor's clothes whether he is wearing them or not. Having come expecting to hear a "great" preacher, most people went away convinced that they had. As usual, your scribe finds himself in a minority in this Mammon-worshipping burg.


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