The Little Red Lighthouse

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“Fat and red and jolly” is how Hildegard Swift described Jeffrey’s Hook Light in her beloved tale The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Although the red lighthouse has not shone its light in years, it is, like in the book, still proud to have a job to do: pleasing children and tourists.

The book, which was published in 1942, tells the story of the lighthouse’s fear that it no longer is of any use when a great grey bridge is built next to it, with its own flashing light, making it feel small and unimportant. One night during a storm, however, the bridge calls to the lighthouse reassuring it that it still has work to do: “each to his own place,” it says, and so the lighthouse proudly gets back to work.

It was this story that saved the lighthouse in 1951 when it was threatened with being torn down. Fans of Swift’s book campaigned for it to stay, and so it sits there today, under George Washington Bridge in northwestern Manhattan. As the book says, you should “see for yourself.”

 

 

New York City in Pictures

Subway. Photo by author.

The first time I ever went to New York, I travelled with my friend Jane and a torn out map of Sex in the City locations. In my early twenties, finishing up college in the early years of the millennium, I thought that a designer shopping, martini sipping lifestyle was what I was supposed to be moving towards because that was the message I was reading via the fashion magazines I used to buy.

The first time I went to New York City alone, a train conductor spied me puzzling over a map and slyly asked if I was running away from home.

I usually try to return to NYC every year, but vapid thoughts of SATC stay where they belong: the early 2000s. I don’t visit to run away anymore, although I often visit alone. Strangely I find a closeness in the big city; that there’s a space for me among the differences I see between everyone. Now that I live in a city where I have to drive everywhere, riding the subway gives me a feeling of connection that is missing in my current (temporary) hometown.

My relationship with the city has changed in the ten years since my first visit. NYC isn’t something to be feared or conquered; I don’t approach it as if attending a job interview anymore.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

I stayed at the Jane Hotel in the West Village. The red-brick building used to house sailors and was occupied by Titanic survivors in 1912. Staff are dressed in red old-timey bellhop uniforms — the lady that checked me in owned hers; complementing it with huge red-framed oval glasses. The rooms are tiny, befitting the nautical theme that runs throughout, and country accents, such as a stuffed peacock and antlers in the lobby, lend a bohemian air.

The Jane Hotel. Photo by author.

During the day I took the subway to and from Brooklyn.

Skyline from Subway. Photo by author.

Walked through Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park.

Brooklyn Cherry Blossom. Photo by author.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.
Crabapple. Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by author.

I walked along the High Line.

High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.
Bird feeders along High Line. Photo by author.
Along the High Line. Photo by author.

…And through the streets of Manhattan.

Manhattan sky. Photo by author.
NYC. Photo by author.

I saw Pulp at Radio City Music Hall.

Pulp at Radio City Music Hall. Photo by author.

I went to the Weegee exhibit at the International Center of Photography, and the Diego Rivera and Cindy Sherman exhibitions at the MOMA.

Cindy Sherman at the MOMA. Photo by author.

I ate pho at Saigon Shack, cupcakes at Molly’s, breakfast at the Breslin, drank coffee at Stumptown and a Dark and Stormy at Commonwealth.

Dark n’ Stormy. Photo by author.

I drank a cocktail called Paris is Burning with Strippertweets, Maura and Melissa at the NoMad Hotel,’s Library Bar, a spicy hot chocolate at the Chocolate Bar and ate two Crack Pies from Momofuku Milk Bar.

Crack Pie. Photo by author.

Pulp at Radio City Music Hall

Radio City. All photographs by author.

As much as I loved them, I never got the chance to see Pulp during their early-mid-nineties heyday. Even when they announced they would be reforming to play a few dates last year, it seemed like it was just not meant to be — the first summer in three years that I didn’t spend time in Sweden, and they played there, at the Way Out West festival.

I might have missed out again if my friend Strippertweets hadn’t posted a link to their website announcement that they would play San Francisco and New York City. I agonised over whether to see them in SF or NY; furiously battled Ticketmaster’s website to get a ticket for a show that sold out within one minute, booked a flight and ultimately spent way too much money to see one band. It was worth it. I was not going to miss Pulp again.

While the all-seated space of Radio City doesn’t much lend itself to crowd participation, it was a treat to be inside of the venue. I was standing in the line for a glass of champagne (socialism?) when green letters began flashing across the stage: “You’re looking good.” “Shall we do it?” A couple of lines from Mis-Shapes spoken in a mechanical voice, then the those spacey, synth-y first bars of Do You Remember the First Time? (my first favourite Pulp track) struck up and hung in the air for a minute. Then there was Jarvis: stalking sleazily across the stage; bouncing and kicking as the song built — the whole crowd seemed to leap at that part near the end that goes “oh yeah, you wanna go home; you wanna go home. Hey!”

Between songs Jarvis regaled his audience with stories, musings, “interesting facts,” the riff from Louie Louie and London Soho/Charing Cross geography. “you haven’t come here for a night of spoken word have you? Sorry.’

During This is Hardcore he fell to his back and scissored his legs in the air; in F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E he dashed and posed his way up the sides of the hall, followed by a spotlight.

Even songs that might have sat awkwardly out of their mid-nineties home sounded just about as relevant as they were then. Sorted for E’s and Whizz, a song I haven’t listened to for probably 10 years but still know all the words to, sounded great accompanied by green lasers swooping across the crowd; and I sang along to the chorus of Disco 2000 (“Let’s all meet up in the year 2000”) with neither shame nor regard for the passage of time.

The first encore ended, inevitably, with Common People, and the night finished with Mis-Shapes — a song I don’t care much for, but danced and sang along to regardless. Post-match analysis, however, centered on the unexpected inclusion of Bad Cover Version, from 2002’s much-maligned We Love Life.

In the end, I only missed Lipgloss, but I didn’t even notice it was missing until a few hours later, so… This was everything I wanted from a Pulp show and more. And I don’t mean just for a reunion tour; Pulp could have been proud of this show in 1995.

Setlist via Brooklyn Vegan:

Pulp @ Radio City Music Hall, NYC 4/11/12 – SETLIST
Do you remember the the first time?
Monday Morning
Razzamatazzz
Pencil skirt
Something Changed
Disco 2000
Sorted For E’s and Wizz
F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.
Feeling Called Love
I Spy
Babies
Underwear
This is Hardcore
Sunrise
Bar Italia
Common People
//
Like a Friend
Bad Cover Version
Misshapes

Related: apparently the mid-nineties Hole line-up was back on stage last weekend. Reunion tour please?