Friday, July 7, 2017

In Memory of Ruth Ford on Her Birthday

In Memory of Ruth Ford on Her Birthday

Ruth Ford in her apartment at the Dakota 1972, NYC. Photo by Barbara Waterson
Ruth Ford, a great actress, a fashion model, a writer, an artistic muse, and a salonnière was born on this day, July 7th, in 1911, in Brookhaven Mississippi. And like her brother Charles Henri, Ruth lived a charmed life in every way. Thanks to Charles, who kept diaries starting at a very young age, I can tell you that on this day in 1924, she and Charles went to the movies on her 13th birthday. They saw a lot of movies and live theatre shows, and on this particular day they saw Scaramouche, starring Ramon Novarro ( at a movie house in San Antonio, Texas. I don’t know what Ruth or Charles thought of the movie, because Charles didn’t say, nor did he mention that it was Ruth’s birthday. All he wrote for July 7th, 1924 was: “Sister and I saw ‘Scaramouche’ at the theatre here today. I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for her. I sure would be lonesome.” A couple of weeks later, on July 25th Charles went to see Anna Christie, starring Blanche Sweet, who he called his favorite. He thought she was wonderful in the movie, but wrote that Ruth didn’t think much of it. You don’t hear many people talk about Blanche Sweet anymore, probably because six years later Greta Garbo played the same role in Anna Christie and after that all other versions might as well never have been made. Garbo later befriended Ruth, and became a favorite guest at Ruth’s legendary salons at the Dakota. All kinds of important connections were made in Ruth’s living room during those famous gatherings, and she could not have been a better hostess.

Ruth and Charles both lived a life surrounded by fascinating and often famous people, but I think that without each other they both would have indeed been very lonesome, as Charles mentioned in his diary on this day in 1924. Throughout most of their lives they wrote to each other almost daily, even when they were on the opposite sides of the earth. They saved every letter they received from each other. A lifetime of letters full of details of their days, and diaries that Charles wrote his whole life. would be enough to fill rooms. Every important event and achievement in each of their lives Ruth and Charles ran by each other, as well as a lot of mundane things.  Even during the periods when they both lived in the Dakota, they often wrote to each other. There are little notes that I’m still finding in boxes of papers, telling each other about leftovers to find in the refrigerator “that must be eaten today” or book reviews clipped out of the Times with notes attached asking, “Have you seen this?” 

Mart Crowley & Ruth Ford with Harold Stevenson. Feb 21, 1973 at dinner party Ruth Ford gave for Mart Crowley at  La  Goulue Restaurant, NYC. 
I know that Ruth must have missed all of those letters and notes from Charles in her later years after Charles passed away. It seemed to me like a long time without him, all those days when I went to the Dakota to take care her. The salons were long gone, but Ruth’s rooms still held a rich feeling of all the famous people who spent so much time with; William Faulkner, Greta Garbo, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, too many to count. I don’t recall Ruth ever talking about whether she believed in any kind of afterlife, but if there is a way to meet our loved ones in that next place, I’m sure that Ruth and Charles will find a way to do it, and I’m sure that they’re seeing all those other people too. It’s not hard to imagine Salvador Dali, dialing Ruth’s number on his lobster phone, to invite her to some magical happening.

I want to wish Ruth the best 106th birthday, wherever she’s celebrating it. You’ll never be forgotten, Ruth. Happy birthday to you.
Ruth Ford in Dakota Apartment, NYC. 7/1/1965. Photo by The New York Times.
-Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2017, all rights reserved.

Friday, June 23, 2017



Trashless Barcelona City.

Recently, I made a trip with my wife Radhika and my daughter Zina to Barcelona. We left on April 10th and returned on April 18th. Zina had found good deals on airfare and hotel both. It was her idea and wish to go to that city, as she has been studying Spanish in school and had an interest, so we went. However, we found people speaking Catalan in Barcelona, not Spanish, but we managed to do okay nevertheless. 

The day we arrived, we were early to get into our hotel room, so we left our luggage at hotel’s front desk and went for a walk. Our hotel was just outside the main city of Barcelona, about the distance between Manhattan and Queens. It was a nice place, an actual apartment with a living room and a kitchenette, and fairly priced. That first morning we went into a local breakfast shop for coffee and croissants. Zina asked for the croissant to be heated, in Spanish, but they misunderstood and thought she merely wanted a different one.  She finally managed to make the waiter understand and they brought it to her nice and warm.

Architecture of Barcelona
Our week in Barcelona was packed with so many activities and thing-to-do! First, we went to the Picasso Museum which opened to the public on 9 March 1963. There are more than 4,300 Picasso’s works to see in this museum, but alas no photos allowed. That was not easy for me, being so attached to my camera, but it was a wonderful museum with all of his arts categorized in different sections for different periods of his life; the early years, the blue period, the later period. I find it amazing that one person could create so much, and this was not even all of what he made. The museum district of Barcelona is a labyrinth of little narrow streets and everywhere you look are beautiful buildings. It was very crowed and there were tourists everywhere even though it was considered low season when we visited. It seemed to me that there were more tourists than residents. But many beautiful cities run on the income from tourism. 
Picasso Museum

Our second day was Easter Friday  and there was a procession through the streets carrying the figure of Christ. We visited a gorgeous old church full of candle light. One night we went to a gorgeously decorated old theatre, Teatre Poliorama - La Rambla, to watch a very nice flamenco performance, Barcelona y Flamenco, and it was wonderful. It lasted more than an hour but it went by so fast. We visited a grand old fortress on a hill, from the top of which we could look over the whole city of Barcelona. They still have a huge cannon up there, from past when they watched the sea for attackers with their cannon at the ready. I did not see too many cats in Barcelona, but I did see one in the fortress and took his portrait. 
Street procession on Easter Friday
Old Fortess

We visited the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. Zina told us that 133 years ago they started building the Sagrada church and it’s still not finished. It’s enormous and stunning on the inside, with huge columns and vast, high ceilings. I marveled at the idea of how one person’s design can be so enormous and elaborate, all of his imagination coming out of his little brain! All those calculations, in one man’s head! His remains are there, in that church. We also visited his famous park, which is huge, with both underground marvels and wonderful greenery and hikes.
Basilica of the Sagrada Familia

Some of the restaurants we tried were very nice, some less so, but it was all good, and I can’t complain.  I drank quite a bit of sangria. Each place had its own sangria with its own flavor, none tasting like the other, and I enjoyed trying all of them.

One of Zina’s reasons for wanting to visit Barcelona was the famous soccer player Lionel Messi who is on the Barcelona team. She is a fan and wanted to see him play in live. So one night she and I went together to see the match leaving Radhika in the hotel room as she was not interested in sports. We took the subway to the stadium and changed trains at a station where we had to take eight escalators down, much deeper underground than anything in New York. We had good seats for the game and Zina was happy to see Messi play. The mach was between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad. Everything is highly commercialized for the tourist/souvenir industry. Zina wanted to buy a shirt for a friend from the soccer game, and you can have it personalized with a name while you wait. The Picasso museum also was full of endless souvenirs. In this way, Picasso created jobs to last forever thanks to this museum, with endless income lasting into the future. We were unable to visit Dali’s museum for lack of time, but one day we were eating in the dining room of a very nice hotel in the city, and I saw Dali’s portrait hanging on the wall, so I took a selfie with his portrait, with his iconic mustache, and I posted it on Facebook. It’s funny to think that while I was sitting there, surrounded by many people, I may have been the only one present who actually met Dali himself in person, which I did with Charles way back in 1974. 

Zina in FC Barcelona's match
Being a New Yorker, where trash is a part of life on the streets and in the subways, I was amazed by the cleanliness of Barcelona. There was no trash littered in the subway. It was absolutely spotless. The streets of the city as well are unbelievably clean. People in Barcelona still smoke, men and women both, so along the streets, every ten feet or so, are little repositories for cigarette butts, which the people do use. I saw almost no cigarette butts on the ground, one or two at most, and zero trash. I saw no rats. I tried to get some good photos of people who were smoking, but I don’t think I got one close up. Trash bins were everywhere, and so were city employee sweeping trash, constantly, at all hours. The trash bins are constantly being emptied, mostly by white Spanish people. It was all amazing to me. 

Time really flew by in our trip to Barcelona, and we really enjoyed every minute of it. For a short stay, Barcelona is not bad price wise, but I think it could get expensive for long stay. Sometimes our lunch or dinner would cost forty to fifty euros for the three of us, sometimes it went over a hundred. But all in all, we got a good deal, and we’ve recommended all of our friends in New York that if they want to go for a vacation and spend not so much, they should all visit Barcelona, with its glorious history of art and architecture, and trashless city streets.

-Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2017, all rights reserved.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Missing Charles Henri Ford On His 109th Birthday, February 10th, 2017

Missing Charles Henri Ford On His 109th Birthday 

Portrait of Charles Henri Ford by Pavel Tchelitchew.

Almost exactly 85 years ago, on January 5th, 1932, Charles Henri Ford wrote a letter to his mother and mailed it from Paris, where he was living “very deep in adoration” with Djuna Barnes. In his letter, he thanked his mother for the Christmas money she had sent, and told her about the one other present he received: a small gold bracelet from Djuna. “She has one like it that she wears on her ankle (left, under the stocking),” Charles wrote. 

Then he filled the rest of his letter with all that he wanted to tell his mother: That Djuna loved to paint her nails red, which she did all the time, that he’d bought a new record: “Basin Street Blues” played by Louis Armstrong, whose orchestra had edged out Duke Ellington’s as his favorite, and that he’d been to Gertrude Stein’s place for dinner, after which she gave him an autographed copy (“To Charles Henri with much liking”) of her new book, How To Write. He told his mother that he and Djuna had sworn off booze after all the drinking they’d done during the holidays. And near the end of his letter he added, “(Djuna) got a cable from the editor of Cosmopolitan to try and get an interview with Hitler of Germany and it would mean big money (secret) and she has been telling me to send you her love but I’ve been forgetting to.”

It’s a striking letter to look at today, if only to illustrate the close-up view Charles had of so much that was newsworthy. He witnessed most of the twentieth century from a front-row seat. People who knew Charles might be wondering what he would say about the current state of affairs, especially reflected against the long history behind him. I can’t guess at the words he’d choose, but it’s obvious to me that he would be just as dismayed as the rest of us by who ended up in the White House.

I don’t recall him ever having an opinion about Donald Trump back when he was just a guy always on the cover of the Post and the Daily News, filling up the gossip columns (which Charles did like to read) during his big flamboyant divorce from Ivana in the 1980s. I don’t remember Charles ever commenting on him, but I’m sure he never imagined that Donal Trump would end up being the president. 

Charles was always apolitical, which is to say that while his way of living suggested someone who would qualify as a liberal, he did not vote. As far as I know Charles never registered to vote. All that he did that affected change in the world, through art and culture, was done outside the standard boundaries of politics. Two of his very good friends for many years were Judith Malina and Julian Beck of the Living Theatre. I have a very pleasant memory of the two of them coming to have tea with us in Charles’s little apartment on the Ile Saint Louis in Paris, sometime in the 1980s, and spending the afternoon talking. I have some nice photos from that day, and of course it would be interesting to hear what Judith would have to say now, too. Judith didn’t vote either—but in her case the refusal of voting was more of a political position than Charles’s, although I could be wrong about Charles. What I do know is that Charles was not political but Judith Malina was. She practiced her brand of non-violent resistance to the system with her theatre and her poetry. She famously said that she believed that pacifist anarchism was the only real kind of anarchism, and she could explain herself well. She put all of her beliefs into her work with the Living Theatre, and Charles made his equally large contributions to the world through his writing and his art, and through his magazines, Blues and View, and through introducing people to one another who contributed still more to the culture and the world.
Judith Melina

I am sure that I’m not alone in wishing that we could host a big tea party now around Charles’s table at the Dakota with Charles,  Judith and Julian, and all the many great minds who have gone on before us, if only to listen to their wise opinions. I wonder what Charles would say if he was asked, “What should we do?” I can’t imagine the answer, and I never imagined having to ask the question. But I’m sure whatever he would say would ring true in a meaningful way.

Julian Beck
So, Charles, this birthday of yours comes at a strange time in our history. Wherever you are, if you have any sort of magical influence that can help, please use it. Enjoy your party, and say hello to all the luminaries who I’m sure are everywhere around you.

Charles Henri Ford

February 10th, 1908 – September 27th, 2002

-Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2017, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On the 14th Anniversary of Charles Henri Ford’s Passing

On the 14th Anniversary of Charles Henri Ford’s Passing

Charles Henri Ford. Photo by Matthew R Lewis

Fourteen years ago, on September 27th, 2002, Charles Henri Ford passed away here in New York. He was 94 years old when he died, but his spirit was youthful and busy right up until that day. On this same date in 1934, Charles wrote a letter to his father, which he mailed from France. 

“To Daddy,” he wrote. “Arrived in Paris last night after a few days in Toulon and a couple of nights in Marseilles. Visited Aix-en-Provence on the way up, like walking in the 18th century. Spain has a brutality in the landscape that one misses in France.” 

He mentions a manuscript for a novel, for which he hoped to find a publisher. His agent of the day had told him the book was without commercial value, but that was never something that bothered Charles or stopped him, and he had plenty of successes over his long life that made him happy, if not rich. The book he wrote with Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil, published around the time of this letter, was considered without commercial value too, and it was also considered shocking. I think that probably made Charles happy, the fact that it was shocking. 

Charles lived for art of every kind, and he lived to experience life to the fullest, which he did. And he was lucky in that the world when he was young was still full of undiscovered places compared to the world as it is today. Charles was blessed with good timing in his life.

“I can’t describe in a letter all the wonderful things we saw in Spain,” he wrote to his father in that letter dated September 27th, 1934, about his travels with Pavel Tchelitchew.  “We also visited Granada, which was the most marvelous of all.”

Could Charles have ever imagined that this same day on the calendar, sixty-eight years in the future, would be his last? I don’t think he thought about it at all, but if he had known it, I think he might have wanted to have it made into a poem or a play or another manuscript “without commercial value.”  

Charles lived a long life full of marvelous achievements and experiences, and in case he’s watching, I want him to know that he’s not forgotten, and his influence lives on more than ever. 

Charles Henri Ford
February 10, 1908 – September 27, 2002

-Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

On the Passing of Edward Albee

On the Passing of Edward Albee 

Edward Albee, three time recepient for Pulitzer prize for drama. Photo credit: Academy of Achievement

On August 12th, 2009, Ruth Ford passed away in the Dakota, where she had lived for many years and where she hosted her legendary salon. Since then I’ve usually written a little piece every year to commemorate the day of her passing, but this year I did not due to some personal circumstances, and I want to make up for that now with a note on the passing of Ruth’s friend Edward Albee. 

I never met Mr. Albee myself, but he was our neighbor when Charles and I would stay out at Montauk, and he resided there until the end of his life on September 16th. During the time when Ruth was hosting her salons, Edward Albee was one of the favorite guests among the theatrical and literary luminaries—William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and many others—who would come to enjoy those famous evenings at the Dakota.

One of the famous plays Edward Albee wrote is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. It is safe to say that Ruth would have attended the opening night of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway—starring Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill—and the premier of its movie version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as well, because Ruth was always invited to those glamorous events and she always attended if she were in town. It is also a sure bet that the awards that Mr. Albee won for that play—the Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for best play—would have been celebrated and talked about in Ruth’s elegant sitting room. 

Ruth definitely lived a charmed life surrounded by other charmed lives, and when she died, she left behind a huge library of plays—including those by Edward Albee—because reading plays was something she loved to do. Ruth enjoyed reading plays whether she intended to act in them or not, and it is well known that William Faulkner wrote his play Requiem for Nun specifically for Ruth. 

Edward Albee’s plays are almost constantly in production somewhere, and in that way he’ll live on in this world. Just as Ruth lives on through the movies she made in the 1940s, preserved forever on film and easy to find today. Wherever you are Ruth, I hope you are doing great things. And to you, Mr. Albee, bon voyage, good luck and break a leg!

Edward Albee 
March 12, 1928 – September 16, 2016

Ruth Ford 
February 18, 1911 – August 12, 2009

-Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Little Something About Ruth

A Little Something About Ruth

The Portrait Heads of Ruth Ford by Pavel Tchelitchev (Vogue Magazine cover, March 15th, 1936)

Ruth Ford was born on this day—July 7th,1911—in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and today in her memory I would like to share something about her that quite a few people might not know. The last play Ruth was in on the Broadway was in 1980, at the Martin Beck Theatre at 302 West 45th Street. It was a short-lived production of Harold and Maude, a stage adaptation of the 1971 movie of same name, and in it Ruth played Harold’s mother, Mrs. Chasen. Apparently the play bombed, but it would have been hard to surpass a movie as popular as that one was (and still is) and even if it did bomb, the role Ruth had in that stage production makes an interesting curio from her life full of interesting achievements. 

West 45th Street is still full of theatres, including the old theatre where Ruth played Harold’s mother, the Martin Beck Theater. However, in 2003 it was re-named to honor the famous theatrical illustrator Al Hirschfeld. Martin Beck had been a Vaudeville promoter, and I know that Ruth and her brother Charles Henri Ford both loved vaudeville as children and saw as many shows as they could. Charles’s childhood diaries are filled with descriptions of the vaudeville shows they attended. 

As for Al Hirschfeld, Ruth was one of his many subjects. She was sketched by him for the 1938 run of the play The Shoemaker’s Holiday, in which she starred opposite Vincent Price. And she was again his subject in 1959 when she starred in Requiem for a Nun opposite her husband Zachary Scott. 

Ruth is part of a great theatrical history in New York, and West 45th Street will always be a street where Ruth walked, on her way to the theatre. By sharing this bit of Ruth's theatrical trivia I am doing my own small part to keep her little flame lighted. 

Wherever you are Ruth, you are still part of New York and very much not forgotten.

Happy Birthday.

July 7, 1911 – August 12, 2009


copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Recent Visit to Nepal

My Recent Visit to Nepal
Waving Nepal's Flag with Mr. Laxmi Narayan Silpakar, flag bearer of Kathmandu, at Basantapur Durbar Square.
Behind me is a temple reduced to rubble after the devastating earthquake.
Photo by Arjun Pakhrin, Radio Sagarmatha.

As many of you know, after the devastating earthquake in Nepal last year, I put together a fundraiser, Help Nepal Benefit Concert, to raise money to help the earthquake victims. The Concert, which was held on May 30th, 2015, here in New York City, had performances by many famous Nepalese artists as well as American, British and Japanese musicians. We successfully raised $12,000 from the fundraiser. 

In October last year, I traveled to Kathmandu, and with the help of Tamang Artist Association of Nepal, a program was organized at Nepal Academy, Kamaladi, Kathmandu, where I was able to hand over the funds to the selected recipients personally.  The money was distributed among seven different earthquake impacted districts, where it will be used specifically for schools in small villages. I contributed a hundred thousand rupees myself to the Tamang Artist’s Association for their help, and my cousin from New York as well as well known social worker Mr. Banshalal Tamang made a generous contribution of his own. There was a good turnout for the program, with many speeches made by prominent Tamang figures, many famous tamang singers, although there were no performances. Mr. Rudra Singh Tamang, Chief and Executive Officer, Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office, attended as the Chief Guest of the program. Among the attendees were famous linguist Mr. Amrit Yonjan, President of Tamang Ghedung Sangh Mr. Kumar Yonjan, social worker Mr. Gajendra Kumar Lama and formal parliament member Mr. Bir Bahadur Lama. The event was well covered by the media, both local and US based outlets, including the Everest Times, US Nepal Online and Nepali Bulletin. Mr. Manchhiring Tamang, Chief Editor of Nepali Bulletin, was also present at the program. Handing the funds over was a great relief to me, and my little speech was something to that effect; that the burden of using the funds effectively was now shifted onto the recipients. 

While I was there, I saw only a tiny fraction of the tremendous damage caused by the earthquake, but what I saw was spectacular. So many houses were crumbled to the ground. In my own village, the two houses which I built for my family were both very unsafe to live in. The members of my family who had lived there are in a temporary shelter outside, but they still go into one of the old houses to cook, which I think is taking a big risk because there are still aftershocks. Both houses are too badly damaged to be repaired, so eventually they’ll have to come down. Something else I found in my village was that the little creek where we used to get our water as far back as I can remember, is now dried up as a consequence of the earthquake. So now everyone has to go much farther to get water, which is difficult and affects everyone’s life very much.
Earthquake survivors. Sindhupalchowk
Devastated house which claimed a life at Dilli Bazaar, Kathmandu.

My cousin's old house damaged by earthquake
Aftermath of earthquake, Sindhupalchowk.

Dried up Creek at my village.
Adding insult to injury after the earthquake was the blockade, with India not allowing fuel and provisions into Nepal. I was in Kathmandu during the time of the Dashain festival, which is the main festival, and everything was closed. There was also no gasoline available so there were no cars about. There was no cooking gas—meaning not even a cup of tea—and worse than that, no basic medicines for people needing dialysis and other life sustaining services. At the same time, some greedy people were taking advantage of the blockade with black market gasoline, making big profits who gladly prosper from the suffering of the many, and as usual. It’s always the ordinary honest hardworking people who are suffers. I saw mini buses, crowded with people sitting all over the roofs, listing to one side like ships with the weight imbalance which is very unsafe. I didn’t ride a single bus, but I did ride on the motorbike with my brother. 

My brother and his family, along with our mother, had been living outside in Kathmandu since the earthquake damaged my house there. But since the winter has started, they’re taking their chances and staying in it anyway. The house is the one Charles Henri Ford originally bought so many years ago, and it’s a very old house, now noticeably unstable. The walls and ceilings are full of cracks and gaps. I stayed there during my visit, and at night little pieces of dirt or plaster would fall from the ceiling onto the floor. I would hear the sound and wonder if it meant the house was trembling. Somehow, I managed to get enough sleep anyway. 
Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu.

Remaining piece of Dharara also known as Bhimsen Tower. Sundara, Kathmandu
Water shortages meant few baths, and there was usually no hot water, so I washed my hair with cold water every day. In twenty days, I must have had only two or three hot showers. People who have better houses or houses with no damage do have hot water, but my house was not one of the lucky ones. As for drinking water, people play it safe by buying large bottles of water, and to be absolutely certain they boil the water they buy so that it’s safe to drink. 

During my trip, I also had chance to visit His Eminence Losang Namgyal Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery. Along with me were Bansalal Tamang, Pemba Sherpa Hyolmo, my brother Suraj Tamang and few others. His eminence gave us a brief tour of the monastery and his eminence treated our group with delicious lunch. It felt refreshing to visit the monastery in midst of the earthquake aftermath and economic blockade. 
On the rooftop of a building at Kopan Monastery with His Eminence Losang Namgyal Rinpoche. Kopan,  Kathmandu.
Photo by Suraj Tamang.

I’ve only roughly summarized my trip here, but I do feel that I was able to accomplish quite a few things during my short stay. I returned on November 1st to New York, home sweet home, feeling good about having gone. 

Indra Tamang

copyright © Indra Tamang 2016, all rights reserved.