On Riverside Drive
Saturday, May 23
The usual hideously fraught build-up to the trip. Peter had dental surgery Tuesday (shaving the bone so as to fit a crown properly) three days before the trip, and I felt anxious about leaving him; also he feared the urinary infection (which he’d had for two months) was starting up again, so on Friday I had a desperate time trying to get hold of the doctor. Doc said symptoms were due to the antibiotics he was taking after the surgery, and gave him some Diflucin to calm things down. I hated to leave Peter in awful pain and wobbly on his legs, alone for a week to wrangle three lively teenage cats. And because I was a bit distracted I left my debit card in the cash machine, and had to run around to the bank the morning of the flight, only to learn somebody had stolen $400 off the card! (Fortunately, it will be credited). Doubly distracted and unnerved I got the flight time wrong and we had to dash to the airport. But we made it, and Paul and I were on our way.
We had bad middle row seats in different rows, but to make up for my mismanagement, as we were checking in they asked if two people would sit in the emergency exit aisle, and I swiftly volunteered. So we had seats together with extra leg room. Tiring flight with turbulence over the Rockies, which always frightens me. There was nothing whatsoever to eat but a single dog biscuit. We arrived at JFK at 11 PM, took a cab to 106th and Riverside and went right up to Ezra’s lovely apartment – an oasis of peace in New York. Went out and got some Italian take-out, lasagna and spaghetti, salad and garlic rolls, New York workingclass Italian, very good. Amusingly, there was a young couple from the plane there too, desperately scarfing their late-night pizza. Delta and Dog Biscuits, humph.
Pifflefest at Debbie's Victorian house in Glen Ridge, New Jersey
Sunday, May 24
Slept well, up at 10. We took the subway down to Port Authority, grabbed a cappuccino and caught the noon bus out to Glen Ridge, NJ, a surprisingly pretty leafy green suburb; I had no very benign image of New Jersey in my mind, but was pleasantly disabused – beautiful old homes and peaceful greenery. My long time Piffle friend Debbie greeted us at her charming little Victorian house and we met her dogs and cats and enjoyed seeing all her pretty things and the lovely wild green back yard. Then she drove us to Sandy’s more traditional home, also in a lovely leafy green suburb, Demarest, not far away. Stopped at a famous iris garden on the way, in full bloom. We then went to the Peking Duck restaurant and had: crab dumplings, scallion pancakes, pork steamed dumplings, chicken satay, sesame noodles, and Peking duck – a lovely meal! Afterwards Sandy then drove us to Tenafly where we caught the bus back to Port Authority. The New Jersey visit went very well, efficient travel, good food, and really wonderful to see the lovely homes of two Piffle friends I’ve talked to nearly every day for a decade. Paul and I then took a cab to my mother-in-law Vivian’s apartment in Peter Cooper Village, and sat and visited with Rut and Vivian for the rest of the day. Ate wonderful New York bagels and lox and whitefish for dinner. Then returned by subway back to Ezra’s, thoroughly exhausted!
Me and Paul at Debbie's (photo by Debbie Cusick)
Peking Duck Pifflefest in New Jersey: Paul, me, Debbie, Sandy
Monday, May 25
Only about 4 hours sleep, woke at 6:30, couldn’t get back, consequently felt awful all day. We hauled out at 10, hoping to catch the 10:30 bus to my mother (who lives in the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale), but saw it pull away. As it was Memorial Day, we had to wait another hour for the next bus. We had cappuccinos at Starbucks, and bought a salami and cheese on baguette for lunch on the bus home. We got to the Hebrew Home at 12:15, and I had to catch the 1 PM bus back to city to go to a 2 PM ballet, but Paul stayed with my mother. The lunch was so awful there, some indescribable mush on toast, that I shared the sandwich and my mother said it was the best food she’d eaten in months! We showed her Paul’s Kindle, which would be wonderful for her as she is blind and it reads books aloud, but this model is too difficult for her to operate, and would be stolen anyway. So she’ll stick with her books on tape for now. Vivian sent her half a dozen new blouses and some brownies, which was nice. I returned to the city and got to Lincoln Center in time to see ABT’s all- Balanchine program (Allegro Brillante, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Mozartiana, Theme & Variations), but it was very disappointing; ABT seems to dance Balanchine coldly and without comprehension and I should simply have used the money for a New York City Ballet ticket instead, any ticket! Irina and Maxim are fine Russian technicians but not interesting at all. Diana Vishneva and Angel Corelli were more exciting, but went for slick showmanship which seemed to miss the choreography somehow. I’d always wanted to see Mozartiana in person (that’s why I chose this program) but in Suzanne Farrell’s part they had some highly undistinguished soloist, Maria Richetti, so it was complete disappointment.
Behind me sat several women with Bronx sort of accents, older than me, carping that they couldn’t see. They kept switching seats around and complaining loudly during the ballet! Finally three of them got up to look for other seats, and a woman with a walker came and sat in one. Then one of the women returned and said she wanted the seat back. The woman in the walker said she didn’t see why she should move, and the other woman asked with asperity if she wanted her to go get her friend’s ticket, as her friend had sat in that seat before? Finally they resolved it by all sitting together and complaining some more. The newcomer lamented, “I don’t see why I should have to sit where I can’t see. And ballet is MY PASSION!”
Afterwards it was horribly hot, high 80s and sunny. I’m totally unused to the New York humidity and it felt just like the last straw on top of tiredness. I took the bus down to 33rd St., then walked in the heat to 23rd, waited for the crosstown to go to Vivian’s. Exhausted and cranky, but she had air conditioning on and I rested, and Paul arrived, back from my mother’s. Then we took bus and subway back up to Ezra’s, and had showers before my childhood best friend Mark and his wife Barbara (both psychologists) arrived from their Berkshires weekend condo. They came into the city to see us, and went home afterwards to their main home at Hastings on Hudson, which they may leave – it was interesting to hear about, as I like to delve into the lives of people living here, so different from our way of life. We ate in an Indian restaurant around the corner. After they left we did email for awhile and went out to a bistro for dessert. That part of New York life is very attractive. I do hope it’s cooler tomorrow.
In the Village
Tuesday, May 26
Much cooler, light drizzle. Spent morning with Vivian, had bagels and lox, and then went out to meet Samantha, whom I know slightly from the Girls’ Own onlne list. Financial journalist, Barnard grad, she lives with her sweet husband in a very attractive condo only a block from Peter Cooper. In an incredibly short and delightful time we had an enthusiastic intense chat about our favorite GO authors. Afterwards I collected Paul and we took a cab to the gorgeous West Village brownstone my agent always rents when she’s in New York. She and her husband/partner took us for truly delicious desserts (chocolate Italianate cakes) at a lovely famous café nearby, Ristorante Sant Ambroeus. Agent wasn’t too keen about my idea for plays (“No money in that!”), wants me to do historical novel. Paul’s take is that they thought I was lazy! After this very warm and pleasant meeting, we walked through the West Village, saw the recently remodeled Washington Square Park which has water in the fountain for the first time in decades. We walked to venerable Strand Books, and stopped at the fashionable flagship Barnes & Noble in Union Square. Then we walked to Vivian’s, and we all went out to our favorite Turkish restaurant, Turkish Kitchen on Third Avenue and 27th. I had white bean salad, hummus, and delicious baby lamb chops, Turkish tea and baklava.
Lunch at the Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallery, Paul and Laurie: Hungarian Goulash, egg sandwiches
Raccoons in Central Park
Wednesday, May 27
Met Laurie (my New York best friend, we worked together at MGM decades ago) at Café Sabarsky, the exquisite Viennese café at the Neue Gallery on Fifth Avenue, opposite the Metropolitan Museum. There we very much enjoyed the delicious Hungarian goulash soup, egg sandwiches on black bread, and chocolate hazelnut cake and cappuccino. Paul then went off to meet an editor friend, and Laurie and I walked in the park, enjoying the Ramble, though the red cardinals she feeds in winter were not to be seen. Then I went to the Met to have a look at the new American Gallery and was pleased that they seem to allow unlimited digital photography. Afterwards I walked over to Laurie’s house on East 78th and she showed me her artwork, book collages that she places in museums. Then it was time to go to the New York Yacht Club on West 44th Street, which I’d never known existed in all its grandeur, cheek by jowl with the Harvard Club, the Algonquin, and the General Society Library (of which I’d never even heard before, but must visit on my next trip – it’s the second oldest library in NY, founded in 1820 to educate workingmen). The occasion was a lecture about the Navy in Jane Austen’s day, by a naval historian, held jointly by JASNA-NY and the Georgian Club. Rather an old time WASPy bastion. Best of all was seeing JASNA-NY friends, Gene and Nili and Jerry and Kerri. We went to dinner in a Turkish Greek restaurant (Kellari Seafood Taverna) and talked Jane Austen affairs. Food was delicious: watercress salad, stuffed mussels, thinly sliced fried zucchini, red wine – all excellent. Then went back down to Vivian’s for a short visit, and arranged to meet Paul, who’d been to the theater, seeing the wonderful Mary Stuart play by Schiller with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter. We met at Veselka’s, the open all night Ukrainian restaurant on Second Avenue in the East Village, and he had goulash and pierogies and I had apple crumb cake. Took the train home from Sheridan Square.
Metropolitan Museum - the new American Wing
Thursday, May 28
We took the long bus ride up to my mother in Riverdale, pleasant visit, we brought her whitefish salad which she hadn’t had in many years and adored. Then we bussed back downtown and visited my cousin Anne and her 12-year-old daughter Joanna. We had a warm and wonderful time playing with their cats, and talking of all our favorite pastimes (beads, dancing). Lovely. From there we went to Vivian’s, but she didn’t want to go to dinner so Paul and I went to Sevilla in the Village and had the most fabulous meal ourselves: Paella Valenciana, sangria, clams casino. We then had a good stroll around the West Village, which was looking lovely at night, in order to be able to squeeze in dessert at Café Cluny: profiteroles and cappuccino!
Friday, May 29
I went to Book Expo, exhausting and not of much use or purpose to me, though it was very kind of my publisher to provide me with a pass. You could see the recession everywhere, no freebies at all, and people hawking books with desperation. After walking for what seemed like miles all over the humungous Javits Center (it’s about four city blocks on Eleventh Avenue) until I was ready to drop, I took a cab to meet Paul at Vivian’s. We had a little broiled take-out chicken, and I left Paul there. He was flying home today, and arranged for the Super Shuttle to pick him up from there. I went uptown to spend afternoon with Barbara, brilliant retired academic librarian friend who’s the American liaison of the Charlotte Yonge Fellowship. We had our usual wonderful book talk in her beautiful apartment, my favorite in all Manhattan – a Riverside Drive enclave with river views, high ceilings, dark wood paneling, and thousands and thousands of books. I’d thought I might go see Mary Stuart or the New York City Ballet, but was simply too tired. So I walked the few blocks to Ezra’s in the gloaming, rested a bit, and then went out to an Upper West Side restaurant, Arte Café, and had clams oreganata and veal parmesan while reading a lovely book by Molly Keane. Then took the Broadway bus back to Ezra’s, alone, feeling rather desolate without Paul.
Paella Valenciana at Sevilla in the Village (Charles Street)
Overheard in New York:
"She's got a vagina and was breathing, so he was lost."
"Of course I told my therapist about it immediately, what did you think? I always tell her life changes before I tell anybody else."
"Well, so she'll end up as a super rich Upper West Side lady doing good. There are legions of them."
Jane Austen Society lecture at the New York Yacht Club
Me, Gene, Nili and Jerry
Saturday, May 30
Slept well, rose feeling much more cheerful, and enjoyed the bus ride down Broadway, looking at what people were wearing and the lively scene. Arrived at Studio Grill on Columbus just as Beth did. We were joined by our other Hunter classmates (we had a rich and memorable reunion of our sixth grade class a couple of years ago, and have become happily reacquainted). There were six of us, all busy professional women with no desire to retire, even in our 60s. The various professions were an interesting range: university press editor, New York Times writer, lawyer, writer on health and weight issues, real estate businesswoman, plus bohemian writer me! Eva’s delightful 90-year-old mother joined us, and contributed to the memories. We were given a side room of our own, which was lovely, and I had bagel and lox, iced tea and cappuccino. We talked about our lives, and it was intensely fascinating to hear how my former classmates, most of whom have remained in New York, live and work: three out of six have grandchildren, and all seem to have lovely homes. None have escaped trials of life (as if you could), the recession has not gone unfelt, but the feeling was of warm joy at survival and being together. There was much talk, as with any group, of Kindles and Facebook and Blackberries and the changes we’ve seen since Hunter in the 1950s – it’s hard to get your mind around, and yet there we sat, recognizably still Eva, Beth, Marianne, Nancy, Priscilla and Denny, smiling at each other. After a three-hour constant-talking lunch, Priscilla kindly drove me to Zabars, where I bought nova, sturgeon, whitefish salad, bialys, scallion cream cheese, Parma ham and more, with an ice pack for the plane. Also picked up a couple of pretty scarves from a street seller outside Zabars, simply gorgeous, $5 each – great New York experience, that!
Then I took the Broadway bus back to Ezra’s, arriving at 4:15 which gave me just time for final packing. The Super Shuttle arrived at 5. Smooth ride to airport, talking to a woman in her 80s who was on her way to Azerbaijan for a month, to travel around alone. Got to airport early…bag much too heavy…smooth flight, and I mercifully had bought a divine salami and cheese baguette at Zabars, a sublime adjunct to the dog biscuit. On the plane I most efficiently read three screenplays on my laptop, one after the other. Paul met me at the airport at midnight, and I was soon glad and relieved to be back in my quiet home with my dear boys and dear pussycats.
Hunter Reunion at the Studio Grill, Columbus Avenue: Priscilla, Eva's mother, Eva, Nancy, Marianne, Beth and me