Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New York at the Speed of Light

Monday, Jan. 25, 2010

Good flight, just under 5 hours. Takeoff delayed because of storm in NY, but it was over by the time we departed and we made up time. The entire cast of something called Tyler Perry was on the plane, raucous good natured black people, and one of them, a 300-pound man cracking jokes sat next to me, which was at first disconcerting, as I thought I'd be crowded; but he was a lovely guy, very sweet and considerate. They were on their way to perform at Madison Square Garden.

Got in at 9 PM, took Super Shuttle, heading toward the hotel, but we were passing Vivian's house so I had them stop and I got out! Vivian & Rut gave me a nice welcome and some New York bagels and lox, which was perfect as I needed dinner. Then taxi to Larchmont Hotel on 11th Street between Fifth and Sixth.

Up on Tuesday before 9, bought tokens and took the bus to 34th and Sixth, and then the express bus up to Riverdale to visit my mother in the Hebrew Home for the Aged. She looked very well, lovely white haircut, pretty outfit. Very nice visit, had lunch. Left at 2, took express bus (dozing, exhausted) and crosstown to meet Peter's friend Bill and his wife at the French Roast on 84th and Broadway, but we all decided the Poe Cafe nearby, in a building where Poe lived, was more the ticket.

At Poe's cafe

Had a wonderful time with them; the sweetest, nicest couple, Peter went to Columbia Grammar with Bill 50 years ago! They live in his old family apartment on Riverside Drive, but also in New Hampshire. Left them at 4:30 and walked up Broadway to see Mark, buying lox at Murray's Sturgeon Shop. He had rather a cold and was tired, but we went to a bistro called Cleopatra's Eye and had barley soup and feta cheese salad. It's always wonderful to see Mark, the closest friend of my childhood. From there I went to the apt. on 89th of an internet friend, Jay, and his wife - met them because of a book mixup, a friend sent us the wrong books, and we started corresponding, Jay taunting me about how awful Los Angeles is. So now he's coming to visit the hateful place next week! He's something of a cultural arbiter elegantum, and their apartment is floor-to-ceiling art books and beautiful things, a quintessential cultured New York apartment. They gave me dinner - superb garlicky scallops and rice, Frenchy salad, hot bread, beautiful pear and blue cheese and homemade cookies! Wow. Then I exhaustedly staggered on the subway to Vivian's, and then taxi back to Larchmont.

Dessert at Neue Gallery cafe

Wednesday very tired, only about 5 hours sleep. Taxi to take taxi to Neue Gallery on Fifth Avenue, lest I be late for meeting Jane at 11:30. Lovely lunch, Hungarian goulash soup, spicy egg salad, chocolate orange marzipan cake and Viennese hot chocolate! Then to the Met, saw the Bronzino drawings, some Goyas and Velazquez, sat in the airy American wing for cappucino. Afterwards we walked through the Park to Turtle Pond, where I played as a child, then strolled through the Ramble, taking pictures of the lake. We walked all the way from the Met to Jane's hotel on 57th Street.

Then I took a cab to Anne's, had lovely time with her, Joanna, and Jim. Joanna very cute with her tomboy look. Each of the cats stood up on its hind legs to kiss me; I've never seen anything like that and Anne says they've never done such a thing before. Then taxi to Turkish Kitchen to meet Jane and Gary for a wonderful meal, white bean salad, hummus selection, quails and rice with pine nuts, Turkish tea and baklava. Then to Peter's parents briefly, and then exhausted back to hotel...

American Wing at the Met

Lady Bertram and Pug?

Thursday, I rested till noon, still powerfully tired. Clear pale sunny day. Took subway up to Barbara's place on Riverside Drive; she's secretary of the Charlotte Yonge Society and I visit her whenever I come to the city. Afterwards I had a delightful little walk in Riverside Park, and shopped a bit around Columbia, visiting Book Culture bookshop and Liberty House boutique. Bought a fanciful word book by Gelett Burgess (a present for Peter, who adored it), and a Nepalese wooly colorful hat and mittens from a street seller.

Riverside Park

Then took a bus down to Lincoln Center and met Jane. We went to a talk given by some of the New York City Ballet dancers, principal ballerina Tiler Peck, principal dancer Gonzalo Garcia, corps member Stephanie Zungre, and ballet mistress, Dena Abergel. We were 3 feet from them, which was delightful, and we could see just how tiny and thin the dancers really are! Then the ballet, a sparkling Sleeping Beauty starring Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz. Afterwards we rushed over to the Russian Tea Room, met Gary, and had a glamorous dinner: goat cheese and mushroom crepe, Beef Stroganoff with mushrooms and noodles, and chocolate pyramid with lingonberries in honey. It was a set price dinner for $35, part of New York Restaurant Week, but I asked for tea with dessert and they charged $10 for one teabag! It was a Black Russian Evening Tea from France, but still. Then cab back to hotel - a lovely day.

Russian Tea Room

Friday. Much colder, but still sunny. Jane and I met at the Pierpont Morgan Library which has been remodeled rather disappointingly - I remember it as a lovely old place with the restaurant in a beautiful atrium; now it has been made into a modern metallic office block. It was a shock to see the cafe so uglified, it was just like having lunch in an office. The food was nice though, a homemade-tasting tomato soup and fancy pressed ham and cheese sandwich. Then people from JASNA-NY started arriving, and I happily greeted and was greeted by several familiar faces. We went up to the exhibit floor, where the "A Woman's Wit and Wisdom: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy" exhibit filled a gallery. The lecture was not a sit down one, but two Morgan curators walked us through the gallery, commenting on the letters. This worked very nicely, helping us to notice details we might otherwise have overlooked. The exhibit consisted mostly of her letters, as the Morgan has the single largest collection of them in the world. The letter where Morgan was offered the letters for sale is there; apparently he wanted to acquire a manuscript of one of her novels but there aren't any so he had to "settle" for letters. I had thought Cassandra's moving letter about her death was at Chawton House, but it turns out that's a facsimile, so I saw the real one here, in a two-sided case. Perhaps what I liked most was seeing the painting that Austen wrote was so like Jane Bingley. It was, too. Although she is sitting it gives the idea of a big girl, and she has a stylish but conventional face.

Jane Bennet?

They've picked rather "visual" letters for the exhibit - one where Austen drew a little pattern of lace, and the one where she painstakingly wrote in reversed letters for her niece's amusement. Partial manuscripts of Lady Susan and The Watsons were there as well. I was reminded of Miss Bingley's gushing "How do you contrive to write so even" to Mr. Darcy, for Jane Austen's handwriting is extremely even, and neat. It's always nice to see examples of it, and the letters were interspersed with various Gilray cartoons, some first editions, and a few other interesting odds and ends. One thing I was relieved about - I knew the exhibit included a loathsome film of the Great and the Good being interviewed about What Jane Austen Means to Them, which I thought would have been intrusive, but it was separated in an alcove, to be seen if one wished (or not). Otherwise, there was nothing of the dreaded "interactive" variety, just a thumping good sampling of Jane Austen's letters, very well displayed.

After we'd feasted our eyes on this, and had a look at the Hours of Catherine de Cleves (very beautiful illuminated manuscripts, including one delightful detail of a dragon's sex organs), we took a cab to the Frick. We walked through the lovely rooms there, and I revisited old friend paintings I've known all my life, was exalted by the Turners as usual, but also enjoyed a snowy Monet I hadn't really focused on before.

V├ętheuil in Winter

Afterwards we walked to my friend Kerri's house, in the 70s, from Fifth Avenue to East End, which would have been a lovely walk except that the weather was so bitterly cold. Kerri gave the most beautiful dinner party for some JASNA-NY friends, and it was the warmest and loveliest evening. I respect people's privacy but I don't think she'll mind if I post a picture of her beautiful little cat Jasmine.


Saturday was coldest yet, 14 degrees Fahrenheit! One's breath steamed. I took a cab to Vivian's to leave my suitcase, then the First Avenue bus uptown to Chef Ho's on Second Avenue and 89th Street. It was a Hunter reunion, and as always it is the deepest pleasure to see these long-lost, happily found, friends from long ago, whose present lives and characters are of such deep interest to me. And on a cold day, the steamy Chinese menu was perfect, a superb Peking duck and assorted dumplings. Afterwards I was taking the bus back down to Vivian's but it broke down so I took a cab, and missed getting Veniero's cookies for Paul. Super Shuttle was to pick me up at 5, and I waited out on the street corner since cars can't go into Peter Cooper. I was warmly dressed, my very long wool cashmere coat really serves its purpose; but by 5:30 my feet were getting numb so I called Super Shuttle and they said oh no, it's at 5:45. So that was 45 minutes standing in 14 degree weather. The driver was very apologetic however, and the bus was warm. We got to JFK at 6:30 for a 9 PM flight. Very smooth flight too, and arrived an hour ahead of time. Took a cab home and got the second cheating of the trip by a driver who took me the long way round in my own city (the first cheating was the teabag!). Never mind: I was home with Peter, Paul, and the darling cats, and so glad to be. It was a wonderful trip, all about friends, but it's tough, exhausting and hectic getting around New York. To sit on Sunday afternoon, outdoors at a cafe, with the California warm sunshine streaming all over me and the bougainvilleas, was very heaven.

Velasquez cats at the Met