Fourth of July Weekend in the city
Looking south along an eerily quiet Seventh Avenue. Photo: JH.

The exodus began on Thursday. Then on Friday, it was completed. You could see it in the empty roadways.

The sidewalks, on the other hand, were another story. There were lots of people out and in midtown and thereabouts, lots of tourists.

Several of the service people in my neighborhood – people who know me by my dogs and my column – asked me why I wasn’t in the Hamptons. “This is my holiday weekend,” is the stock answer. Read a book. See old friends. Go to a movie. Things I rarely have time to do.

It’s been hot in the city with some rain breaks toward evening that cool things down somewhat. But the city is beautiful on these mass exodus weekends. It’s peaceful, even metropolitan serene, and yet there is still that New York energy on the pavement. It’s happening. It’s going someplace. Mainly to a restaurant and/or a movie at the moment.

Saturday night I went with an old friend of mine, Philip Carlson to dine at August, a cool but narrow and cozy storefront restaurant on 359 Beecker between 10th and Charles. Philip’s late wife, Leslie Revsin was a very good and well known chef here in New York. So Philip knows his food (and his wallet too – always a help).

You can’t make a reservation at August. It’s first come, first served. Philip suggested everyone would be out of town and they’d have a table on Saturday. They did. At eight o’clock. In their garden which is a hothouse style glassed in where the roof windows slide back. A real Village crowd, meaning a very mixed bag. And very relaxed. And very good food with not too big servings for those of you who know the only solution is to eat less.

The bill was $167. tax included. We both had starters and a main course (fish, chicken). It was the wine: 3 glasses each. Mine, an Alsatian Pinot Gris (I asked) was $14 each. His red (didn’t ask) was $11. Equals 75 bucks just for the wine. Not to mention my Pellegrino. Very good service; very young, very polite; nice vibes about the whole place. I’d go back. And go a lot easier on the wine.

A late Saturday afternoon looking north up Seventh Avenue on Fourth of July Weekend where JH started out.
A stop for more than a bus.
Kicking off the weekend with a case of Olde English 800.

After dinner we walked through the Village on our way to 14th Street and transportation. We were talking about the Village in the late 60s when Philip had a little apartment on Greenwich Avenue. We passed where ee cummings lived. A million years ago. We waxed nostalgic about the way it used to be when we were much younger, and the way it used to be even before we were even on the planet. Fresh and assuring. Now it’s a lot more commercial. There’s a Ralph Lauren Polo store on Bleecker. No more Edna St. Vincent Millay burning her candles at both ends. But ah my foes and oh my friends, it’s still the Village, and a lovely place to be even if only for dinner.

Sunday night I went for an early dinner with Steve and Marianne Harrison (also old friends) at Café Luxembourg (on 70th between Broadway and West End). The Harrisons live here in New York and also own the Rhett House Inn (which you’ve seen advertised on these pages) in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Café Luxembourg is an old haunt for many New Yorkers. It is cool, theatrical, Noo Yawk, sophisticated, laid-back, neighborhoody, trendy, with it, hip, whatever. And the food’s good. And so’s the bar. You need a reservation there and it probably helps if you know somebody although they’ve always given me a table when I’ve given them ample notice (day before) or on a Fourth of July weekend when there’s some space everywhere.

It poured when we were dining and then stopped. So we walked the freshly washed pavement up Broadway after dinner. We passed a theatre where there was a line waiting to get in to “The Devil Wears Prada.” Both Marianne and Steve were once in the fashion business. They’d gone that afternoon but couldn’t get in.

Monday afternoon I went with two friends to see “The Devil Wears Prada” at a Cineplex on Third Avenue across from Bloomingdale’s. We got the tickets ahead of time which was a good thing because there was a line around the block. Two lines around either end of the block – one the ticket holders and the others the ticketless.

I didn’t read the book although I’d read that it wasn’t much more than chick-lit. The movie, however, was very funny not the least because of Meryl Streep, a walking nightmare neurotic boss and the very pretty, naïve-and-innocent-at-first Anne Hathaway. And a wonderful supporting cast including a Brooklyn-fey, butched-up style queen Stanley Tucci.

Meryl Streep, if you haven’t seen it, is the boss you love to hate. She’s a bitch and a bully, and quicker on the draw than most of us. And of course, you, sitting in the audience also get to laugh at her. Because she can’t fire you, thank God. She’s both ludicrous and pathological. And compelling. And under all the laughter – and there is a lot of laughter – the subtext is pain. And sadness. For me anyway. Which is why Meryl Streep is a great actress. And probably a lot of fun to be around. It is a very unpleasant experience being a bitch and a bully.

Walking up Third Avenue with my friends we discussed the character because another old friend of mine used to work for Halston in his heyday when he had his atelier on 68th and Madison and the world came. The movie we’d just seen where the Streep character’s anticipated arrivals at the office set everyone into a panic reminded my friend of Halston’s arrivals at the shop which were always telephoned ahead.

“Someone from the house would call and say, ‘he’s on his way,’ and we’d go from being calm and relaxed to turning into little roaches running around when the lights go on, terrified.”

Halston would come in around eleven or noon (these were in the druggie Studio 54 days, or rather nights). He’d already be in a foul mood and yelling, putting the fear of God in everyone. “Once I ran into a closet,” my friend recalled, “and he saw me and later asked me why I was in the closet. I told him I wasn’t.”

Halston wasn’t like that with his clients, reported my friend. He was afraid of Kay Graham, the Washington Post owner because she didn’t like him around and made that clear. Babe Paley didn’t tolerate his attitude toward his staff and let him know with impact (and not much more than a raising of an eyebrow). Jackie didn’t like him around because he was always pushing product with Jackie and Jackie, contrary to popular opinion, did not like spending a lot of money. Someone else’s maybe; but not her own.

All this from seeing a funny movie on a hot Monday afternoon in July on the day before Independence Day in New York.

Sunday afternoon I went with JH and the Digital for a walk in the Park to see what the weekend was like for New Yorkers. We entered at 86th Street and Fifth Avenue, walking up to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and then along the bridle path until we found a bench to discuss our business, and take in the world around us.
York and 83rd Street, on the way to pick up DPC.
East End Avenue looking north. The Chapin School for Girls on the left. The limestone building in the center – 120 East End Avenue was built by Vincent Astor in 1931 and overlooks Carl Schurz Park, Gracie Mansion and the East River (and Queens beyond). Mr. Astor built a 10,000 square foot penthouse for himself. He died there in 1959.
“What Hath Frank Lloyd Wright Wrought?” We drove over to Fifth Avenue and found a space on East 89th between Fifth and Madison. There were a lot of empty parking spaces. We parked just behind a beautiful gunmetal grey Ferrari coupe with Connecticut plates. A doorman from across the street came out with a digital and took a picture of it. He told us that the owner who lived here and there, rarely drove it, and that costs about “three and a quarter.” Then, right on the corner is the Gugg which is obviously getting an exterior refurbishment/renovation. It’s still a compelling structure even enshrouded.
The parkroad where the cyclists, roller-bladers, and joggers are day and night. It was in the 90s and there was a steady stream but sparse.
Standing at the entrance to the Onassis Reservoir looking to Central Park West. Where I come from this would be called a lake. Mrs. Onassis jogged around this body of water frequently – she lived directly across the street. She was very visible to New Yorkers because she often got around town and often walked whenever she could. There are many New Yorkers who had passed by her on the jogs who retain special memories of those non-encounters.
The jogging path that surrounds the water. The wrought iron fence replaced a long standing dilapidated wire fence when the reservoir was named for Mrs. Onassis. It was a donation to the Central Park Conservancy by Donna and Marvin
The bridle path.
Nuzzling and gnoshing parkside.
An equestrian stops for a break.
People watching/watching people on the benches just inside the Park across from Mrs. Onassis’ apartment. She bought the coop from Elizabeth Weicker Fondaras in 1964. It was sold to David Koch in 1995 for $9.5 million. A couple of weeks ago Mr. Koch sold it to hedge fund manager Glenn Dubin for $32 million.
Spying from high above Fifth Avenue.
“I’ll trade ya Pop, my soda for your pretzel …”
Ronald Lauder’s Neue Gallerie on the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue. Built in 1914, an approximation of the Louis XIII style on the Place des Vosges in Paris, it was built for William Starr Miller by Carrere and Hastings. In 1949 it was sold to Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III when she sold the family mansion at 52nd and Fifth and moved into something “smaller.” It was later owned by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and purchased by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder and art dealer Serge Sabarsky in 1994. After Sabarsky’s death two years later, Mr. Lauder began transforming it into a museum for his collection of early 20th century German and Austrian Art. A couple of weeks ago Mr. Lauder purchased a Gustav Klimt portrait at auction for $135,000,000 and it will soon be hanging in the Neue Gallerie.
Relaxing along Fifth Avenue ...
Oliver Dog Hirsch a/k/a Oliver Dog. Mr. O was adopted by JH in 2000 at ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) in the Hamptons. He was “about three,” and had had three homes in about six weeks when he was taken under leash, presumably or at least possibly a “problem.” Turned out to be an angel. With a mind of his own and a lot of enthusiasm (when he’s in the mood) and the very finest example of Man’s Best Friend.
An empty Fifth Avenue crosswalk.
When I was a boy growing up in New England, the Fourth of July was a great holiday for flags and picnics of hotdogs, hamburgers, soda (which could be rare in many households -- except for special occasions), fireworks, flags and celebrations. In metropolitan life in the early 21st century, it's less apparent, and you could even miss it if you wanted. Here and now it's still a time for some peaceful hours, some reflection, some consideration about what the Founders had in mind when chose the Day and the Occasion for us. Lest we forget ...


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July 4, 2006, Volume VI, Number 108
Photographs by JH/


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/