Summer vacation has taken over

Father and daughter reading while swinging. 7:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, August 23, 2012. Warm, sunny day in New York with a little bit of humidity to give it a little bit of an edge. Yesterday afternoon the Accu-Weather page carried a pink band above it “Air Quality Alert.” I wondered what that meant. The report carried this (and more details):

AIR QUALITY ALERT IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM THURSDAY TO 11 PM THURSDAY...

THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION HAS ISSUED AN AIR QUALITY HEALTH ADVISORY FOR THE FOLLOWING COUNTIES ... SUFFOLK ... NASSAU. ... RICHMOND ... KINGS ... QUEENS ... NEW YORK ... BRONX ... WESTCHESTER...ROCKLAND.

AIR QUALITY LEVELS IN OUTDOOR AIR ARE PREDICTED TO BE GREATER THAN AN AIR QUALITY INDEX VALUE OF 100 FOR THE POLLUTANT OF OZONE. THE AIR QUALITY INDEX ... OR AQI ... THE HIGHER THE AQI VALUE ... THE GREATER THE HEALTH CONCERN.


WHEN POLLUTION LEVELS ARE ELEVATED ... THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH RECOMMENDS THAT INDIVIDUALS CONSIDER LIMITING STRENUOUS OUTDOOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY TO REDUCE THE RISK OF ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS. PEOPLE WHO MAY BE ESPECIALLY SENSITIVE TO THE EFFECTS OF ELEVATED LEVELS OF POLLUTANTS INCLUDE THE VERY YOUNG ... AND THOSE WITH PRE-EXISTING RESPIRATORY PROBLEMS SUCH AS ASTHMA OR HEART DISEASE.
The heavy air along the Hudson.
The City is very quiet, Many seem to have left for the two weeks before Labor Day. What does that mean, quiet, in a city with millions of inhabitants? It means sidewalks and roadways less teeming, sometimes even quiet, and the pace slowing (for New York, that is).

Yesterday afternoon on the plaza that surrounds the Apple Cube across Fifth Avenue from the Plaza Fountain there was a man on the sidewalk playing the bucket drums and pipes, filling the air with a shimmering pretty metallic Caribbean-via-Harlem sound. It took over the atmosphere and set everyone in a quieter, softer mood. Charmed, they were. The tables, chairs, ledges were filled. People were taking in the tourists’ tempo of midtown. It was the precious part of New York.

Michael’s Wednesday was running at a quieter, slower pace, although with lots of the familiar faces. T. Boone Pickens was at Table 3. Leonard Lauder was next door at Table 4. Freddie Gershon was at Table One with Dave Johnson of Warner Brothers. Judy Price was lunching with Jaquine Arnold. Moving around the room:  Jerry Inzerillo; Lisa Linden; Harriet Weintraub; John Arnhold; Matt Rich with Eva Roosevelt; Catherine Saxton; Henry Schleiff; Tim Schifter; Michael J. Wolf; Bruce Lamb; Patricia Duff; Jean Doumanian with Gordon Cox; Pamela VanZandt.

I mixed up my dates with my lunch partner-to-be and he never showed up. Or rather I showed up and he didn’t expect me to, thinking it was today. After clearing up the matter by connecting, I had a little lunch and was one my way.

Finished the day at Le Cirque where we were guests of Liz Smith and Liz’ ace reporter/Man Friday Denis Ferrara. We being this writer, my partner on the web, Jeff Hirsch – the man who makes the NYSD work everyday – his wife Danielle Rossi Hirsch, and Iris Love, the archeologist who can run through the classics right up to the current scene and keep you fascinated all night.
A sampling of our meal at Le Cirque. Clockwise starting at top left: JH's Shaved Artichoke Salad; my Floating Island Dessert; Iris' Baked Alaska all aflame, and everyone's Chocolate Souffle. As you can see, a lotta DECLICIOUS desserts.
Le Cirque was very busy in both the bar and the main dining room. I love the food there. I started with a chilled cucumber soup with avocado, caviar, crème frache, and smoked salmon, followed by the Lobster Salad. Not like any other. With Denis and Liz at the table, there was a lot of conversation about the world of Broadway and especially Hollywood and the icons they have met and known beginning with Elizabeth Taylor. People who have known Taylor can talk about her all night long. Partly because she was So Nice. This is true.  

Quest magazine came out with its annual Quest 400 List yesterday with a couple of pieces of mine that are about the social history of New York. In my Diary this month, I tell the story of Harry Lehr, also known in his heyday as “King” Lehr, who enjoyed a special place of his own creation in New York at the end of the Gilded Age (and the gilded cage).

Lehr is barely known now so it is difficult to assess the breadth of his “fame” and popularity but suffice to say he made his way in life being the Eminence Gris of the Court Jesters, famous for his laughs and his pranks that he cooked up with and for the Ladies who ruled Society in the last days of the Mrs. Astor and the Big Four who followed her (Mrs. Hamilton Fish, Mrs. George Gould, Mrs. O. H. P. (Alva Vanderbilt) Belmont, and Mrs. John Jacob Astor IV (mother of Vincent Astor).

Lehr followed in the footsteps of Mrs. Astor’s Ward McAllister, as the “next generation” at the beginning of the 20th century in New York,. His prominence and fame would be hard to imagine today, but the world in which he navigated was confined, constricted and rules and tradition-bound, more than anything we know today.

In the process of his “climb,” Harry Lehr married a very rich woman from an important Philadelphia society family. This marriage established him in more ways than one. And it was begun under false pretenses on his part. The tale I tell, and it is a true one, gleamed from the memoirs of his widow Elizabeth Drexel Lehr, among other sources, and a sad one for, ironically, the victor.
 

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