Monday, November 26, 2012

The long holiday weekend

A solemn smoke in Central Park. 3:00PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, November 26, 2012. The long holiday weekend. Twenty-nine more Shopping Days ‘til Christmas. That was the front page seasonal herald which greeted newspaper readers all across the nation right after Thanksgiving.

Many of those newspapers have faded to web or from memory. Today the reminder is called Black Friday. Sounds ominous considering the term "Black Tuesday" (the day the stock market crashed in 1929). But these days it's used by retailers to mark one of the busiest days of the year -- when business traditionally turns profitable because of the upcoming Christmas holiday.
Having a smoke in Riverside Park.
It was a very quiet Thanksgiving Day in New York, followed by a very quiet weekend. Many left town on Wednesday. The roads were practically empty. Cabdrivers told me everyday was like a Sunday; few fares. Except in midtown on Saturday and Sunday when out-of-towners came in to check the great department stores and boutiques that line Fifth and Madison.

The weather was bright and sunny and mild. By Sunday morning, however, it had turned cold. Neighbors greeting each other in the elevator or the lobby mentioned the cold and how they needed warmer clothes. By last night it was in the low 30s, and the Weatherman is forecasting snow out this way by tomorrow.

I had two Thanksgivings. There was an old-fashioned, traditional one at the home of Gayfryd and Saul Steinberg where we were 27, seated knee-to-knee at one long table. Gayfryd is an excellent cook and she prepares for this day with a gusto that is reflected in the organization and the delicious menu. Her friend David Monn also prepared a ham, the recipe he learned from his grandmother back in Pennsylvania when he was a kid.

Gayfryd and Saul Steinberg.
The Steinberg dinner table was entirely family except for this writer and David Monn, the creator of spectacular event decors here in New York and a great friend of our hostess. She shares with him a mutual enthusiasm for what can be created by one’s hand, and the wonder it produces for everyone else. Although on this day, the family residence was adorned only by the enthusiasm of the guests and the table of plenty. There were spouses, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, great—grandchildren from age 8 to age 90 (Gayfryd’s father).

Gayfryd opened the dinner with some words of gratitude that we could all be there and partake of this beautiful meal, as well as a strong reminder of the loss and disaster in communities nearby.

The menu was traditional, turkey, ham, sweet potato, mashed potatoes, baby Brussels sprout, stuffing, cranberry, gravy and white or red (for the grown-ups). After the main course and seconds, the desserts were presented, four cakes, a red velvet, an orange, a vanilla, a chocolate; and pies: pecan, apple, lemon meringue and blueberry.

I left the Steinbergs about four and came home for a tryptophanic snooze. At seven I put on a suit and tie and went to the Four Seasons to dine with Herb and Jeanne Siegel, Herb’s son Bill and Herb’s sister Audrey Sabol and her daughter, NYSD’s Blair Sabol. The Four Seasons is a modern tradition for a lot of New Yorkers who prefer dining out on the big day.

People dress a little more formally for the Four Seasons than most would at home. Others do not these days, especially some men. Or should I say, guys? Or jomokes. It’s doubtful that it’s budget that prevents a guy from a suit and tie. That is the style (or non-) for many nowadays. It’s commonplace, categorically “changing times.”

We were seated in the pool room where I’ve spent several Thanksgivings with David and Helen Gurley Brown, the last being in 1910, with Helen, nine months after David’s death.
Each table gets their own turkey at The Four Seasons.
For the seven o’clock reservation, the enormous majestically modern Philip Johnson-designed rooms were filled, many tables with parties of eight or a dozen. Couples; and many families, and families with friends. In the past years with the Browns, we ate at the four o’clock hour. It was full, but didn’t seem as clamorously busy as this year.

The dinner begins with the menu with its array of Four Seasons dishes, all of which looked good. Instead of the traditional dinner, people ordered steak and fish and risottos. So I ordered Dover Sole and a bowl of Chestnut-Acorn soup. Canapes were passed – with caviar, smoked salmon, shrimps; and passed again.

We were distinctly an older group compared to my luncheon where there were several children. The appetites are hardly robust after a certain age, for a variety of reasons having to do with health and stealth. Conversation, however, was rife and rich, and a good time was had by all.

Forgoing the turkey for some buttery oysters.
Someone asked why I went to two dinners. Firstly because I was invited, and both were with what I knew would be good company. In previous years, when I lived in a house in California and in Connecticut, I’d gather good friends and friends of friends, and have the traditional dinner at one table. The fellowship and the fare that comes with that meal always made for a joyous occasion in some way. Not living in a house now, but in a cabin in the concrete canyons of Manhattan, such revelry is limited. For others maybe not. But I like the day, and I like the day with people while breaking bread. And so two is a gift to accept.

This year with the terrible catastrophe of Sandy, underscoring what has been a difficult time anyway, for many, we were all confronted with the suffering of many of our neighbors no matter our circumstances or awareness.

On Saturdays the doorman in my building at the 4 o’clock hour is a modest tempered, yet urbane gentleman named Luis, who happens to live in Suffolk County. Over the years we’ve got to know something about each other’s lives. Luis has a family. His daughter recently graduated from college with either a Masters. Luis raises and rescues orchids too, and when a gifted orchid begins to fade at my house, it goes to Luis. I know he will nurture it to new growth, and pass it on to another who will enjoy it.

This weekend Luis was conducting his church’s (Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle)   annual collection for the homeless and needy people in Suffolk County. The numbers have swelled tremendously since Sandy. Luis told me there are 250,000 people out there who have lost everything. They are collecting everything. Yes, they need money and food, but they need stuff -- everything that we use in our day to day lives.

On Saturday I did myself a big favor and went through my drawers and closets and pulled out the duplicates and triplicates of shirts and sheets and blankets, as well as ties and tees, anything that was fresh and clean and sitting there for years untouched. Someone can have some relief or comfort and warmth.

Heather Cohane, yesterday after lunch, on her way to catch up with more friends.
On Sunday I went down to Swifty’s to have lunch with Heather Cohane who is in from Monte Carlo to co-host a party this Wednesday at Doubles to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Quest magazine.

Heather started it all in a moment of serious need herself back in 1987. I’ll tell that story in a future Diary, but it was Heather whom I met serendipitously at a cocktail party at Chanel twenty years ago this month, who got me started on this path of social chronicling  that all these years later completely occupies my life.

Several years ago, having sold the magazine to Chris Meigher, Heather retired from the business and decided to move to Monte Carlo. This seemed like an odd idea to those who didn’t know her well, but Monte Carlo is where she grew up during her teenage years. Her stepfather was an heir to a small British fortune and he spent his nights gambling at the tables in the casino. This was in the late 1930s through the late 1940s. He eventually gambled away his fortune and was left penniless, and Heather and her mother returned to England.

It’s been a life of adventure, enterprise and lots of friends (and three marriages, twice widowed). Heather loves New York but Monte Carlo suits her. It is still familiar and unhurried. The climate is “divine,” and every Sunday she has lunch with Larry Lovett, an old friend and American expatriate who started Venetian Heritage.
The back room at Swifty's when I arrived yesterday at one. The object hanging under the skylight was made by an artist entirely with popsicle sticks.
Heather’s eldest daughter, Candida and her children live there, also. Another daughter, a writer, Ondine Cohane, lives in Tuscany where she and her husband have an inn; and Heather’s son, Alexander Cohane, an English antiquaire, lives in Devon with his wife and family. So everyone is relatively nearby.

Heather is a dog-lover and recently lost her beloved Juancito, an energetic Westie, at age 16. She still has a mutt she adopted several years ago (always adopts) named Sparky, but isn’t sure if at this age (81) she should be taking in a new life. I’d say take the bet. Meanwhile, Heather has made lots of friends in Monte Carlo.

Catching up with her at Swifty’s yesterday afternoon, we covered all of those subjects in one way or another, as well as the news about many others whose paths she has crossed in her lively and diverse life.
Swifty's, dressed up for the upcoming holiday season.
Years ago Heather lived around the corner  from Swifty’s on East 73rd Street with her husband Jack Cohane and family in a small townhouse covered with wisteria vines. It was in that townhouse one summer that the family came home from a weekend in the Hamptons to find a burglar in the busy in the refrigerator, having a bite to eat post-larceny.

Confronted, he fled but they called the police who caught him. A mild-mannered young man in his early 20s, he was sent to Rikers for a couple of years. It was right after that “couple of years” that the Cohanes came home once again from another long weekend  in Hamptons to find they’d been broken into again. And who should be in the kitchen helping himself to the fridge, but the same thief!

“Oh, it’s you again?” Heather said to the young man. “Why did you come back here?” He confessed that he was newly freed and in need and knew the house. There’s a denouement to this story but I can’t for the life of me remember it.

So here we are, moving into the last days of the year, looking forward to festivities, hoping for the best. The stores in Manhattan have geared up. I hope over the next few days JH and I will be able to show you some of what New Yorkers are looking at (and for) as they walk the streets and avenues thinking holidays thoughts. Here's some of JH's to start ...
Ralph Lauren's Men's Flagship on southeast corner of 72nd and Madison.
The windows across the street at Ralph Lauren Women's and Home Flagship.
Ralph Lauren's Children's Store windows.
Christian Louboutin's windows further up on Madison Avenue.
Gracious Home's windows on Third Avenue.
JH's new four-legged friend, Teddy, making friends at Peter Elliot on Lexington.
NYSD's Associate Editor Jill Krementz had a very nice weekend and sent us the following two dispatches:
On Friday night there was a special advance screening of Tom Hooper's astonishingly brilliant "Les Misérables" at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Following the film and a standing ovation, Marshall Fine, who blogs for "Hollywood and Fine," had a Q&A on stage with Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hooper, and Samantha Barker.

Hooper told us that Thanksgiving was indeed a time of the year he could be grateful because it was on this holiday weekend that he had the first showing of his academy award-winning "The King's Speech."

My hope is that by this time next year Mr. Hooper is going to be eating his turkey with one more of those little gold men on his mantel.
Marshall Fine (who did the Q&A on stage with the cast) with his wife Kim and their sons Jake and Caleb.

Also in the audience Friday night were Harry and Pamela Belafonte, Irwin and Marge Winkler, Frances McDormand and her husband Joel Coen, Sir Howard Stringer with his son, Russell Crowe (who, inexplicably was not on stage afterwards), and, sitting beside me, John Patrick Shanley.

McDermond's new film "Promised Land," directed by Gus Van Sant and co-starring Matt Damon, is screening this week.

Mr. Shanley told me that selections from the Minnesota Opera production of "Doubt," will be presented Nov. 4-5 at the Guggenheim Museum. The opera will premiere in January 2013 as part of Minnesota Opera's 50th anniversary season.
Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger performed on Sunday night at Carnegie Hall to a sold-out audience.

Also on stage with Arlo were his four children: Abe Guthrie on keyboards, Cathy Guthrie (ukulele), Annie Guthrie (autoharp & percussion), and Sarah Lee Guthrie (guitar).

Adding to the mix were several Arlo grandchildren and various Guthrie in-laws.
Arlo's wife Jackie, to whom he had been married for 43 years, died from liver cancer only a month ago.

Jackie met Arlo Guthrie in 1968 while she was working as a cashier in a famous Hollywood club, The Troubador, where he was touring.

The evening honored her memory.
Pete Seeger sang "This Land is My Land," accompanied, of course, by all of us. There was also an appearance and short solo by Olivia, the young daughter of Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion.
Arlo and Pete returned to the stage for an encore of "Goodnight, Irene."
In keeping with their commitment to social justice, the concert was presented by Rising Son Records, who leased Carnegie Hall for the evening. Hence, the best seats in the house were $60.
"Goodnight, Irene" or " Irene, Goodnight," is a 20th century American folk standard, written in 3/4 time, first recorded by American blues musician Huddie "Lead Belly."
Traditions traditions. Wednesday night before Thanksgiving our friend Paige Peterson held her annual pre-Parade party at her Central Park West apartment, followed by the starting line for the Parade on Thursday morning ...
Family life, the night before the parade.
Some of the usual suspects at Paige's Annual Thanksgiving Eve Party (clockwise from top left): Gordon Travers with Lisa and Michael Schultz; Leland Mora Dyer; Jeff Sharp with his son Jack and Monie Begley; Carolina Zapt and John Josephson; David Peterson, Peter Cary Peterson, and Paige Peterson.
Peter Cary Peterson and Stephen Cohen, who has known Peter Cary since he was an infant.
Cuddling up the morning of the parade: Paige with her nieces Brianna and Devon Geist.
Here we go!

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