Friday, September 19, 2014

Cool for mid-September

Reading in Riverside. 4:30 PM. Photo: Jeff Hirsch.
Friday, September 19, 2014. Another beautiful day in New York. The weatherman calls it “Cool for mid-September.” According to the weather maps it covers the whole Northeast and southern Canada.

Very nice weather for getting around, although starting just about now, getting around Manhattan for the next week is going to be difficult-to-nightmare and especially beginning Monday. Different blocks will be cordoned off, lanes in roads will be altered. All the ordinary weekday traffic which is heavy as it is, will be encumbered space-wise, slowing down all movement in the city. The East River will have a variety of police boats keeping almost all boats from passing by the United Nations (which is on the river). They’ll use the easternmost channel that runs by Roosevelt Island.

Fifth Avenue last night at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, from in front of the Sherry Netherland looking south to the Empire State (the white spire on the lower left). The traffic on the Avenue last night was very heavy with long waits between lights. It seemed as if UN Week had already begun.
This is the week when all the members of the United Nations and many of their leaders come to town. I was told there are barricades already set up around the UN area and soon many lanes will be closed off for diplomatic use only. It’s a headache for the citizens of Manhattan which already is one of the busiest cities in the world.

The tight security wasn’t always thus. No doubt there were such convocations two decades ago and more, but there was not the high degree of “security” that basically separates the leaders of the world from the people of the world. It’s still not clear how we got here; but here we are. Now people talk about why they, the UN directors, chose Manhattan to build its headquarters. The answer is: how could they have known?

This seems to be the natural order of human behavior but now at this time in our history, it’s not good news. The world at the time of the creation of the United Nations was just coming out of a most terrible place. The need for international cooperation for everyone’s health and peace of mind was extreme in dimension. The powers combined built this institution in an effort to help. Now its grounds and its inhabitants must be guarded within an inch of its life while this meeting goes on sixty-seven years later.

But it’s not new anymore, so like so many other things, New Yorkers will take it in stride.

On another, higher, historical note for all patriots, lovers of history and fans of courage and ingenuity, I bring you the news that on Tuesday, October 14th, from 6:30 to 10:30 pm, the Friends of Hermione in the US are hosting their Inaugural NYC Gala with distinguished guests (honoring), Dr. Henry Kissinger, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Charlie Rose of CBS This Morning  and the Charlie Rose Show on PBS.

The evening is Celebrating the Belief that Anything is Possible. The Hermione is its symbol. It could have been the UN’s symbol in 1947; it’s that powerful a symbol.
The Hermione on its maiden voyage.
History lesson. If you didn’t know, the Hermione is the 32-cannon 18th century French frigate that brought Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, known immortally by his title, Marquis de Lafayette, to America in 1780, age 22, to serve in General Washington’s army.

This was Lafayette’s second trip to the Colonies. Three years before he came against the wishes of his superiors including Louis XVI, King of France. However, the very young marquis impressed Washington and he was commissioned a major general. The following year -- 1778 --  having been wounded, Lafayette returned to France where he actively and passionately lobbied the French and especially Louis and Marie Antoinette to support the American colonists in the war with the British.
Hermione in the Naval battle of Louisbourg, by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy.
Marie Antoinette was especially moved to assist the Americans. This move which was decisive in assisting the American soldiers and Gen. Washington in their victory over General Cornwallis and George III, would ultimately be regarded as part of the cause of the collapse of the French economy that brought down the Monarchy in a very bloody revolution in 1789.

Lafayette as a Lieutenant General, in 1791.
Lafayette in his return in 1780 with the Hermione was given a slave to serve him by General Washington. Lafayette trained the man to spy and had him go out and offer his services to General Cornwallis. Slaves were accepted as neutral (non-powerful) individuals because of their non-status even among enemies. The man Lafayette made available to Cornwallis was talented and canny, however, and brought back crucial information to Lafayette about Cornwallis’ planning for the Battle of Yorktown. The Hermione was to become one of the ships that created the blockade that decided the Battle of Yorktown and led to the British surrender to General Washington. After the war Lafayette gave the man, his “slave,” his freedom.

The original Hermione, after playing a major role in the War of Independence and in the life of the Marquis de Lafayette, ran aground on a sandbar off Brittany and sank thirteen years later in 1793. Its rusty anchor still marks the spot. Sometime in the last half century,  the naval architect’s plans for the Hermione’s sister La Concorde were discovered in the British Admiralty library. Someone got the idea of re-building the Hermione and sailing it to America. An idea that is now almost an institution and in 2015 the Hermione is returning by the same route that brought Lafayette to America.

To learn a lot more about that trip and the remarkable history of this great ship, a symbol of the Marquis de Lafayette’s family motto: “Why not?” go to You will also learn how you can attend the gala dinner.
Last night in New York it was the annual Quest 400 Party at Doubles. The Quest 400 list comes out annually in the August issue of Quest magazine, but September is a better time for the reception since so many of those 400 types are out of town, out at the beach, up in the mountains, sailing the seas.

It’s a nice cocktail party which New Yorkers always love, even if it’s just people watching.

I don’t know how many were in attendance, probably close to 200. I tend to work these parties with a camera. It’s now a habit but one I’ve got so used to I almost can’t imagine going to a party, any party, and taking pictures. In many ways it’s more interesting that the party itself. One of life’s ironies.

Doubles always has great hors d’oeuvres including the most desirable pigs-in-a-blankets dipped in mustard; good drinks (I had Pellegrino), all presented frequently by the Doubles waiters who can only offer you more; and lots of friendly faces to see and chat with.

This is one of those moments when New York becomes like a small town, and it’s just a couple of hours of fun. Billy Farrell was there taking pictures, and Julie Skarratt was there not taking pictures, and I couldn’t resist ...
Mark Gilbertson and Nicole Mellon. Muffie Potter Aston and Beth DeWoody.
Lisa McCarthy, Chappy Morris, Debbie Bancroft, and Amy Hoadley. Daisy Soros.
Marjorie Reed Gordon and Gillian Miniter. Harriet Weintraub and Gillian Miniter.
Jeff Pfeifle, Dennis Basso, and Tony Hoyt.
Ann Rapp, Roy Kean, and Susan Gutfreund. Lauren Lawrence.
Fran Scaife and Tom McCarter. Lucia Hwong Gordon and Jean Shafiroff.
Joan Jakobson and Connie Spahn. Kari Tiedemann and Joan Jakobson.
Lee and Cece Black, Sabrina Forsythe, and friend.
Eleanora and Michael Kennedy. Cole Rumbough, Melanie Seymour, annd Todd Romano.
"I think it was...." "Yes, yes, that's it!" Michel Witmer.
Julie Skarratt and Daniel Cappello. Joe and Hilary Califano.
Ellen Niven (right) and friend.
Jim Dunning and Susan Magrino. Geoffrey Bradfield and Roric Tobin.
Sonja Morgan. Juan Pablo Molyneux. Wendy Lehman.
Marlene Hess. Iris Love and Harry Benson. Harry agrees with Marlene.
Alex Hitz and Amy Fine Collins. Richard Johnson and Lily Hoagland.
Marc Rosen, Arlene Dahl, Sharon Bush, and Iris Love.
Iris Love and Ann Dexter Jones. That's better.
Joan Schnitzer-Levy and Jackie Weld Drake.
Roy Kean and Peggy Siegal. Muffy and Donald Miller.
John Glass and Nina Griscom.
Dori Cooperman, Elizbateh Meigher, and Paul Slater. Christopher Meigher.
Mai Hallingby and Georgina Schaeffer. Marcia Schaeffer and Mario Buatta.
Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Pfeiffer. Grace Meigher and Kay Gilman.
I left the party about 8 o'clock. It was a beautiful night and this stretch along Fifth Avenue and Central Park South was sparkling, almost dazzling with lights. In the distance you can see the white spire of the Empire State Building, still the classic symbol of the metropolis. I had to leave to get up to a book signing for Daphne Merkin and her new book "The Fame Lunches" up on 84th Street and Park Avenue.

The author with a copy of "The Fame Lunches." Click to order.
This is Daphne's third book ("Enchantment," a novel, and "Dreaming of Hitler," a collection of essays). She is a former staff writer for The New Yorker, a regular contributor to Elle and her writing frequently appears in the New York Times, Bookforum, Departures, Travel + Leisure, W, and Vogue so you may just be more well aware of her than even I am.

Daphne and I are fairly new friends although our conversations are as open and wide-ranging as if we'd known each other for years. She and I share many of the same interests in the world, in people and in behavior. I love her writing which is often insightful, sensitive, knowledgeable and just plain engaging.

I haven't read this book yet but the inside leaf opens with a quote from Katie Roiphe – "Fearless, impolitic, honest, darkly observant – these superb essays tell all of our secrets."

I had to laugh when I read that. It was the laughter of recognition and why Daphne and I are friends, albeit fairly new. I know I'll love the book. You may already know what I'm talking about. So you will too.
Daphne signs a copy for DPC.

Contact DPC here.