Monday, November 23, 2015

An antidote to the world around us

Empire State Building behind the clouds. Photo: JH.
Monday, November 23, 2015.  Weekend weather in New York ran from sunny and mild, to overcast and a very light rain in the early morning hours of Sunday -- with temps ranging between 50 and 60.

Thursday afternoon I went to get a haircut over at Jean-Louis David on 75th and Broadway. The guy was wrapping lights around the bare tree on the southeast corner. There are lots of these “lighted” trees in the city. In my neighborhood, one block  south, the trees on the entire block are lighted like this throughout the winter.
Autumn foliage is always sparse in the Big Town, except for the great parks, large and small. Saturday’s sunshine, however, really lit the trees on the block in front of my building. The top of the tree on the left is blazing yellow as you can see in the closeup on the right. The green strip you see behind it is an “aesthetic” scaffolding around the Chapin School which is ever-expanding. The sides is a visual of green treetops. It will probably be with us for years, season after season.
The top of the tree on the left of my terrace is blazing yellow also. This tree also gets more sun. On the right is the tree which is directly in front of my terrace. It has stayed greener longer. This past year, for no reasons other than an increasing interest in the life force around me, I photographed these trees marking their changes from first buds to full foliage in green to this, the end of these trees’ year. The once famous words of the poet Joyce Kilmer came to mind: “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…” from “Trees.” For me it’s an antidote to the news of the world around us. It’s invigorating, an up, a universal voice far supreme and superior to the voices of mice and men.
The gang came out on the terrace to join me while I was taking those photos. While I was taking their pictures they were wondering if that was a treat I was holding (my camera). That’s Missy a/k/a Madame on the left. She’s 13 and a half and getting on, with serious ailments, but still with a ravenous appetite. On the right is Mr. Tobey, age two, who came to live with us from Bide-a-Wee in August 2014. He’s a very energetic little guy and is very sweet to Madame (who is the boss anyway). After I took this shot, we went inside and they were given treats. End of story. Zzzzzzz ...
While we're on the subject, this past Friday, November 20th, The New York Restoration project, founded by Bette Midler twenty years ago, planted its one millionth tree at Joyce Kilmer Park (yes, that Joyce Kilmer) in the Bronx. Midler reminds in a letter of thanks to everyone stating that “No other city has reached this goal.”
The scene at Joyce Kilmer Park where Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated the planting of the one millionth tree. He was accompanied by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bette Midler.
Mission accomplished!
Friday night I was a guest of Alex Hitz at La Grenouille. The restaurant’s ambience, its dramatically chic and serene atmosphere, remains as ever. It is now the only restaurant in Manhattan that retains a now bygone glamour -- with its lighting, décor, impeccable and kind service and excellent fare conjuring up  another era in New York life.

The only visual that has changed in the past few years is the sartorial aspect of the clientele. This is no longer a phenomenon anywhere. Women make an effort but there are now some guys with their open shirts who look like they just got up from a long nap on a lounger. It’s as much an affectation as the necktie, maybe moreso. It’s only drawback is aesthetic or art for art’s sake.

The cravat-less notwithstanding, it was an entirely pleasant evening, a luxury in concept and delivery, and therefore a respite, an oasis from the rough and tumble out there.

Last Thursday night the American Museum of Natural History hosted their annual Museum Gala with cocktails in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda followed by dinner (with menu created by Mario Batali), auction and entertainment – by Michael Buble – in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.
Seth Meyers was hilarious as host of the American Museum of Natural History's annual Museum Gala.
More than 700 attended this black tie affair held under the magnificent fibre glass replica of a female blue whale that is 94 feet long. The Blue Whale has been hunted to near extinction. The Museum’s blue whale is a reminder of our responsibility to our environment both on land and in the sea.

The Gala’s chairs were Jodie and John Eastman, Tina Fey and Jeff Richmond, and Alice and Lorne Michaels. Therein lies the hallmark of this particular fundraising dinner. Ms. Fey is often the emcee (she wasn’t this year – Seth Meyers was) and Lorne Michaels supplies the talent or inspires the talent, or something because the evening is an energetic and fun affair.
Museum Gala Chairs and Trustees Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels.
Museum Trustee Roberto Mignone, Alexandra Mondre, Leigh Teixeira, Museum President Ellen V. Futter, and Mark Teixeira.
From the looks of them, a lot of the supporters have children who LOVE this museum. Many adults even were children who grew up loving the museum. Every child, no matter the age, LOVES this museum. It’s everyone’s home obviously (Natural History – that’s us too!). Besides its allure to the human imagination and fascination, it is also a repository of much serious research and discovery.

As a result, the Gala attracts people who are basically celebrating the existence of this institution. They get it, and they give. Tom Brokaw who is on the Board of Trustees opened the evening. The museum’s president, Ellen Futter told the guests that the evening had already raised more than $2.5 million, and that an anonymous donor had promised to match every dollar taken in by the auction up to $500,000! This money basically goes to programs that involve and teach tens of thousands of school children every year. So it is a haven also for after school.
Museum Trustee Tom Brokaw.
Seth Meyers “hosting” was hilarious. After the main course, Lorna Kelly, an Englishwoman who was for years an auctioneer at Sotheby’s, conducted a brief auction. Ms. Kelly is also proficient quieting the dull roar of table talk that erupts when auctions begin at these affairs. Instead of the “Shhhh ...”  sound, Kelly makes a very quiet “kscha-kscha-kscha ...” sound deeply into the mike that is amazingly effective. After that, she got the guests to pony up more than $500,000, adding another million to the night’s total. And after the auction, on came Michael Buble with full orchestra.  So it was a great evening for everyone and especially for the tens of thousands of schoolchildren who are going to be blessed by inevitable curiosity and learning that comes with the American Museum of Natural History.
Auctioneer Lorna Kelly.
Michael Buble takes the stage.
Performance by Michael Bublé.
Tony Bennett.
Also last Thursday night in New York, more than 450 guests — both French and Francophiles — gathered at the Plaza for the 2015 Trophée des Arts Gala, which supports the cultural programs of FIAF, the French Institute Alliance Française.

Christine Lagarde and Marie Monique Steckel.
Less than a week after the horrific attacks in Paris, which targeted French culture and art de vivre symbols, the guests stood up for a minute of silence and sang the Marseillaise.

The recipient of the 2015 Pilier d'Or, Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM Alexandre de Juniac, had a black ruban pinned on his dark suit with a message: "Je Suis Paris." Juniac told the room that he had thought about canceling his presence in New York, but decided instead to come thank the American people for their support and friendship and tell them to come back to Paris.

That same day, an Air France Boeing 777 landed in New York harboring for the first a giant graffiti-like art work created by New York born street artist JonOne. This blue, white and red accent represents freedom, JonOne explained.

The art was offered to Air France after the Charlie Hebdo attack and was unveiled just days before Paris was once again the target of terrorists. The Boeing 777 is scheduled to crisscross the skies all over the world for a year to bring French values of liberty everywhere.
Olivia Flatto and François Delattre. Sophie Matisse and Amar Zribi.
Bob Wilmers, Christine Lagarde, and Elizabeth Wilmers.
Alexandre de Juniac, Chairman & CEO of Air France-KLM, with the crew of Air France.
Christine Lagarde, the Managing director of the IMF, recited poetry on stage. This led to even more emotion and finally laughter when Charlie Rose introduced the second honoree of the evening, Françoise Gilot. At 93 years old, the painter, poet and recent author of About Women with Lisa Alther was all smiles. Charlie Rose said: "Françoise Gilot is an amazing woman," adding, "Every French and American person loves her. So did Picasso. So did Jonas Salk."
Magalie Laguerre Wilkinson.
Françoise Gilot and Charlie Rose.
Other distinguished guests included Ambassador of France to the US Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the UN François Delattre, former US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin, Lisa Alther, Gilles Bensimon, James Brooks, Olivier Cassegrain, Jerome Clement, Charles and Clo Cohen, Ray Conner, Christine Dutreil, Olivia Flatto, Anne and Ari Fontaine, Christian and Claire Gudefin, Elisabeth de Kergorlay, Stéphanie Labeille-Sczyrba, Magalie Laguerre Wilkinson, Sophie Matisse, Eric Mourlot, Clemence von Mueffling, Marie Noelle Pierce, Lisa Pisar-Haas and Judith Pisar, Mary Jane Salk, Marie-Monique Steckel, Stanislas and Maylis Thierry, and Bob and Elizabeth Wilmers.
Charlie Rose, Françoise Gilot, Mary Jane Salk, and Marie-Monique Steckel.
Ray Conner, JonOne, and Alexandre de Juniac.
Gérard Araud and Christine Lagarde.
Claire Gudefin.
Clemence Von Mueffling.
Guests stood up for a minute of silence and sang the Marseillaise.
While we’re on the subject, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) welcomes legendary artist Françoise Gilot and co-author American writer Lisa Alther for a special Lunch & Talk celebrating the launch of their book “About Women: Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter,” next Wednesday, December 2 at 12:30pm in FIAF’s Le Skyroom, 22 East 60th Street (between Madison & Park).

Catching up. Last Wednesday night, The French Heritage Society held its annual Gala Dinner Dance at the Pierre. They honored international interior designer Juan Pablo Molyneux and Vitalie Taittinger, Ambassador of Champagne Taittinger. Readers of NYSD may have read the lunch interview I had with M. Molyneux at Michael’s last Wednesday. If you haven’t read it, do have a look for there is an interesting video tour of the Molyneux’ chateau in Champagne.

The evening was exactly as planned, a black tie dinner dance, only briefly interrupted by speeches. The Gala Chairs were CeCe Black, Liz McDermott, Jean Doyen de Montaillou, Deborah Royce, Kazie Metzger Harvey, Jean Shafiroff, Ursula Lowerre and Amy Van Ness.
Juan Pablo Molyneaux with co-chairs Jean Doyen de Montaillou, Jean Shafiroff, CeCe Black, Ann van Ness, Deborah Royce, and Liz McDermott.
The evening was held Under the Gracious Patronage of His Excellency Gerard Araud,  Ambassador of France; His Excellency Mr. Francois Delattre, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations and Mrs. Sophie L’Helias-Delattre and Mr. Bertrand Lortholary, Consul General of France in New York and Mrs. Laurence Mezin, and Mrs. Benedicte de Montelaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States. Music was provided by The Bob Hardwick Sound who kept the dance floor filled.
Jean Doyen de Montaillou, Kamie Lightburn, and Michael A. Kovner. Ann van Ness and William van Ness.
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, Elizabeth Stribling, Juan Pablo Molyneux, and Denis de Kergolay.
Deborah and Chuck Royce. Peter and Barbara Regna.
Pilar Molyneux and Odile de Schietere Longchampt.
Polly Onet, Mark Gilbertson, and Susan Madden.

Cutty McGill & Owen Hoffmann/PMC (French Heritage)

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