Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Getting into the spirit of the season

A scene from Act I of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera House starring Liudmyla Monastyrska in the title role, Roberto Aronica as Tosca's lover, the artist Cavaradossi, and Marco Vratogna as the police chief Scarpia. 8:15 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015. A rainy Tuesday in New York with chilly temperatures hovering around 50. Daylight grows shorter, outside the window the world is grayer.

Before I forget, getting into the spirit of the season the old-fashioned way: 148 years ago in New York, in December 1867, Charles Dickens arrived in New York City for a month of sold-out performances of his beloved holiday classic, A Christmas Carol at Steinway Hall on 14th Street near Union Square. He was a sensation.

A week from tomorrow, on December 10th, actor John Kevin Jones, will portray Dickens telling his timeless tale, in the intact and elegant revival parlor of the landmark 1832 Merchant’s House Museum at 29 East 4th Street. It’s a one hour performance starting at 7 p.m. with a pre-show reception before the performance at 6 p.m., serving mulled wine and a light fare with Mr. Jones. Performances run through Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24 except Monday the 14th and the 21st. Tickets are $40 - $60 and can be obtained here or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006. 
The line waiting to buy tickets to one of Charles Dickens' reading of A Christmas Carol, in the newly built Steinway Hall on Fourteenth Street. The Dickens performances were sold out.
The museum was built in 1832 as a “spec house” in the Federal style, and bought by Seabury Tredwell, a prominent importer of English marine hardware, in 1835 for $18,000 -- no small amount in those days when a dollar was worth one hundred cents. Tredwell, who was 20 years older than his wife Eliza, moved in with her and their 7 children (an eighth child, Gertrude would be born five years later), along four English and Irish servants.
The recently restored and refurbished Merchants House as a young museum, circa 1939. The house as it stands today.
Front entrance to the museum. The vestibule ceiling.
Mr. Tredwell had just retired from his business and would live on his investments and income on his capital. His house was furnished with the finest and most fashionable furniture by New York cabinetmakers such as Duncan Phyfe and Joseph Meeks. He lived there until his death thirty years later in 1865. Two of the daughters and one of the sons married and left, but the remaining five continued living there. There is an interesting pathology in families, large or small, when a child remains and lives with parents. In my observation, it is the result of a domineering mother or father from whom the child isn’t allowed or is unwilling to detach.

Gertrude Tredwell.
By 1909, Gertrude, was the last born and surviving child living there. Alone. Her mother died in 1882 when Gertrude was 42. Her siblings followed in the next ten years. Her life became more difficult as she grew older, because the money was running out quickly until she was nearly destitute. The condition of the house reflected her poverty. Furthermore the neighborhood, once a center for the city’s elite, was almost entirely commercial or tenements.

But somehow Gertrude managed. She died in the house in 1933 at 93, in the same four-poster bed in which she was born in 1840. In her early twenties, Gertrude once had a gentleman caller, a doctor from Washington. It has been written that there was a relationship there and that the doctor wanted to make it more. But someone objected. Common sense would name the father or the mother. The father did have a reputation for being what today we would call dictatorial or controlling in his own house.

It was and still is believed by some that Henry James based his novel “Washington Square” (later dramatize for stage and film as “The Heiress”) on Gertrude’s life in that particular house. Many tales right down to the description of the house and its interiors mirror or match James' story.
A scene from the film "The Heiress" between Olivia de Havilland (the heiress) and her ill-fated suitor played by Montgomery Clift. It is believed that both the house and life of one of the Merchant House's owners was Henry James's main influence in writing "Washington Square."
In 1936, a cousin purchased the house to preserve it. In 1962 with the house in almost derelict condition, it was rescued by the Decorator’s Club as a special project. It was a treasure despite its condition because everything, including clothing and papers that belonged to the family remained in place for nearly a century. One of the first buildings in New York to be designated a landmark, today it is one of best surviving examples of New York residential living in the mid-19th century, and completely intact.
The parlor.
The dining room and its view of the parlor.
The master bedroom. In its prime there were ten family members and four Irish and English servants living in the house.
The social calendar is beginning to open up as people begin preparing for the holidays as well as those who can afford to, moving either south or west for the upcoming winter season. Nevertheless, there is more. Over here we’re behind in reporting on so many charity events and galas.

For example, three weeks ago in early November, on a Thursday, the ASPCA (American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) held its annual Humane Awards Luncheon at Cipriani 42nd Street. The ceremony recognized animal heroes who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts, as well as individuals who have shown great commitment to animal welfare during the past year.
Chuck Scarborough and Matt Bershadker, CEO of ASPCA.
Matthew Bershadker, President and CEO of the ASPCA said it:

“The 2015 Humane Awards honorees exemplify perseverance and incredible dedication to helping both animals and their owners – reminding us of the value animals bring to our lives, and the loving protection we owe them in return.”

Not everyone who has or who has had animals knows that about the animals and our relationship to them. Furthermore the  ASPCA is now more than a century old organization because a lot of people treat animals as if they were lesser beings. This is tragic for the animals unless they’re rescued or surrendered to care. And pathetic for those who did so.

This luncheon is a favorite with a lot of New Yorkers. I think it’s because of the emotional factor. Those of us who love animals know what an enormous personal pleasure it gives us. The Awards are: ASPCA DOG OF THE YEAR which went to Figo, a Golden guide dog. Figo was helping his blind owner, Audrey Stone, cross a major street in Brewster, New York. As they did, a bus quickly and dangerously approached. Acting as much on his innate courage as his Guide Dog Foundation training, Figo immediately put himself in the path of the bus, sustaining a severe injury but protecting Audrey.
Figo, Dog of the Year.
Despite getting hurt, Figo did not leave his owner’s side until help arrived. While Audrey mended in the hospital, Figo recovered at a local veterinarian’s office, with the cost of his treatment picked up by an anonymous benefactor. Weeks later, the two were joyously reunited.

Then there is the Cat of the Year Award which went to the Kittens of the ASPCA Kitten Nursery. A group of determined young kittens who, without homes or families, face extraordinary peril because of the dedicated care they require just to stay alive. These are the residents of the ASPCA Kitten Nursery, New York City’s first high-volume nursery to provide care for kittens too young to survive on their own.
The ASPCA Neonate Kittens.
Every feline breeding season, this facility takes in up to 2,000 extremely vulnerable kittens – some as young as two weeks old. These orphans, who come from Animal Care Centers of New York (ACC), are kept warm, bathed, and hand-fed around the clock by a committed staff of 50 who are specifically trained to handle this fragile population.

ASPCA® Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year Award went to Abbigail Hickman of Tracy, California. When she was only 9, Abbi (who is now 12)  was disheartened by the conditions she discovered at the local shelter she visited to adopt a kitten. Determined to help – and utilizing her already extensive bowling experience – she created “Abbi’s Pins for Pets".

Since 2013, she and her organization have raised more than $30,000 for the shelter, and run an annual two-day "Abbi’s Pins for Pets" weekend to bring in more funds.
Chuck Scarborough and Abbigail Hickman. Chuck Scarborough with Audrey and Figo.
Abbi personally writes and visits local businesses and officials, asking them for support. And starting this year, every adopter at the Tracy Animal Shelter will receive a special “Abbi’s Pins for Pets” welcome kit, which includes pet supplies donated by local businesses.

The ASPCA® Media Excellence Award went to Gorman Bechard of Hamden, Connecticut. Mr Bechard is a documentary filmmaker, novelist and long-time animal advocate. Then he turned to one of his biggest personal passions – animal welfare -- for his next inspiration. His 2015 film “A Dog Named Gucci” tells the story of a puppy in Mobile, Ala. who was viciously abused and set on fire in 1994, as well as of a professor, Doug James, who stepped in to save the dog’s life and become his protector.

During his recovery, Gucci became the face of animal abuse in the South. Inspired to help prevent such cruelty in the future, Doug teamed up with local legislators to pass the "Gucci Bill", which made domestic animal abuse a felony in the state. Together, as documented in the film, Doug and Gucci prove that justice can be a dog's best friend.
Kristine and Gorman Bechard.
Since completing “A Dog Named Gucci”, Gorman has taken up producing other films focusing on animal welfare and inspiring others to join the fight against animal cruelty.

The 2015 ASPCA® Presidential Service Award was presented to Dr. Jose Armando Cruz Rivera, whose Cruz Veterinary Mobile Clinic provides spay and neuter services and preventative medical care to pets in low-income communities as well as to those without access to veterinary services in his native Puerto Rico. 

The 2015 ASPCA Henry Bergh Award went to Lori Hensley and the Coalition to Unchain Dogs. Lori is the Director of Operations and Development for the Coalition, which has four chapters in North Carolina.
Dr. Jose Armando Cruz Rivera.
Dr. Jose Armando Cruz Rivera and Lori Hensley.
This is an Awards affair where people don’t talk to each other  throughout the award-making. In fact it can bring out the Kleenex with a lot of people.

WNBC News Anchor Chuck Scarborough who with his wife Ellen are dedicated animal welfare philanthropists, served as the emcee. He was joined by Dottie, a six-week-old neonate kitten from the ASPCA Kitten Nursery. Other notable attendees included Ellen Scarborough, Jill Rappaport (TODAY Show) Linda Lambert (Board Member, ASPCA), Jeff Pfeifle (Board Member, ASPCA), Arriana Boardman (Board Member, ASPCA), Jean Shafiroff, Elaine and Kenneth Langone, Margo MacNabb Nederlander, Emilia Fanjul, Mark Gilbertson, Sharon Handler Loeb, Marina Killery, Frances Scaife, Rikki Kleiman, Barbara Regna, Patricia Crawford, David Duncan and Candice Bergen.
Amy Lau and Ellen Scarborough.
Leslie Farragher and Tricia Walsh.
Sharon Jacob, Elizabeth Conklin, and Sabrina Mesa.
Dennis Kugler, Cece Cord, and Patty Raynes.
Allison Stern and Nancy Silverman.
Sharon Handler.
Ben Lambert, Jill Rappaport, Candice Bergen, and Linda Lambert.
Allison Stern, Margo MacNabb Nederlander, Mary Puris, and Peggy Culver.
Kurt Wolfgruber, Kim White, Ken Langone, and Elaine Langone.
Allison Aston and Cathy Zicherman.
Anne Byers and Arriana Boardman.
Three beauties up for adoption ...

Contact DPC here.