Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Picking up the color

Looking towards The Mall in Central Park from Terrace Drive. 4:40 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015. Sunny, mild day with temperatures in the low 60s, dropping to the mid-50s after the sunset. About quarter to five I happened to go out onto the terrace and saw the most intense pink in the skies to the south. JH calls it the “New York pink.” I went back into the apartment to get my camera, wondering if the camera would pick up the color. It did although it gave up some of the vividness.
Red clouds moving east as the sun was setting (4:45 p.m).
More NewYork pink clouds moving east. That flag unfurled is at the top of the a-building Robert A. M. Stern- designed condominium at East End Avenue and 80th Street.
Yesterday noon time I went over to 1A East 77th Street where Susan and Coleman Burke were hosting their annual Christmas lunch. This year the theme was “snow” since we haven’t seen a single flake around these parts.

The Burkes had 70 guests this year. We were greeted at the entrance by the man with the tuba who played “We Wish You a Merry Christmas, We Wish You a Merry Christmas ...” Actually I’m not sure that is the tune he played because I was focusing on the cheerful entrance of every guest, but it works in description because that’s how it felt. 
Being greeted by the man playing Christmas songs on the tuba as guests enterted the Burkes' holiday luncheon.
Inside Bob Hardwick was at the grand piano playing Christmas melodies, carols, tunes, etc.  Later during lunch, he stopped playing briefly while a man read the history of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”  It started out as a booklet, a promotion for Montgomery Ward, an enormous catalogue company, rival of Sears Roebuck, in 1939, written by a man named Robert L. May.
Charlotte Ford and our hostess Susan Burke.
The story of Santa’s lead reindeer was told in a poem. In the late 1940s someone turned it into a song which was recorded by Gene Autry, a movie cowboy who made millions in that role on radio, television, film and recordings. Everybody in America could sing that silly sweet song.

When the story was first suggested to the executives at Montgomery Ward, they objected to the “red nose” aspect of the little reindeer, because in those days a “red nose” was regarded as indicative of someone who was alcoholic.  Somehow they were persuaded to go along, however; and they changed history, in a manner of speaking. Now a red nose means a “reindeer” when it means anything at all.
Bob Hardwick at the piano (with accompanying tuba player).
The luncheon menu was entirely white, like our hostess’ dress, in keeping with the “snowy” theme. A chicken dish with a delicious sauce and “white” vegetables – pureed turnip, shredded parsnip (lighter if not exactly white). The dessert was a merengue. 

The Burkes’ holiday luncheon also includes a sing-a-long.  Once everyone was at table, with the lyrics set before each guest on festively designed sheets of white paper, Bob Hardwick led us in several tunes in two different sets – one before the main course and one before the dessert – where we all sang “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas ...”  Get it?
The all-white decor.
The average age of the guests was well past puberty and that time in life when we leave the childhood wonders behind ostensibly forever (like singing with a group of people in a festive mood). Therefore, no doubt, there were those among us at the tables who thought the idea was a bit corny. And, in a way, it is. But it was wonderful, the voices were loud (not too) and clear;  and everybody had a good time. And a very good lunch. All white, just not like outside.
JH's sunset view from the Upper West, 5:40 PM.
Then last night it was holiday cocktail time. I went over to Yaz and Valentin Hernandez’s where they were hosting their biennial holiday drinks party. I got there about ten to seven (it was called for 6 to 8). The hostess was at the door greeting the arrivals. Within 20 minutes, the spacious apartment was full up -- a big crowd, back to back, belly to belly, in a manner of speaking (again).

Our hostess last night, Yaz Hernandez.
At the bar they were serving a variety of champagnes including Ruinart and Dom Perignon, as well as Moet, Taitinger, etc. And next door to the bar, a woman was making blinis to go with the caviar and sour cream on the table in front of her. The thing is, a great bar and fantastic, simple little hors d’oeuvres, are the secret to a very successful party for this guest.

As it happened, Yaz and Valentin attract a lot of interesting people, some familiar, some new to me, which is the real secret to a great cocktail party. Richard Turley ( introduced me to a young woman just arriving. I couldn’t hear her name in the introduction but after she moved on to another friend, he remarked sotto voce, “the richest person in this room ...” (there were obviously several others thought to be ...). I still can’t remember her name but I’ll take Richard’s word for it.

I left the party after a half hour or so. The Hernandezes live up on Park in the low 90s. Park Avenue was a celebration of the night at that hour because of the lighted trees on the islands that stretch all the way down to the forties. So you can stand on a corner and gaze down more than two miles of white lights accompanied red and then green lights, and headlights and brake lights. In a long, straight canyon dotted with the lights of thousands of windows.

I walked a couple of blocks to look at it. Then there were some townhouses and doorsteps with Christmas decorations to enjoy.
Two townhouses on Park Avenue in the 90s, decked out for the holiday.
The window of Ronaldo Maia Flowers on 91st and Park.
Holiday decorations on a stoop around the corner and farther down the street.
Something tells me there are little ones living here.
Item. I received my signed copy of “Rodney Smith Photographs” on Friday. I wrote about this book a month or so ago. It is the photographer’s kind of memoir. Smith tells his story and the story of his career throughout with brief reflections and recollections, and series of beautiful black and white photographs on which he built his very successful career. I kept thinking while looking through and reading his words about his work that this is an ideal gift for anyone who loves photography or fashion photography. As a book, an object, before your eyes, it’s a beautiful piece of art.

The book will not be available through Amazon or bookstores until the official pub date which is Fall 2016. However, you can get a signed copy now, the way I did, by emailing or alling 845-359-3814. It’s $75 US/$80 Canada.
One more item. My friend Bruce Levingston's album “Heavy Sleep” was named by the New York Times as one of the best classical recordings of 2015: “ ... this exquisite disc links a series of poreludes, fugues and fantasies by Bach ... and two meditative contemporary works ... in a solo recital that shimmers with Mr. Levingston’s mastery of color and nuance.”

Just sayin’ ...
Click to order "Heavy Sleep."

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