Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The day before the holiday

Central Park. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015. It’s kind of cold in New York. But not really for this time of the month. It’s not warm, by any means, but it’s not very cold either. Except the last two nights when the temp dropped  down to freezing. But there’s been no frost yet. Maybe it will be a very mild winter – which is less than a month away.

It’s the day before the holiday, one of those days that has a “feeling” about it – in the air, in your life. I’m referring to Americans, of course, because of tomorrow, Thanksgiving. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have a dinner with friends and/or family, it has a familiar, even predictable intimacy that comes from our childhoods when Thanksgiving was always a big day because it was the gateway to Christmas and No School and Gifts (maybe), and No School. Freedom. It was never quite like that after childhood, but the sense of it, the color of the day, remains and returns.
I had lunch yesterday at Michael’s with Julie Baumgold, the author of “’Fairytales of Manhattan,” a collection of short stories, the first of which we published on the NYSD last Saturday. We’re publishing the second short story this coming Saturday. Julie grew up in New York and has lived her entire life in the radius of a few blocks on the Upper East Side. Many of the buildings she knew as a child are still there, along with its proximity to the Park. That’s when New York becomes a true small town, with a story behind every door, and maybe a secret too. That’s what these stories are.

At the big table next to ours, Mickey Ateyeh was hosting a lunch for her friend Tita Cahn. Tita, the widow of legendary songwriter Sammy Cahn (“... love is wonderful, The Second Time Around”). Tita lives in Beverly Hills but she’s here for the holiday. Mickey, an old friend wanted to give her a luncheon. Steve Millington took a photo of the group.
Vicente Wolf, Clive Davis, Rikki Klieman, Tita Cahn, Mickey Ateyeh, Marc Simone, Michael Riedel, and Fran Weissler.
Mickey is a New Yorker, born and bred. She was telling us that when she was growing up her family Thanksgiving involved about 20 people. The mother would cook everything. As time passed and Mickey grew up, as did everyone else, she got a little tired of the melee because it was getting to be a little much for her mother. So she decided they would go out to dinner, at the Four Seasons.

Her mother didn’t like the idea so much when she heard of it. But the first year, after she'd had a first sip of the rosé champagne, she was heard to say: “hmm, not bad.” And it’s been heavenly for the (large) table ever since 1998, This year will be a special one for Mickey and her family and many other families because this will be the last year the Four Seasons restaurant will be located in this landmark building where it has resided since Philip Johnson and William Pahlman designed it.

For a number of years, readers may remember, I had Thanksgiving with David and Helen Gurley Brown at the Four Seasons. This year I am sharing the holiday with a friend and her family, including her grandchildren at my friend’s apartment. There will be about fifteen of us at table, including the small children. It will be like old times. Really old times for me. I’m also planning on baking myself a pumpkin pie which I will eat entirely myself. Not all at once, no.
The Four Seasons turkey.
Before I forget. Next Thursday, December 10th there is a lecture, a talk, from 6:30 to 8:30 given on “John Singer Sargent in Paris” by Page S. Knox Ph.D. It’s at the New York Junior League at 130 East 80th Street. The house was built and lived in by Vincent Astor (if you didn’t know) when he was married to his first wife Helen. (She got it in the divorce.) This talk is presented by the New York Regional Chapter of the French Heritage Society. 
The New York Junior League at 130 East 80th Street.
Sargent is a powerful personality, and continues to be all these years since his death 90 years ago. You can see that in his paintings, both portraits and watercolors. I am not an art connoisseur and my knowledge of Art History is sparse but always learning. Sargent can do that to you.

He made immortality from his portraits of the elite, i.e., the international rich at the height of the Gilded Age. His eye and sensibility lives on in the collective consciousness, so great was his talent.
John Singer Sargent in his studio with Portrait of Madame X, c. 1885.
Of course his subjects were not always quite so soigne or suave in real life. In a later age he might have used the camera and “photo shopped” the image. With brushes, he imparted his personal style, which was highly cultivated having had an American/European childhood. He was a rarified American. His portraits are an historical statement and a reminder of our own reality.
The Acheson Sisters by John Singer Sargent, 1902.
Dr. Knox's talk will deal with his formative years – from growing up mianly in Europe, to becoming a young student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and on to a Master at the annual Salon Exhibition. Dr. Knox teaches Art Humanities at Columbia and is a lecturer at the Met so can convey the story with much more knowledge and expertise than I am capable of.

Tickets for non-members are $65; and $50 for members of the French Heritage Society.

Go here
for non-member tickets. And here for members.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and thank you always for reading NYSD.
Nonchaloir (Repose), 1911.

Contact DPC here.