Thursday, May 28, 2015

When a lot of the denizens have left town

The High Line. Photo: JH.
Thursday, May 28, 2015.  Warm and beautiful yesterday, with temperatures in the high 70s. These are beautiful days to be out in the city.

I missed two lunches at Michael’s this week thanks to a stomach virus that paid a visit (and woke me) at 4 a.m. on Monday morning. So that I was out of service for the next 36 hours except for the copious trips to turn on the bathroom light. Misery; when you think of only one thing: feeling good, unimpaired health-wise. My cloying and uninvited visitor remained through all of Tuesday.

Then on Wednesday morning, I felt a little better, and at the time of this writing even better. This is the second visit I’ve had in the past month or six weeks with this critter. I hear now that it’s something going around. Gut stories, a friend of mine calls it.
Wreaths placed around The Soldiers' & Sailors' Memorial on Riverside Drive and 89th Street for the annual Memorial Day Commemoration that was held this past Monday.
This is the time of year when the social calendar begins to let up because a lot of the denizens have left town. They’re headed for palmier, briskier places such as the East End or Newport or the woods and the lakes or Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire. And that’s just for starters.  I like all of that although I’m less interested on weekends in being in the company of others. I mainly like to read, work around the house (I’m an amateur hoarder — cleaning up always), to think, to write, to go to Zabar's and have dinner with friends, or no dinner with friends. It’s like a vacation.

This is clearly an age thing. Fifty years ago I was on every plane, train, car, boat, that came my way. Fifty years ago I had to be entertained meeting the world, or my world. Now I’m back to the childhood boy: I like to entertain myself.
The view from JH's purview on the Upper West last night at 7:30 PM. The rain clouds threatened but the rain never came.
I like New York in summertime for just that reason. When the town empties out, it’s easier to move around by foot, bike or motor vehicle, and it’s easier to see the city which is full of its mesmerizing, hodge-podge, architectural polyglot of history that has been talking to us every day since the Dutch landed.

On Sunday, I decided it was that time of the year to get a little garden of flora and fauna for my terrace. This is left over from my California life when they were everywhere and beautiful.

I go down to the flower district on 27th Street and Seventh Avenue. The prices are very good; it’s very basic, and they have everything, most of which I don’t have space for. Besides I’m not really a gardener. I like the miracle of watching them grow, and feeding them, but a real gardener gets into it. It’s meditative and has many other restorative qualities.

I got out my little black mini-Cooper convertible and got onto the FDR South at 79th Street. There were a lot of cars on the road; it was moving. I got off at 34th Street and took that to 28th Street, moving west. That's when I caught the first glance of the Empire State in all her glory presiding over the East Side neighborhood at 30th Street and 7th Avenue. When I got over to the West Side, I caught another glance at her, always elegant, always regal. If she is the queen, then the Chrysler Building is her prince.
There she is. Elegant, commanding, and now an icon of a glorious time and place. All of New York is like that.
The top was down. Every time, at every red light I’d by habit look up at my surroundings. In New York you can see several lifetimes of human endeavor socially, creatively and commercially. A century or more ago, a traveler down these streets would see neighborhoods and businesses. It was working class, laboring class. Farther to the west were I was going was already teeming with industry back then. The garment business – now called the fashion business – employed tens of thousands of New Yorkers, including many women in various garment related manufacturing. Almost all of that is now gone – off to Asia, India, etc. A century or more ago on these streets around Broadway you could hear the pianos of Tin Pan Alley, a musical cacophony filling the air and the ears of New Yorkers at this time of the year when the only cool ventilation was an open window.
I can’t remember where this was – somewhere in the 30s. The building on the corner  caught my eye: the continental elegance of the mansard roof. I imagined that the owner of the building lived on the top floors. This was not unheard of in those days of New York. It was a kind of trophy. And practical. This is a commercial district heading into residential. The white building caught my eye because of the palms, LA does New York. That’s my own reverie talking.
Then there’s this. A century ago this was a very tall building in Manhattan. The sky was bigger, wider back then because four or six was just about it, except the newer buildings which had elevators. Its design reminds of the Ansonia up on Broadway and 73rd, which was built in 1899. This sign is on what looks like an apartment building on Broadway in the 20s. The copy reads “The doctor’s office / reinvented / one. The question is: One what?
25th Street and Sixth Avenue. There you have it: polyglot, history. The oldest building most visible, on the corner is late 19th century, very possibly an apartment building four flights up. I’m on Eighth Avenue in the mid-20s looking north. You can count the cars on this normally gridlockian thoroughfare.
Got my flowers and potting soil in the car, I head down 28th Street going east. I took this shot because of the variety of architectural styles and requirements, all over a period of less than a century. That’s New York.
I took 28th over to Park Avenue South and headed north, taking the Grand Central Terminal road to Park Avenue (north) and the statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt. I love the statue for its elusiveness. You can see the Commodore surveying his realm. I know from other portraits that he was a handsome looking man with a great physical presence – tall and rock tough. He made the biggest part of his fortune (the richest man in the world at that time) after he was sixty. In the Commodore's day when the Terminal was his, the tracks to and from it ran up this avenue. They still do. It was covered over early in the 20th century and eventually beautified over the decades since it became the Park Avenue we know today.  Commodore Vanderbilt's statue still has his presence, if elusive, depending on how quickly you turn the corner. But his legacy is directing the traffic (away from hitting him head on) of New York around his terminal, which leads to the northern Park Avenue and to what is said to be the tallest building in the city still abuilding at 56th Street and Park Avenue.
The latest art installation on the plaza of the Seagram’s Building.
I took Park to 72nd. You can see the roadway is practically empty. We’re looking east to the corner of First Avenue and 72nd beyond. Those are all residential buildings running to the river.
And then on up First Avenue – photo taken at 73rd Street at the light (did not photograph while moving). The cell phone still hasn’t taken my sanity. Only five moving cars in view for the next fifteen blocks. Almost like a country road.
Next day, over to the West Side for a meeting with JH. On 85th and First. The red brick buildings have been there for at least a century built at a time when the area was known as Germantown, or Yorkville, a heavy European nabe with much of its cultures imported and assimilated into the New York culture. The block on the left was once red brick four and five-story buildings just like it. Shops on the ground floor, apartments above, many were railroad flats/room-to-room, the working man’s enfilade. Walkups.
Stop at  85th and Second with the old watched over by the new three, almost four generations of New York between them.
85th Street and Madison Avenue. Again, sparse traffic on what is usually a well traveled road – this particular block has speed bumps because of the Regis High School. At the end of the block overlooking the park, on the right corner is where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis lived and brought up her son and daughter in the last three decades of her life. Central Park West, once socially segregated from her snob sister on the east side of the Park, now fully integrated by the changing times and in some instances, commendable, better times. And highly desirable. Interestingly, many famous entertainers live along this avenue in their multimillion-dollar residences. Many live on the East Side as well. But Central Park West has a long history of appealing to the entertainment business what with its proximity to Broadway – which once ruled the world – back when those red brick buildings on First Avenue and 85th Street were abuilding.
And here is the beginning of my little garden, as seen from the purview of DPC ...
And from the purview of The Dawgs who often stroll outside for a sniff of that New York air.  A large part of my “gardening” desire is just the fun watching Mother Nature flourish in something of beautiful abundance, right outside my terrace door.
And in another part of the forest, Shirley Lord writes from Charleston, where she and Peter Heywood were guests of Carolyne Roehm.

Before the construction  of The Globe in London in the 16th century the English Theatre was all about touring and nothing  else -- acting in horse barns, town squares and churches and stables across the country. Touring was in Will Shakespeare's blood as it was with the company of young actors he toured with.

Shakespeare's Globe today, founded by the pioneering American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, came to the 39th celebrated Spoleto Festival in Charleston, for the first time this week with Romeo and Juliet
Shirley Lord, Peter Heywood, and Carolyne Roehm sporting tattoos just like the members
of the Globe cast.
Romeo with Juliet on the balcony of Chisolm House that has been renamed "Juliet's Balcony" after the one in Verona.
Carolyne Roehm opened the doors of her new home, an 1836 stunning mansion, to welcome the young touring cast of the play, who changed in one of the French-decorated bedrooms and gave a rousing taste of the first act on Carolyne’s front porch before an assortment of Charleston’s leading citizens. Among the guests were Ann and Tony Merck, Jill and Richard Almeida, Memrie Lewis, Martha Ingram, Pat Atschul, Ravenels, Randall and Kitty Robinson who runs the much admired Charleston Historical Society; as well as Charlotte Beers.  
Matt Doherty (Paris/Tybalt/Montague/Peter); Steffan Donnelly (Mercutio/Prince/Apothecary); girl in black hat, Cassie Layton (Juliet); Steven Elder (Capulet); Samuel Valentine (Romeo); girl with the accordion, Hannah McPake (Lady Capulet).
Shirley Lord, who is a recent advisor to the U.S. Globe board, flew in from New York and Neil Constable, CEO of The Globe, came in from London. Oysters, Southern Fried Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, Pecan Pie with Bourbon Ice Cream. Afterwards guests moved to cocktails as Steffan Donnelly (Mercutio), Tom Kanji (Friar Laurence) and other cast members of Romeo and Juliet joined The Bluestone Ramblers, a local low country bluegrass group for an impromptu — and great — jamboree.
Matt Doherty, Samuel Valentine, Steffan Donnelly, and Steven Elder.
Steffan Donnelly, Steven Elder, Cassie Layton, and Hannah McPike.
Before the 3.30 performance the next day (it will run for the duration of the two week festival) Rosie Hodge, the tour wardrobe manager, repaid Carolyne’s hospitality, anointing her and Shirley with vibrant tattoos worn by the cast as they were in this production which toured Italy in the 1920s to perform in town squares.

In keeping with the period many of the cast play multiple roles and as Rosie explains, "our production has to be compact enough to pack and take on the road with ease, to perform in any space with ease and share the production with people from all walks of life. Our production is touring the world with 8 actors (incredibly talented) two stage managers and myself." The Bard must be smiling.
The cast and managers on the steps of Chisolm House under "Juliet's Balcony" with the hostess and Châtelaine.