Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A dose of nostalgia

Looking west across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. 8:15 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016. Yesterday was another beautiful summer day in New York with lots of sunshine, blue skies (up there between those towers), temperatures in the low 80s but little if any humidity. And over by the East River there was breezes billowing through the trees. If you didn’t’ know what was going on in the world all around you could think you were in Mother Nature’s paradise.

I even got a rare shot (actually I got it two days ago while walking the dogs) of the Staten Island Ferry cruising up the East River toward the Sound. The last time this writer saw the Staten Island Ferry was when he was six years old and his mother brought him down from Massachusetts to see New York, and we rode on the Staten Island Ferry. To Staten Island! And back.
The Staten Island Ferry cruising up the East River.
Naturally, at that age, like many things about the Big City, that wonder remains in my mind’s eye. The other morning, more than six decades later, it was also a wonder to see it in my neighborhood of the Upper East Side. Like, whaaaa?

I’d never seen the ferry on this channel. Ever. And why would I? Of course that doesn’t mean it hasn’t run up to this part of the island before and I just wasn’t around. Even if so, it was still a rare and oddly, kind of a thrilling sight on a bright summer morning walking along the Esplanade. A huge dose of nostalgia and a reminder of what it is about this town that can grab you and direct your life.
Since it is summertime, and while the world is too much with us as a poet living in the Lake District wrote two centuries ago; and since there are not a lot of events to “cover” for the NYSD, nor a swelling desire to cover any of them anyway, JH and I decided to make the best of things by putting the best of the news out there.

Thinking along those lines, I received an email from a man I met through the NYSD several years ago. Nelson Hammel, who lives and owns a business in Palm Beach, introduced himself in his occasional letters about something he’d read or heard in relationship to something I’d written. Nelson from Devonshire is how he might be identified in a conversation about something at his shop. Taste, culture, wit and wishfulness are among his collections that adorn some of the best houses in town. Nelson also writes limericks rather adroitly and rather easily. He’s got a way with words, as they used to say.

I’m taking a long time to get to a short point. Yesterday morning I received another of Nelson’s internet epistles; and while I’m not a travel reader except by chance, I learned that he is in Morocco which is a stop on what could be called a “buying trip” (for business) through Europe and across the world. Here is his dispatch.
Marrakech is as hot as a Kitty on a Hot Tin Roof ... I'm thinking Bali will seem cool by comparison ... at least greener for sure.

Several days in Tangiers was an eye opener ... besides getting together with Jonathan Dawson, the fellow who is always cast in the lead role as "eccentric Tangiers expat" (and quite nice actually) in the glossy travel mags, I was all over The City, which is exploding from its well deserved (and preferable to some) seedy backwater reputation into a jewel of the Mediterranean.
Jonathan Dawson with his majordomo, cook and pet rooster on his rooftop terrace. Photo: Ambroise Tézenas
King Mohammed VI has decided Tangiers is going to be "Marbella meets Beirut" and he is throwing tens of millions of dollars into a new Port with glamorous Corniche, parks for recreation and pleasure, first class technology applications and a big broad sweep up brush, closing down seedy hotels, drug dens and discos, long favored by the hashish and literary history set.
François Hollande and King Mohammed VI assess a model of the port.
New terminals under construction day and night in Port Tanger-Med.
I stayed at the Olde World La Maison de Tanger, owned by a pair of charming French fellows, Vincent, who formerly managed the Armani boutique in Paris, and his partner Roland, who was the proprietor of Amnesia, the legendary Gay Bar in the Marais.
They jointly decided a quieter life under the Palms and Bougainvillea was the right move for them at a more sedate time in their life.
A suite at La Maison de Tanger.
Dinner at the glamorous El Morocco restaurant and bar, with drinks beforehand at the Noir-Pinus Hotel at the very top of the Kasbah was full of well dressed Moroccan pretty young things as well as Europeans and Middle Eastern types, $$$ Swiss watches and the silkiest of silk shirts unbuttoned to down there. Everyone was with a mobile device in hand taking selfie after selfie.
Drinks before dinner at the Noir-Pinus Hotel.
On Saturday night we passed a line of 45 or more pristine Range Rovers that were ferrying guests to a wedding reception in honor of one of the sons of the King of Saudi Arabia who was tying the knot, or many knots, with a young Moroccan woman from a family of great wealth. Every room in all the 5-star palace hotels was booked a year in advance for guests and several palatial yachts were moored in the harbor for those who didn't fly into the newly expanded airport on their own conveyances.

The new Tangiers' reality for those residents of means is to have a small weekend cottage or a rambling palace just out of town, along the coast or in the mountains where a cooler air might be found during the hot, steamy summer months. New beach clubs are springing up at every cove and cliff side promontory with a view out to the sea, behind gated walls covered in jasmine, oleander and bougainvillea. What happens behind those walls stays behind those walls, out of eye view of the conservative local population, who nonetheless are eager for the service jobs created.
A villa in the mountains overlooking the coast
The small circle of part-time resident jet set designers, headlined by the famed Christopher Gibbs, and fashionistas from Paris are still in the forefront of Tangiers society, but billionaires and gazillionaires with security guards to protect the wife, mistress and kiddies are being drawn like bees to honey for the improved amenities and European-Moorish aesthetic in this Muslim gateway to Africa.

Christopher Gibbs in his tall and airy Tangiers sitting room. Photograph by Will Sanders
Villas and compounds are being kitted out with every New World amenity juxtaposed against a backdrop of Moroccan lanterns, floor strewn cushions and fabrics sourced in the souks of Marrakech by young Parisian designers flown in just for the job. Within months, photo shoot layouts appear in magazines and social media, the next hot shot designer poised for stardom, even though the villa was decorated at cost plus 10%, and a first class round trip ticket from Paris.

No sign of P Diddy on jet skis in the Harbor waters or Ivana T with a much younger Italian stud in tow, and nary a Russian accent to be heard ... but can they be far behind?

My old school grandfather, wise in the ways of both Wall Street and Main Street, used to say "follow the trail of money." True enough today as it was then 50 years ago and before then to the beginning of time!

Cheers, N
Christopher Gibbs's domain where Tangiers society still gathers.

Contact DPC here.