Getting a break from the madding crowd

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A fleet of boats making their way up the Hudson following the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks show over the East River. 11:00PM. Photo: JH.

Friday, July 5, 2019. Sunny and hot on the Fourth of July in New York, with temps reaching up to the low-90s in the Sun, and a RealFeel of 99!

Yesterday was the birthday of our friend Audrey Sabol who marked 97 years at her home in Scottsdale, Arizona. The temps out there were only about 105/107 and little humidity and a slight breeze. NYSD readers know her daughter Blair Sabol who has expressed a few thoughts about fashion and the Zeitgeist on these pages for the past decade or so. 

July 4th birthday girl, Audrey Sabol. The smaller frame above her is a program from Frank Sinatra’s funeral.

Audrey has lived most of her life in Philadelphia where she grew up and later married and brought up her family there. She and her late husband Ed Sabol purchased property in Scottsdale a number of years ago for his health. 

Blair and I — two very verbose individuals still in the adjustment stage of age — often express those anxieties with a reasonable dose of quick-panic.  We have learned the secret of longevity from Audrey. When hearing a complaint or two like: “Oh, my achin’ whatever …” Audrey advises: “That’s what it’s like; suck it up!”A word from the wise.

Audrey is a reader. I understand from her brother Herb Siegel that she even read at the dining room table when she was a kid. Reading books is an incredible habit, and one of the most deeply satisfying if you can get into it. 

I asked Blair about her mother’s reading. Her reply: “…very esoteric, unique book selection. No trash, little fiction; poetry when she can. Three books at a time at various times of the day. I don’t know how she finds these titles but she gets a ton of literary journals from England, and orders off that. No NYT best sellers. This morning it was Women in Their Beds, short stories by Gina Berriault; while watching bad TV during the day she is now reading Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal, and at bedtime, The Bhagavad Gita: A Verse Translation by Geoffrey Parrinder.

She’s well aware of what’s going on in our world with a perception enhanced by age and time. And she spends no time lamenting. 

Last night I drove over to Café Luxembourg with Gillian and Sylvester Miniter. There was a good breeze coming in off the river. At 6:45 I was the only car going and coming, on the 79th Street transverse from Fifth to Central Park West; and the only car at the red light on 81st and CPW, going or coming. New York looks different, as if it had been peacefully deserted, getting a break from the madding crowd. Everything looks much bigger, and even grand and majestic along Central Park West.

Madison Avenue looking north from 80th Street at 6:45 p.m.

Later on in the evening, after dark, back home, the fireworks started in the distance, and their muffled blasts could be heard with my terrace door opened. It sounded as if it came from some forest a couple of miles away (Central Park and environs).

Click to order Just Try Me.

At dinner I was telling the Miniters about our friend Pax Quigley’s new book Just Try Me, which got rave reviews on Amazon.  I’ve been in on the writing as Pax and I are longtime friends (from LA). She published a book back in the late ‘80s called Armed and Female which was basically about women’s relationships to guns. Ownership was not uncommon, but Pax learned that “how to handle/use” was dangerously lacking among women especially.

Her interest in the subject for the new book was about dominatrixes. It began when she had a woman friend in LA who’s house had been broken into during the night and the women living alone was raped.  She told me long time ago how that incident affected her thoughts about the subjects.  

I haven’t read Just Try Me yet (one book at a time for me). It’s fiction, based on a great deal of research. I went to look on Amazon for it. Curious to see what the readers have said if they said anything. Well, wow!! Five stars!

I gotta share a couple of the several reviews:

“… A cutting edge thriller … unforgettable characters … abundant plot twists. The narrative is excellent: a refreshingly nuanced writing style an order of magnitude above the usual male-dominated spy novel. Obviously written by a woman who has had first hand experience with dark side of real violence … from the streets of Los Angeles, to the seedy underworld of Internet pornographers and sex traffickers, to the unfathomably rich and indulgent excesses of Beverly Hills. “Just Try Me” is a dangerous and desperate ride into the seedy and courageous side of human nature …. Highly recommended!”

The author.


“I didn’t expect to love this book as much and as quickly as I did. As soon as I finished the first chapter I was hooked. It’s rare … a thriller with a strong female character … believable sex scenes …  just graphic enough to keep my interest yet not enough to make me cringe. Except maybe for the S&M scenes, which are fascinating and extremely well rendered, if perhaps a bit disturbing. But why do we read novels if not to experience vicariously the lives of others?”


“… witty, fast-paced, smart, sexy, suspenseful … at times erotic novel. Its unique storyline – a beautiful Jewish businesswoman endures a terrifying attack in her own home, a life-altering event that leads her to transform herself into a warrior in order to protect those she loves – makes you want to keep on reading and beg the author for the sequel. Most importantly though, it’s a story for our time; a tale of female empowerment, of women who refuse to be victims, and of the power of friendship.”

Meanwhile, back out on the street again. The photo below is of the dining court of the Hotel Hassler in Rome taken this past Tuesday night by Yanna Avis with the following message: Dinner at the Hassler …  Such beauty wherever you turn your eyes … The air one breathes in this magical city is so light and filled with sheer “joie de vivre.”

The dining terrace at the Hassler.

Ten days ago, Yanna performed in cabaret in the back room at La Goulue on 61st and Madison. It was the debut for La Goulue as a cabaret venue, and it was Yanna’s first cabaret appearance this year. 

Yanna grew up in Paris. She likes people to know she is of Romanian parents but an American only knows a Parisienne when talking to her. Her concerts are lively with French cabaret songs. On this night, with a packed room, she appeared simply glam in a white ruffly blouse and black palliated blousy trousers and heels. She’s the chanteuse immediately. The repertoire was French and American, especially Cole Porter who loved Paris and wrote about it. Doing her Porter medley, she was joined by two smashing and sparkling can-can dancers in costume and doing those kicks.

Yanna singing Cole Porter’s “You Don’t Know Paree” from Fifty Million Frenchmen.

Yanna gave us a little bit of French history. La Goulue was the stage named of the French dancer Louise Webber whom Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized in his paintings of the Paris cabaret. And from there the rest of the set was lively and bursting with that energy of the can-can. (They sang that one too.) It was a great evening of song that drew the audience into participating in the chorus of the familiar songs. It was Yanna’s greatest performance yet. She’ll be back in the fall.

Yanna singing everybody “Can-Can” with the Can Can ladies accompanying.

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