Thursday, December 9, 2021. A light snow was forecast yesterday but no, it passed us by. I see by the weather maps that it moved into the Northeast. A light, but chilly rain came in the early evening as the temp began to drop. It was cold (high 30s), and even colder (freezing) at night.
Meanwhile the holiday spirit is beginning to take shape. Traffic yesterday in Manhattan was abysmal and crowded everywhere. Trucks delivering food in large plastic cartons placed on dozens of bike-powered small trailers to run the orders into the neighborhoods, relieving a lot of people from having to go to the market and do it themselves.
The big transports all double park daily — even triple park — along the avenues taking up more room, not to mention the mainly empty pink bus lanes that line the avenues, making the roads narrower for the increase in cars.
Many New Yorkers are avoiding public transportation thanks to You-Know-What-vid, choosing taxis or private cars. Not to mention the other deliveries via UPS, FedEx, and USPS unloading masses of packages of all sizes and shapes seven days a week in many of the neighborhoods, mine included. You could almost get the feeling that people don’t leave their homes if they don’t have to even to shop at the market.
But “t’is the season” is coming along. This week, one my favorite web sites Ephemeral New York is running a painting of the first lighted holiday or Christmas Tree that was decorated in Madison Square Park on December 21, 1912,
The painter Paul Cornoyer who was born in St. Louis in the mid-1860s, came to New York at the very end of that century when New York. That Madison Square area was still very young in developing and highlighting itself architecturally. Both its business and Society were the first residents as New York began for the first time moving north across the swampy areas which became a canal and later became Canal Street.
By then the city dwellers began to move Up and build townhouses and mansions along its periphery. Winston Churchill’s mother Jenny Jerome lived in a large five-story mansion on a corner overlooking the park. She’d long before married Lord Randolph and became the mother of Winston by the time the tree was first lit with colored lights. Its effect was early successful product promotion by the budding electrical industry (the innovation of colored lightbulbs — a first!)
The 60-foot tree had come from the Adirondacks. Someone had the idea of covering in with colored lights. This when electricity was still new to the world. The Edison Company donated 1200 colored lights. This was a first – the world was just getting used to the transparent electric light bulb. Color changed our relationship to the lightbulb. It wasn’t known about before it went public. Colored lights soon became a must-have when decorating.
The Flatiron Building was completed in 1900. The area became known as the Flatiron District. It was a wonder of metropolitan beauty reflecting the beginning of modern times and the emergence of New York as an important city in the young nation.
You can imagine the couple standing along the snowcovered patch gazing up at the multicolors and fascinated by how their world was changing right before their eyes. It was a wonder and a good one.
For those interested in history in general and the history of New York, the Ephemeral New York is an excellent informer and teacher. It also brings you closer to your own place in New York.
Meanwhile back on the Upper East Side these days, this past Tuesday evening John Demsey and Cornelia Guest hosted their annual holiday party at Demsey’s townhouse in the East 60s. This is a real New York party, full of individuals of all ages and interests including many actively participating in the working world of New York.
Several years ago Cornelia who grew up here in New York and in Old Westbury on Long Island, now lives in Texas. She moved there several years after her mother CZ died and the house and land was disposed of.
I don’t know how the Texas move came about but Cornelia has never looked better. I learned that she often goes to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. She just recently had a part in a new film called “The Shuroo Process” which has just been released.
Cornelia is also a lifelong dog lover and adopter, and always has more than one or two that she’s taken in to adore. She was seen last night at dinner at Sette Mezzo with two gentleman after the party was over. Wearing a silver paietted dress and looking as beautiful and glamorous as any movie star, and as completely comfortable as any star in the role the dress presented.
Meanwhile back to the dogs. I got a message yesterday from a reader who liked the Diary about the dogs (and cats). He particularly liked the name Sparkie on one of the dogs. I wrote him back explaining the following:
The guy with his paw on my shoulder (Sparkie) was the eldest of the group in the photo, and definitely In Charge of the House, as well as his mistress’ favorite. Besides his name she often called him Menakis –an ancient Greek word for a Free Spirit, a Visionary. I was often his Sitter when mistress traveled — which was every two or three weeks.
When he stayed with me he took over the role of Dog #1 and followed me around. He was a tough and serious little guy who had just a bit of a swagger to his gait. When he rode in the car with me, he was always stretched out over my shoulders and behind the back of my neck.
His mistress had a lot of nicknames for him, and also for the rats in the area. There were lots of rats in Beverly Hills living in the abundance of undergrowth surrounding the houses. Sometimes one might have the nerve to sneak into a house by an open terrace door, etc.
Sparkie happened to be an expert ratter (evidently Jack Russells are). One afternoon when I went into the kitchen (I was dogsitting), I was stunned to see eight feet directly ahead of me, a large rat suddenly still on the counter by the sink.
The rat was surprised too and didn’t move. Shocked — it was a big one — I shouted for Sparkie: “RATACKI!” (his mistress’ word for it) and he suddenly appeared from out of nowhere, like Security on call.
I instantly picked him up, holding him upright, and gently tossed him (literally about five feet) onto the kitchen counter where he landed on all fours with his mouth open. In a millisecond he took the stunned creature by the neck and killed him instantly. Boom. One chop broke its neck. Not even with a struggle. Finished with his assignment, Sparkie turned to get down. I then wrapped the dead rat in some papers and threw him into the rubbish outside, and gave the Old Boy a treat for his work. Ratacki!!