Hop, skip, and a jump

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 4:30 PM. photo: JH.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020. It rained last night and it’s still raining as I write this at 1 a.m. The temps these past few days have been in the low 70s and it’s been pleasant here in the city. The weather site I look at also always tells us about the air quality. Excellent is the word (some of the time) for the past ten days. Which is always nice. 

I don’t know if it’s my imagination but since the summer is over the traffic in the city during the week has been busier than I’ve ever seen in, even almost a standstill in a lot of areas. At least in the areas I’ve driven in. 

In the past few months there was hardly a car on the road most of the time. JH’s photos of almost empty Park Avenue said it all.  However, beginning on the day after Labor Day, it’s been almost massive traffic jam all over the city, especially in the business areas and the neighborhoods.

Pre-Labor Day on Park Avenue.

Yesterday I had to go over to the West Side to take care of some business. I drove, and in three different instances going and two returning, I got held up for minutes at a time on side streets. Because of construction or delivery vans taking up too much space on the main drag.  Then there are the double parked trucks, be they service or delivery. They’re everywhere now that many people seem to be doing all their shopping via the internet. It is an awesome sight in this time when so many of us are watching our spending big time.

And now that the restaurants have had to move out into the streets, along the wide avenues, now they are taking up more roadspace so that the deliveries are double parking. It often barely leaves a single lane open for moving traffic. The avenues are even worse. Although, I should admit, as a New Yorker I am used to the “frustration” of getting around in a mob of vehicles, not to mention the bursting volume of motorized bicycles (or skateboards) moving in and out and around and about as you’re trying to stay in your own lane.

Then there was the “Debates” coming up in the evening. I already had a social obligation/invitation that I’d accepted so I knew I wasn’t going to see them. This didn’t bother me deeply but curious I always am. And in this case you could even call it vulgar curiosity as presented by the media. But I just wanted to see what those two guys would be like under the circumstances. I am not inclined to predict when it comes to political campaigns because everyone has an opinion. But I read somewhere that Trump’s debates with Hillary brought the largest audience ever (84 million) for a political debate. It was only logical this would be a blockbuster event audience-wise. Although at this hour of the night after, I don’t know.

Whatever, I missed it. Geoffrey Bradfield had invited me to a little birthday dinner at Majorelle that he was having for our friend Debbie Bancroft, along with Barbara de Portago. Debbie is a good friend and she’s been locked up in Southampton for the past six months, and this was also her first time back in the city — which she misses — since last March.

We met at Geoffrey’s apartment on Park Avenue in the 60s. Geoffrey, if you didn’t know, is a very prominent international interior designer; and he has a certain style, a look that is otherworldly in the elegant sense, no matter the size. Many of his clients have been (he is semi-retired now) major art collectors as well as world class tycoons). 

This is his fourth or fifth apartment since I’ve known him — more than 20 years — and evidently this is the smallest, so I was curious what he’d created for himself. He’s also an excellent host and loves entertaining people at dinner, be it a deux or 42 at a sit down. Everything he does is first class and top of the line, so it’s a pleasure for the guests to experience. He’s also a warm host; enjoying the company of his guests.

The view form Geoffrey’s terrace.

His apartment has a terrace surrounding with a spectacular view of midtown, as you can see. Unfortunately I don’t’ have a camera that can take in an almost 180 degree vista, but you definitely get the gist of the big town in lights.  You’ll notice the the tribute to RBG in lights on top of the Bloomberg building on 59th Street and Lexington Avenue.

The apartment — impeccable, classic and chic — frames the view perfectly into a wonder. The interior greys and whites have always been his signature with his own homes. But in this case that view of midtown Manhattan is awesome and every other encomium you can think of to describe its beauty. You can’t stop looking at it. It arouses your imagination. The sight of it always takes me back to when I first saw New York as a kid, a boy of six or seven, when my mother first brought me to the big town. It is indeed The Big Town and it fits perfectly into your child’s most vivid imagination. Geoffrey’s interior design frames it serenely.

Geoffrey’s living room.

So we had cocktails and delicious Scotch smoked salmon hors d’oeurves, most of which I consumed since the girls stuck to their champagne. At 8:30 we adjourned to a waiting limousine to take us down to Restaurant Daniel on 65th Street and Park Avenue. It turned out that Geoffrey’s original reservation was for Majorelle. The restaurant canceled at 4:30 in the afternoon because of the oncoming storm. This is one of the great disadvantages of this New York outdoor dining. Thinking of their clientele, they didn’t want to take the risk.

The streets were already wet from a light rain. Restaurant Daniel’s outdoors was set under a large marquee very good protection from the rains. In typical Daniel Boulud fashion, its tables were large, comfortable and well spaced. Daniel, being one of the haute cuisine restaurants of the city, is a little bit dressier. Jackets, even ties, on the men and smart looking fashion on the women.

The ride down Park Avenue to Restaurant Daniel.

Conversation with my dinner partners was about other moments and times in each other’s company as well as the wider world in which my friends have spent time. Geoffrey grew up in Johannesburg and by the time he was in his late teens he was already seeing a lot of the world during education and then in his career. 

Barbara grew up in part of her youth at the Palace of Versailles where her stepfather Gerard van der Kemp was the director of the museum of Versailles restoring it to its original condition, beginning in the 1950s. The family lived there in an apartment that originally belonged to the finance minister of Louis XIV. Barbara has ever since been active in raising support for Versailles, as well as the Giverny Claude Monet Museum and Gardens through her foundation.

The dinner party: Barbara de Portago, host Geoffrey Bradfield, Debbie Bancroft, and DPC.

NYSD readers might be familiar with her foundation’s annual black tie benefit dinner which I’ve written about a number of times. Her guest speaker is always a royal descendent from several of the European royalty. 

The topics of conversation were always the people — often or not, of legend — that we’ve, observed, known or even just seen people who live, or once lived, in the great big world out there in what is now history. There’s a lot of amusement that accompanies these vivid characters in their times of ours.

About ten-thirty, having finished our dinner, the conversation went on over cocktails and coffee, and the rain really came down. We were protected from it but there was a slight mist that passed by from the traveled streets. And everyone was thinking about getting on and keeping dry at the same time. It was 72 degrees, and comfortably warm. It was time to call it a day, after a wonderful night in New York.

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