Out there in the big, bad world

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A great gathering on the Great Lawn in Central Park, Sunday, 4:40 PM. Photo: JH.

Monday, June 1, 2020. The weather in New York was beautiful this weekend, beginning on Friday. Temperatures reached up to the low 80s but lovely, no humidity. Nights dropped into the 60s but still comfortably warm. The coolest was yesterday; again sunny with masses of clouds passing by and temps in the low 70s.

That was the weather. Since we’re still on lockdown I was here at my desk, reading or writing or organizing. Saturday night was reading a book of Cole Porter’s letters. I’d bought it out of curiosity as to what the man’s personality was like considering his lyrics were witty and fun. Remember witty and fun?  No?  You have travel there sometime. It’s like washing your face and combing your hair. For a few minutes it’s not bad out there.

Because in many places, it was bad out there this weekend, as the world now knows. What started in Minneapolis picked up the scent and filled the streets of many cities. But Porter’s letters reveals a brilliant composer and lyricist, a man very good to his friends, with gratitude and loyalty, and one took things as they came with the intention of getting on with it. It was also a far different world; one which was just on the edge of the Technology Age.

The East River looking south at the speed cruiser making its way toward the Ed Koch 59th Street Bridge, 2:30 pm Sunday.

Sitting there reading, I had my terrace door open since the air was fair and mild. It’s nicely quiet here on this avenue on weekends and especially in the fairer weather. It is not a through street — running only from 79th to 90th; so in a way it is isolated with fewer cars and much fewer people traveling through. You can hear the boat horns in the River and clanging of the fire trucks and sirens of the police cars passing through, but otherwise it’s now like a Summer Saturday night when most everyone’s away. Indeed many neighbors are away and have been for several weeks.

But this past Saturday night I occasionally heard explosive sounds, which I imagined were fireworks over in Central Park. But learned from JH this morning that there was protesting on Madison Avenue, and across the Park, and also downtown. And in some cases it got out of hand. I’ve since learned what we’ve all learned: that protests and some rioting (not to confuse the two) was occurring in other cities across the country.

A glimpse of the protests on Madison Avenue.
Looking south along Madison Avenue just a few minutes after the protestors passed through.
And soon after, some of the locals were already out dining al fresco on the Avenue (between 92nd and 93rd Street) — the first such occasion in months.
The message left behind on a vacant store on Madison Avenue and 92nd Street.

Then, yesterday I got a message from a friend reporting on “rioting” in Los Angeles:

“It is terrifying here, rioting all over the city, most of the Melrose shops destroyed, a car drove into a crowd on 3rd Street, and right now there’s burning and looting on Rodeo Drive. They’ve lit fires in the street, and are pulling merchandise out of stores. They looted Gucci’s, came out with armfuls of handbags and merchandise, and were throwing it into fires lit up and down Rodeo …. This was the first weekend the stores were allowed to open so they were all freshly stocked with merchandise to be ready.  Now they’re boarding up stores including Prada, Zenga next door to it, etc. and they’re boarding up the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  The police are trying to contain this, the National Guard has been called in but they’re not here yet, and we’re told a lot of the looters are hiding inside the stores; they got in with hammers, crowbars, etc., some carrying guns.  And every store on Rodeo is covered with hateful graffiti.  All so senseless, nothing to do with the death of George Floyd anymore, just rioters bent on destruction …”

And back in NYC in the West Village, our friend and photographer Peter Cary Peterson sent us these post-protest images of a torched NYPD van on 12th Street and 6th Avenue.

Then I saw vid footage from the King of Prussia mall in Philadelphia; more of the same.   

Sunday in New York, the last day of May, looked like any Sunday where there is nice weather in Springtime. People were out walking the avenue, on the Promenade by the river, with the children playing in the Park and players on the basketball court. And just about everyone in mask, which also means we can’t recognize each other or in many cases hear what we are saying. A bag of tricks in the offing.

My generation of Americans have been experiencing or watching protests and riots off and on for the past 60 years. We have also witnessed public shootings in schools as well as on the streets very often by young people. This was new at the time. It’s still unexplainable in retrospect. The Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement and the Gay Movement of the 1960s wore protests like badges. And they succeeded in the goals which was mainly Integration. We are all here together. That is the Law of Nature.

Good neighbors back in my own backyard. Saturday night I decided I’d order takeout from Sette Mezzo where I often had Saturday dinner before All This. So I went down there about seven to pick it up and sat down to have a chat with Oriente and another friend of his — Al — who was having a glass of wine. 

Oriente was telling me that in this shutdown many of the hospitals have had to shut down their kitchens, leaving hospital staff to rely on food trucks which gather in the hospital parking lots at lunch hour. A friend and frequent patron of Sette Mezzo, Philippe Laffonte, has ordered a total of 300 meals to be served to the staff of NYU Langone Hospital this coming week.  Chicken  Scarparello w/roasted garlic/Rigatoni Pomodoro — today’s Top of the Menu. Community.

I spent about a half hour, maybe more chatting with Oriente and Al. Naturally we talked about New York. “New York is not like the rest of America. New York is separate.” Both Oriente and Al are native Italians and still maintain a close relationship to their fatherland. So there were much good tidings to be shared, and I left with my takeout in a very positive state of mind. When in the state of lockdown you can get used to the solitude. But when you’re finally back out there in the world, you see what a gift it is to you.

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