Monday, June 28, 2020. Summer warm — high 80s, low 90s — over the very quiet weekend in New York. Not as much humidity that you’d notice, and some rain late last Friday to clean the sidewalks and roads.
Down by the river, the East River on Saturday midday, we and the dawgs went for their walk, I took my camera hoping to get a shot of some beautiful sailboat or yacht or even an oil tanker moving through from the harbor up toward the Long Island Sound. And lo, as if it had been ordered as we got to the Promenade entering on the 83rd Street, I could see, moving slowly up the river, and there she was.
A number of years ago, friends of mine chartered a private yacht to cruise in the Mediterranean. It was called The Big Eagle. There were eight of us and I think ten in crew. I wrote about it at the time because I had been first exposed to what I consider the greatest luxury in life.
And that is cruising the Mediterranean in summertime and history on a yacht where you have (almost) all the domestic conveniences of modern life, and your view of the world, life, and the earth beyond the shore, is something to look at from afar. It doesn’t look so bad when you see it from that place. You’re also not there to experience any objections that we humans are good at creating.
Now, to stir memories, I always look to see if there are any yachts traveling the river. More often they are sailing boats — which are also very impressive, no matter the size, and alluring to this landlubber. So this was: the Vibrance. Silver grey. A beauty. 162 feet, five cabins, 11 in crew, big enough (comfortable) for 12 guests. Yours for the week for only $281,500. Uh-huh; they can go for more than million a week. (Here’s the link, even if you’re just curious). I was very lucky to have had the experience, including seeing the world from the ocean side, far away and wondrous.
Saturday night I had dinner with Tobie Roosevelt outside at Sette Mezzo. This was a first time we’d seen each other since the lockdown more than three months ago. It was also the second time since the “opening up” that I’ve been out and seeing friends. The first was at Nello’s a few nights before.
Just getting out and around others, and having conversations has been a relief, and feels like a gift. You also see others experiencing it. Everyone is privately relieved to be amidst many neighbors — really in the old-fashioned sense. That’s one of the greatest pleasures of life in the city. Taken away, as it was with the lockdown, you realize how important it is to one’s survival. And that’s not even considering the catastrophic financial situation in everyday life.
Tobie and I met a number of years ago when they were first breaking ground for the Four Freedoms Park honoring Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Tobie, being the widow of Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., was very involved in its development and I was writing about it at the time. We soon discovered we share a similar interest and curiosity in people.
At dinner she mentioned last Thursday’s Diary about Pamela Harriman. Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman. In her world, or more specifically, the financial, political, celebrity world, Mrs. Harriman resided controversially — often a topic of some kind of derision or, a topic of awe.
I recounted the moment of meeting her in that Diary. I wasn’t in awe so much as I was charmed. I had heard quite different stories about her from people who knew her — some even from childhood, including Lady Sarah Churchill who knew her from youth and strongly disliked her. And Brooke Hayward Duchin whose father left his previous wife Slim Keith to marry Pamela. And of course there were the Harriman heirs who watched her go through the better part of their inheritance before they received it.
I knew some of the above well, truths that convict. I knew that the moment I met her. But still, the charm, imperceptible to even her friend Kitty Hart, the sudden backward glance of a smiling curiosity in the eyes — was literally captivating to this man.
I also knew that was the closest I’d ever get to the woman anyway. That’s Show Business, as they say. My friend Hermes Pan, Fred Astaire’s lifelong choreography-partner, had a phrase for it: “I loved ya honey but the show closed.” With me and Mrs. H, it was no more then an instagram.
Meanwhile, the big good news is that the city is opening up and the restaurants where so many New Yorkers inhabit faithfully for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, are opening up for all of us. This past weekend JH took in more than a dozen of them for his camera and your pleasure.