1968 was staggering toward 1969 with Richard Nixon elected President and the war in Vietnam continuing while cities were still seething with riots and demonstrations against the war and the drafting of young men. I was bunkered in my apartment working on daily illustration project deadlines with only New York Pacifica Network’s listener supported radio station, WBAI-fm to keep me informed. They were on top of every protest story and very frequently were assisting the organizers of those protests!
An unknown Bob Dylan performed on the station as did Arlo Guthrie with his song, Alice’s Restaurant years before he recorded it commercially.
My rep Pema and her husband Perry were Nixon supporters which was a surprise for me to discover when I made a disparaging remark about him and his Vice President, Spiro Agnew. Perry even said of Agnew, “ that’s my boy!”
This sort of political disagreement was a big thing then! Construction workers downtown had harassed and menaced war protesters and everywhere New Yorkers could feel the tensions!
As a local oasis of civility in my neighborhood, a young married couple, Charles and Alice Kibort opened a tiny clothing boutique on 83rd Street just east of Third Avenue. They named it The Polished Gentleman and it carried merchandise that was similar to clothes I’d seen in upscale Carnaby Street boutiques in London. It was contemporary but with a traditional vibe — beautiful woolens and accessories. I found myself taking breaks to stroll up the street and shop and visit with them.
Then it was back home with my new purchases and another All-Nighter work period with WBAI filling the airwaves with news of the latest riots, demonstrations or political outrage! I worked at night because the time seemed infinite with no distractions — if you didn’t include WBAI!
Craig was feeling a bit less comfortable at his job with The French American Bank. He’d left school at Georgetown feeling somewhat constricted there but now, surrounded by middle aged bankers, he was feeling even less free.
All of this while his contemporaries were being critical of bourgeois life and demonstrating about nothing but peace and freedom!
Annie Rieger was sympathetic, saying that she felt that she was also a bit trapped! Nobody seemed to feel happy about much of anything!
Save for the political climate around me, I was thrilled to be able to get all the jobs I was getting!
We could always go visit Serendipity III for wonderful ice cream diversions and art nouveau-style objects. It was so wittily removed from the real world around us.
And there were a lot of friendly inexpensive bar-restaurants on the Upper East Side in those days.
Vladimir Horowitz had finally decided to give a recital in Carnegie Hall after the trial run in New Haven that I’d gone to with my cousin Adrienne and her husband John McClure. John was Horowitz’s producer at Columbia Records and Annie and I got tickets for the Carnegie Hall performance.
The concert was a reassuring triumph for Horowitz who had stopped concertizing for a while. There were rumors that he’d had some emotional problems and one bizarre story that was circulating was that he felt his fingers were glass and capable of breaking!
Annie and I went to the Cafe Geiger in Yorkville afterwards. Obviously, Horowitz was in great form!
Music had had the timeless power to soften the harshness of 1968, a year with all of its disastrous events and shattered hopes. 1969 was looming — for better or worse.