It was 64 degrees at 4 pm yesterday in New York.Quick to adapt, New Yorkers shed their overcoats and puff jackets and even the shortsleeve tee shirts were out. What a pleasure. By late evening the temp had fallen to the low 50s, but hey … early February and 50 degrees!! Of course all of that will change and probably suddenly.
The big shock of the day was absorbed in the morning when I grabbed a cab at ten after noon to go to the Q subway. The cab rates had changed. The MTA had raised the special rate — aside from the fare — from 80 cents to $3.30.
We all knew it was coming. It had been published. But a 400% rise in price gets to you if you’re a person who doesn’t have it to throw around. The argument of course is to take the bus or the subway. More time. I was actually on my way to the subway the fastest (vs. walking) way I know. But 400%?
My first thought was the guy driving the taxi. This — a short run — will end a lot of his business. As it is, since the emergence of Uber and other call-in services, the yellow cab’s business has dropped precipitously, and so has the income of the driver.
If the ultimate plan is to drive people from the city, it will ultimately succeed. The more economic hardship for the working people of New York is deeply reflected in the quality of life. This is true anywhere.
New York is great city, perhaps the greatest city in the world, but it is also a very challenging place to live for most of us — although we take it in stride, accepting it as the price to pay for living here. This is not necessarily so for the so-called elite, but then, even they can be odiously affected. The lack of money necessary to live basically is required in order for us to live in some kind of peace with each other.
In very few minutes I got to the Q. I was going down to Michael’s to meet Brooke Hayward and Alex Hitz for lunch. We meet when Brooke comes to town. She comes in every two or three weeks to take care of business, keep appointments and to grab a quick lunch at Michael’s with me and with Alex if he’s in town.
As it happens, it’s Alex’s birthday coming up on Sunday. The tenth. Michael McCarty was there, and we learned that both he and his wife Kim McCarty are February 10th, too. So at the end of our lunch Alex was presented with a plate of cookies with a lighted candle burning in the middle. We all sang Happy Birthday. Corny but fun. The child in us never really leaves. Thankfully.
Monday night was the Director’s Circle Dinner at the Frick Collection. It is black tie, and almoste all of the guests were personally involved with the museum. It is the only dinner that is held it what was originally the Frick family’s formal dining room. It is a beautiful room, 18th century paneling, pale green and gilt. It is located on the southwest corner of the mansion. In its day when the family occupied the house, facing Central Park across the avenue, it was a bright, and warm, albeit august room.
The two enormous portraits on the south wall were by Gainsborough, from the 18th century. One was of Lady Duncombe. It amused me because I have a friend who lives in Buncombe County in North Carolina. I told her about Lady Duncombe’s magnificent portrait — she was a young woman and wife. The County and the Lady I learned, are related culturally: the word “bunk” originates with a Buncombe ancestor, however that may be.
This year’s dinner began with a program in the West Gallery with Xavier Salomon, the Frick’s Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator and Maira Kalman— that Maira Kalman — the artist/illustrator.
The two sat under Rembrandt’s Polish Rider and discussed the painting, the painter, the time, and the quality of the painting. Mr. Salomon is exceptionally knowledgeable about the works and the histories, which adds so much to the actual work.
Ms. Kalman talked about the artist and pointed to his self portrait which is hung to left of the Polish Rider. She talked about how shocking it was that this great master died a pauper. She explained how great he was and how successful he was with at one time 25 assistants, a veritable factory of what became Great Master paintings of the Renaissance. Yet his ending was lamentable.
This half hour discussion/conversation led to Frederic Chopin who was born in Poland and who composed one of his most famous pieces after the Polish Rider. The conversation closed with a recording of Van Cliburn playing Chopin’s concerto inspired by Rembrandt’s work. Also brilliant, right up to Mr. Cliburn’s virtuoso performance.
All of this taking place in great West Gallery with its green walls hung with masterpiece after masterpieces that centuries later continue to fascinate the curious eye, is something that could only take place in this wonderful museum now known as the Frick Collection.
The evening began at 7 with a cocktail reception in the atrium, and then into the West Gallery for the “talk,” and then on to the Dining Room for the dinner.
The Menu: Winter Vegetable Salad; Couscous with Herbs, Breakfast Radishes, Maroon Carrots; followed by a Filet Medallion; Potato Mille-Feuille, Spinach, Maitake Mushrooms, Onion Rings, Truffle Jus; and for dessert: Salted Caramel Bar; Caramel Crème, Dark Chocolate Crème Fraiche Gelato.
The Wines: Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis, Piermonte, Italy 2016; Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2015.
Photographs by Christine Butler (Frick)