I am starting to surface post my full-on New York sojourn, when for three hectic weeks in May this year, I briefly morphed (at least in my mind) into a New Yorker, living and breathing in that seductive city. At times I was flying on a New York high, while at other times I was grounded, concerned that I was failing an elusive subject called ‘New York 101’. So much of what I wanted to do often seemed to be defeated by time and place. This city is overwhelming in many ways, yet very rewarding in other, often quite intangible and unexpected ways.
I arrived, feeling the exhilaration I always get when in huge and not so huge cities that I love, such as London, Paris, Prague, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne…though with the New York experience, there is a very special visceral form of happiness and buzz. This was my fifth visit, spanning over about 35 years.
Fantasising at the Algonquin
Firstly, I treated myself to two nights at the famous Algonquin Hotel in mid-town, where I could fantasise about hanging out with the Dorothy Parker crowd on the Round Table. When the concierge said a warm ‘Welcome back!’ to me on my arrival, I accepted the welcome gracefully, even though I had never been there before. Maybe I just look like someone famous?
The New Millennium refurbishment of this hotel respects the art deco origins and the literary links to the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and other associated publications. For a whole decade from about 1919, a group of writers such as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber, Franklin P. Adams, Robert E Sherwood and others would have lunch every day at the Algonquin, at the now famous Round Table in the dining room. Today they would be all over social media I guess.
Most of these writers were critics, and often their acerbic views found their way into the New York Tribune the next day. They influenced young writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Initial funding for the New Yorker magazine was, I gather, given by the Hotel management, and that magazine started up in 1925.
While I didn’t actually enjoy a meal seated at the Round Table, I dined nearby in the dining room. Friends and I did go back from time to time for a light lunch in the bar, with a view of the Table, nibbling on mini-Reuben sandwiches. Many tourists and visitors come along to the Algonquin every day, asking simply to see the Table in order to soak up the ambiance.
The Algonquin also has amusing ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs in each room, reflecting the literary nature of the place:
American Dollars look like Monopoly Money
Over the road from the Algonquin Hotel is a deadly (in every sense of the word) antique jewellery store called Barclay Galleries, where I accidentally found myself at a half-price sale, as if in a dream, purchasing some special jewellery. The rather crazy but shrewd shop owner even gave me a beautiful diamond necklace to wear around during the day just to enjoy it, even though I definitely wasn’t going to purchase that piece. I returned it pretty quickly, saying that the necklace was more suitable for Cate Blanchett than for me. I was also of course scared to lose it.
When I finally decided that I would purchase my chosen (supposedly half-priced) items, they assured me I could pay a deposit, and even settle the bill at my leisure from Australia, taking the items with me. That offer made my head spin even more. I did eventually ‘max out’ the credit cards.
I like to think my lovely art deco earrings and necklace are an investment, even potentially an heirloom, rather than a rash indulgence and a rush of blood to the head, in this my 70th year. My lovely New York friend Alicia Manhattan was very supportive that night over drinks in the Algonquin Bar, when I tentatively told her the story and displayed my glittering purchase.
Postscript to the Jewellery Saga
It was hard being in the SOMETHING TO DECLARE queue at the airport on my jet- lagged return to Australia, admitting to Customs personnel that I had spent considerably more than $900 on my jewellery gift to myself. For those not in the know, $900 is all you are allowed to spend on any particular item before it has to be declared on entry into Australia. The shop has since sent me a lovely present – an alabaster jewellery case – minus any extra jewels.
Soaking up Chelsea…
The next place I stayed in was the leafy, gentrified suburb of Chelsea, in an apartment attached to Dupuys Landing http://dupuyslanding.com/Dupuys_Landing_Guest_House/Dupuys_Landing.html.
I was very lucky to be able to stay there, as the rooms and apartments are always in high demand. At the time, the other rooms were occupied by several elderly survivors of the 1945 atomic and hydrogen bombings in Japan. These people were visiting New York schools to talk about why we should be against nuclear weapons. Interestingly, the Dupuys Landing owners are very involved in the anti-nuclear movement.
When Drippy met Grumpy in Greenwich Village
Some Cultural and Social Highlights in NYC – a photo montage
The NY Philharmonic concert at the huge cathedral of St John the Divine was amazing. http://www.stjohndivine.org
In the VIP section I was lucky enough to sit next to famous culinary expert Rozanne Gold. Check out Rozanne’s blog: http://www.rozannegold.com/rozanne.html.
Thanks dear Alicia Manhattan…