Episode 18: New York, New York

Reflections and lights in NYC.

Glittering reflections and lights in dazzling NYC.

 

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.

Columbia Circle from the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Columbus Circle from the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

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?

My bedroom at the Algonquin Hotel

My bedroom at the graceful Algonquin Hotel

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.

The Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel

The Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel

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.

The New Yorker is everywhere in the Algonquin Hotel

The New Yorker is everywhere in the Algonquin Hotel

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:

image

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.

 

Very dangerous jewellery store on W 44th St

Very dangerous jewellery store on W 44th St

 

With my dear friends from England at the Gramercy Tavern where we went to celebrate my 70th birthday. I have the jewellery on but it may be hard to see. Also wearing a Japanese scarf I purchased in Chelsea.

With my dear friends from England at the wonderful Gramercy Tavern where we went to celebrate my 70th birthday. I have the jewellery on but the pieces may be hard to see. Also wearing a Japanese designer scarf I purchased in Chelsea.

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…

One corner of the living room in my apartment on W24th St Chelsea

One corner of the living room in my apartment on W24th St 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.

A primary school in W 23rd Street displaying their love of the arts.

A primary school in W 23rd Street displaying their love of the arts.

Across the road in Chelsea, this sign popped into the window

Across the road in Chelsea, this sign popped into the window

Friends outside the renowned Chelsea Hotel

Friends outside the renowned Chelsea Hotel

When Drippy met Grumpy in Greenwich Village

In the second week, I discovered a chemist shop entitled the Apothecary on Bleecker Street in the Village. Needing something urgently for a drippy nose (I had a head cold) I was about to go in, when who walked past me but Bob Dylan. Was I indeed hallucinating, given that I had unexpectedly encountered Patti Smith only a few days before in another part of Greenwich Village? I wanted to rush over and tell him I loved his work, his concerts in Oz etc etc,  but it didn’t seem right with the man just going about his business. I had to play it ‘New York cool’, which means letting celebrities have an unencumbered private life.
 And my nose was very drippy – definitely not a good look. I sighed and went into the  Apothecary, getting involved in a transaction which took a while. Then I meandered into a jewellery store next door where the owner said he remembered me from 10 years ago  – which was, I suppose, a good sales gimmick….
After that I headed towards the bar on Grove where I was meeting Savannah & Pierre pre the play The Flick. Who should be coming back my way with some grocery shopping bags but Bob again! This time I got an opportunity for more of a full frontal scrutiny. While earlier the profile, the clothes, the demeanor all seemed so right, I wasn’t so sure this time. He seemed irritated by a lot of blaring horns – other people on that street were recognising His Bobness, the god of music. Again I wanted to say something, but held back as I started to wonder if Mr Flared Nostrils  was some kind of deluded nutter – a Dylan impersonator, and not the real thing.
 I mused later that I had definitely not seen him up close and personal at Byron and Brisbane in recent times,  so who knows how the man really looks anymore, especially with no big screen images at his Neverending Tour concerts. Was he ageing well? Older than me, his skin needs some attention, but he is raging against the dying of the light in innovative, creative ways.  However, this guy seemed to be, weirdly enough, more Dylan than Dylan; I let him pass me by. There is no photographic record of  this incident…
I googled later to find out whether Mr Grumpy Dylan was even in town. That search checked out – he had been on the David Letterman show the night before. And the video of that performance confirmed for me that I had encountered the real person in the flesh (and not some dipstick fraud)  in his old haunt, Greenwich Village.
See some stuff here about his recent TV performance:
 http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/david-letterman-bob-dylan-performs-as-hosts-final-musical-guest-on-late-show-10263104.html
Dancing and singing and piano playing buskers in Washington Square near where I saw Patti Smith and Bob Dylan (separately)

Dancing, singing and piano playing buskers in Washington Square, near where I saw Patti Smith and Bob Dylan (separately)

Some Cultural and Social Highlights in NYC – a photo montage

Modern dance gig in Chelsea

Modern dance gig in Chelsea

Birthday cake at the Gramercy Tavern

Birthday cake at the Gramercy Tavern for my New York birthday – the earlier one celebrated  in New Farm was rather different.

At the Frick Museum - one f my favourite places

At the Frick Museum – one of my favourite places

Portrait of Grete Stern - a great exhibition at MOMA by her and her partner Horacio Coppola

Portrait of Grete Stern – we enjoyed a great photography exhibition at MOMA by her and her partner Horacio Coppola

Sculpture Garden at MOMA

Sculpture Garden at MOMA. I loved hanging out at this museum. Thanks to Madam Ping who gave me my treasured Global Membership card.

Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR at their estate in Poughkeepsie, upstate New York. Eleanor was a wonderful woman, ahead of her time. We loved her cottage though we didn't get to see it all. We had to hop on a bus again. The poor ageing African American guide who was suffering some ailment and couldn't walk or talk very well, was told rudely by an Anglo American visitor to 'Speak more slowly and walk more quickly'! Such racist ageism was a knockout.

Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR at their estate in Poughkeepsie, upstate New York. Eleanor was a wonderful woman, ahead of her time. We loved her cottage, though we didn’t get to see it all. We had to hop on a bus again. The poor ageing African American guide who was suffering several ailments and couldn’t walk or talk very well, was told rudely by an Anglo American visitor to ‘Speak more slowly and walk more quickly’! Such racist ageism was a knockout.

Stand up comedy at the Gotham Comedy Club

Stand up comedian Gina Yashire at the Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea

Funky band discovered in the Subway performing at  world peace charity function

Funky band discovered in the NYC Subway – performing here at world peace charity function at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

The Flick - a great play off Broadway. We also went to nearby bar Buvette in Greenwich Village.

The Flick – a great play off-Broadway. We also went to nearby bar Buvette in Greenwich Village.

Bar Buvette - great wine and food here in Greenwich Village. I should have invited Bob Dylan to join us.

Bar Buvette – great wine and food here in Greenwich Village. I should have invited Bob Dylan to join us.

 

The New York Philharmonic orchestra performing brilliantly at St John the Divine Cathedral http://www.stjohndivine.org

The New York Philharmonic orchestra performing beautifully at St John the Divine Cathedral

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…

 

Friend at World Peace charity function

Other friends at the same function

Three new friends at the Tanenbaum Organisation glamorous charity function on World Peace at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

An artist's view of New York. (sorry about the image - capricious  wordpress is blocking me to edit this)Au revoir New York … 
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5 thoughts on “Episode 18: New York, New York

  1. Oh Helen, fabulous as always. Had an email from Bob Dylan who said he felt too
    tired and unattractive to approach you – and I little bit overwhelmed by Your Helenness

  2. Typical we stayed at Washington Square and didn’t catch a glimpse of Bob or Patty, Helen is obviously a star magnet.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Another friend also has speculated on my star magnet qualities! He wrote: I choose to believe that they’re there to see you and not the other way round. Are Bob and Patti in your pantheon? Could they be on call in a subterranean greenroom monitoring Manhattan: you surface, are spotted, someone is dispatched. “She’s on Bleecker Street nooooow. Bob get over there, up close, no eye contact, no talking, but make sure that she gets a good look at you. Yeah, do whatever you like.” They can’t stop being celebrities and must have to do something in their off duty hours. I’m sure that it was both of them. I’m wondering now about your encounters with Isabelle Huppert in Sydney. Could it be global?

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