We approached New York, guided by a GPS and car horns. This was to be the last leg of my tour but was already proving to be the most animated.
People watching in Central Park lived up to expectations. I was elated to see fur coats, horn rimmed sunglasses and ladies schlepping Pomeranians in handbags. One lady in particular stood out; she was quite elderly with a shock of white hair and was wearing an orange quilted parka over orange pants. She gave the impression of a single scoop vanilla cone. Accompanying her was a large dog, also orange coloured, but I’m sure he was natural. I had noticed them both on several occasions during my walk and wondered whether her delightfully boisterous dog was a little deaf … never mind. Then we came face to face on the path when her dog promptly sat on my foot and looked up at me with the face of a seal waiting for a fish. We fell into conversation and I pointed to the very long queue outside the National History Museum, where we had planned to spend the day.
Now, when a stranger offers to take you to a secret way into a museum, do you go? The answer is always ‘Hell Yes’. If your significant other is making ‘that’ face he or she makes, it is still ‘Hell Yes’. I’ve had much more experience following strangers, ‘so this is my area of expertise, pumpkin!’
The lady in orange gestured for us to follow and I marched briskly alongside with my disbeliever in tow, through the park entrance and over the avenue. We passed by the tail of the long queue and went down the flank of the building to the planetarium entrance. If we went in here, the lady explained, we could buy tickets to the museum and go on through -no queue. In fact it was virtually empty.
We waved goodbye, bought our tickets and with a sense of personal victory began the marathon of the National History Museum.
Meeting my agent
I had previously communicated with my agent by email and phone but now I was to meet in person.
I intended arriving bearing a gift and even considered a beautiful iris in a pot, but then I thought the better of it. I was still getting used to the subway.
I eventually stood at the entrance of her apartment building explaining myself to the doorman, when it dawned on me, that I’ve never known someone whose apartment had a doorman.
I suppose there is always some apprehension at a first business meeting, but this was different. There was cheese on the table and art on the wall that Ronnie had herself painted so this would definitely go well. If only there weren’t so many topics and so short a time.
Ronnie and Me.
After a very pleasant dinner with Ronnie and her husband, we said our goodbyes and strolled down Central Park Avenue. It was late and the sidewalk was empty but for a handful of French speaking people deep in their coats and hats. We found our way down onto the subway platform. It was a typical tiled wall cavern, which seemed to have changed very little since built. Only the tiles were softened by some layers of paint and residue.
As we stood waiting, the arched stairwell began to fill with noise of a large group who began to file down. It was the French speakers we had seen earlier. They looked up and down the platform and then formed a loose circle around a bearded man who held his hand up. Complete silence followed… and then they began to sing. It was a French folk song, complex and beautiful. They had obviously rehearsed a lot and full of confidence they sang. Some smiled, some strolled a little around the perimeter of the group, one lady faced us as she sang, enjoying our stupefied faces.
A faint rumble began to intrude, announcing a train’s imminent arrival. Hearing this, the bearded conductor quickened the pace, and then some more, so that the song drew to a complete and sudden close just as the train pulled in. We clapped quite wildly as they bundled on the train … and then … that was it, an empty station with just the two of us. I’ve tried quite hard to remember the tune but can’t, of course. Cest la vie, but what an incredible thing to have witnessed.
When you visit a major venue like the Museum of Modern Art for the first time, you come away with many impressions and a few surprises. I had not expected to see the very famous Frida Kahlo. It was tiny, but the frame was an extraordinary choice and made the painting a jewel in a jagged red and mirrored glass setting. I loved that. But I was perplexed at not finding a Calder sculpture, you know, one of those big steel things with the mobiles on top.
But this is New York and as fate would have it, I was walking our host’s dogs past Gramercy Park one morning when I noticed some familiar shapes in primary colours suspended over the trees. In the middle of the park was a Calder which I now hurried towards only to be met by a pair of tall locked gates. I was rattling these in the hope of getting in when a couple appeared on the other side. They explained that this was a private park, which they had snuck into and now couldn’t get out. We laughed at one another through the bars and I walked on leaving the couple to their fate. A Calder locked in a private paradise … or perhaps an artistic spider’s web?
The view from my Manhattan bedroom window… and my other host in New York – Lucy.