Second blog post from Alfie and me, NYC 2019

On Good Friday, Debbie and I tucked in to some of the 18 hot cross buns I brought with me from England

that we had kept in the freezer, before going to St John the Divine for the Easter Friday Service.
It is a truly amazing building so I am always happy to sit there and absorb the atmosphere. Obviously, as a committed Buddhist I am not a Christian but I like to accompany Debbie to where she needs to go. Being blind, she doesn’t usually do things out of her ordinary pattern.
After the service we went to sit in the garden of the Cathedral in the sunshine while the dogs relaxed. Alfie loves to sit on the grass in the sunshine at home and doesn’t do it nearly as much as he would like in NYC.
Debbie was recovering from the usual US routine colonoscopy that we do not do in the UK (so many people have told me about their colonoscopies since I arrived, for some weird reason!) so I made my way out first to the Juilliard to watch Timothy Choi – a truly amazing violinist with incredibly rapid deft strokes.
Then I hopped on the subway then to the shuttle to Grand Central Station and got to the Morgan, one of my favourite galleries  (I love the atmosphere there on a Friday night, with the jazz trio playing and the late opening) to see the lovely Tolkien exhibition (photographs were not allowed but I did snap a few, shown here) called “Maker of Middle-earth’. The exhibition was the most extensive public display of original Tolkien material for several generations, drawn from the collections of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Milwaukee, the Morgan and private lenders.
Other exhibitions there were ‘Invention and Design – early Italian drawings; ‘The extended moment – photographs from the National Gallery of Canada’; ‘By any means – contemporary drawings from the Morgan’; and ‘Sol LeWitt’s wall drawing’.
The following day, I was woken in the very early morning by Alfie who was desperate to go to the loo: thankfully, Riverside Park is but a short trot away so after he had relieved himself I went back to bed until 9.45 when I had my usual coffee and toast and went out again with Alfie into Riverside Park, walking back along Broadway where I found Urban Outfitters. They had some good bargains in their ‘40% off all sale items’ sale. Ellie worked in the Stockholm store of UO and always raved about their sales.
At 5 p.m. I found myself at the free Saturday at the Guggenheim and had to queue up for over an hour to get in for the final days of Hilma of Klint, ‘Paintings for the Future’. She was a visionary Swedish painter who knew Rudolph Steiner.
It was captivating and I loved her very big tableaux. It was an extremely comprehensive exhibition and it seems sad that she remained relatively ‘hidden’ for so many years – although she had asked her nephew to keep a lot of her work back for many years after her death.
There was also a Maplethorp photographic exhibition with an ‘X-rated warning. Some of the photographs I could not post on here.
There were some very interesting sculptures by Simone Leigh ‘Loophole of dispute.’
Easter Sunday, Debbie wanted me to take her to St John the Divine once again. It was a really interesting service.
Judy Collins sang ‘My name is Maria’ as a homage to the children separated from their parents at the border thanks to the orange fool and his soul-less entourage. July also sang, inviting us to join in, ‘Amazing Grace’, telling Jessie Norman – who was in the audience – that she loved her.
I knew it would make Debbie’s day if I took her to the front at the end of the service for her to meet them both – and we managed it, as the photos testify. Jessie Norman was absolutely charming and really easy to talk to.
Afterwards, we took the subway to St Patrick’s Cathedral to see some of the Easter bonnets before returning to Riverside Park with the dogs to sit in the sun for a while.
The doorlady, Jeanette, came from church where she had taken her little dog, dressed up …
Later on there was a 2-hour homage to Motown on CBS which, given that the music was the background to my teenage years, was really enjoyable.
On 22 April, Alfie and I had our usual Riverside walk before breakfast then went to Central Park via the 1 train and then the crosstown M72 bus to meet my friend John. We went to the Boating Lake for coffee and sat in the quiet outside room overlooking the lake.
John and I briefly went back to his place to see his dog who is now too old to go out. It was lovely to see him and I felt so sad knowing that it will come to that one day with my precious Alfie. I am struck by how small many of the apartments in New York are and just how expensive. We wandered to 1st Avenue and 55th street where filming with Jennifer Lopez is taking place. I saw all of the trucks but no actual filming which is probably taking place indoors.
Later on, Debbie and I went to Juilliard for Gideon Tazelaar – a 22 year old amazing saxophonist and 2 others.

The following day, Debbie and I took off to Union Square with the doggies for Earth Day.

There were various interesting stalls, not least for NYC water that comes from the Adirondack – water that is really pure and good – which is why any New Yorker will brag to you about the quality of NYC’s water. The dogs had a good drink from the bowls they provided.

Later on, Holly and I mete up at the Juilliard cafe for chocolate muffin and coffee before watching an amazing concert by Adam Cockerham: Baroque plucked instruments.
Holly then introduced me to my local Trader Joe’s (that I hadn’t discovered hitherto) at 72nd and Broadway. It was fun to walk around and see what they had to sell – and so much cheaper than the shop around the corner from me that has a captive audience in the students but is basically crap.
On Wednesday, Debbie and I went to Central Park with Alfie and Ellie and strolled to 59th street. As Debbie was out with her School for the Blind I went to watch James Tobias playing trombone at the Juilliard – yet another fantastic concert. It astonishes me how few New Yorkers are aware of the Juilliard free concerts – probably as many as are unaware of “The Skint”, that is a must-have daily e mail full of interesting things to do.
The following day, apart from a nice walk with the dogs in Central Park, I spent all day preparing a 5-minute talk for the Moth, in the hope that I would be picked to go on stage and give the talk (they allow no notes). The topic was ‘Burned’. Genia – who lives in the building with her elderly father – and I took the subway down to Housing Works Bookshop in Greenwich Village, had a coffee in an incredibly up-market French shop full of wonderful cheese that I can imagine David Bowie shopping in when he lived in the area.
We enjoyed a coffee in the store then went back to take our place in the very busy bookshop. Only ten people were chosen and I wasn’t one of them and yes, I was disappointed. Two out of the ten stories were worth listening to (in my humble opinion) – It is such a lottery!
On the Friday,we awoke to very heavy rain and very muddy conditions in Riverside Park but of course Alfie and I still enjoyed our morning walk, albeit that the lower lawn at 116th is now a lake – it is laid on top of a railway tunnel so there is nowhere for the water to go.
It rained all day and I was lucky that this year’s Shakespeare Sonnet Slam (my 3rd) was held at Riverside Church, 3 minutes away from home. It was lovely to see old friends there.
I read Sonnet 124 “If my dear love were but the child of state…” – a little obscure and was then asked to read 152 (by the end they were running out of readers). I read “In loving thee thous know’st I am forsworn” with the memory of unsatisfactory relationships and was honoured by being congratulated by some of the actors there. I feel so privileged to be able to take part in this yearly fun ritual that I discovered quite by chance (but that is how things happen in NYC).
It was time for the monthly Copacabana event. It is quite strange in some ways. I can’t say much more really, except to say the list of men I avoid is growing, the food is ok, the sound system appalling, the dancing ok-ish and I don’t think I can go there again…… Always fun to hear Barry Manilow played in the place he is singing about, though.
Saturday I awoke with a headache. I had a good walk with Alfie and then went back to bed to rest. Alfie and I then went to Central Park and walked up to 89th street to see the tulips in the community garden.
We then went to Juilliard for a concert of modern violin pieces with a delightful Turkish girl – Zeynep Melli’s Alpan, playing pieces from Fazil Say, Stefan Wolfe, Peteris Vasks, Aaron Jay Kernis and Michael Dean Parsons, none of whom I had ever heard of – but that is the beauty of Juilliard.
On Sunday, I realised I was on day 2 of a migraine but, as in my full-time working life, I just kept going, particularly because I was off to meet Natalie. I took the M-60 bus in the direction of La Guardia to 125th Street station in Harlem and caught the train to Rye station, upstate New York and talk at her brilliant group for women who have been/are in relationships with Narcissists.
It was a very lively discussion – I really enjoy the times I go there. Afterwards Natalie generously ordered in delicious burgers with literally the best fries and sweet potato fries I have ever had. We then watched a new CBS series ‘The Red Line’.
Monday 29 April: I finally awoke at 9.20 feeling awful having had migraine pain all night. Luckily, it lifted after lunch (they always last 2 1/2 days). Natalie had meant to go to work but she decided to work from home and use the extra travelling time she had to sort out labelling hundreds (literally) of children’s clothes and shoes for a special Spring sale with, organised by 2 sisters with gazillions of children and held in a massive warehouse.
I have never seen anything like it, especially the rooms with the ‘as new’ pushchairs, tricycles etc – so many of them identical!
While Natalie worked I took out her delightful little dog Charlie (like a mini Alfie and very tolerant of his doggie visitor taking over his home).
It is a lovely suburban neighbourhood with beautiful gardens, maintained by the (inevitable) teams of Mexican gardeners. I wish the orange fool was capable of seeing just how necessary these lovely people are but of course he is too racist and disgusting to be able to do that.
When Ruby, Natalie’s youngest, came home from school we went off to the consignment place to drop off the clothes she had labelled (They entirely filled the large boot of her car). I then cooked pasta with leftovers – I love to go into a fridge/cupboard and see what I can make a pasta sauce out of. They enjoyed it!
The next day I awoke after Natalie and Ruby had left and waited for 2 men to come and mend Natalie’s very expensive fridge that wasn’t closing properly before walking the doggies to Rye beach.
Sadly, the on-beach dog play had finished for the season so Alfie had the frustration of seeing the sea but not being able to go through the barrier onto the sand, bless. So we played in the park for a while before returning home.
I had a binge of Law and Order SVU while writing my blog, before Alfie and I walked to pick Ruby up from school and wind our way through the interesting roads back to her house – I loved seeing all the trees and flowers. There are few hedges and fences between the gardens. That also means that Alfie has tended to wander into the next door neighbours’ gardens.
The bell rang and it was Natalie’s neighbour, allegedly coming to talk about the native plants she had planted between the gardens but in reality probably to check out the new doggie invader. I immediately said that I hoped Alfie hadn’t bothered her and she was sweet as pie, especially when she met him close up. After all, all he was doing was squirrel hunting…
When Natalie came back from work (an hour’s journey from her office on 57th Street to Rye station and her car). We went off to the pre-sale of the clothes where Natalie ended up spending half of what she was going to get in profit on clothes for Ruby. We then went to a typical American restaurant where I had salad and garlic bread.
On 1 May, I got up before 6.00 in order to take the dogs for a walk before going to Rye Station to get the train back into town. I got off at 125th but didn’t realise I was on the other side of the road than the one I expected to be.
Alfie and I therefore got on the bus going the opposite way – so when it started shooting over all these bridges I asked someone where we were going and they said ‘La Guardia airport’. As soon as I could, I got off the bus – by this time we were in Queen’s (that I had never visited). I didn’t succeed in getting a validated ticket from the machine (you put in your unlimited metro card and it prints a receipt) but wasn’t worried as I had never seen an inspector…. Until now.
The next stop, 5 inspectors got on. Initially I thought I was in trouble (they were taking people without tickets off the bus to fine them) but produced my receipt from the erroneous journey with my metro card held over it, obliterating the details and they didn’t notice. Then one of them said ‘Whose dog is that? ‘Mine.’ ‘Is it a service dog?’ ‘Yes. Do you want to see his papers?’ ‘No’. Phew.
At the following stop a man got on and sat near us, ranting and raving (not an unusual occurrence on the buses and subways of NYC) and at one point started making comments about Alfie. Luckily he got off a few stops later, still ranting and shouting. 116th Street came up and we were happy to get off! So we finally arrived back after our little holiday Upstate, a little later and slightly more shaken up than I had intended!
Almost immediately, I took Alfie on a long walk through Riverside Park and realised that the bar/restaurant has just reopened. It is in a great location next to the Hudson River and opposite the dog park – not that Alfie likes to go in there, much, he still hasn’t got the hang of dogs acting crazy in a confined space because they are not used to being ‘off-leash’.
I then went off to the Frick Gallery (I love the building) for ‘Masterpieces of French Faience – Selections from the Sidney R. Knafel collection’. It was interesting to see how Faience had originated in Lyon. The other exhibition of note was ‘Moroni: The riches of renaissance portraiture’. And what a portraitist! The curator of the exhibition gave a very interesting talk and I took a picture of one of the works – a woman wearing intricate clothing  (even though it was officially not allowed).
Other works I surreptitiously photographed were some lovely little sketches by Whistler!
On the cross-town bus (such a good idea, these very long buses running from West to East and back, several through Central Park) I met Susan and we had a great chat, much to the apparent irritation of a large aggressive Russian guy who, when I got off, shouted in expletives at Susan to say we were too loud – while he was talking loudly on his phone! I hadn’t even noticed him.

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