Seventh post from Jackie & Alfie, NYC 2019

On Saturday 1st June (how time flies!) Debbie, Genia and I went to Harlem for a community celebration. involving music and different stalls.


On the way there, we stopped off at a famous Harlem bakery that Genia says makes the very best Rugelach – a famous New York pastry. Here is a sample US recipe:


The Park Rangers told us that Alexander Hamilton’s former home ‘Hamilton Grange’ was just around the corner: on West 141st Street between Convent and St Nicholas avenue, so we went to visit.


Alexander Hamilton is very much in vogue because of the sell-out Broadway musical. In the days that he lived there, Harlem was in the countryside and a wonderful and safe respite from downtown manhattan and the cholera etc.


Alexander Hamilton and his family moved in to the house in 1802 and in those days it took 90 minutes by carriage to commute to downtown.


The house is lovely, as are the gardens around it, but there is a massive ugly building that overshadows it – I could imagine how beautiful it would have been in his day. There was a lot of information about him and his life. I learnt subsequently that he was killed in “Weehawken” – I am fascinated by the name because of mine. “Weehawken” is actually an Indian name that means ‘cliffs that rise like trees’.

Tiffany had a spare ticket for a play “Breaking the Shakespeare Code”. It takes place over the course of sixteen years in a rehearsal room on the campus of a small women’s college in Massachusetts. Curt was played by Tim Weinert and Anna by Miranda Jonte, a friend of Tiffany.
These off-Broadway plays can be hidden gems, as in this case. Experiencing the way these two actors played their roles confirms how I would never have the talent to be a successful actor! After the play, I asked Miranda if she lost several pounds at every performance – she said it was probable that she did! Curt was very handsome and has appeared in Chicago.
The New York Public Theatre was just opposite. I popped in while we waited for our ride to arrive. Four of us rode uptown for $26. We drove up 3rd Avenue, which is not a street I normally frequent. I love to see parts of New York that I have never visited. Every time I come here there are new experiences and new things to discover.
On the Sunday, I caught the 11.30 ferry to Staten Island, being picked up by Rudy who drove me to the Tibetan Museum on Lighthouse Avenue where I enjoyed a takeaway curry before giving a talk to 18 people on how Mindfulness and Meditation can help with challenging thoughts, leading them in meditation and selling some of my books. I absolutely love my trips to the Tibetan Museum. It is such a treat to be invited to speak there. The dragon flies were having over the large pond but we didn’t have sight of the massive turtle that lives in there!
After my talk, Meg (the Director), Rudy and I sat and chatted over tea and cookies, relaxing in the warm air, before Rudy dropped me off to catch the 5.30 ferry just before the rain came down. When I arrived at Debbie’s I realised that it hadn’t rained up at 116th at all. Later on, however, there were loud thunderstorms that alarmed poor Alfie, who hates them.
Monday 3 June dawned very sunny and warm. After breakfast, Alfie and I dropped down to 34th Street on the subway and then to 42nd Street as I once again tried to work out how to get the coach to Newark. The answer is that my usual habit of taking the train back to Newark Airport appears to be the best answer. To get to Port Authority bus station is just too complicated – too many stairs. And yet, Alfie and I always get the coach from the airport as that appears to be the most straightforward. We get dropped in the street rather than a bus station, though.
After lunch I took the subway and bus to the Bronx. I was invited to teach the teachers at PS114 – Louis Torres School – where Caroline looks after welfare. I don’t often go to mid-Bronx (this is by the Yankee Stadium) and it is quite a different world from the area of Columbia University where Debbie lives, being mainly full of people from all over Africa, and Hispanics from all over Central and South America.
I discussed this with Caroline as at the school (up to 12 year olds) I did not see one white child. Caroline said there was just one, who came from Tennessee and moved to the area. His sister had already left the school and he was leaving the school at the end of the academic year. She emphasised that New York is very segregated.
The teachers that I taught Mindfulness to (around 50 of them) were one third white. They were receptive to the teaching and many seemed to resonate with the discussion about stress and how Mindfulness can help.
Afterwards, Caroline and I took the bus back and talked to the bus driver whose approach to work was definitely quite zen – the buses were not running well because of the traffic  and he as just going with the flow. He has worked for 21 years on the buses and has another 5 to go before he can retire. Getting stressed about the traffic in NYC would indeed appear to be a waste of time! I definitely could not do his job.
In the evening, Debbie and I went to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem for a play by David Stallings. “Leonora” with 5 actors and a narrator, set in Colonial Jamaica in 1951 after Hurricane Charlie, about a Jamaican woman marrying a white banker, and trying to fit in with his culture.
Although it was late when we returned, I took Alfie and went down to Christopher Street Station, walking along Christopher Street to just before Pier 45 on the Hudson to “Weehawken” street. I simply had to see the street and take pictures! Weehawken town is in New Jersey.
Walking back I passed a cafe where there were improv performances happening, including with one well made-up drag artist. I also saw a “Path” station and upon enquiry was told that it is actually an underground train to New Jersey – the existence of which I knew nothing about!
I also passed a poster for ‘Pose’ with a picture of Billy Porter on it, and realised that when I took a picture of the filming crew on Broadway it was of him tying his tie!
At Christopher Street station I realised I had to walk up to 14th Street because 1 trains were only running on the 2/3 line (this is a common occurrence to have disruptions on subway lines. You just go with the flow.
Walking up, I bumped into a man with 2 adorable tiny Italian greyhounds and we discussed the ‘shrine’ on the wall that had come out of 9/11. He told me that opposite the chain-linked fence of a parking lot was the hospital where they treated many of the victims. People had started to place tiles on the fence so that when a building was constructed a small garden was left and parts of the original fence were attached to the wall.
Alfie and I got home in time to see Stephen Colbert’s always fantastic monologue about the orange fool.
Tuesday 4th June: I awoke feeling much better than the last 2 days (I had felt exhausted and unwell, despite having to teach both days!) and gave Alfie a quick walk in the park before breakfast. Debbie and I, and the dogs, then went to the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park to get free tickets for Shakespeare in the Park tonight. We passed the huge line of people who had been queuing since the park opened at 5 a.m. in order to get free tickets that they allocated at 12 lunchtime.
There are 2 other much much shorter queues – one for over 65s and the other for disabled people. Debbie was allocated her two free tickets in no time and I walked her back to the station so she could go home and practise her piano while Alfie and I went to Tavern to Go for my coffee and for Alfie to relax.
The squirrels were extremely frisky and plentiful and Alfie managed to break his collar running after them. I managed a small repair job so that he could relax and I could sit and do my writings. The garden is full of birds flying around and the sound of them singing in the trees. It is a lovely place to relax.
I ended up chatting to 4 really delightful women a little older than myself, full of wisdom, experience and fun. I shared some cherries with them and talked about life. My visits to NYC allow me to meet the nicest of people.
Alfie and I returned home to eat and to collect Debbie so that she and I could go to the Delacorte Theatre. When we arrived we were absolutely amazed to see that we had the very best seats in the house! Absolutely in the middle and right at the front.
Much Ado about Nothing doesn’t have a complicated plot and the Director, Kenny Leon, took a few liberties with it: Firstly, he staged it into the future – setting it in Atlanta in 2020 (when the presidential race is underway).  He said “I wanted to set it in a community that was embracing those values we stand for in America: gender equality, racial equality and the fact that love always wins”.
The Atlanta setting charted the course for him to create an all-black cast of the Bard’s work, but he said he hadn’t actually set out to do that: out simply fell into place. Danielle Brooks had the starring role. She is a plus-size actress who was in ‘Orange is the New Black’ on TV.
The cast was amazing – so talented: great acting, great singing, great moves! The set design (a house and garden) was phenomenal. One of the best theatre visits I have ever had. The staff are lovely, too. During the break many of us women made a run for the toilets and they were very organised, asking people not to run, getting us in line – all very necessary as I have never seen such a long queue for the women’s loo.
I love walking across Central Park at night surrounded by hundreds of people who buoyed up by a very enjoyable fun play. The lights twinkle, the place seems fresh and beautiful and this is what New York feels like to me.
On Wednesday 5th June I realised I only have one more full week to go, which is sad. Even though I have been here 8 weeks, there is still so much I want to do and see.
Alfie and I met up with Tiffany and Corey on Amsterdam and 110th in order to drop straight down to Central Park (that runs South to North, 59th street to 110th) and walk around Harlem Meer. Alfie and Corey did their little kissy face and then just rubbed along, walking aside each other. Both dogs were fascinated by the small turtles in the water. Half way round we saw a team of people and on enquiry found that it was a photo shoot for Macy’s autumn collection. I took a picture of the clothes rail as well as a few action shots.
We also looked at the lovely gardens there. When we got home, I realised that Alfie had already walked four and a half miles today, bless him.
Later on I hoofed it to 103rd and Central Park West, where the NY Classical theatre were presenting Oscar Wilde’s ‘The importance of being Earnest’. They always do an ambulatory – with 5 stops around the lake – theatre and are quite a young lot.
This year, depending on the day, the male and female cast members swop clothes and roles. It was one of those days and it sortof worked. The problem is they lose people every time they swop location. The insects were out but the forecasted rain did not arrive until we had got home safely.
The next day, Thursday, Debbie’s cleaning lady, Stella, came and I escaped the noise and needless excess of chemicals by finally re-visiting the cafe at the Columbia University building at Broadway and 120th with Alfie so I could make good headway on my blog. Alfie settled onto his bed by my table, I bought a coffee and I had an intensive session to get up to date. As it was a hot day, Alfie and I appreciated the air conditioning.
When I left the building Alfie stopped me walking up Broadway too far, taking me to the crossing we had used to go through the Barnard campus and into Claremont Avenue, where we live. It blew me away, as usual. He had a phenomenal memory and sense of direction and would have made a wonderful guide dog.
Upon my return home, we had time to grab a quick bite to eat and hot foot it down to 52nd street and 11th Avenue for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (of whom I am particularly fond!) by 4.00.
I had got tickets in the UK but they were ‘non guaranteed’. We chatted to people in the queue and were treated very well by the staff, who put us in the front of the front row, literally 15 feet from Trevor Noah.
During the break we had an opportunity to ask him questions and in response to my question about how he unwinds from thinking/talking about the F.ckwit in the W.House, he said that it is like watching television witnessing what is going on and that in South Africa, where he was born (His book is ‘born a crime’ – his father is white German and his mother a courageous black woman from the Xhosa tribe), he said that the leaders in Africa are also corrupt. I pointed out that they weren’t affecting the Planet in the same way, and he agreed. He also said he was ‘charmed’ by the English accent and the word ‘F.ckwit’.
Debbie and I sat with 2 lovely people from South Africa and the whole atmosphere was great. The comedian sent in beforehand to get the crowd going was also good. The biggest surprise was that James Cordon was his guest, which was fun.
We meandered back through Hell’s Kitchen – always a lively place and as soon as I got home I took Alfie for a well-deserved walk as the sun went down over the Hudson River. We met a few doggy friends as well. I wonder how he feels when he leaves them and rejoins his UK mate?
Friday 7 June already! I have this feeling that there is so much I wanted to do and will not be able to do it all – that is NYC for you! So Alfie and I took the subway to Chambers street and walked along to the path over the busy road near Roosevelt Park where we took the lift/elevator up and down.
I had never properly explored this area of the park, a section of which is full of little brass figurines/animals. The lawn and gardens were pretty and we finally arrived at the Irish Hunger Memorial – a 0.5 acre park dedicated to raising awareness of the the great Irish famine when over one million people starved to death between 1845 and 1852, necessitating the emigration of thousands of Irish people, many of whom arrived in New York.
It is landscaped with stones, soil and native vegetation transported from the West coast of Ireland, with stones from all of the counties in Ireland.
There is a ruined authentic cottage that was donated by the Slack family from County Mayo ‘in memory of all the Slack family members of previous generations who emigrated to American and fared well there’.
We then walked to the Winter Garden and crossed it, arriving at the 9/11 Memorial. This week there had been a special dedication of the ‘Memorial Glade’ in the corner of the site in memory of all those who worked on the site and died because of the illnesses they contracted as a result – thousands and counting.
When we arrived a frisky little black lab (trained to sniff explosives) barked at Alfie playfully and her owner/handler was enchanted by Alfie and his behaviour – commenting on how alert he was and how he watched everything that was going on. It is true – Alfie is a real scout.
The 1 train was just across the poignant site (when it is the birthday of someone whose name is on the memorial, a rose is left by their name) so we made our way back uptown so that Alfie could relax after his long walk.
At 6.30 I took the 1 train back town again, followed by the S (the brilliant shuttle to Grand Central Station from 42nd street that is always decorated) to walk down Madison Avenue to once again visit one of my favourite galleries – the Morgan.
I visited an exhibition in honour of Walt Whitman with some of his poems, letters and photographs of him. Then there was the Hogarth exhibition (always pretty depressing stuff – especially ‘Gin Lane’).
Finally, there is a good exhibition on group photography.
After that, I walked swiftly to the end of the HiLine at 12th Avenue to walk its entirety and visit the new Spur that was opened this week, completing the development. I think there is likely to be an issue in the not too distant future with the size of some of the trees! Whatever they are using to encourage growth on the HiLine looks like it is working a little too well.
As usual, there was lots to see and it was a beautiful balmy sunny evening with the sun going down as I walked the Line. At the end – 12th street/Gansevoort is the Whitney museum. Somehow I have missed it off until now!
It was great to visit – they are having a bienniale – especially the views from the top of the vast building. It is free on Friday evenings from 7 until 10.
I walked back through the ultra-trendy meatpacking district to the 1 train at 14th street to return home to Debbie and the dogs and pack for our trip to the ocean the next day!

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