Week 5: Wednesday 10th to Tuesday 16th May

When you peruse the e mails of what’s on in NYC you can pick up some gems, like the Fotograviska gallery’s exhibition of 50 years of Hip Hop being free for one day with Amazon music donating one dollar for every person who visited the exhibition.


My offspring were delighted that I was visiting and I ended up sending them over 200 photos. Fotograviska didn’t have a comprehensive catalogue because all of the permissions would have been impossible to obtain.

After the exhibition I walked to Bryant Park and ended up chatting to a few dog owners. As it was lunchtime, there was quaint entertainment: an elderly piano player with a local singer.

I was walking back up 5th Avenue, crossing over to arrive on Broadway that runs to Columbus Circle (59th Street) and the entrance to Central Park, and feeling peckish, I came upon a tiny tatty pizza place at 55th street that was advertising 2 (big) slices of pizza and a can (coke etc) for $3! It was actually delicious, especially with the garlic granules, herbs and chilli sauce that you could liberally sprinkle on the slices.                                      

I arrived at Central Park and walked up to 66th and over to the Juilliard to listen to Adam Pham playing the harp (Debussy, Hindemith, Salzedo) – enjoyable as ever. As it was a warm day I walked back to 116th street along Broadway, passing the fruit and vegetable stands, the restaurants, bars and shops and many lovely dogs…

I was up very early the next day to take Ellie for a walk in Riverside Park before taking the 1 to South Ferry to meet Beverly at the Staten Island Ferry terminal. We walked straight from the ferry to the bus going to Snug Harbor which I wanted to show her, having been there with Alfie and Rudy who is one of the trustees of the Staten Island Tibetan Museum.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is the result of more than four decades of restoration and development to convert a 19th century charitable rest home for sailors to a regional arts centre, botanical gardens, and public park. It is not much known among New Yorkers – Beverly had never heard of it.

It consists of 28 buildings (mainly in disrepair, just like Governor’s Island, fourteen distinctive botanical gardens, a two acre urban farm, parklands and wetlands full of buttercups – where I took some lovely photographs of Alfie 4 years ago.

We visited the Chinese Scholar Garden which is a compilation of different gardens in China. It is based on Ming Dynasty gardens and all the architectural components were fabricated in Suzhou, China.

It was a really warm day just at the beginning of the season so we ended up going to an Irish Pizzeria 15 minutes walk away for coffee and to a restaurant on the other side of the gardens overlooking the water for lunch.

The next day was equally hot and at 3.15 I went to collect Zena who I was dog-sitting until Saturday night. She is an adorable and wise 2 year-old standard poodle whose disposition reminds me of Alfie’s. We had hit it off straight away and I took her everywhere with me. She got on with Ellie-dog after Ellie had shown her who was boss.

We hopped on the subway together and she immediately got loads of cuddles. We walked through the lovely wildlife area in Central Park and met up with Drew at the zoo entrance with 2 of the dogs he is training. Drew is a really good dog trainer and friend and we had a great walk around the south side of Central Park.

Later on, Zena came for a walk with us in Riverside Park to the bar at the level of 105th street where we each had a can of soda and sat listening to the noise of New York traffic – the Westside Highway is not far away! – but you get used to it.

Perhaps the constant background noise and sirens explains the incredibly LOUD voices of so many of the groups of women chatting on the subway! Talking of the subway (on which I always wear a mask), it is rare to take a train without someone in the carriage obviously experiencing homelessness/mental health issues, or both.

When we got back to Claremont Avenue I went to number 25, where Zena lives (2 buildings down from Debbie’s) where I spent the night.

I slept quite badly in Zena’s apartment but as soon as I awoke, I took her to Riverside Park for a walk and a couple of hours later we got on the subway to meet Tom and his seeing eye dog Xaria. The two girls rubbed along well together. I think Zena (like Alfie) would have made a great Assistance dog.

Tom and I sat with the dogs at Pain Quotidien where we had met a few days earlier. We had delicious sandwiches, hot dog, cakes, lemon sodas and coffee and chatted and laughed a lot as usual. We were born 8 days apart and really seem to have a lot in common – purely as great friends.

I felt quite sad when Deborah and Jonah returned to reclaim the lovely Zena on Saturday evening.

American Mothering Sunday happens weeks after the UK. I decided to go to St John the Divine, where I always feel close to Alfie as I sit in the service thinking of him. There is always coffee sandwiches and cake after the service and an opportunity to speak to the friendly clergy and locals.

Later on I decided to hop on the subway to the ferry to Governor’s Island, having coffee at Joe’s and a good walk around the island, thinking of Alfie.

I took the ‘last’ ferry but after 1,200 of us got on they had to take off, leaving a lot of people behind – Basically, there is only one ferry (Staten Island has several) and so they just keep returning to the island until they have collected everyone, as one crew member told me, explaining he had been there since 5.45 a.m. and was “outta here”.

I arrived back to the Upper West Side in time to have a quick walk in Central Park before going to the Juilliard to watch Evan Shields –  a very talented young student – conducting his peers as they played Mahler’s Totenfeier from Symphony no. 2. He explained the piece well and it was a very enjoyable half hour.

Arriving home, Debbie and Ramon were ensconced on the sofa so Genia and I went for a long walk around the area greeting the neighbourhood dogs on their  evening walks.

Monday was another warm day and I went to Bryant Park for “A century of jazz” performed by members of the New York Chamber Orchestra. I really love Bryant Park and have such fond memories of spending time there with Alfie.

Later, bumped into a stylish lady carrying her cute dachshund in a custom-madebag and couldn’t resist taking her picture.

At the Juilliard, Lucia Li, a lovely Australian young pianist, was playing (beautifully): Schumann’s Davidsbundlertanze Op 6 books 1 and 2, followed by Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit.

Tuesday, Debbie and I walked Ellie in the sunshine in Riverside Park, entering the dog park so that Ellie could have some down-time, sniffing around her peers.

While Debbie was having several hours of music tuition on line with Michael (a great jazz player and teacher, I I walked to the Upper East Side to participate in the annual gallery walk. Some amazingly famous and ultra-expensive pieces are in those galleries – including Picasso, Francis Bacon, Pierre Bonnard, Matisse, de Chirico, Basquiat etc 

On the way, I came across a cover band  “Stella Blue’s Band” for Guns n Roses and had a great time dancing with the die-hard fans. This performance commemorated the moment when Guns N’ Roses played in the same place – the Naumburg Bandshell – to thousands of people.