Week 6: Wednesday 17th to Tuesday 23rd May

I decided to walk over to the East Side next to the United Nations building to visit Audrey Hepburn’s Garden, to discover there will be a Garden Party on Sunday to celebrate her birthday.

She was a very long-time resident of Turtle Bay, an avid gardener and a staunch advocate against enlarging 49th street.

Next door is a fascinating garden square “Tudor Gardens” with strikingly interesting old apartment blocks built in a square around “Tudor Greens” parks – land that was saved from development by the locals.

I finally managed to meet up with my friend Kathy’s lovely daughter Caitlin who has been in NYC for a few months as part of her Fashion course at Manchester Uni. We met at my favourite coffee place – Tavern to Go – and chatted about our experiences in New York with me encouraging her to visit Governor’s Island.

I wandered past a Museum I had never heard of on West 52nd Street.  The Paley Museum – ‘Center for Media’ – has original costumes from various films, such as 1923, as well as constant exhibitions and daily screenings.

It was then time to make it to Bryant Square and a 6.30 Bachata lesson – it originated in the Dominican Republic and is connected with Bachata music. At 7.30 the band “Valerio” came on, to the delight of the hundreds of Dominicans in the crowd. They were excellent.

I found myself dancing for two and a half hours straight and enjoyed partnering with a lovely young woman during the lesson and then dancing with a handsome Dominican guy half my age who is opening a cannabis shop at the junction of 5th Avenue and 42nd street. It was a wild evening with hundreds of lovely people in a balmy Bryant Park surrounded by the trees, tall buildings and city sounds…

The following evening I was back at Bryant Park hosted a salsa lesson and a great Colombian salsa band “Santiago y la orquesta” –  Another 2 1/2 hours of great dancing.

I love New York!! It is such a happening city and full of free events. I still subscribe to “The Skint” and check the websites for the parks, museums, music schools etc on a regular basis, very often teaching other New Yorkers about places they have never visited!

On Friday, Debbie and the Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School (for visually impaired people) were performing at one of my favourite places – the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue. We walked Ellie-dog through Central Park and entered the museum with the other performers through a secret door.

Arriving in the Green Room we found snacks of cheese, fruit, hummus, salad, cakes etc were laid out for everyone just off the backstage area of the concert hall. My job was to take care of Ellie who does not like to be separated from Debbie on occasions like this. While Debbie was rehearsing I was given a ticket to the Museum so I could come and go and took Ellie outside by the fountains.

Before the performance, I had time to scoot through the huge Museum to the lift that took me to the roof garden to enjoy the views and photograph the latest sculpture exhibition. It was a lovely sunny day.

What a contrast the weather was on Saturday! Absolute downpours the whole day and it happened to be the “Dance Parade New York presents Beyond the Zone”.

The one hundred floats with thousands of dancers made their way from 17th Street, along 5th Avenue and along 8th Street. I felt so sorry for the dancers, the last of the thousands of them in the procession having to be outside in the rain for 5 hours. The best of the dancers were, unsurprisingly, the Latinos.

I had arrived upon a stand on 8th Street and sat there, realising at the end that it was in fact private, but no-one challenged me and I enjoyed talking to everyone. It was certainly great to be able to sit under a canopy out of the rain for the 4 hours that I was there watching the parade.

The rain having finally stopped I walked for an hour up Broadway to the Juilliard to enjoy my last concert of the season there. It was the ‘Pre-College Orchestra’ performing Sarah Kirkland Snider, John Adams and Bella Bartok. The music was beautiful and the young orchestra were extremely talented. To get into Juilliard you have to already be the best in your class.

On Sunday I returned to the Katherine Hepburn Garden for the garden party, involving coffee, cake and a band and chatted to some very elderly ladies who described seeing Katherine out shovelling snow well into her dotage.

A long walk along First Avenue, past Stuyvesant park and other interesting places, took me to First Ukrainian Evangelical Pentecostal Church, participating in the “Sacred Spaces” weekend.

I didn’t get any further than there because in the street, sandwiched between this church and the  Catholic Church was a Ukrainian Festival, unlike any festival I have ever attended because the object was the raise money for the injured servicemen from the war.

Ivan, the pastor of the Church explained how those with lost arms were being cared for in one part of the States and those with lost legs in another. He also runs a soup kitchen and offers accommodation to Ukrainian refugees. I saw about 8 soldiers who had been injured and it brought me to tears. Goodness knows how these wonderful people are coping.

On Monday I awoke to an e mail saying that Lin Manuel Miranda was not going to be able to attend the screening of “When Harry Met Sally” in the evening because he was sick. I was so disappointed! I had won the tickets in the lottery organised by the United Palace in Washington Heights which Lin Manuel helps to run.

In the event, we still had Billy Crystal who was interviewed by Marc Shaiman,  who composed and arranged the music for the movie. 

And what a great time Genia and I had there. Firstly, the actual theatre is gob-smackingly beautiful, and secondly it was pretty amazing watching the film with 3,000 other people all laughing together. We got there early and bagged a seat at the front of the theatre then took time to wander around and enjoy the amazingness of the decor!

The chat between Billy and Marc (both great friends of Lin Manuel) was very interesting and we heard an anecdote of the filming of the “orgasm” scene shot in Katz’s diner – the Director, Rob Reiner, showed Meg Ryan how he wanted it to be played, realising at the end of his demonstration that his mother (who was the woman who says “I’ll have what she’s having”) had been watching him!

On Tuesday morning I took myself to an outside table on the Columbia campus to draft this blog. and then walked around the beautiful gardens with its sculpture and massive London Plane trees with huge canopies that meet in the middle, offering shade from the heat of the summer. I love the neighbourhood in which I live.

In the evening, Debbie and I trotted off to her brother Billy’s apartment on West End Avenue to have dinner with him and his new wife, Judy. It was great having someone else cook for me!