Week 7: 24th to 30th May

After walking Ellie in Riverside Park I went over to Columbia Campus to kick-start my blog writing: I am so busy enjoying myself in NYC that I find it difficult setting aside time to write.





While I was on the patio, shaded by the sun, of “Joe Coffee”, an e mail randomly popped into my inbox inviting me to the Public Theatre this evening for free ($20 tickets) – an opportunity to see Public Alum Raúl Esparza moderating the discussion between director Rebecca Martínez, composer Julián Mesri,  and cast members from the bilingual Mobile Unit production of the Comedy of Errors (the first performance of which I attended). I immediately invited Genia to come with me.

The reason I was so excited is because of my massive crush on Raul since following him as ‘Assistant DA Barba’ in Law & Order SVU. When we arrived I found that our seats in the famous “Joe’s Pub” (Joe certainly gets around…) were right at the front. Genia and I enjoyed delicious calamaris.

The debate was interesting, punctuated with music, and I made a complimentary observation about their way of treating Shakespeare as ‘a play on words’, to their delight.

The greatest treat was actually getting to have a good chat with Raúl, after which Genia suggested taking a picture of us together. I felt like a teenager!

Thursday morning Debbie and I had tickets for the New York Philarmonic’s donors’ morning of the rehearsal for their next concert: Barber, Chick Corea’s concerto for Trombone played by Joseph Alessi (fab) and wonderful selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, commencing with “The Montagues and the Capulets” – that ponderous deep music that most people have heard and I love.

As it was a sunny day, I dragged Debbie and Ellie-dog to Tavern to Go to treat us to coffee and their huge raisin oatmeal cookies.

Later on I visited the temporary home of The Frick. It is not as good a visit as other galleries and the building (the former Met Breuer) is boring. The Frick’s normal home is a beautiful mansion. I then popped over to the Met to have another rooftop experience and visit some of their permanent collection. I do love the Egyptian and American wings.

A lovely balmy evening, we walked over to the cafe in Riverside Park to have a soda as the sun went down

The following day I was invited by Meg Ventrudo, who ran the Tibetan Museum on Staten Island for 16 years but now runs the gardens and monuments side of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. I hopped on the subway uptown.

Founded in 1863, Woodlawn is recognized as one of the most historically significant properties in America and is full of interesting mausoleums and graves.

There are 8,000 trees with many of them notable and huge, dwarfing even the largest of the mausoleums. I wandered around for half an hour to find some of the graves of the jazz greats – Duke Ellington and  Miles Davis: coincidentally, it was his birthday, hence the flowers in the photograph with “Happy Birthday Chief! We love you and miss you! From Erin, Cheryl and Vince” (his youngest son, daughter and nephew).

One notable inclusion in the cemetery is “Memorial to a Marriage” – a bronze sculpture cast by American artist Patricia Cronin in 2004 of her partner, fellow artist Deborah Kass embracing in bed: when this bronze version was made, same-sex marriage was illegal in the US.

As it was only in death that their relationship could be ‘recognised’ in law, Cronin decided to create the sculpture for her personal burial plot in the cemetery. Both women are still living.

Meg then kindly took me out in the ‘golf cart’ so I could see the majority of the huge (400 acre) cemetery. 

Interestingly, my favourite mausoleum was for Woolworth. He would certainly turn in his grave if he knew how his stores no longer exist in the UK

Meg then gave me the choice of a local Himalayan Restaurant and a visit to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, a genuine ‘little Italy’ with excellent restaurants. I opted for the latter and we had a lovely meal in “Enzo’s”. At the bar, I watched a chef making the pizza dough and decided I wanted to try one – I was not disappointed. The offered olive bread with delicious olive oil to start was a tasty bonus!

We chatted long into the evening and it was great to spend time with Meg who is an interesting woman in her early 50s who lives in a lovely apartment overlooking the bay on Staten Island. Staten Island is notorious for supporting the Orange Monster (#45). Happily, she is a Democrat. I just cannot talk to anyone who slavishly follows #45 – such a vile excuse for a human being and who still pollutes the political air in the States.

Saturday morning I decided to take Ellie-dog through the Nature Reserve part of Riverside Park (where they had ‘put the goat in Gotham’ by having a crew of goats to eat all of the unwanted shrubs and weeds when I was last here in 2019 – Alfie loved them!)

I then went to “Pain Quotidien” at the little boat pond in Central Park to meet Eve and Catherine, both French, for coffee and a wander. We bumped into a young woman wearing a sumptuous (frankly OTT) pink dress to celebrate her 18th birthday…..

On Sunday morning I had a yen to go back to Snug Harbor on Staten Island as it is the place I feel the closest to Alfie and going through my photos, and messaging with Rudy who took us there in his car in 2019, I realised that it was actually because Alfie gave a tangible sigh of relief when he got to the Meadow and stream – so lush and like our garden and the stream at Blaise.

I am including 2 pictures taken of him there in 2019 in all his loveliness and happiness. I sat for a long time in the meadow and walked along the stream, feeling his presence, talking to him and loving him for ever. I have met hundreds (literally) of great dogs here but none with the absolute soulfulness and majesty of my wonderful companion.

I made it my aim to cover the whole of Snug Harbor’s gardens this time. I realise that I love walking around such places on my own – I can be so much more mindful, so present and content and having Alfie walking with me in spirit is an added bonus.

Was it a coincidence that I bumped into 3 elderly dogs, not long for this world, on my walks and photographed them. Elderly dogs have my heart.

I didn’t leave Snug Harbor until 7.30 and therefore experienced a beautiful sunset on the Staten Island ferry and at Battery Park.

On Monday Ellie-dog enjoyed 2 walks – one with me saying hello to all of the local doggie-friends off-leash prior to 9 (and maybe, sneakily, a little longer…) and then with Debbie and me.

Today and tomorrow is “Manhattanhenge” that occurs on days when the sunset or sunrise lines up with Manhattan’s crosstown street grid (from the Hudson to the East River) between 14th St and 155th St. It is accidental but magical!

The name was coined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and is a reference to the way Stonehenge in England is designed to frame the sunrise of the summer solstice and the sunset of the winter solstice.

It happens twice (for 2 days a time) on summer sunsets and twice on winter sunrises. 

I had read that Neil recommended FDR park on Roosevelt Island so I took the cable-car (that they call a tramway even though it is in the air!) over there, only to discover that the park bit of the island is locked by 7 p.m., when Manhattanhenge was due to happen at 8.13!

So after a cursory walk around the south of the island (seeing the ruins of the smallpox hospital) I hot-footed it back over and down to the over-hang road of Tudor City where I battled with others to get some photos!

I ended up chatting to a Turkish guy as I walked back to the subway near Bryant Park. He invited me for a coffee – I demurred, mainly because I could hardly understand a word he was saying…

He took an interesting video and his instagram is ‘newyorkserhat’

Tuesday I went down-town to meet Beverly at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South. I thought I would check out the club and park beforehand and found my way – and got through – several police check-points. It turned out that friends of the Vice President were having a dinner on the street as a fundraiser for her, which she attended.

I enjoyed taking a few pictures of the interesting houses there. I love the villages. The club’s interior was full of beautiful artwork, unsurprisingly.

The event at the Club was about death. There was an interesting film followed by a discussion between the makers and a death doula. Since Alfie passed, I have had a greater interest in the subject.

Beverly and I took a long stroll along 4th street after the event, before jumping on the 1 train to return uptown.