Week 9: 7th to 13th June

This blog is being posted 6 weeks after returning to the UK – It was quite a full-on landing (10 nights at the Glastonbury Festival quickly followed) and life intervened.

So – waking early on Wednesday 7th June the sky was still a strange smog-like colour, with a strong smell of smoke coming from the Canadian wildfires. Looking out of the window I saw people wearing masks, so I donned a mask and took Ellie-dog out for her morning walk. There weren’t many people in the park and most were masked up.

The advice on WNYC was to stay indoors and only go out if really necessary, so Debbie and I pottered around at home until I left, well-masked, at 3.30 to go to 34th Street – Penn station – to scope out the platforms the Airport train goes from  – although I have done it many times I get pretty confused given the size of the place and decided to sensibly buy my ticket in advance.

From there I walked, masked, to the Cooper Hewitt museum to find it closed because of the air pollution. So I walked back through Central Park, visiting Cleopatra’s Needle on the way. There were no more than 5% of the usual people in the park and most of us were masked up. Still, there were some people jogging without masks, which was almost unbelievable!

I arrived at 7.00 at the Natural History Museum where I had booked a ticket for a fascinating talk on Bugs and how absolutely fundamental they are to ecology. Apparently flies also pollinate, all land birds eat insects and hummingbirds really need to eat them. Unfortunately, lone star ticks are now well established in the New York area and bring 5 or 6 new diseases.

I asked a question about mosquitos and they said that not all mosquitos harbour diseases and that they are trying to breed out the most dangerous ones.

It was an astonishingly well-attended event considering the dangerous level of air pollution outside: a count of 353/500 making the air “very hazardous” – the most polluted place on the planet this evening, apparently!

I walked, double-masked, back up Amsterdam past restaurants where some people were eating outside without masks (New Yorkers are hardy!! – and maybe some are foolhardy?)

On Thursday Debbie and I got together with some of her family to discuss how she could get more help in the apartment. She is a remarkable woman and never lets her blindness stand in her way.

We then went out, wearing masks, to check on Apple Watches and concluded that they wouldn’t work for her. The Apple Store being near Central Park at 66th Street, we went for a walk in the Ramble together with lovely Ellie-dog, wearing our masks, of course! 

We had the disappointing news yesterday that the Public Theatre’s “Shakespeare in the Park” play of Hamlet was postponed. I was so excited to have acquired tickets without having to queue for them and was concerned that I wouldn’t get to see it before I left New York. Luckily, I managed to work out how to rebook and got tickets for Sunday!

I was still hungry for more theatre and so, masked up again on another very polluted afternoon, I made my way to the East Village and the Public Theatre to watch “A comedy of Errors” again. I had first watched it in the garden of the Theological college.

I bumped into one of the actresses – Keren – again (having met her in Joe’s Pub for the discussion with Raul Esparza), while I waited to get my free ticket. Her lovely father was visiting from Puerto Rico and so I picked his ticket up for her as well. He was so obviously proud of her and told me she had also appeared in a medical soap opera. The play was really enjoyable.

Friday morning Debbie didn’t want to go to an orchestral concert she had booked to attend so sent me in her place. It was at David Geffin Hall at the Lincoln Centre – I so love that area of town! After Britten and Takemitsu came John Luther Adams’ “Become Desert”. It was extremely quirky and enjoyable.

The Orange Monster was indicted today. The first of many, I hope.

After cooking a lot of food for Debbie and her refrigerator I went to the Rubin Museum to see “Death is not the end” which is what I had been hoping to see for a while. There were many other lovely exhibits.

From there, I charged up to Bryant Park to watch a lovely dance performance.

I finished the evening at the Whitney for the exhibitions and the great views from the terraces.

On the way back to the subway I had a poignant interaction with a couple. She was holding a very old small dog in her arms and was crying. He put them both in the car and drove off. It was obvious to me that the dog was dying and I felt such huge compassion towards them, sending my love to them through the ether. Losing a precious old dog is so painful.

On Saturday while I was walking Ellie in Riverside Park I bumped into Ellen who told me that one of her sweet little dogs had passed on Tuesday so I said I would include Patchie in the Bardo prayers I am doing for Alfie. I have a feeling there will be other dogs to add to the prayers.

I went to the Paley Center for the Media’s free open day in midtown. All of the places that offer their free days or free weekends ask you to book in advance and many of them, notably the art galleries, ask for $1 for the booking.

The Paley Center for Media had a great Will and Grace exhibition and a Snoopy exhibit for the children. I also watched an old TV show of Fred Astaire in their computer suite upstairs.

Walking up through Central Park I stopped at Tavern to Go for coffee and a large raisin/oat cookie.

Then it was time to make my way to Central Park’s Summit Rock which stands at a height of 141.8 feet, making it the highest natural elevation in the Park. Located at Central Park West and 83rd Street, Summit Rock was the site of Seneca Village in the 19th century. (https://www.centralparknyc.org/articles/seneca-village)

The rock is a perfect place for a small open air performance – in this case, Titus Andronicus which was fairly gruesome but very good!

After that, I had the Guggenheim to visit to see their general exhibits and “Early Picasso”.

Finally, back through the park to the opening of “Summerstage” to catch the end of “Say She She” and then the really good “Saint Paul and the Broken Bones”.

At the end of the concert I chatted with a lovely woman and her daughter enjoying being able to walk at night through the park

On Sundays, Debbie still has her musician friends over for a few hours’ jam – she plays the piano.

I went off to Morningside Park, remembering walking there with Alfie, and on to the North Wood in Central Park which I really love. It is the wildest part of the park.

Debbie and I finally got to the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park to see “Hamlet” (played by Ato Blankson-Wood who is 38 and very talented). I had visited the box office a couple of days ago to make sure that we had seats at the front which is better for Debbie.

They gave her a braille programme. It was a long play and we didn’t get home until 11.30. Again, walking through Central Park at night in absolute safety because of the volume of people was so enjoyable.

Monday was a day to stick around home and sort out my packing after taking Ellie to Riverside Park for her morning off-leash walk. Ramon and Norma went for vaccinations with Debbie and then came back to say goodbye to me. Suddenly, Debbie’s brother turned up and gave me the best most thoughtful present I have ever received – a beautiful double-size very soft blanket with 9 pictures of Alfie and “Alfie Love” printed on it. I was overwhelmed and quite tearful. How amazingly generous of Dave to have had it made for me and drive from New Jersey to deliver it.

In the afternoon I decided to visit Conservatory Garden which is a significant public garden in the north of Central Park laid out very formally. At the centre  stands the Untermyer Fountain, featuring the Three Dancing Maidens by German sculptor Walter Schott, which is surrounded by an intricate French parterre garden. It is a hidden gem and well worth visiting.

On the way back I popped into the Visitor’s Centre where there was an exhibition celebrating the “Gate of the Exonerated”, located on 110th Street between Malcolm X Boulevard and Fifth Avenue – dedicated on 19 December 2022 as a way to permanently commemorate the struggle of individuals wrongly convicted and the Exonerated Five’s story.

In 1989 a group of innocent black and Latino teenagers were unjustly convicted for the rape of a female jogger in Central Park. They were finally exonerated in December 2002 but not before the Orange Monster had called for them to be put to death.

Before returning to Debbie’s I popped into the Cathedral of St John the Divine to say a prayer for Alfie – it was decked out in beautiful lights honouring Pride month. I then decided to treat myself at the Hungarian Pastry shop with coffee and cherry cheese strudel – delish! I said goodbye to the lovely owner and felt quite sad. 

After having salmon salad with Debbie I said goodbye to Jeanette and her dog, Genia and Adam, finalised my packing and hoped to sleep.

At 3.50 a.m. on Tuesday I finally got out of bed, having not slept at all. I took the subway to Penn Station, the train to the airport and then the Skytrain. I checked in at 6 a.m. and despite the chaos (even at that early hour) I got through Security really quickly. The flight was easy although full. I missed New York immediately …. I will be back!

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