from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Manhattan Dispatch 2

December 5, 2007

This dispatch is dedicated to our friend Dick Taylor, who died on October 17th.

I had long since scheduled a lunch with Dick and Nancy Taylor in Manhattan. Dick had defied the doctor's predictions regarding his numbered days with lung cancer, and had decided to go out more while he could. He packed off on October 17th, oxygen tank and back-up in hand, to spend the evening doing what he loved: discussing life, politics, enjoying music with friends at a watering-hole-turned-salon by Dick. He simply returned home later, stepped inside the foyer and died with his wife and dog attending. He could not have written a better exit for himself, and we, his friends, feel proud that he went in such a fitting way. The lunch date was now with my grieving friend, Nancy.

Our time was short due to my extreme subway confusion after the bus from Nyack, but probably the right length of time in the end, once Nancy knew to go ahead and eat. We even got to ride the bus across town together for our next appointments. Nancy is one of the smartest, most intrepid, well-read, self-aware, sophisticated individuals I know (as in actually having seen many parts of the world beyond most people's imagination and learning all about them in depth). It was a privilege to have the time with her and witness the very conscious way in which she is experiencing the great loss of her true partner in an adventurous life. Since we would miss the celebration of Dick's life in November, I was glad to be back in those rooms at 96th and Park where we had gathered so many times for exotic meals inspired, for example, by a stay with an African tribe, or a trek across the desert to an oasis, 11 people in the car - including one between the driver and the door - and engine repairs involving chewing gum! Nancy always miraculously finds the necessary ingredients in Manhattan to replicate the dishes from faraway lands. Dick's celebration later featured wonderful readings and songs he, himself, had selected, including these two homages to his wife:

Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!
Traveling with me, you find what never tires....
Be not discouraged—keep on—there are divine things, well envelop’d;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here!

However sweet these laid-up stores—however convenient this dwelling, we cannot remain here....
Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements!
Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity;
Allons! from all formulas!...

- from “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman (1900)

Sonnet 29 ~ William Shakespeare (1609)
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,--and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Later I met my inimitable nephew Todd and his family at their apartment at 82nd and Columbus. Todd is from the Durango, Colorado Tarpley contingent of the family. He has been in Manhattan for years, working in cable television and interactive media. His darling wife, Jenny, is the Director of Admissions at the Studio School, where their two sons, Sam, 9, and Ethan, 6, attend. We took advantage of the mild October weather by having dinner outdoors at a delicioso Spanish restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue. Todd loves to write comedy scripts and funny children's books as a 'hobby,' and is best known in our extended family for his annual 'staged' family Christmas photos and his annual original comedy script for the Thanksgiving video at Donna's in New Jersey, starring everyone who shows up there! The boys are sharp and sweet and handsome.

I schlepped my suitcase on three more subways to get to my friend Carolyn's at 40th and Lexington - my hostess extraordinaire for that night and the next. I have known Carolyn since my first New York job in textiles in 1977. She retired many years ago and lives with her cat, Lucy. Carolyn is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge and my personal source of movie critiques - as she rarely misses any worth seeing. She just got a new lease on life with a new hip socket and fairly leaps around her apartment with great agility! Gabbing with Carolyn is part of the lifeblood of my adulthood. She can somehow turn our incredulity over the outrageousness of the current US government into high comedy with her well-aimed wit! Carolyn and I had an oishi Japanese dinner at our old haunt across the street from her apartment.

My friend from college days, Linda Calder (better known as 'Doyley'), actually took a day off work from her law firm and rode the train into Manhattan from Westhampton, Long Island to have lunch with me. The irony is that we never managed to do this in the decades after we both moved to suburban climes of the city - only faithful Christmas cards as our children were growing up. Since I just missed a reunion of college girlfriends last year right after moving to Brazil and the e-mails have been flying ever since, and because our mutual friend, Monica, visited me in Natal this September, we just had to see each other! We picked up where we left off, however long ago! We walked down to a little French restaurant, had a delicieu two-hour lunch, then walked across town all the way to Penn Station - catching up on our lives past and present all the while. Doyley just sent her only child off to college this fall, so has an empty nest as well.

In the meantime, Newton was e-mailing more 'Scenes from Asia:
Korea: Buying a bagel – comes with a small container of cream cheese and a spoon! If the bagel was at least cut the spoon wouldn’t be so bad.

Korea: Decided to have an espresso tonight in the fancy hotel across from mine – I almost fell out of the chair when I got the check: $12 for a single.

Korea: Check-in at the airport – “We X-ray checked luggage, so hang around for a while to be sure it is okay.” After 10 minutes I left the area hoping it was enough time!

Hong Kong: Riding the elevator 20 floors with 5 grown men chewing gum with their mouths open. Each time we stopped at some floor on the way down to the lobby I cringed.

I was off the next morning to catch a plane to Tulsa from Newark. Luckily, the airport shuttle bus was picking up by Grand Central again after discontinuing that location because of the steam pipe explosion nearby last July. This meant my calloused hands and creaking wrists would have a respite from dragging the suitcase on more subways. My flight to connect through Memphis was delayed, so they put me on the non-stop...quite all right!


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