from Sandy Needham

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Manhattan Dispatch 1

November 29, 2007

For some reason the bus from Boston could not follow the normal route to Port Authority terminal in Manhattan from the Bronx, so gave me a wonderful scenic tour past so many lovely memories in the city! I met my beautiful daughter Elise over at FIT just after her Thursday classes finished. We caught the formidable 'A' train up to Harlem and were walking in her door at 126th street - 100 blocks north - in about 15 minutes! Here is her '07 Halloween costume:

Elise's apartment, like every room she's ever called her own, is a true signature piece of her unstoppable creativity. I even had to record her solution to the landlord's silly peeling porcelain paint in her kitchen sink!

Our evening out together was a testament to the dynamic range of colors and ages that is the current, vibrant Harlem. After dinner in a rollicking little restaurant, we walked over to Broadway to the huge Dinosaur Barbeque where our friend Rob works at the bar. Two aging bikers in their Harley gear, probably the two sweetest guys on earth, bought us a drink! The crowd was a beaming, booming mix of everything, only more so, which spilled onto the dance floor once the brassy, 'Blood, Sweat & Tears' - type band kicked in. In my single days in midtown Manhattan everybody was too cool to be that happy.

During Elise's Friday classes I had lunch with one of my oldest and dearest buddies, David Barrow. He has one of the last remaining jobs in the decimated New York home furnishings textile print industry, being the exquisite English textile designer that he is. He and his now-interior designer-former-textile designer wife, Helen, and their 6-year-old, Amelia - both also among my favorite friends - are anticipating possibilities down south for when there are, in fact, no more textile jobs at all. We had just received the news that our dear friend, Dick Taylor, had just died after a truly valiant battle with lung cancer. I will talk more about this later. Walking back from the restaurant to 261 Fifth Avenue with David - after scurrying into a Korean deli to buy umbrellas for the sudden shower - was truly a disorienting stroll down memory lane. That was my first textile building in Manhattan in 1977, and where David joined our studio, followed over the next 23 years by several other buildings in the neighborhood that we both occupied in various industry jobs. The gold leaf deco lobby had just been restored to a new breathtaking luster.

As I wondered along 28th Street across town to meet Elise at FIT again, I shopped at a couple of the Indian wholesale stores that indicated special sales inside for passers-by, just like old times. Elise had a bite to eat and I had dessert while we decided our Friday afternoon plans. The clear winner was the free Friday evening at MOMA - the Museum of Modern Art. When we arrived around 4pm there was a line out the door, down the block and snaking through eight files in a parking lot. We entered in no time, as the line flowed steadily inside, and were witness to the wonders of modern art amidst a throng who brought the museum thoroughly to life. For Elise and me this was a joyfully shared revisiting of the many museum trips we had as she was growing up. The newest inventions and the old favorite paintings kept us oohhing and ahhhing for hours. Her gift from me was two books for her personal graphic design library, for which we spent additional mesmerized hours scouring the shelves in the museum store. I also bought a Mark Rothko poster for my living room wall which was a yard wide rolled up and stood out of my carry-on bag above my head for the rest of the trip.

We wandered west on 53rd Street, rather dazed, and decided to have martinis. A big, gorgeous Greek restaurant called Molyvos appeared with an amber glow and a distinguished looking bar. The thoroughly dashing bartender served up martinis with REAL Greek olives - a raison d'être as far as we were concerned, especially after being on our feet for centuries. We ended up staying there for a dinner of Greek cheeses, ouzo-cured smoked salmon, bread and more divine olives. After we got to her apartment we put on our favorite old Disney video, Alice in Wonderland. We eventually stopped rhapsodizing over favorite parts - so sophisticated compared to most children's fare - and gabbed away alongside Alice's shrinkages and expansions. I have associated Elise with Alice in Wonderland ever since she improvised her way as Alice through every scene in her sixth grade production at Blue Rock School.

In the meantime, poor Newton's ears would recover from being stopped up briefly, then stop up again on the subsequent flights to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul. His cough was worsening.

Saturday morning was good-bye to my darling girl till Christmas in São Paulo, which will crown a demanding senior semester. Elise carried my suitcase down her four flights before heading back to sleep. I caught the subway to Penn Station to catch a train to my sister's in New Jersey.


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