Newton and I emerged from the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan around 7:00am on a Sunday morning. We had flown all night from São Paulo to Newark and then bussed into town. Encountering many homeless people scattered outside the exit, I fell into our appalling habit from the northeast of Brazil of speaking English to each other and expecting that no one understands us, saying, "Oh, so many desperate bums here!" before realizing my blunder via the look on Newton's face. But even better was his similar blunder soon after in Starbucks, where I opened the unlocked bathroom door on a man who was luckily just washing his hands. When I related this to Newt, he forgot where he was and commented in full voice, "Good thing he wasn't wiping." I buried my face in my hands on that one!
Port Authority and Times Square are no prizes on any Sunday morning, what with all the garbage of Saturday night's revelries strewn everywhere on the streets and in the filthy subway stations. Somehow it all seemed worse, though...the street was in such ill-repair and the down-and-out population so numerous, we could only surmise that after our being absent some time, that third world direction the US has been taking for some decades is showing more and more. The financial crisis doesn't help.
The good part was the express subway ride to 96th and Broadway: 6-1/2 minutes. We pulled our suitcases up to 99th and Amsterdam and buzzed Elise to let us into her new apartment. The neighborhood is tranquil (turned out it was tranquil on weekdays, not just on Sunday morning), and the apartment - which Elise shares with her former NYU roommate, Tammy - is spacious and recently renovated, with green trees out the kitchen window! Tammy decided to stay nearby at her boyfriend's for the week so we could use her extremely cushy queen-size bed. The three of us napped till the afternoon since Elise had also been up all night. Then we headed to Ikea in Newark for Elise's 25th birthday shopping spree for her new place. There were only two hours left before closing and we had our own shopping list of Ikea items to bring back to Brazil, so it was one intense spree! As the week progressed, Newton was able to install a wine glass rack, a wine rack, a mirror, a curtain rod, and a wall-mounted laptop desk - all without a drill. He's going to have to adapt to his new image as handyman! He does work with surgery-caliber precision.
On Monday evening I got to see Elise's very cool office at AMI (14th and 10th Avenue), where her Jonas Brothers' (among others') fan club work continues from the previous job. She had recently videotaped them in Rio and São Paulo. Even though she was swamped with editing, her boss (who greatly appreciates Elise) invited us all for a drink at a chic bar underneath the beautiful new overpass promenade, the Highline.
Tuesday was lunch with the inimitable Nancy Taylor. With gratitude for the wonderful, adventurous marriage she had with such a special husband as Dick, and with unlimited choices of what she may now pursue - confusing as that is - Nancy is adjusting to this new phase of her life with all the grace, intelligence and wherewithal that are her hallmarks. She is always inspiring to me. Two trips to Africa are currently on her agenda.
On my way to the next gig I saw the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit which celebrates the Guggenheim Museum's 50th year. It was fascinating - mostly his drawings and plans of both realized and unrealized projects. I was already moved by just standing inside the Guggenheim, struck by the fact that I love art imitating nature almost as much as I love nature itself.
Tuesday night was dinner and an overnight with my longtime friend, Carolyn McMonegal, and her new cat Kayli (a sweet and gorgeous cat). Jean Eng from my textile days joined us (we met each other years ago suffering 24-hour shifts printing fabric at mills down south). She still works in home textiles, but most of the jobs remaining in the US now are for outdoor furniture prints. We had a great dinner, including red-hot Korean kimchi (not available in Natal). Carolyn and her cozy apartment are touchstones to my previous life in the US!
Wednesday I headed up to Nyack to see my friends Lucia, Claudia and Caty from Blue Rock School - more touchstones. Lucia was recovering from having donated one of her kidneys to a friend. Her always-beautiful garden was the setting for another one of Claudia's legendary gourmet meals. I had caught up on Blue Rock School news by phone with Lucia and Claudia recently, which allowed us all to just gab about life in general. This was particularly a treat with Caty, the Blue Rock director, as we rarely have had this chance for school-free, summer afternoon kickin' back. There is no doubt that these women provided me with one of the richest eras of my life as their fellow-staff member at the school, and in their presence I could appreciate again just how rich. While I spent the night there in order to strike off more shopping items from our list in Rockland County the next day, Newton continued the tradition of meeting our old friends Joe Warren and David Barrow for a drink after work at Grand Central.
By Thursday I couldn't bear seeing Elise so little while being in the same city (country) with her, even though I'd be seeing her for the next two weeks. We convinced her to accompany us to NJ for Newton's reunion dinner with our old friends from his HHB days (his first job).
Jake joined us on Friday from Boston, triumphant in his recent return from the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas, where he came in 72nd out of 6,500 players. We all headed down to Colts Neck, NJ for my niece Sara's wedding festivities. See next dispatch!