Back in 1977, I was divorced and living in Cleveland because I had gone there for my ex-husband’s job. Now I am not a Cleveland-basher. The city served me well, not only because we lived in an old downtown neighborhood being restored, full of the most interesting, creative people - but also because there was an out-of-the-way home textile company there that hired me – with my degree in English literature – to be a designer. This happened because it was not New York, and professional designers were not knocking on the company’s door in droves. This firm had a New York office and was run by a notorious woman with a Cruella De Vil-type streak of white hair next to her widow’s peak. She was sometimes called the Black Widow Spider Lady. But enough about her. Let’s just say that after 4 years of designing and coloring and printing textiles and visiting New York pretty often, I said, “Why not consider a move to New York?” A co-worker was getting married in New Jersey and had asked me to be in the wedding, so I decided that I would just toss the idea of my future up into the air with a sense of openness…and try to get some interviews in the city after the wedding. I mention the Black Widow Spider Lady because a couple of the three interviews I got that first day were at high powered, very respected textile print firms that had no openings; the equally notorious stylists just wanted to hear some inside dope on Cruella. By day two, I had a job, and a good one. So, thanks for tossing an answer back to me, universe!
For me, Manhattan remains tinged by my magical beginnings there. It’s not that I didn’t have “lonely crowd” moments or that the textile industry didn’t suck outside of the artists, but my gang of friends was spectacular and we have many stories we still love to rehash! And the avenues still offer up random memories at any given turn. And when we stay with Elise, we can run out the door and grab…absolutely anything within a few blocks. And when we visit friends in the city or the tri-state area around the city, there is something magical about them, too.
At the end of our month-long trip, Newton and I had a short whirlwind stay in New York. Blurry as it was, it was good. I saw my friend since 1978, Carolyn, and her cat, Kayli. Newton and I took a day to drive upstate and downsize our storage bin in order to downsize the yearly bill. My friend Lucia had lined up the 19-year-old son of the Blue Rock School caretaker to help us: the handsome, smart, able and strong Lucas. So he was the first bit of good luck, then the second bit was when the storage company had a smaller bin available across the hall from our current one. Additional good luck allowed everything to fit in the smaller space! Lucas was adept at visualizing the most efficient configurations of furniture and objects and then brute-pressing boxes ever higher. Apart from the good points, we were appalled to see that during the installation of a new roof, our entire bin had been pummeled with clods of dirt. Just filthy. The manager volunteered to vacuum the upholstered pieces while we dusted off the boxes and objects. Not amusing. And worse, there had been a little water damage before the roof replacement. Wouldn’t you know that Elise had requested we bring back the box containing our old photo albums, and that was one of the items with water damage. She has not had the courage to open it up yet and assess the condition of our irreplaceable old photos. She also requested Newton’s bike, which she has since been riding around the city.
Our dinner date in Nyack afterwards with Lucia, the kindergarten teacher, and Claudia, the office assistant/everything else at Blue Rock School, was a casual one. Newton and I were covered with that roof dirt and slightly travel-stupid. But there they were across the table from us – two friends forever. I look forward to more time, less dirt, and better food next time!
The next day was a trip to Easton Connecticut with our Manhattan gang I referred to earlier. I met David in 1978 in my textile studio when he was a visiting designer from London. He stayed and became friends with my old Cleveland friend, Joe, who had moved to New York, and on and on – oh, the stories! David’s wife Helen was one of my favorite textile designers and is now an expert interior designer. Their daughter Amelia is 10. David is the last remaining designer I know of in cotton prints. The industry is about over in the US.
Joe and Guadalupe, recently retired, are waiting for the market to improve before selling their Manhattan apartment and dividing their time between Cleveland and Buenos Aires. Nancy Taylor is the most traveled of the group, or of most any group. Driving them up to David and Helen’s new house in our rental car meant a couple of extra hours of conversation. Nancy had recently returned from Syria and is now involved with a project that sends refugee Iraqi students from Syria to universities in the US. She is also involved in a lost languages project, whereby speakers of near-extinct languages are tracked down.
My college and early New York roommate and her new husband Steve had accidently discovered that their new friends, David and Helen, were also friends of mine. We could not believe such a coincidence! Karen McDonald or “Mac,” as I have always known her, was there! We decided it had been around 30 years since we had seen each other, and it’s true, we were pretty inseparable that day.
The setting was idyllic, like a country cottage in England! Only the duo of David and Helen could make a place so comfortable and lovely, inside and out:
The groom was getting married for the first time at age 49. We just loved the way he smiled his big, shy smile, answered a resounding “yes!” to the wedding vows, and later threw himself unabashedly into battling the planned choreography of the dance with the bride. The beautiful bride wore killer red shoes and had the great idea of offering the guests comfy little Chinese slippers at the reception!
We shared a table with friends we’ve known since 1983 from Newton’s old company. This marked the end of the single guys, at last!
The next day was last-minute shopping for our inevitable list, happy hour at Elise’s neighborhood Mexican restaurant with Elise and her lively friend visiting from Miami, and off to catch our plane to São Paulo.
The next day we caught our connecting flight to Natal. My feet were swollen, my skin was dry, my fingernails were breaking, and my bodily systems were confused. It was time to be back home again. Newton, who had thrown China into the month’s mix, was fine.