List: Things you can’t do with one arm…
- Therefore, blog.
- Pretty much anything else.
I’ll try again next week…
List: Things you can’t do with one arm…
I’ll try again next week…
Reading is something I used to do. That is, before life was recently upended in May and June. Five books a month is my usual standard, but I’ll be lucky if I finish one this month. No time to read because, um, this (see – I found a way to sneak in a puppy picture!)
But I think about reading. Too tired to actually open a book at the end of the day but in those last moments before sleep I half-dream about the unalloyed joy of books I’ve read, books I’m reading, books I will someday read. And the other night, my pre-sleep dream was of a quartet of paintings from books I’ve read. We all know that art imitates life, but sometimes art imitates art, too. Perhaps the best-known of these in recent memory is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, wherein a seventeenth-century painting by Dutch master Carel Fabritius plays the title role:
Tartt aptly quotes Nietzsche in her book – which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction – saying “We have art in order not to die from the truth”. Nietzsche probably had a more profound truth in mind than mine, which is scooping puppy surprises from the lawn all day and evading her little shark teeth, but I greatly appreciate his sentiments. And I would probably never have known the existence of Fabritius’ painting if not for Tartt’s book.
Another painting that escaped my notice until recently is Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, featured prominently in Ohio by Stephen Markley. Markley, who reminds me of a Thomas Wolfe in desperate search of his Maxwell Perkins, has everything including the kitchen sink in his ambitious debut novel. I don’t know if I can recommend the book, but I appreciated learning about the painting, which features an alarmed “angel of history” stepping backwards from the present into the future. The painting is housed at the Israel Museum in Jerusale
Perhaps my most cherished novel that features paintings is A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin. In this masterpiece of fiction are two masterpieces of art. Early on in the book, the protagonist Alessandro travels to Germany just to visit Raphael’s Portrait of Bindo Altoviti before going off to fight in World War I (The painting is now held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)
Later he sneaks away from training in Mestre for a day in Venice, where he goes to the Gallerie dell’Accademia to view La Tempesta by fifteenth century Italian master Giorgione.
Helprin’s genius is such that these paintings enliven the book just as its human characters do. At one point Alessandro’s father, ill in the hospital, asks him:
“And how does God speak to you?”
“In the language of everything that is beautiful”, is Alessandro’s answer.
The fate of an entire family revolves around a painting – this time a fictional one – in British author Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers. I recently listened to this wonderfully human, gossipy guilty pleasure of a novel and loved every minute of it. The cover art associated with the book is an impressionistic painting called The Shell Collectors by an artist named Robert Williams, but I will always think of it as being the painting that was willed to protagonist Penelope Keeling by her father.
Art in literature is like a chocolate-covered cherry – two desserts in one bite. So very yummy! Revisiting these books has inspired me to stay awake just a bit longer tonight and read at least a few pages. There’s still one day left in the month to finish a book!
You would think we’d have it figured out by now. Practice makes perfect, right? But even though we’ve raised four kids and we’re on our fourth dog, we are most definitely still learning. About kids. About dogs. And about kids and dogs.
Lesson #1 Kids and dogs don’t always go together.
James has a dog at home so he settled right in with Lily.
But Caleigh has never had a pet, and she is very, very afraid of dogs. Even – and especially – Lily. Well, look how scary she is:
Ok, maybe not. But if you’re six years old and you’re never around dogs, they can be kind of scary. Look at that terrifying wolf!
Caleigh decided she preferred Dodger, who is much quieter and who, amazingly, allowed himself to be carried around like a sack of potatoes.
We finally put in a call to our amazing trainer, Wency, who came over and gave us a dog/kid tutorial. When fearful children scream, shake their arms over their heads and run away, Wency says that they are acting like “wounded prey” in the eyes of a dog, which, in turn, excites the dog’s prey drive. So the dog gives chase. Wency taught Caleigh how to march around with “giant steps” and show that puppy who’s boss. She even convinced Caleigh to give Lily treats out of her hand. Caleigh – and Lily – definitely made some progress!
Lesson #2: Dogs and grapes do NOT go together!
Grapes happen. And we talked about grapes not being good for dogs. But, of course, there was the inadvertent grape disaster, and Lily got a grape. Or two. Or maybe even three. And in this case, Google was NOT our friend, because when we looked it up we learned that in some cases, even one grape can kill a dog. Oh no! Frantic call to the vet, who acknowledged that grapes are very, very bad for dogs, and that it is impossible to know which dogs will react to grape toxicity. Since Lily only got a few grapes at most, the vet thought she would be okay. But couldn’t promise it. Worst case: kidney failure or even death, which is so hard to believe, since we all remember giving grapes to dogs.
Symptoms include loss of appetite and lethargy. And, of course, Lily chose the next two days to stop being interested in her kibble, and to be uncharacteristically calm. Oh oh no!
“She’ll be fine”, said Wency when she came over. And she was. And probably most dogs will be. But we won’t be eating grapes in the house again anytime soon.
Lesson #3: We are old. Really, really old.
Such a fun week with these great kids. But we’re looking at each other and saying “Why in the world are we so tired?” We’ve done this before. A lot. No big deal. So why are we falling-down exhausted? Oh. We forgot. We’re that old. Oh well, we can rest next week. Wouldn’t have missed this week for anything!
And we thought we were busy in New York!
We had to get back to California to greet some very important guests. Tina brought the girls up to meet Lily – good thing, since that little puppy is well on her way to being a big dog. Twelve to twenty-five pounds went by in a flash!
Everyone loves her! Well, almost everyone. Lily is already BFF’s with Tina, Evie and Viv.
But when you’re only six years old, a squirmy puppy with shark teeth can be a little daunting. Caleigh is working hard on being brave and Lily is working on the “Down!” command. We’ll get there…Caleigh is spending a week with us, so we’ve got lots of time.
Lily is also working on her relationship with Dodger, who is infinitely, incredibly patient with her. He still hasn’t even scratched her on the nose!
While the big girls were here, our back yard handed them some lemons, and they knew just what to do:
Best lemonade we’ve ever tasted!
Great-Granny joined us for a bbq up at the pool:
And then Tina and the big girls headed home – they are off to Rome and London!
Meanwhile, we get to have fun with Caleigh…
And soon cousin James will join us. Lily can’t wait!
“Will you play with me, please????”
I can’t prove it, but it feels like we have walked every one of Manhattan’s 22 square miles this trip. Sometimes en route to cultural enlightenment but – let’s just be honest here -mostly in search of food. The way we see it is this: if your kitchen is the size of a broom closet, the only thing you’re making there are reservations.
And somehow we convince ourselves that the calorie math somehow works to virtuous advantage since we walk almost everywhere. It’s lies, all lies, but if a great famine is on the dystopian horizon, or we are reduced to eating insects and synthetic lab-grown meat, we are going to cherish some great food memories from these good old days.
Since we are, above all, creatures of habit, there are the trusted “neighborhood” favorites, meaning anyplace we can walk to in under half an hour. In fine weather, you can walk to Rockefeller Center and sit outside at Brasserie Ruhlmann. They do a middle-Eastern accented branzino that I order every single time:
Or you can walk up to 70th and Amsterdam to our beloved Café Luxembourg for steak frites and my new fave, the shaved Brussels sprout salad:
We discovered that in addition to good neighborhood Italian on the UWS, Pomodoro Rosso on Columbus Avenue serves a tasty sundae:
Going to Lincoln Center? The Smith Lincoln Square has an excellent lobster roll:
And if you aren’t in the mood for pizza or hanging-over-the-plate lasagna, you can just order from the vegetable menu at Cafe Fiorello. My new fave there is fava beans with ricotta salata, heirloom carrots with yogurt and sausage and peppers:
No trip to NYC is complete without lunch at Bergdorf-Goodman’s BG Restaurant. I did, however, forget that hard, fast NYC rule: never, ever let the waiter talk you into the Gnocchi special with Black Truffles without first asking the price. Oops.
Café Boulud on the UES is a bit further afield, but their prix fixe lunch is well worth a stroll across the Park:
We always try to discover a new restaurant or two each trip. This time, my friend Judy introduced us to Sandro’s on the UES. Homey neighborhood place where they ply you with complimentary bruschetta at the beginning and a glass of grappa at the end of the meal. In between, we sampled pasta with a ragout of wild boar and the peach melba for dessert:
But above all on this trip, we discovered that Greek island known as Manhattan. If I’m headed to Bloomingdales, Anassa Taverna is a good bet for lunch:Avra Estiatorio on 48th several times for lunch so I decided to check out their newer outpost on Madison at 60th where Rouge Tomate used to be. Lovely but oh so pricey. Good thing that you can almost make a meal from the pita and spreads they bring to the table. I ordered a tomato salad and their absolutely divine baklava, but their entrée menu is better suited to patrons with expense accounts.
Speaking of pricey, Eater NY recently published a very critical review of the new Estiatorio Milos at Hudson Yards . The gist of it is that Eater NY took a very, very dim view of the Milos menu tradition of ordering your seafood by the pound.
It’s true that you can spend someone’s college tuition at Milos – we are still recovering from a dinner at their Las Vegas location a few years back that was tantamount to a financial crisis. But please don’t write off Milos at Hudson Yards – the space is absolutely, exquisitely gorgeous, with a sweeping view of the Hudson River and of the landmark Vessel. And what Eater NY failed to notice is that if you go mid-day and order the $32 prix fixe Business Lunch, you can enjoy the restaurant’s gracious hospitality without applying for a loan. I should know – I’ve had lunch there so many times this trip that a very kind and exceedingly generous manager showed my friend Lori and I to a spectacular view table and comped us dessert when we dined there yesterday. It’s my favorite new restaurant in the city and, oh, by the way, an excuse to breeze through the sale racks at the adjacent new Neiman Marcus after lunch. The Eater NY reviewer gave the restaurant one star; I give it five – maybe I can invite that young man to lunch next time I’m in the city and change his mind.
But for now, the trip comes to a close. A few more walks, a few more meals and then home for puppy wrangling! Magnificent time in the city and, as always, can’t wait to return.
The gallivanting continued, apace. The 20,000 step mark was duly broken, as was, more than somewhat coincidentally, my inferior-issue body. But no matter, we had a whirlwind girls’ week to finish up, and did so in style.
Toughest item on the itinerary was the 9/11 Memorial and museum. It is a heartbreaking pilgrimage that must be made. You’ll want to sign up for a tour. I’m not saying you will enjoy it, but it must be done. Takeaways: the voiceovers of “where I was” when it happened, the playback loops of endless voicemails sent to the phones of that day’s victims. The videos of the attackers going through airport security. (If only someone had listened…) The photo of what a perfect, crystalline morning that was in New York City…
The memorial fountain, where the birthdays of victims are annually observed.
Soberly, and then less so, we moved on to brunch at Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington famously dined with his troops in 1783.
We assuaged our lack of campiness with a glass of wine on the Met Rooftop on a perfect afternoon after a perfect NYC girlfriend week. So very much perfection…
Except for the fact that drama was brewing in the wind to the west. 3,000 miles to the west to be exact.
“It was a colossally bad idea”, said the never-one-to-mince-words CE by phone. By that, he was referring to our bass-ackwards game plan that would allow us to make a previously-scheduled trip to NYC at the same time we acquired a new puppy. No problem! The CE would take care of her on his own the first week, and then she would go to be with our beloved trainer while we were both away. It seemed to make sense at the time. In theory.
But in practice, um, things were shaping up a bit differently. When it came to shipping Princess Lily off to doggie boot camp for two weeks, the tough guy blinked.
Lots of discussions with Delta Airlines. Lots of discussions with Friends of Lily. The princess pretended to behave when Kirk and Pamela visited.
But when Christi stopped by, and Lily gnawed ferociously on her forearm, she wisely allowed that could see the wisdom in some quality time with the trainer.
What to do? The CE was either departing or not in a matter of hours. We needed a solution, fast. I generally disdain unwieldy plot devices, but the deux en machina in the third act was so swift, so sudden and so welcome I could not help but applaud. Dear Tammy and Tom, set to watch over our house, hearth, chickens and Dodger volunteered – no, insisted – that Lily split the difference and stay a week with them before packing her gear and reporting for basic training.
These guys, soon to be canonized:
So the CE made his trip after all, for which we are especially grateful since this guy breezed into town the next day:
Less delightful – even though I greatly esteem Kerri Russell and Adam Driver – was the Burn This Broadway revival. The original helped make John Malkevich a star but for us it did not time travel well across the decades.
Last night we strolled over to Feinstein’s 54 Below for a great walk down memory lane with Chita Rivera’s one-woman show. She’s still got it at 86 and I loved, loved, loved hearing her sing “A Boy Like That” from her role as Anita in West Side Story.
We get to do this, thanks to Tammy and Tom holding down the fort:
And, for one more day, they and daughter Claire have this:
And then it is really off to boot camp for Miss Lily. But you just wait – she has lots of happy adventures coming up in a few weeks. And we’ll spend the next few years trying to make this up to Tammy and Tom. Thanks so, so much you guys! (And Christi – your turn in the barrel is coming up, lol – hopefully that little princess’ tiara will be on straight by then:-)
Apologies to those hoping for more puppy pictures. The action has shifted 3,000 miles eastward and I feel like I have walked at least that far this week. 17,630 steps yesterday, 18,112 the day before and miles and miles to go today.
Because it’s this time of year again:
You can run from a birthday but you can’t hide, especially if you are lucky enough to have such precious family and friends who inexplicably decide to celebrate you, lift you up, ignore your deep flaws and even deeper wrinkles and make you so grateful to have creaked your way around another year.
What a week this has been! The CE held down the fort with sassy little Lily while I jetted in to NYC to see a different superstar: P!nk at Madison Square Garden! With son Daniel as my date! Unforgettable experience!
And hard to believe that was just the opening act for the week. Up early the next day for breakfast with dear friends Judy and Wendy who made the trek from California for a whirlwind girlfriends’ meet-up in the city. We’ve talked about doing this for years and it finally all came together.
Breakfast was not, alas, at Tiffany’s, but Nougatine sufficed quite nicely with avocado toast for Wendy:
We did the 30-second apartment tour:
And then it was on to Ft. Tryon Park and The Cloisters. A magical, exquisite place. Memorable for the art, the tapestries and not least of all, endless flights of stone stairs hewn into the hillside park.
Birthday dinner at Balthazar that night – a perfect trifecta of companions – Wendy, Judy and Daniel – and a perfect dessert duo at the end (we couldn’t pick just one!)
Yesterday we walked over to Hudson Yards and had a lovely ladies’ lunch with a view at the new outpost of Estiatorio Milos, then breezed through the fabulous new Neiman Marcus and paid a visit to The Vessel.
We walked the High Line, where our trip-planning mastermind Judy found her niche:
Last night was “Ain’t Too Proud” on Broadway – great fun!
And now I’ve got to run because we are off for more adventures this morning. I’ll let you know if I break the 20,000 step mark…
Thank you to everyone dear to me for the beautiful birthday wishes, flowers, uplifting encouragement and cheer. And especially especially to my beloved CE for gifting me this adventure. Get here soon – I miss you!