9.4.06: Labor Day Weekend in New York
|The sun sweeps away the clouds on Labor Day. 10:45 AM. Photo: JH.
|9.4.06: Labor Day Weekend
in New York was ushered in by Ernesto the hurricane who almost couldn’t
... but did. By the time the rain and the winds hit the shores of Manhattan,
it was rather tame, hardly ferocious although decisive enough
to keep some would-be travelers in town for the weekend. Cab drivers liked
it because it meant business. Weekenders hated it because it meant ... well,
wet. This writer liked it because he likes rainy days.
On Friday afternoon I went to my twenty-two minute session at Inform Fitness,
from which I emerged with jelly-like legs and near exhaustion. I felt like
going home and taking a nap but instead I went over to Nina Griscom’s shop on 70th and Lexington to take some pictures of her new merchandise only
to learn that she was closed for the weekend.
So I went across the street to a sandwich shop (southwest corner of 70th and
Lex) whose name I cannot remember but which is very very popular, where I purchased
a smoked salmon and cream cheese on black bread sandwich (delicious), a large
cappuccino and a large brownie. I ate the entire sandwich and half the brownie
(eyes bigger than my stomach) and drank the whole cappuccino.
Then, with the storm
clouds hovering but still no rain in sight, I decided to hit Bookberries,
a bookstore on the southeast corner of 71st and Lex.
I am not a shopper in the sense that I don’t look for gratification by
purchasing “things” but I decided on this day, and with the
mood I was in (half-melancholy/half-physically exhausted) to Go For It.
I love books, as I’ve written here many times before. I love them
in a covetous way. I love the jackets, the bindings, the paper, the print,
of course the promise of the contents. So I consciously decided to splurge
and buy whatever took my eye. This is quite an extravagance, for me anyway.
I soon found and bought: Literary Paris: A
Guide, by Jessica Powell with
a black-and-white cover photograph of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and
their daughter Scotty walking through a park in what looks like the end
of wintertime around 1925. Photos of Scott and Zelda are always provocative
to this romantic.
Inside are delicious anecdotes beginning with Moliere and Voltaire,
the Marquis de
Sade, Balzac, Victor Hugo right up through Colette, Gertrude
Stein, Henry Miller, Hemingway, Camus, James Baldwin and many many
more. Stories about
Paris transport me. Then: I bought a very thin and beautifully covered book
called The London Scene: Six Essays on London Life by Virginia
introduction by Francine Prose. The jacket by High Design NYC with art by Mary Adshead, Entrance to Hyde Park 1930 was enough to make me want the book.
six essays are: The Docks of London, Oxford Street Tide, Great Men’s
Houses, Abbeys and Cathedrals, This is the House of Commons,and Portrait
of a Londoner.
Then I picked up The
Young Apollo and Other Stories by Louis
Auchincloss with the cover of a young Victorian looking New York
man that is reminiscent of a John Singer Sargent portrait
although it’s actually “The
Portrait of John Severinus Conway” painted by Robert William
Vonnoh in 1883. It too is a small, thin volume and the jacket
evoked enough curiosity for me to wonder what Mr. Auchincloss would tell
us about the imaginary
Just inside the cover are two pages of the astounding list of Mr. Auchincloss’ output.
Astounding is the only word, considering the quality and allure of Mr.
The young Apollo in this story had a short life and died at 31, leaving
behind a memory of curiosity, the likes of which engages us about many
people we know
but don’t really know.
I have been reading Mr. Auchincloss since (I think) The Rector of Justin, a
novel inspired by the life of Endicott
Peabody who founded the Groton
School in 1884 and whose descendents include the late Marietta
brothers former Massachusetts governor Endicott Peabody and Sam
Peabody living here in Manhattan as well as his daughter Elizabeth
Mr. Auchincloss, is a not-unfamiliar figure to us denizens of the Upper
who can occasionally spot him in restaurants such as Swifty’s and
at the Society Library. He is, for me, one of the few figures of prominence
and celebrity (kind of a limp word for such an industrious and prolific
accomplishment) of whom I remain in constant awe.
|Click cover to order.
|Click cover to order.
More books by their covers in this compulsive binge. I love
coffee table books probably the way collectors love art. I bought Bricks
and Brownstone: the New York Townhouse 1783-1929 by Charles
Lockwood. The history; excellent filling-in with cumulative history
of New York for this reader with surprises
about this world we think we know so well and whence it came.
New York: The Rise and Rise of the Greatest City on Earth, by Bruce
Marshall with Introduction by Christopher Gray, the
man who writes the constantly fascinating pieces on real estate history
every Sunday in the New York
Times. The chapter on the bridges beginning with the Brooklyn Bridge
is enough to
satisfy any cave dweller but there’s much much more to remind us
that we’re living in a place like nowhere else, with citizens who’ve
been astonishing and amazing us with their inventiveness and ingenuity
for not only
decades but centuries.
It took me a lot less time to pick out these books than it has to record
the purchases in this column. Within twenty minutes or so, I was paying
and feeling the way one feels after having an excellent lunch (or dinner),
except for the going home part which may be comparable to having the
most excellent companion to accompany you home. Or maybe the best dessert
had in ages. One that you know will last you even longer than the long
weekend that was bequeathed to us more than a century ago by the industry,
heart and soul of our forebears.