On the first day, I was walking the High Line above New York City’s Chelsea district. It was a perfect time to be alive, with soft breezes and a veiled summer sun, a perfect day for walking this narrow mile-long public park built on an historic elevated freight rail line. At about 14th Street, approaching the Gansevoort Street exit, people were spread out eating lunch, eating from those ubiquitous clam shell containers that the better class of fast food comes in—stuff in wraps or spread across thick slices of homemade French bread. The shovels and cranes working on the new Whitney Museum, the trucks making their deliveries in the meat packing neighborhoods below, all the never-ending traffic of Manhattan roared below like a threatening sea, but lifted up like some flowered island in the sky, the High Line seemed quiet and protected. A garden with rails. Changes your perspective on the city.
That’s when I saw them: two elegant young women on a lunch date, their wine glasses raised in a toast, their striped umbrella turning gently in the breeze, a whole lobster on each of their plates staring up at them.
New York is always filled with surprises.
At the LGBT Community Center my friend Steven Dansky read from the sad broodings of young gay writers trying to find their place in the old Times Square. Hot, horny, desperate, very afraid. And the riot that everyone had forgotten, that began there and ended in the Village where the women at the House of Detention threw down lighted toilet paper to the demonstrators below.
At the Metropolitan Museum, two larger-than-life fashion designers, Elsa Schiparelli and Miucca Prada, who missed each other’s eras in real life, conducted “an impossible conversation” in a bar. Walking through the conversation, we were surrounded by skirts and hats and shoes. She’d worked with Salvador Dali, Schiparellli said, and would have liked to be a sculptor. “I’ve never wanted to be an artist,” said Prada. “I never wanted to be called an artist.” Implying that she was at least that, and a good deal more.
Everywhere, young people were running. More nannies than I’ve ever seen anywhere herded their broods of small and adorable white children from one park to another, or sat chatting, watching the youngsters dance in fountains or build sand castles and roads leading nowhere. Dog walkers leaned back, holding onto taut leashes that just managed to hold their lunging beasts. In an east side gallery, Picasso and his lover, Francoise Gilot, shared the walls with work dating from 1943-53. He painted her; she painted mostly their two children, Claude and Paloma, playing in Cubist style. I never knew Cubism could lend itself to pictures of play, but in her hands, it did: they romped, twisted and turned, leapt, fell in a heap….
Downtown, thousands of Americans and who-knows-who-else lined up for blocks in the hot, humid day, waiting to see the 9/11 site. With no reservation, I gave up and walked over to Trinity Church and sat in its graveyard by the stone of a 24 year-old woman named Ann who assured the world in the 1700s that she had been impatient for eternal life. I’m not sure I believed her.
When the rain finally came on Thursday, breaking into the warm wet air across from the Frick and next to Central Park, the thunder and lightning trumpeted a warning but no one rushed for shelter. No one ran until the deluge and then not with much resolve. This was New York, after all, and so much else was going on.