1) I didn’t sleep particularly well after my last dinner aboard the Queen Mary II. Not because of the food (exceptional - although the wine disagreed with me that night), but because the next day was a travel day - debarkation, and transfer to a Manhattan hotel. Besides which, I didn’t want to miss the moment when the ship sailed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge! So about 4:15ish I just GOT OUT OF BED, struggled into some clothes, and went up to the top deck.
1a) It will not surprise you to learn that I was one of the first passengers there, if not the first.
2) The line of green navigational buoys fascinated me, as well as the lights gathering on the shores around us, and the dim necklace of the bridge coming inexorably closer. As more and more passengers arrived, I confess I got more and more excited about the events to come.
2a) And when the moment finally DID come, when the antennae-thingies on top of that thing that isnt a funnel actually cleared the bridge, applause broke out!
3) Next, sailing within view of the Statue of Liberty, which I found deeply moving. The phrase “I lift my lamp beside the golden door” was all I could think of from that famous poem, but for me that was somehow the most important part - especially considering the Current State of Things.
4) Packing done, breakfast in the dining room, finally leaving my cabin with my bags of anvils, waiting in the Grand Lobby to debark. Conversing with an elderly Englishwoman who remembered traveling on the liners in the Old Days.
5) I’d signed up for self-debarkation, indicating that I was both able-bodied AND able to carry ALL my baggage. They made it really clear that NO porters would be available to assist. So dragging my anvils behind me, I exited the ship, negotiated Customs (really just a lot of waiting in line), and then found Hilary from High School waiting for me outside.
6) We negotiated getting a cab (Hilary took a bit of flak from a limo driver, but we were only interested in the Lowest Priced Spread) and spent the trip in reviewing the week that was, talking about the city and high school friends, and talking with the cabbie.
7) At my hotel, we had breakfast in a bordello banquette upholstered in ice-pink crushed velvet, and then we parted - Hilary to meet friends, me to get settled and figure out What the Hell I’m Going to Do With My Life.
8) Really, I was mostly comatose on Sunday, but rejoicing that I had reliable internet access again. I dined at a nearby pub, but otherwise barely left the hotel.
9) Monday, after a late-for-me start I went over to the Met to see the Camp exhibition. For a change I actually walked in the correct direction after leave the 77th Street station!
9a) The exhibition, which is fabulous, was punctuated by a mysterious text about lunch. Turns out it was from a volunteer from ye Instytytte who had tracked me down! And we had a very swish luncheon in the trustee’s dining room (or whatever it’s called) and great conversation over shrimp risotto.
9b) The three “gasp OH MY GOD” moments at the Met were a) one of Carmen Miranda’s headdresses in the Camp exhibition, Thomas Hart Benton’s “Life in America” mural (or whatever its proper name is), and, after lunch, three cases of Fabergé from the Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation! This is important because Matilda was a Lake Charles Girl and her relative Opal Gray was a dear friend of my Granny Dimmick.
10) Monday evening it was off to my beloved Café Luxembourg for dinner with two friends. Since this was something of an Occasion I struggled into full canonicals: seersucker suit, new shirt with French cuffs, and my white bucks (no longer so painful). As Jane the maid said in The Women, “[They had] a very gay dinner party!”
11) Tuesday I checked out of my hotel, stashed my bags with the bellman, and headed off first on an abortive exploration of the Garment District for White Party ideas, and then a visit to the New-York Historical Society to view their Pride exhibition (fabulous, unsurprisingly). What an impressive museum! And my two “gasp OH MY GOD” moments there were a) Cole Porter’s piano from the Waldorf-Astoria, and b) Thomas Cole’s series of five paintings The Course of Empire. WOW! I have always loved Thomas Cole since I first saw The Stages of Man (or whatever it’s called) at the National Gallery in 1980, and this series was very important to see right now.
11b) Overall, NYHS is worth your time. I was very impressed with everything but the shop.
12) Then it was back to the Luxembourg for luncheon. The waiter from the previous night came over to thank me for coming back! I lunched with an artist whose painting I bought in Provincetown last month, and I must say, good stories (his) and good French food (and three aperol spritzes) made two hours pass quickly.
12a) The Paris-Brest dessert is a must. It sent me to heaven.
13) By this time it was late afternoon, and I boarded the subway at 72nd Street to head up to Harlem to a friend’s from the Pastel Prison days. In the evening we went out to dine at a lovely nearby farm-to-table restaurant with fabulous service. I was shown a but of Obscure Harlem after dinner, including - and here is another “gasp OH MY GOD” moment - Straus Park, the home of the memorial fountain to Ida and Isidor Straus, who drowned together when the Titanic sank! Originally this monument, paid for by employees of Macy’s, was outside the Memorial Entrance of the NYC flagship store; I looked for it there years ago and couldn’t find it. I was overjoyed to find it in Harlem, which was ( think) near where their NYC home was.
14) Wednesday morning I headed to Bryant Park for coffee dates, first with an old high school friend, and then with a new high school friend which extended into lunch. Both these visits were so grounding for me, beautiful opportunities to catch up and think about my New Life, which really begins tomorrow.
15) The rest of the afternoon I spent in the ClubAcela Room at Penn Station, hot and sweaty.
16) As I write this, I’m on the train home (indulging in first class) with a near bottomless gin-and-tonic, excitement at getting to sleep in my own bed for the first time in three weeks, and deep gratitude for everyone who made this unusually long vacation extra special: Paul and Christian in Kenilworth (of which more later), Hilary on board the ship, Travis in New York, and all the friends I got to spend time with: Karen, Jonathan and William, Kurt, Anthony, and Austin.
17) Tomorrow, my new life really begins! Holy merde, what am I gonna do?!