When I was in my early twenties one of my best friends from high school, in fact the girl I took to my senior prom, was studying at Columbia University in New York City's upper west side. She was living in a student apartment with several others. Each had their own bedroom, there was also a shared kitchen, common room and bath. I would be sleeping on an air mattress on the floor in her bedroom. She picked me up at JFK airport, city map in hand and gave me a briefing as we rode the bus into the city.Her boyfriend at the time was unemployed and living with his parents in Greenwich, Connecticut. He came into the city to be my guide for a portion of the week I was there.
Our first stop was the area around her apartment, taking in the west side of Central Park. Her boyfriend and I later rode the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty, viewing the city's skyline from the observation windows in her crown. We went shopping at Macy's. We wandered through the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum. I found myself awed by the Egyptian Temple, sitting in it's glass walled space with it's view of the park and overwhelmed by the other vast and priceless collections housed there. During days on my own I walked from downtown back to the upper west side. Past the rows of mansions off of 5th Avenue and crossing the green urban oasis of Central Park. I wandered through the theatre district, seeing for the first time the performing arts venues that I had read about for years in theatre books and the arts section of the New York Times. I attended an evening performance at Circle in the Square and went to a matinee performance of a one man show.
The tiny crowd at the performance that afternoon included the actress Geraldine Page. She was dressed in a denim skirt and vest, both badly in need of cleaning. Her filthy hair was twisted and held atop her hair by two large bobby pins. She played with a long tie dyed scarf as I approached her and told her how much I enjoyed her performance in "Interiors". "Why thank you," she replied, pulling the scarf through her hand behaving and appearing as crazy as a loon.
I visited the Frick, which is more about the space than the art displayed there. Picasso's "Guernica", long housed at New York's Museum of Modern Art, was being sent to Spain, per Picasso's will, after the death of Franco. A massive retrospective of his work was exhibited as a farewell to the famous and controversial piece. The exhibition had closed, unfortunately. The museum was also closed because of the work involved in dismantling the show. As I paid a second visit that trip to the Metropolitan I discovered, in the far corner of an upper floor, the temporary home of the Museum of Modern Arts European collection. It was the first of three times I have been able to view Van Gogh's "A Starry Night". I was transfixed as I could almost feel the emotions of the tortured artist flow out from the remarkable painting. Each of the times I have seen it it has left me slightly stunned.
For my birthday my friend and a friend of hers took me to "New York New York", one of the clubs of the moment at the time. It would not have been my first choice of where to go but I was given little say in the matter. Her friend allegedly knew where the action was. It being midweek and arriving fairly early the club was virtually deserted. We did not stay long.
I saw great art and experienced places for the first time that I had only previously read about. However, several years later, when choosing where I would move upon leaving San Francisco, this trip convinced me to strike New York from the list.