Travel Notes: New York City, January 14-17, 2002
From January's traveling journals, this is the story of how we dealt with
the jetlag of scurrying around on Monday and taking the redeye over that
night, was to poke our noses hither and yon all over the place on Tuesday,
only to collapse chez Greens by 9pm instead of making it to the dance Tuesday
night, and then sleeping in Wednesday morning till nearly 10, though I would
have wished to have been nudged anyhoo o well (Sharon is dear, delightful
and Not-a-Morning-Person). Though we did walk by and see the memorial wall
on the side of St. Vincent's hospital across the street from the church where
the dance is held. Chilling all over again.
What we saw on Tuesday, January : up to the Cloisters by A-Train, humming
the tune as we went. This was one of Lise's favorite haunts as a young teen.
I always thought the tapestry collection or the treasures would wow
me the most, but it was the architecture of the place. The carvings on the
pillars around the central courtyard and by the chapter-house, each one a
different sort of shiela-na-gig; the espaliered trees, the stonework...all
these spoke the most to me. We took a bus back to the Met,
seeing Central Park on the way - there are Rocks! tumbles of Boulders! there
– being from the Midwest prairies and more recently these golden rolling
hills of California, I'm not used to seeing the land's old bones sticking
out. A the Met we nibbled a late lunch and breezed past the Grecian and Roman
statuary, the Egyptian wonders and a few early American meubles to see the
instrument room, and drooled through maybe a quarter of that (lutes, harpsichords
and fiddles oh my) before shutting down the place.
Did you ever read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as
a kid?) It’s about two kids who don't just merely run away from home; they
go and live hiding out in the Metropolitan Museum for a few weeks, uncover
a mystery (is the lovely statue actually a Michelangelo) and the likely source
of the answer (in the donor's files; but they have to find it...) - it's
quite a lovely tale, complete with triumphant homecoming and all. Worth reading
as a grown-up? yes, on a rainy day...
Leaving the Met when they closed at 5pm, but not being quite ready yet to
go collapse, we took care of my chilly ears by getting a wool toque (a simple
$20, not the $75 with matching scarf for another $70 one from the main display)
from a fawncy Madison Avenue haberdasher (oo la la and giggly things) on
our way down to Washington Square Park to see the Bobst Library where Lise
worked for five years and the apartment block where she lived (librarians
are teaching faculty at NYU, and get living quarters in lieu of - supplemental
toward? - living wages, still and all it was a nice place to be for five
years, she says). So – now I know what she means by the quality of the reflected
light from the stone & brick that filled her room of an evening, and
where she went to dream as a teenager. And she gets to have a partner to
share those parts of herself with...
Our friend David is retiring this summer after 20 years as the librarian
at the Union Theological Seminary, and thus the family lives in a townhouse
within the cloister built by Clement Moore (of A Night Before Christmas poesy
fame); entry to the square of these old buildings is now through a nondescript
sixties boring cement-block building through which one passes into a lovely
green courtyard with these marvelous brownstone dormitories and townhouses
and chapel and meeting rooms.
When we were passing Central Park, I asked what was notable about it from
Lise's childhood (they lived on the Upper West Side when she was 8 to 13), she thought for a moment and said it was learning to ride bicycles. And then there was the priceless jaw-dropping look on her face as she remembered this with a whole new appreciation for her mother who safely got them to and from the park along city streets, wobbly-wheels and all, with the generosity of spirit to let the kids go in front; whether that was to keep a careful eye on her, or as Lise opines to keep her kid-self from seeing that motherly
Concern, we'll smile and leave as a resting question... We
re-told the story to her mother Madeline two days later when we made it down
to Maryland to visit her; mom dismissed any difficulty in the matter with
a wave, but we remain impressed with the work and heart she brought to raising four kids (the next three were boys) on her own for long periods of time when Tom Dyckman
worked out of the country for months at a time as a city planner.
Did I mention I adore Madeline Dyckman? She is her daughter's mother, as
my family would say, summing up so much in that understated and greatly lovingway of ours...