after the steak tartar

I was on the way home from from Tout Va Bien, the restaurant that used to be my haunt back before taxis had moon roofs. Or those damn TVs. I had lunch with Ed, who was my most frequent lunch companion back in the day when we'd walk over from the Time-Life Building.
  It is no longer the Time-Life Building, nor is there a Time-Life. That was a LifeTime ago, and people are dying off. Memorial services up the wazoo. Upcoming one for Bobbi Baker Burrows, the photo editor who refused to leave her office when she was fired (I forget by whom) and was subsequently rehired. An amazing feat. I am still in awe. I think maybe Bobbi was Time-Life.
   Anyway Ed was laid off, and I retired, but there we still were at Tout Va Bien 17 years later, still talking about the Russians, the CIA, China, corruption and people we both knew. And eating off the same damn menu.


kitchen diaries

I know most of you don't think I ever leave my kitchen (and, indeed, it's one of my favorite spots in the world and I have quite a bit of work right now and so am not leaving very much), but I do get out now and again. Rather a lot this week, in fact.
   On another note, I have not written about it, but a family friend, just 20 years old, was savagely killed by her boyfriend the week before last. I am mentioning it now, because donations are being made in Olivia's memory to the Equine Rescue Network. Here is an article about Olivia, and I urge you to contribute if you love people and horses. A reminder: domestic abuse is on ongoing danger, as Donna Ferrato writes in Time, and often a contributing factor to shootings like the one in Florida.
   A friend of mine from Life magazine days, David Cobb Craig, has been taking outrageous pictures of outrageous buildings (mostly midcentury modern type) for quite some while. Here is the back story.


happy bday fanny!

It was Fanny's birthday and so, for the Third Time in a week I trekked downtown. 
It was worth it for the people and Marianne's food and the fun. And the cake, of course. Lemon for Philip, Fanny's photographer father, whose birthday it also is (though sadly he wasn't there to enjoy the cake), and strawberry shortcake for Fanny. And all of it for son Ryan and husband Alaa.
But the photographer who gave birth to her in a bathtub at home was there and in fine form.


ready for lent

Donna Ferrato presides as Fanny and Marianne chill.

Keri Pickett leads the way.
 What a week! Mardis Gras, Valentine's Day (and brother Ben's birthday), Katie's birthday, Chinese New Year, Fanny's birthday—the festivities go on and on. Marianne made Mardi Gras dinner (omg, the carrot soup!) at Donna's. Donna made purple gin cocktails. Keri and I drank them and went home to party til 2 ayem. The next day, VD, four of us went to Women's Day (Wednesdays, 10-2) at the old Lower East Side baths. I only wish  could have taken pictures there! Mud-covered people, fat people, skinny people, hipsters and oldsters of every color and nationality. Oak branch whips, steam rooms, saunas, aromatherapy, massage, salt scrubs, coffee scrubs and the coldest fucking heart-attack-city plunge pool I have ever experienced.
Valentine vendors decorate the streets.


my valentine

Twenty-some years ago today, I wrote this op ed piece for the Times about a Valentine's eve murder. The city was different then—scarier. It seems like Keri, my friend who found the dying man, is usually here in New York at this time. In fact, she's sitting in the kitchen right now.  I would tell her/my story differently now. But here it is as it was then.

 The white breast of snow was splotched with blood, and my daughter had to step around iced red pools on the concrete as she walked, alone, to the school bus.
   The evening before, Keri arrived, breathless, at the door of our New York City apartment. On the street outside she had seen a man who had just been attacked. Police were taking descriptions of a white male in a black baseball cap who had run away. The man who had been hurt lay there in a pool of blood. "I should have comforted him," Keri said. "The police were so cold. I should have knelt in the snow and just patted him or something."
   My daughter ran over to the window and looked down to the street she walked every day. The blue lights circled, the ambulances waited. "He's gone," she heard someone say. She turned to me. "I think he's dead," she said. "This is my street. I thought it was safe here."
   "Nowhere is really safe," I said.
    This was a year ago, when Hannah was 12, the year she was beginning to realize that her parents were not all powerful, that we could not protect her from all harm. From stories about people with grave illnesses in the copies of the Reader's Digest she brought home from school she was learning that not all stories end happily, that people die no matter how much they are loved, indeed, sometimes because of how much they are loved.
   She did not remember the incident when she woke up the next morning, nor did I, or perhaps I would not have let her walk by that place alone. Her fears were all for the Valentine's Day dance that evening. "You don't have to go," I said. "You are only twelve." Her fears were about sex, not death; both are part of growing up.
   But I would have spared her the blood.
   The man had lived in our building; I had stood on the elevator with him many times. On Valentine's Day his door five floors below ours was sealed with white police tape. He lay in a white hospital bed in a coma, dying.
   Later that day my daughter called me from school. She had decided, after all, to attend the dance. Perhaps her "boyfriend" had come through with an invitation for the first dance, or perhaps her girlfriends, whom I could hear in the background, had talked her into it.
   "Did you see the blood on the snow?" I asked.
   "It was horrible," she said. "I almost threw up. The elevator man told me the man was dead. I called Dad to tell him I was going to the dance after all, but Dad wasn't home."
   "Do you know where he was?" I asked. "He was here, at the office, delivering a valentine to me."
   "Oooh," she said. "What was it?"
   "Candies. In a heart-shaped box. Red velvet."
   "Hey, everybody." I could hear her tell her school friends. "My dad went to the office to give my mom a valentine. Isn't that cool?"
   Hearts. Blood. Love. Death. Splotches on a snowbank.
   It was dark by the time she walked home again, after the dance, her father by her side. Too dark to see the salt soaking up the red to a fainter pink. A sketch of a man's face was taped to the door outside the elevator. The suspect glared menacingly under the words "Wanted for Murder."
   A year has passed. My daughter is 13, and tall. She takes two city buses to get to school. The last snowfall is melting and gray. There hasn't been much snow in New York this year, not like last year or when I was young. The murderer hasn't been caught, despite the fact that a detective from the 20th Precinct papered the area with posters asking for information.
   Neighbors speculated that the killing was a hit -- it had been too efficient, and the victim hadn't been robbed. It made all of us feel safer, to think that it was a personal matter, that the murderer wasn't lurking on the street. But I still don't like to think of the white male, 19-24 years, 5 feet 10 inches, 175 pounds, riding the bus with my daughter.
   She remembers the murder when she walks down the street alone at night. But these days she is thinking more about love than death, though sex and drugs are on the short list as well. There was a seventh grade dance last night, "the Decade Dance," and her only concern was whether her make-up really looked like it was from the 60's. "My friends say I look too 90's," she said. In the year 2000, she will graduate from high school.
   Childhood ends. No place is really safe. But we gird up and go out. We dance and dare to hope for days at a stretch that we, at least, are protected from terrible messages in the cold white snow.


here comes the sun

I was all ready for Key West—packed even—but the dibs weren't in tune.
 About this time of year my skin starts pining for the sun. My first thought was to go to Key West,  but that wasn't happening, so I made for the Rayz sun tan salon in Woonsocket, RI.
   Yes, I have heard that tanning is harmful for you but so is going insane from itching.
    I am not sure what business they are really in at this place. I only go there once or twice a year  but the guy knows me by name. I have never ever seen another human there, and it's hard to figure out a business model that allows for all those empty booths.
     So I got my tanning fix and came on home. And, behold, at 5ish yesterday afternoon, a strip of sunlight I have never seen before appeared and shone directly through the living room window and into the kitchen. Must be 98Henge. I will see if it ever does it again. Oh, and happy Fat Tuesday! That means spring is only, uh, like, a lifetime away.
An emporium that takes its tanning seriously. I think.


quick trip

The Empire State Building appeared out of the fog as we entered the Lincoln Tunnel.
 I figured since I didn't go to Key West, I would go to Hoboken. (Surely the next best thing!) I had received the following from old LIFE pal Tommy V, a musician who puts together a pickup band on the second Sunday of every month:

Just in case it slipped your mind, this Sunday is the Second Sunday in February.
Which means of course that we’ll be getting together at the Turtle Club and making far too much noise for people of our ages and social positions.This will be the beginning of our second year and as much as I’d like to say “Oh gosh, where did the time go?” or “Boy, that year just flew by!” in actual fact the slow-motion agony of watching a big, fat child smashing everything he can get his chubby little hands on has seemed like a tortuous eternity. So let the Turtle Sessions act as a noisy Sunday night distraction.

And I did. A half dozen clams and a sterling outing by Gene the Plumber's daughter and a Spyro Gyra guitarist, not to mention the  best interstitial patter by TV and—bingo!

Tommy V and Jennifer after another successful evening. He had to break down the equipment.


ain't it grand!

 Christopher Herndon Dowling is a set carpenter and sculptor who lives and works (as you might be able to detect by looking at his work) in Santa Fe. It's kind of a family business—his wife is a muralist and their son is an artist. Full disclosure: He is also my brother.
  He clearly likes the combo of wood and metal, and is 
currently working on the clothespins above. Don't be deceived by scale, they are probably six feet long. In fact most of his work is on a grand scale. Graying clothespins on Block Island?


back in the city

After a lovely sojourn in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, I am back home in the ever-taller island of Manhattan. She rises. 


ccopacatty day

Peruko takes command as his sculptures are installed and praised.

You could hear the drums in downtown Providence, pounding. Then you could see the arching figures, the patient llamas, in Kennedy Plaza. Sculptor Peruko Ccopacatty had proposed the installation two decades ago, and finally a public arts organization had arranged the exhibition with the city. Peruko, a longtime friend, is an Aymara Indian from Peru who has lived in Rhode Island for 30-some years. The state has already declared a Ccopacatty Day in his honor. Peruko's son Aymar, a noted artist himself, grew up with my daughter, Hannah, on Block Island. So this occasion was a family affair. Aymar was there, with his wife and son. My brother- and sister-in-law were there. Oh, and the mayor and art-world notables. Peruko and his wife Rosalie have basically traded countries. She lives in Peru and runs a writer's retreat on the shore (apply here), while Peruko works in an old schoolhouse in Kingston, R.I. He will be headed south to Peru for  few months presently. In a speech at the ribbon cutting, Aymar said, "I am so proud of my father." So are we all.
Aymar (left) asked Hannah to live stream the proceedings to Peru.


first school bus

Camilla was excited about moving, because she'd be able to take the school bus. 

And the whole family saw her off. There was only one other kid on the bus. 



Now visiting the President of the Garden Club to try to get out from underfoot in Provodence. So far the effort to purchase cheap tickets to Key West is a fail. So likely my itinerary will be Holliston-Providence-New York in the coming days.