Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A&P Heir and Me—and Many Others

The "good grey" New York Times almost always has something to spark one's imagination or memory—in addition to the important news of the day, of course. In yesterday's edition there was an obituary of the A&P heir Huntington Hartford, who managed to squander the family millions most efficiently while probably having a lot of fun doing so:

The obit reminded me of an experience, evidently common among my young female contemporaries, in my college days. HH had built his hideous Gallery of Modern Art,  one of Edward Durrell Stone's more unfortunate creations, on the south rim of Columbus Circle. The art in there was pretty bad, since HH, as you can read in the Times piece, eschewed any of the then currently respected trends. I paid a visit to the windowless gallery one day and was accosted by an older, well-dressed man who asked me how I liked the pictures. I don't remember my reply, but he then confessed that he was the owner of the gallery and tried to pick me up. I managed to scoot away and later had an amusing anecdote to tell my girlfriends: "Huntington Hartford tried to pick me up! Ha ha!" Sometime later, my mother informed me that a friend of hers had actually bragged (the woman was a rather naïve provincial) that HH had tried to pick her daughter up in his gallery. My mother, highly amused and slightly more worldly, said, "My daughter, too!" Apparently every reasonably attractive young woman of the era was fair game. Perhaps HH had even built the gallery to attract new feminine possibilities. Certainly a classier joint than a pickup bar at any rate, windows or no.

Epilogue: In September 2008, after a reported $90 million renovation, the building is scheduled to reopen as The Museum of Arts & Design. I think it's supposed to have windows this time.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

PDA in the NYT

The clever theme of today's New York Times crossword puzzle was "PDA," which appeared in the middle of the grid. The two PDAs in question were "public display of affection" and "personal digital (or data, which didn't fit) assistant." I'm definitely not a fan of the former, but love anything to do with the latter, being a technophile. (I always say that my life didn't really begin until I went online.) 

Well, despite my aversion to this rather icky type of display, I remember that I was, admittedly, quite enchanted by same on my first visit to Paris, many years ago and counting. Weaned on various nouvelle vague films featuring Jeanne Moreau and/or the late Gérard (sigh) Philipe, but coming from the basically puritanical U.S., I was thrilled by my various glimpses of couples embracing and locking lips on virtually every street corner or under every tree in the various parcs. It was indeed "just like the movies." My romantic phase could last only just so long, however. What looked—or maybe even still looks—great in Paris or Rome just doesn't cut it here in NYC, especially if you're doing it while sitting in front of me at the theater. Like many another bodily function, it just doesn't translate into public behavior. I'm allowing for the greeting of a loved one at an airport or similar situation, but keep it short or get a room! 

A couple of people who post on "Rex Parker's" delightful NYT crossword blog seem to agree with me. It's like a lot of other behavior that pays no attention to the sensibilities of others, e.g., not cleaning up your dog's poop or discarding rubbish in the street instead of in a bin. In the subway the other evening, a person (who looked out of it anyway) threw rubbish on the train tracks even though he was sitting right next to a rubbish bin. Well, if you want to live in the Big City, you have to put up with a certain amount of unattractive—or even illegal—behavior, but I do draw the line at PDA.

As far as Paris is concerned, it does have its reputation to live up to. I'm reminded of a scene in Cyrano de Bergerac in the Brian Hooker translation. Cyrano is trying to detain the Comte de Guiche from entering Roxane's house while she and Christian are being married. Cyrano claims to have recently fallen from the moon and not to know where he is. The Comte, after many attempts to get past Cyrano, blurts out: "A lady is waiting!" Cyrano replies: "Ah! So this is Paris!"