|Portrait of the blogger as a young monarch...|
So our little jaunt to New York was a great success.
The cousin's birthday party was highly festive, either in part due to or despite the venue, a very tony downtown studio space formerly occupied by a Very Famous Name in all things High Modern design. As such, it was off-puttingly pristine and featured, as I've found so much such design to do, not a single chair of anything but the most rigorous discomfort. The cousin goes in for that sort of thing, which has long been fine by me, as it just means that much Victorian and Edwardian family tat staying firmly in our branch of the family. In any case, it was all great fun, not least because the last time I saw most of the people there was 15 or so years ago, and one has a certain secret pride that, at least compared to some people, one is aging rather well.
We stayed at a rather sweet old hotel on the Upper East Side, a place I've long liked that now has a special place in my affections as it is wholeheartedly pet-friendly and has remained remarkably reasonable, something not normally associated with New York hostelries that are also clean, safe, and pleasantly decorated..
Because Mr. Muscato is fasting, and therefore sleeping in as much as possible to minimize the long, long days, I slipped away on Saturday morning and had an adventure. I walked down to the Metropolitan Museum and spent a couple of hours wandering, realizing as I did that it was probably also 15 years since I was last there on my own and therefore free to go and see whatever I chose. When going with others, especially someone who's never been there before, there's an obligation to rush around checking out the Greatest Hits; a solo visit has the luxury of allowing one to be far more idiosyncratic.
I checked out and quickly dismissed the current Costume Institute offering, the loud and shiny but fairly one-note Punk show (a strange mix of some actual vintage Westwood/McLaren originals and a great many unattractive couture offerings of recent seasons). Then it was straight to the Wrightsman period rooms, which have been tarted up some since last I was there and are now formidably dimly lit. I suppose it saves the textiles, but it gives the rooms a twilit, Miss Havisham-y air most unlike the robust cheerfulness I associate with eighteenth-century French decor.
I was startled to come upon the portrait above, a regally tot-like Louis XV, by Rigaud. It's a lovely bravura painting - and it looks pretty much entirely like little old me at just that age, if I were wearing more or less the hair I have now (mine's just a tad shorter, and a great deal grayer). It's a surprising combo to encounter when you just happen across it on a Saturday morning. I'm half tempted to update my avatar, although I think perhaps something a little less youthful would be less likely to invite accusations of deceitful advertising...
I was also pleased to see what might be my favorite single object at the Met (the competition: Picasso's Gertrude Stein; the Vermeers), the stunning fragmentary yellow jasper head of a queen of Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty. While her identity can never really be definitely known, I'm with the Egyptologists who believe she is Tiye, the wife of Amenhotep III and, among many other things, the mother-in-law of Nefertiti. I'm always amazed by the vast numbers of people who lope by her, rushing to see the squat, unimposing Temple of Dendur instead of standing and, as I do, quietly contemplating one of the great works of ancient sculpture. Why doesn't everyone have exactly my taste? Most provoking.
But the real joy of an unaccompanied ramble around a maze like the Met is the chance to happen upon new and unexpected treasures. I was enraptured, for example, by this little bibelot - by the expression of sheer adoration on the tiny china face of this tiny Chinese gentleman, and by the cool and quizzical way in which the bird that is the unlikely object of his affection returns his gaze. They make an odd couple, but who knows? Maybe they'll make a go of it.
All in all, it was a lovely morning.
Other highlights of the too-short trip:
- breakfast on my own on Saturday in a real old-fashioned East Side diner, one still run by the doughty Greek family that started it and still patronized almost entirely by regulars who slide into the slightly tatty booths and are immediately served The Regular;
- brunch today with my dear sister and her friends, The Elegant Lesbians, at a very crunchy little spot in Chelsea (and just why does every place of any pretension these days want to tell you exactly what farm the food you are ordering came from? Am I supposed to care that I'm about to have Heritage Acres Plantation sausage? I'm mystified). It's always a surprise just how fabulous Manhattan people watching is, wherever you go;
- and yet more people to watch in Central Park, where we took the two dogs, who were in seventh heaven - so many people, so many dogs, so much to smell and then pee just a little on. They turn out, to no one's surprise, to be born Manhattanites;
- And finally, a genuine celebrity spotting. We were in a tasteful little boite of a kind appreciated by your more urbane sort of confirmed bachelor, and whom did we spy, out and about on the town on a Saturday night? Why, none other than that darling of the columns, TJB! It was just a tad crowded, and sister was just a shade tired, and so we slipped away without my effecting an introduction, which in retrospect seems too bad. Perhaps I was too acutely aware, as I have been of late, that what makes for adequate clothes for going out in the Sandlands look dowdy in the extreme back home, or perhaps it was just that at the moment, there was a particularly lamentable karaoke rendition of "Georgie Girl" being shrieked in the background, but there you are - an opportunity lost. Alas!
In any case, we have returned after a very pleasant drive south to our own little flat this evening and are settling in to await this week's developments. They look to be less consequential than last week's, but tomorrow we get television and, with luck, word of when the mountain of things that have been in long-term storage will appear...