So the air being much less bitter than yesterday, I decided to be the same. It was a walking day, and walking is one of the finest things New York has to offer, there being hardly a block you can go by without discovering something interesting or evocative, provided you can lift your face against a less than Arctic wind. I began my walk at Columbus Circle, finally finished, with a statue saluting Christopher, adding all the scorn and danger he had to face to discover this country, and how belittled he was in spite of giving the world a new world. They have put benches in an arrangement I would know how to describe exactly had I been more attentive during Geometry, with greater gifts for that terrible subject than I possessed. But they are not quite semi-circles, and very welcoming i would imagine when the weather gets better and people want to rest halfway across the street, before tackling the multi-placed white-lined alleged pedestrian crossings to the Time-Warner building which I worry about as it is a new, tall, sparklingly capitalistic target, but no matter. I stopped in to FACE, a dazzling make-up boutique inside the splendiferous mall, to buy Annie Navasky, Victor's wife, some lip gloss called Gracious,since she is, but they were all out of it. Oh well.
Then I started up Central Park West, passed the Century, a building where lived Dorothy Loudon, a greatly talented musical comedy performer who was kind of shelved by the show business crowd when Ballroom failed to be the success it might have been if lofted to the level of her gifts. She told me once that she thought maybe there was something wrong with her answering machine, that there were never any messages on it. I understand the feeling. As writ in these-- what are they? Not exactly pages-- Jules Feiffer said to me "Do your work and your community will find you." Annie Navasky said "He forgot to add:'if you're wildly successful.'" I mentioned once to a friend when passing that building that Dorothy was lonely, and my friend said "Not anymore.". Oh well.
Then I passed Ethical Culture, with its planned sermon for Sunday:' Embracing the Infidel.' Sure.
There were TV cameras and trucks on 72nd Street, helicopters hovering, a line of people gathered outside the Dakota, and I realized that today is the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's being killed. I knew John Lennon for a brief moment, when he was separated from Yoko, hanging out for that evening at the weekend pool-table party of Jack Haley, Jr. He was visibly depressed and drinking heavily, and I thought to ease his anguish by telling him how wonderful he was, how important he was to so many people, how great were his gifts. He finally rose from beneath my barrage of attempted uplift, and said "Gwen... if you really love me, you'll stop talking."
I remember on this day all those years ago, I was on the phone early in the morning with Bethie, a friend from Bryn Mawr, when she told me John had just been shot. Somehow these things are softened when you hear them relayed by someone kind. But it remains to this day very shocking, stupid and pointless. I met the psychologist for the prison where Mark David Chapman was incarcerated, and he told me Chapman got love letters from many women, married one of them, and would get all buffed up when she was coming to visit, but when she left visibly deflated, down to the bone. You wonder sometimes if you believe in a benign universe, which I try to, why it is the murderers who are left alive.
Then I arrived at my true destination, The Museum of Natural History, on the inner walls of which are written many fine things said by Teddy Roosevelt, who rides a metal horse in front of the museum. Character, he said, is what ultimately determines the fate of a nation as well as a person. It would be good if they could lasso the entire congress and walk them by those messages, including the ones Teddy, the great conservationist, gave about our owing future generations. I went upstairs to the dinosaur floor and bought a backpack with scales on it for Lukas, who is six now, and a dinosaur book for Silas, who is two, and can say 'Hello' and 'Goodbye'in exactly that same basso profoundo that his father had at hismost adorable. My wonderful friend Bill McGivern, a mystery writer, long gone,once said he wanted to invent something called 'Staybaby'that you sprayed on them at the perfect time.
Then I told a little boy who was crying that everything would be all right, that he would find the world a very nice place and there was nothing to cry about. He was so stunned that he stopped immediately, and his mother suggested I begin a service,to which she would subscribe.
I took the subway then, that I need to be in a courageous mood to do, but having been counseled by Teddy that that was an aspect of my humanity that I would do well to cultivate, I had it. Went to Lee's Art Store on 57th St and bought some silver spray paint, took it out on my little iron balcony and sprayed all my Thanksgiving leaves that no one had seen and made them Christmas to which you are all invited. Also inadvertently spray-painted my boots. Silver Boots. Silver Boots. It's Christmas time in the city. Well, it almost makes it.