Sunday, July 05, 2009

Gwennie's Most Excellent 4th of July Adventure

Those of you who have known me for some years know also of my (as yet) unproduced musical comedy, about a woman, down on her luck in New York, who crashes parties, looking for love and free hors d’oeuvres. I named my heroine Sylvia, and yesterday, in an effort to pull myself from my summer torpor, I Sylviaed, going in for the second act of Mary Stuart, which I had seen the first act of when my darling Fiona was here from Belfast, and I had been too sick to tough out the entire play, which renewed my admiration for Shakespeare, who really knew how to lay down what was going to unravel later at the same time always moving the action along, something that cannot be said for Herr Schiller. Anyway, I brazened it out(“Your ticket?” “My husband has it,”) and was glad I had gone, enjoying the play not more than one act at a time, bumping into a friend and his friend, livening up the afternoon with frozen margaritas. On the way home I fell into conversation with a young couple who had just come from HAIR, she an artist, he an actor, which brightened up a day I had thought would go uncelebrated, even though it was the Fourth of July, something we had always made festive when Don was here, the nation had a prominent place in our hearts, and the children were still adorable.
I had had an e-mail from a new youngish friend asking me if I would watch fireworks, and had sent a peevish reply that that was something I didn’t do anymore. But lo, as I walked on Central Park South about to enter my building I saw a young woman, very sweet and pretty, wearing a black T=shirt and four long strands of South Sea seed pearls that I had noted that morning, falling gracefully as they did across her bosom, and greeted her, remarking that I had seen her before. She seemed a little flustered, and it turned out that she was from Brazil, an au pair whose brother and mother had flown in from San Paolo for the week; they had locked themselves out of the apartment where they were staying. She introduced me to her mother, whose name was Silvia. Naturally I didn’t need any more reason to come to their aid.
I got a locksmith’s # from our security guard, called and was assured the locksmith was on his way, and we went to meet him at the building of their absentee host, a student of Silvia’s--she teaches Ayengar(sp?) yoga in Brazil. Portuguese is the one language I would yet love to learn, so my good Samaritaning was not without a degree of self-interest. We went to the building, a toney brownstone on East 62nd Street, just a few doors from the Park Avenue synagogue and even more importantly in this alleged culture where celebrity means more to us than God, Joan Rivers. I rang all the bells, and a kind art dealer, a Dane,-- I don’t think there was anyone in New York yesterday from New York(they were all probably in the Hamptons) let us into the building, since he had seen them there before. The locksmith arrived, an Israeli, and I asked if he had gotten his training in Israel but he said, no, here, something that was soon substantiated by the fact that didn’t know what he was doing, pulling what looked like a wide palate knife from his sack and trying to jimmy the door. Silvia, concerned that he would damage it, said that they would go instead to a hostel, where they could stay till getting hold of the maid, due back on Monday.
But it was the Glorious Fourth, and she’d told me her story—like my heroine she was a widow—there’d been a gas leak from the heater in their bathroom when Laisa was seven and Miguel was one, and her husband had been asphyxiated, and it was only recently she’d been able to speak about it, the pain of loss had been so shocking and intense. So we went back to my place, I checked the computer, and found that the fireworks were going to take place on the Hudson River near 57th St. at 9:26(nothing will be left to the world as unfathomable mystery with the Internet, and I suppose that’s a good thing) took a taxi to 12th Avenue and 57th—barricaded, thousands of people and a lot of nervous police(I didn’t think until later that more than crowd control they might be concerned about terrorists) who advised us to go further uptown where there might be a view. We took another taxi to 66th and the river and got there just in time.
My friend who had e-mailed me, Megan, said that nothing could touch Redentore, the fireworks in Venice, but this certainly came close. The exact number of pops and bangs and lights and trickles can probably be found on Google(Macy’s Fireworks, July 4th, 2009) and twas truly a sight to see. Missing was the music(that was further downriver) but I heard in my head The Stars and Stripes Forever, and was tempted to sing it aloud as the crowd oohed and aahed, but contained myself, having broken out in several directions already that day. Afterwards I took them to dinner at Ollie’s, a Chinese noodle place on Broadway, and we called a few hostels(they’d downloaded them at the Apple Store—is there no end to the seeming e-miracles)--when all I had thought to do was call Traveler’s Aid(they were closed for the weekend) and found them a place to stay. They dropped me at home on their way to the hostel, we exchanged numbers, swore eternal friendship and parted, and Silvia said she would pay me back with yoga lessons, when I visit her in Sao(pronounced San) Paolo.
A good, longtime friend I’d called in the country to ask if they could stay in her NY apartment(mine could sleep only one, even with yoga mats, of which I have two) said to be careful, that if they were Brazilians visiting here they had money, and I shouldn’t be so generous, and then there is my wonderful friend Gary the attorney who long ago told me not to confuse what is insane with what is fascinating(best public example: Sarah Palin) But anyone who can articulate the way your bones interlock with your soul when you do Ayengar yoga cannot possibly be a bad person. Even more important, when I looked in the mirror this morning, I appeared strangely younger, as if an act of kindness had stripped away, if not some years, some cares. The other night I saw again ‘The Wizard of Oz’, when Frank Morgan looks in the crystal ball and describes Auntie Em as ‘careworn.’ And I could not help but think how much more poetic it seemed to have suffered the years on the farm in Kansas, rather than in the great cities of the world, where we get to become simply ‘old.’