Friday, February 15, 2008

Hello America! Part 1

Story contd.

Maddie and her husband were settled in an apartment in White Plains and also had bought a house in Vermont. I was thrilled when she invited me over for a visit. William and the boys were quite happy about it, I was able to afford it and I had just had a big birthday. Maddie would be working in New York to start with and then we would go up to Vermont.

It was my first flight and I was excited and nervous. I was sitting next to a young girl so we agreed to hold hands as we took off and chattered happily throughout the flight. Maddie had told me how to be picked up by a limousine which is a cross between a chauffeur driven car and a bus. I asked a fellow passenger what was her favourite place in the States and she said San Francisco where she had just been on holiday. It was quite a few years before I found out for myself.

When I tried to tip the driver at the end of the journey he said his mother came from England and he wouldn’t take it - which I thought was sweet. As Maddie was working, Maria, Liam’s wife, met me in White Plains and took me to the apartment. Liam was Jamie’s brother and I was quite startled when Maria said Jamie had recently been over on business and had stayed with them. I’d just missed him. I didn’t want to spend this great experience by mooning over a lost love, so I put him out of my mind.

The next day Maddie said I should go into town with her, see her office and then spend the day sight seeing – on my own! On the train on the outskirts of the city I looked down to a sort of scene straight from hell- derelict buildings – it looked like a bomb site, and every other person I saw - they were black -seemed to be crippled or helpless. I had never seen anything like it and Maddie said to stop staring as people wouldn’t like it. This was 1970.

Her office building was a sky scraper and we whizzed up at a dizzying speed. Later Maddie told me that the receptionist had asked her if her sister was in the movies. All too soon I had to go and start sight – seeing and I felt quite lonely and wondered if maybe I should spend the day going up and down in the lift or elevator. Telling myself not to be such a wimp, I found myself on the pavement and asked the first reasonable looking man where the Empire State building was. Turned out he was from Broadstairs (a UK sea-side resort) and that I was standing right outside the building. Doh!

If, like me, you are a member of the cinema generation, your first trip to America is magical – like stepping into the screen at the King’s Cinema in Waterfoot where one might see Andy Hardy, Clark Gable, Bette Davis or any of the screen gods and goddesses. Diners, drug stores and motels all had this romantic feel. After the Empire state building I went to the Frick Museum which I loved. There was a little garden place with water where I could rest my tired feet and I revelled in the Fragonard paintings and lost my heart to Rembrandt’s ‘Polish Rider’.

I remembered I had the telephone number and address of the black American who had played Lord Windermere when we were fellow students on my drama course, some years back. Maddie said it was unlikely he would have stayed put, but his wife answered the phone and later Charles rang and said he’d love to meet up even though it meant a long train journey. In the end Charles, Barbara – an English friend of Maddies’s, Howard – a gay Chinese colleague of Maddie’s and Maddie and I met up in a splendid cocktail bar in the Plaza hotel. After a martini or two we were the best of buddies and went to inspect the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Then Howard thought he should take us to eat in China Town where we ended up drinking gallons of fragrant tea. I notice Barbara was wearing a badge which said Moratorium.

She explained it was a plea to stop the fighting in Viet Nam for a year to reflect and hopefully to resolve the problem.

As we waved farewell to Charles at the railway station we all agreed it had been a very special night. Maddie and I spent the night at Barbara’s apartment and I wondered how she ever slept - with the constant background of sirens on the street below. It would soon be the week-end and then we were off to Vermont. Would there be moonlight?

25 comments:

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

How fascinating. I've never been to America, but your description tempts me.

PI said...

Zinnia: you'd love it and i expect you have many friends over there.

Star said...

Ahh, the 70's. What a time that was to visit the States. Michele sent me. I hop to visit the UK one day.

PI said...

star: I hope you do too:)

kenju said...

I am loving the story, Pat. It may have been the Oak Room you went to at the Plaza. I had cocktails there, too, as well as tea in the Palm Court (in the 60's) with mr. kenju's aunt. It was magical back then.

PI said...

Judy: it probably was the Oak room; i know it was a special room but couldn't remember the name.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh Part....this makes me so Nostalgic for New York and all the wonders of that Great Great City....You know they are doing a MAJOR Renovation on The Plaza, as we speak....So it is closed....! Was that he Oak Room, where you had Cocktails?
How lovely that you were able to make this trip on your own....!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Pat, I didn't see Judy's comment when I asked abouty The Oak Room...lol! I bet it was...Though The Palm Court was really lovely too...A very different feeling than the Oak Room.....And then there was THE PERSIAN ROOM....Those were the days...The 50's & 60's(And maybe into the 70's, too...When all these Great Hotels had Dinner & Damcing & Shows in their special "rooms"....The Plaza's was The Persian Room...There were other Great "show" rooms, too...
I cannot wait to hear about ALL the things you did in The City!

sablonneuse said...

How well you describe first impressions of America.
I still shiver when I think that we went up one of the twin towers years ago.
We visited the Empire State at night (in February) and it was freezing cold but worth it for the view.

PI said...

Naomi: My memory isn't very clear but I seem to remember being high up, sitting in a corner by a large window. After a couple of martinis I could have been anywhere. Wouldn't it be great if we could meet up there for a drink and a chat. We can dream:)

PI said...

Sablonneuse : I don't remember the twin towers - maybe they weren't built then. I think the most elegant one was the Chrysler building.

Michael Manning said...

pi: I took a test drive in a Mini Cooper today with a guy from Somerset! Your description makes me think how I will feel whenever I get to visit England!!!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Pat...you got me so nostalgic for my years in New York....Oh My....And I was looking for some pictures of the Pak Room....and found a few....But what I also found is something I didn't realize. The Plaza, IS NO MORE! The renovations are to make it into Condo's....(OY!)....In fact, I found a site that is selling little knicks and knacks from The Plaza....I bought a few things, just because....It really breaks my heart, in a way, that THAT Hotel is gone.....So, your dream of meeting up there is such a lovely lovely idea....And one that I dearly wish could happen....But, alas, besides all of the logistical problms, there is the Biggest problem of it not existing anymore. So very very sad.

PI said...

Michael: welcome! Isn't that a coincidence? It's a small world.

Naomi: so that's that! What a pity - is nowhere sacred? MTL thinks they are doing the same to The Savoy. Ella and Louis will be rolling in their graves.

FOUR DINNERS said...

Got a standing invite to Ann Arbor in Michigan. Must go soon.

A friend is off to Vietnam next week for a holiday. Sounds strange having grown up through the war.

Sounds like a great group you had with you n all!!

PI said...

4d: hi hon! Glad you popped over.

utenzi said...

I liked your comment about the cinema generation, Pat. The first time I visited NYC and also LA I had that kind of reaction too. It was so weird seeing places in person that I'd seen so many times in movies and tv shows.

PI said...

Utenzi: I'm glad you shared the feeling.

Shephard said...

New York is quite magical even for us Americans. :) I never tire of visiting. And I was surprised and happy to see you spotlight The Frick... it's one of my favorites. :) So Charming.

Enjoyable read as usual.
Michele says hello!
~S :)

PI said...

Shephard: I've remembered it these thirty odd years:)

f:lux said...

Your love story with MTL is quite extraordinary - all these near misses!

P.S. I'm having a bloggy holiday. Lx

PI said...

f:lux: at one time we took our children to the same hotel - at different times - unknowingly.
I couldn't get on your site. Have fun and let me know when you are back .

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

Martinis in Manhatten! Yeehah!

I too was thoroughly romanced by New York: Central Park, Greenwich Village, Broadway, it was a blast, all of it. It's got a flavor all of its own and in homage to it, I've spelt flavor wrong.

PI said...

Sam: I think you'll find - back there - I have misspelt anemones. ;Always a problem for me. I have a bit more of New York after Vermont.

Eryl Shields said...

God, this story just gets more and more exciting!

New York is a film set to me, I recognised just about every street I walked along from some film or TV show.