top banner
Biog Work Articles Links Contact blank


New York NotesRetrospect of NY 2010Wendy's New York Journal, March-April 2011New York VillanelleAmsterdamBerlin

New York Notes

A Midtown Pilgrimage
Wednesday 22nd April, 2009

The Streamline taxi collects us from Park Lane Mews at 07.20 for a 09.30 take off from Leeds-Bradford airport (LBA). Our taxi driver relates how the new management at LBA has raised the franchise fee from £100,000 to £120,000, now totalling £30.000 for three years. The new 'black' cab company paid £500,000, killing any opposition, he says.

At Schiphol airport (to avoid Heathrow) the management has changed the lounges, and moved the sushi bar. Our transatlantic flight to New York via Detroit, business class (at Wendy's insistence!), is okay but lengthy.

Detroit airport is enormous. Spring is later here than in the UK. Daffodils, which have bloomed and vanished at home, have yet to be in full blow here. Detroit airport has an impressive overhead railway which runs the length of our arrival hall.

The DC9 from Detroit into JFK is modern, but well-used. The flight was booked with KLM, but is operated by Northwest. In-flight safety announcements are unintelligible, the cabin crew mature and good-natured, but not engaged.

Our route takes us over Manhattan after dark, an unforgettable sight. One passenger (female, works for Schroder Finance) so inebriated that she can't disembark without official assistance.

The cab ride from JFK to 54th Street costs $45, plus $5 for baggage, plus tip. We arrive at the New York Hilton at 0100, exhausted, vowing never to take that route again.

I wonder how Tom cat is faring, taking his holiday at the cattery.

Thursday 23 April.

The breakfast queue ('line') in the HHonors room on the top floor is long, the room crowded, some of the clean plates not truly clean. This at 0915 am. We are in room 4010, with a view toward the Empire State building. Both of us feel tired. We plan a lazy day.

After breakfast we stroll up The Avenue of the Americas to 58th and into Central Park, thence to Columbus Circle. Visit the underground 'Wholefood Market', new to us. The vegetable stands have an integral mist spray. Upstairs in the Time-Warner building we chat to the salesman at Samsung. His Korean high definition TV is gives an excellent picture, and is slim. We eat at the downstairs sushi bar, then buy groceries.

Patelsons sheet music store at 160 W56th provides a shock: it's closing down! Wendy buys some double-bass music. Then to Carnegie Hall to collect tickets for the André Previn concert, then to the Disney shop on Park to buy postcards. While on Park we visit the Apple Cube.

Friday 24th April

Blue skies, good forecast. At breakfast we chat to a Broadway show buff. Never buy tickets in the hotel, he says. Recommends Wicked, a story about the Wizard of OZ before the Wizard of Oz.

From our room window we can see the GE building; it turns out to be the RCA building renamed as 30 Rock, home of NBC. We take the trip to the Top of the Rock, where we have a good view of midtown rooftops. The GE building has 70 storeys.

The four buildings around Rockefeller Plaza are identical, dedicated to European countries. For diplomacy, at the start of WWII the German tower was renamed 'International Building North'. The Chanin Building, across from the Chrysler building, on the corner of Lexington and 42nd, was built in 205 days!

A combined ticket (with Rockefeller) gives us admission to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), where we lunch. Diners sit at benches, à la Wagamama. MOMA has a gadget shop. A trendy folding bike is $800.

In the office building opposite our hotel room a meeting continues until 9:00 pm. On our TV the political programmes already convey an anti-Obama tone.

Saturday 25th April

After a 12-hour sleep, up at 0600. Breakfast (a high-class rip-off) in the Hilton hotel's 'New York Market Place', on the ground floor. Walk the Avenue of the Americas to Central Park, sit by the pond to watch sparrows, squirrels, robins and a woodpecker. Continue to the Loeb boathouse via Bethseda statue.

At the boathouse we go indoors for elevenses, and watch folk trying to row on the lake. Many dog owners, poodles, labradoodles. Walk as far as the Onassis reservoir, then quit at the Cooper-Hewitt exit on 92nd. Visit the Guggenheim on 88th. Here, the 10021 zip code is among the most affluent in the USA. The Guggenheim is being renovated; only two floors are open. Admission is reduced to $6:00.

Walk to 5th Avenue/59th Street and take a pedal taxi to Columbus Circle. The pedal taxi gives me the uncomfortable thought that I am 'using' the person who is cycling us. Sushi (again) at Time Warner centre; we sit next to a couple visiting from Marseilles. Take Line 1 subway from 50th and Broadway down to South Ferry, then on to a crowded Staten Island ferry, which is free. We catch the next ferry back. By cab back to the Hilton via Franklin Roosevelt Drive and 42nd St.

We pass the Chanin building, Grand Central and Bryant Park, thence up Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue). Supper is taken in the busy hotel bar, where a baseball match - Boston versus New York - is shown on giant screens.

Sunday 26th April

Breakfast in HHonors lounge is attended by many female joggers. Buy a Sunday Times, $4:00. The supplement has a huge photograph of Susan Boyle on the front page (Britain's Got Talent winner!). "Yes; looks do matter."

Mass and Breakfast reception at the Hilton for a NYPD section. Hundreds (probably thousands) of police march up to the hotel along the closed Avenue of the Americas. They are led by an Irish police band. Many of the police wear shiny patent leather boots. Saves polishing, I guess. The female officers look lumpy - perhaps they are wearing body armour.

We walk down to 43rd St., and on to Grand Central Terminus. Not 'station', as it's the end of the line. At Grand Central we discover the shopping concourse beneath the entrance hall. Here is a café area fitted imaginatively in the style of a railway carriage. The station was rebuilt in 1913, in keeping with the style of the Waldorf Astoria and the Chrysler Building.

Exit onto 42nd St and walk to Bryant Park, refurbished since it was the haunt of low-life types in the 1960s and 1970s. On the Avenue of the Americas we buy two pastrami sandwiches to go. Enormous, they are NOT fine dining. At 11:16 am on the display-thermometer the temperature is at 80F.

Walk to Carnegie Hall circa 1:20 pm. An exhibition in an upstairs room contains Benny Goodman's clarinet (with teeth marks!), score pages by Duke Ellington and Aaron Copland, and fragments of scores by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky. A recording of the New Orleans Footwarmers' version of Sister Kate is playing. Several superb photos include one where a Handel chorus is being sung by Mstislav Rostropovitch, Leonard Bernstein, Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, etc.

We have a box (shared) on the second tier. The box floor slopes forward, with seat legs cut to match the floor incline. The hall is around 85% full; the concert begins ten minutes late. André Previn's 'The Giraffes go to Hamburg' opens. An alto flute is used, akin to the clarinet in Schubert's 'Shepherd on the Rock'. Previn has difficulty walking, but his pianism is still magical. Renée Fleming is superb.

André Previn climbs shakily onto the podium when it is time for him to conduct his own Violin Concerto, which we've heard before in the Royal Albert Hall. An attendant stands by should help be needed. The playing of the Orchestra of St. Lukes is tidy and competent. Previn's stick technique is clear, as ever. Anne-Sophie Mutter looks gorgeous, and sounds sublime. She is touchy and affectionate with Previn, and gives him a kiss. At one point she pinches his cheek affectionately. We speak to a couple of NY women (subscribers) who say that Carnegie Hall attendance has been noticeably down this season.

For supper we dine in our room, on sandwiches and fruit from Starbucks on Avenue of the Americas, which is noticeably better than any British branch of Starbucks we've experienced. A lazy evening, the only action is to phone the bell captain to arrange for the storage of our luggage while we are in Poughkeepsie.

Monday 27 April.

Settle the Hilton bill, then take a cab to Grand Central, leaving much of our luggage in the hotel luggage store. Receive the 'senior rate' on the Metro North Railroad to Pokipse, this being the railway shorthand for Poughkeepsie. The train stops at Harlem 125th Street, then at Garrison, Cold Spring, Beacon, New Hamburg and Poughkeepsie.

The track follows the Hudson river shore, which is covered in vineyards eventually, a surprise. At Manhattan the Hudson is narrow, but widens as we travel upstream. Using a diesel unit, with no refreshment provision, our train departs NY at 10:45, arrives PK at 12:39. At PK we take a cab to Hyde Park, where we have booked at the Golden Manor Motel.

The Korean owner, Francis, chats about the Cheonggye stream, which runs through the heart of Seoul. I was in Seoul on the day in 2005 when the stream was open to the skies, and the citizens were celebrating. Strange to be chatting about Korea while here in the Hudson Valley. Francis runs a clean but spartan motel. There is no dining room, so we walk down the road (no pavement) to the Ever Ready diner, a stainless-steel art-deco roadhouse. After enormous omelettes (cheap) we walk along the grass verge to the home of Franklin D Roosevelt, opposite the Golden Manor.

The FDR place is a delight. Roosevelt died on April 13th 1945. He was buried here on April 15th 1945, the day before the birth of my sister Madeline - a day that I remember vividly, so not that long ago. A photograph of FDR taken the day before he died shows him looking haggard, at age 63. FDR owned a Ford Phaeton, which is on display. The Ford's hand controls include a dispenser for lighted cigarettes.

We spend four hours at the FDR house, then decide to revisit tomorrow, but also decide to cut short our stay in Hyde Park. There is little else to see or do unless one has a car to explore the area. After we have wandered across fields and verges we read that the area has poisonous snakes, and ticks with Lyme disease.

Another snack at the Ever-Ready, where an apple turnover has green mould inside. The waiter gives us 10% off the bill.

"... Eight by ten four-berth room.

No phone no pool no pets..."

This old song comes to Wendy as she is showering, and sums up the delights of the Golden Manor, which is clean but basic. However, the Korean owners are charming. The wife has studied in Germany and is able auf Deutsch zu sprechen, aber nur ein bisschen.

Tuesday 28th April

Toothache, which began at the weekend, continues. I resolve to cut down on fruit, fruit juices and sugar-loaded drinks. I can't face the prospect of American dental treatment or American medical costs. (Eventually I needed root canal treatment). Awake at 05:30 am.

The Roosevelt family story has impressed both of us. Recordings of Eleanor speaking reveal her to have spoken with upper-class English dipthongs, as in 'orff' for 'off'. Where did that accent arise? We return to the FDR library building. On the way two groundhogs are seen scuttling around beneath the trees. (The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as woodchuck, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae (scurids), belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots.) Groundhog Day is 2nd February, John's birthday.

The FDR exhibition is to be recommended. The contribution of Eleanor Roosevelt - a lovely lady, well-educated and clearly charming - was considerable. We discover that Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited here before WWII. We return to the Golden Manor at lunchtime, check out and receive (unrequested) a cash refund.

The cab into Poughkeepsie is driven by a man from southern Mexico. He tells us that some PK residents commute to Manhattan daily, a two-hour journey. The riverside rail track to Manhattan is pleasant until one reaches Yonkers, the Bronx and Harlem, where the line goes underground.

For supper we visit the Waldorf Astoria to dine in Peacock Alley. A young pianist plays an out-of-tune Baldwin grand, reading from lead sheets and playing as though no-one is listening. The food is good, but pricey. The coffee shop downstairs by the Lenox Avenue entrance, which we've appreciated during previous visits, is closed during the evening. Is this an effect of the recession?

Wednesday 29th April.

Toothache is murder. I phone my dentist in Roundhay to arrange a dental appointment. Also receive advice about appropriate pain killers.

In the 44th floor HHonors lounge we share a breakfast table with a couple from Zurich. He has excellent English, she speaks only German and Italian. Noticeable that the political world-view of Europeans is so much better informed than that of most (but not all) of the Americans we meet.

By cab to Battery Park, then on to the Ellis Island ferry. The exhibitions on the island are moving and informative. Today is Barack Obama's 100th day in office. The US media make much of 100 days, comparing Obama's with the 100 days of FDR back in March 1933. Our visit to the FDR house yesterday was therefore timely. On the second day of FDR's presidency he closed all the banks in the USA for four days. Our current problems aren't that bad.

Thursday 30th April 2009.

We have tickets for a New York Philharmonic morning rehearsal, to be collected at 09:15, take seats at 09:45. We walk to the Lincoln Center; the rehearsal is at Avery Fisher Hall.

On the way we speak to a NY city resident walking her poodle. More accurately, she is attending her poodle, who stands with dignity and motionless on the 7th Avenue sidewalk. At Columbus Circle a man holding handbills steps forward and hands us one, a printed poem, Here's to the Mice, by Vachel Lindsay. Today is national Poem In Your Pocket Day. 'Select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 30, 2009'.

A capacity audience (at 09:45 on a Thursday!) gathers at Avery Fisher hall. Predominantly older, and female, some had travelled a distance. Wendy spoke to a woman who had caught a bus in Pennsylvania to make a journey of two hours.

The orchestra members wear street clothes. There are no announcements save for an opening list of restrictions: don't talk; don't walk about; don't use cellphones, etc. Some folk disregard these later.

The conductor is the recently-appointed Alan Gilbert. Little actual rehearsal takes place. The activity is really a run-through. Dvorak opus 109 is first (Golden Spinning Wheel), then the Fourth Symphony of Bohuslav Martinû. The latter is new to both of us, though I have played other works of Martinû. The Fourth symphony contains fascinating passages of dissonances and intriguing harmony - but the composer seems to lose his nerve in the matter of resolving tension.

Finally Joshua Bell emerges, wearing a brown T shirt and blue jeans. He gives a nod of acknowledgement to the audience and begins the Saint-Saens fiddle concerto, Opus 61 in B minor, 1880.

Bell's violin tone is big and beautiful, his memory and technical command flawless. The concerto is a poor thing, though, with a second movement that has the quality of a nursery song. How it has endured for a century-and-a-quarter is puzzling.

Avery Fisher hall is in need of a spruce-up.; The toilet facilities are inadequate, with only five stalls for the ladies on the LH lower level. Toilets here still have paper towels, taps and soap dispensers, whereas 'no hands' automation is widespread in other buildings, for instance in the Time-Warner building at Columbus Circle, where the toilets have Dyson hand dryers of excellent design.

On to the Natural History Museum at Central Park West and 77th. Our visit is a quest to discover more about the ground hog. On that account we fail; no ground hog. But we eat in the canteen, see an enormous dinosaur skeleton, and inspect all sorts of stuffed fauna, from skunk and cottontails to elk and moose. Ride a cab back to the hotel. The cabbie had served in the US forces at Lakenheath in Suffolk. We speak of bonnets/hoods, boots/trunks and line/queue. Apparently a queue is NOT an obscene word in America, contrary to what a colleague once told me.

Later we dine at RIMI, on 53rd, adjacent to the hotel. Good service and ambience. We both choose canneloni, served in a cream sauce so rich that much of it goes uneaten. Tonight I receive (by email) a couple of writing commissions from Classical Music magazine. Isn't technology great?

Late-night shopping (open until 8pm) at Saks Fifth Avenue, which is at 611 5th Avenue, opposite the Rockefeller Center. I buy a couple of pairs of long socks. Wendy accepts a demonstration application of wrinkle remover, which she doesn't buy. The salesman sulks.

Friday May 1st, 2009.

Zhang Jiemin sends an email from Venice, where she is conducting Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat at Theatre La Fenice. 'Would we like to go?' she asks. Out of the question, unfortunately. However, she may return to Shanghai by way of London, so we'll perhaps see her. Her big news is that her best friend is to marry Julian Lloyd Webber.

After breakfast I phone Loren Schoenberg at the Harlem Jazz Museum to arrange to visit him on Monday. He agrees to do an interview with me for Jazz Journal magazine.

We walk from the hotel to the Central Park Zoo. We spend the morning there, hoping to see a ground hog. On the way, at 59th Street by the Plaza hotel, we see 17 NYPD cars waiting in a line. Why, we have no idea.

The zoo has few visitors. We are met by a female volunteer, who escorts us around the ground floor, first section, of the zoo. She is articulate and knowledgeable on a range of birds, snakes, tortoises and lizards. We see polar bears, snow monkeys from Japan, a pair of caymen, boas and red pandas. An excellent collection, but no groundhogs.

Out onto 5th Ave/Museum Mile, and up to E70th to see the art collection of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, exhibited in his opulent mansion. No daubs or duds, the Frick is a truly elegant collection housed with sensitivity. Admission costs $15:00. Then we walk across the park to drink tea at the boating lake. Back to the hotel by cab, the driver a young Chinese man, from Guangzhou in the Pearl Delta. He's saving for more world travel. I over-tip him, as a contribution to his travel fund. He comes round to open the passenger door - an act rarely experienced here, being a true Manhattan 'first' for me.

After rest and recuperation we walk to Columbus Circle to buy supper at a Swedish café, the AQ, where we dine on meatballs, mashed potato, cucumber and red berries, a delicious change. Strangely, all of the customers are women. Rain falls in the evening, but no matter.

Saturday May 2nd, 2009.

In the morning we walk down a quiet 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas as far as JJ Hats, near to 32nd St., by far the best hat shop in the world, in my experience. I'm hunting for a Borsalino to take over (not replace) my 25 year-old felt trilby. An exact match is impossible. Specifications have changed. I buy a COMO model, size 7 3/8 (UK), in fur felt, with tapered crown, pinched at the front, whip stitching along the edge of the 2 1/2" brim, colour taupe. Price is $365, but if it lasts in good condition as long as my brown Borsalino trilby, it'll be money well spent.

The sales clerk uses a steaming machine to reshape the crown of my old trilby, which he does excellently. A hat box is provided in which to carry my new purchase.

Snack at a Korean deli across the Avenue from JJ hats. The deli owner and his wife are from Seoul. Once again, the Cheonggye river proves to be a conversation topic!

Next visit is to the Morgan Library and Museum, at 225 Madison, not far from JJ, which turns out to be a good discovery. Pierpont (-pont, NOT -point!) Morgan was a 'financier' (i.e., a robber baron) who made his money in General Electric (GE) and US Steel. He was the most powerful banker in the world. His son, JP Morgan, was described as 'the sultan of a secret seraglio'.

The museum was extended in 2006 by Renzo Piano. Too much to see on one visit. Here are manuscripts of TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, William Blake, and scores by Samuel Barber, Mozart, Brahms, etc.

One poetry fragment reads (in part):

'He took him swiftly by the pants

And buggered him on the altar;

And the mate said (with a knowing look)

"I've seen that done in Malta".'

Lunch in the café, then return via Times Square, where we purchase tickets for Blithe Spirit (Noel Coward), starring Angela Lansbury. Broadway is about to be pedestrianised; the first indications of this are in place.

Sunday May 3rd, 2009

On the street at 0830 to see the procession of more than 30,000 cyclists on the Five Boroughs Cycle Ride. One of Wendy's colleagues at Harrogate Hospital, Margaret Wildridge, is participating. Riders begin at Battery Park, then ride up 6th Avenue to the Park. Police have closed the Avenue. The event is not a race, more a fun run. Cyclists are passing already in ones and twos, as though they can choose when and where to start. Escort vehicles come up the empty Avenue, followed by cyclists in vast numbers. A shiny steel manhole cover at the intersection of 6th and 54th causes several riders to fall from their machines. Bikes of all types are seen: tandems, Moultons, three-rider machines, prone-riders, trailer cars containing children or dogs, etc. The procession lasts until 11:00 am. We don't spot Margaret.

By then we have walked to MOMA at 11 E53rd, which is 100 metres from the hotel. Admission is $16:00 senior, $20:00 adults. As hordes of people are entering the Museum, we go straight to terrace level (floor 5) to take an early lunch. The price $70:32, service with a smile. The visitors include a high proportion of Europeans, French and German particularly, skewed to the students' and younger workers' end of the age range, with relatively few retirees. The place is crowded. Photography is permitted; strange to see visitors posing in front of a Jackson Pollock or a Mark Rothko. Early twentieth-century Russian art displays the same influences and ideas that worked on Picasso, Matisse, and others.

The museum shop is on the ground floor, can be entered from the street without buying admission into the museum proper, and is well-stocked. I buy a 'magic' business-card holder (made in China) for $15:00. Wendy buys various gifts for young relatives, and a multi-coloured electrical adaptor for us. Posting cards to friends across the world, ALL cards (whether to Japan, Australia or Spain) share the same overseas rate of 94 cents. "It's all the same, abroad."

The NY Sunday Times contains much pro-Democratic comment (though VP Joe Biden occasionally acts foolishly). The Times costs $4:00 here, but $5:00 beyond the NY metropolitan area. Is that how newspaper costs will go in the UK? Probably. Two days later the NY TV news announced that the out-of-town price of the Sunday Times will rise to $6:00.

Monday 4th May, 2009.

We take a walk in the rain, heading towards upper midtown and the Roosevelt Island cable-car station at E60th and 2nd Ave. The cable-car ride costs $2:00 each way. The Island is enjoying a renaissance, but is not particularly exciting. Back at 2nd Ave we walk to 200 E66th and 3rd, which is the apartment block where Grace Kelly, architect Gordon Bunshaft and the great jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman each owned apartments. Then on to Eleanor Roosevelt's house at 47 E65th street. Her house is undergoing renovation, so no go.

In the late afternoon we take a taxi to Harlem, via Central Park to the Lennox Avenue exit. Lennox Avenue is also called Malcolm X Boulevard, a name which is on the street name plates, but we never hear used. We alight at 125th St and find the restaurant Chez Lucienne (308 Lennox).

We are early, so we walk a couple of blocks. A white European would have been foolish to do this thirty years ago. The Apollo Theater is nearby, as is the Victoria. Loren arrives at Chez Lucienne. Food is good, service attentive. Our African-American waitress speaks fluent French. Loren tell us that the current plans for his Harlem Jazz Museum include use of The Mart, nearby.

After supper we move on to 104E126th St, being the offices of the National Jazz Museum. Tonight's talk is to be given by Carole Friedman, photographer, who has produced pictures for several books and album covers. Tonight she is to be interviewed by Loren, and will present excerpts from a documentary film she is completing about the singer, Abby Lincoln.

The audience is small but select. Saxophonist Jimmy Heath attends, with his wife. The gracious Jean Bach, maker of the film A Great Day in Harlem, appears. She is now 90 years old. Although Jean Bach walks with a wheeled zimmer frame (a rollator), she is alert and articulate, and beautifully dressed and groomed. We chat to Loren's Administrative Assistant, Joan Lapp, who recalls spending time in the UK, at Whitley Bay.

Carole Friedman is still seeking funds to complete her movie. She needs $20,000.

Tuesday 5th May, 2009.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue in Museum Mile at E82nd St., the Museum is crowded, partly due to the rain but mainly because the collection is fabulous. The musical instruments include ethnic ones (the collection of Mrs John Crosby Brown) and some great woodwind examples. Here are Adolphe Sax originals, a swarm of bass clarinets (some carved from the solid), Oehler systems, clarinets in ivory, metal, etc., and another of Benny Goodman's own instruments.

We concentrate on twentieth-century art. The impressionist collection is vast, and includes Sisley, Monet, Manet, Degas, Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon - everything you'd expect, and more. The sculptures include many by Rodin and Degas. The Museum is bewilderingly large. Several school parties are touring. At lunch we share a table with a couple from Mainz. The husband has no English.

Evening at the Shubert Theater, at Broadway and 44th. Ten blocks make a twelve-minute walk. The theatre holds 1500 people; there are 800 here tonight. We sit upstairs on the front row. The play is Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, which we've seen several times, so it's a safe choice. At $60 a ticket we don't care to experiment. The audience is responsive and appreciative, though they talk through any music, of course.

English accents offer no problems to the actors and actresses. The star playing Madame Arcati is Angela Lansbury, born in 1925 and showing no signs of deterioration. Blithe Spirit was written in 1941.

Wednesday May 6th, 2009.

To the puzzlement of one of our Manhattan friends ("Why do you want to go there?") we set off for Coney Island and Brighton Beach, taking the Q line from 57th Street. The journey is a bargain: $2:00 each way for a 50 minute journey. The line crosses the Hudson, but we spend much of the rest of the journey underground.

Brighton Beach station is only 200 metres or so from the boardwalk and the beach. Known also as 'Little Russia', Russian is spoken on the street, shop signs and adverts are in Russian, and people sit on the beach listening to Russian radio stations. The boardwalk is about 30 metres wide. It continues for miles alongside a sandy beach.

Midway between Brighton Beach and Coney Island is the Aquarium, where we stop for a sandwich lunch. My enquiry about 'luncheon' is heard as 'lotion', with hilarious confusion.

In the Aquarium we learn that the Romans used electric fish as defibrilators. The three turtles here are enormous.

Back in Manhattan we call into Carnegie Hall to see if we can buy tickets for tonight's concert in the Weill Recital Hall. No luck. We revisit the Rose Museum, opened in 1991 as part of Carnegie Hall's 100th anniversary celebration, and look again at Benny Goodman's Buffet clarinet, at the score of Copland's Third Symphony, and at various Duke Ellington sketches from the 1967 Sacred Concert: 'Something 'Bout Believing.' On leaving and walking down 57th Street, a group of people chatting on the pavement includes the conductor Pierre Boulez. As he's scheduled to appear here this evening, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

Go via 57th Street to view the building where Bela Bartok lived in 1945, at 309 W 57th. A plaque is fixed to the wall, and a bas-relief. In Borders' store I buy the new biography of William Schuman, erstwhile chairman of Juilliard, and the man who presided over the completion of the Lincoln Center. Initially (1961) the acoustics were a disaster. Schuman is said to have disliked Boulez, disapproved of twelve-tone music, and hated jazz. He died in 1982. Later I receive a commission from Classical Music magazine to review the Schuman book.

Thursday May 7th, 2009

The plan is to meet our friend the singer Daryl Sherman for lunch. After a game of telephone tag with Daryl we agree to have lunch in the restaurant of Saks Fifth Avenue at 611 5th, opposite the Rockefeller at 50th. When we arrive, the maitre D in the eighth floor restaurant tells us that Daryl has made a reservation, a window table with a view down the Avenue.

Good to catch up with Daryl, who is looking well. She gives us a copy of her new CD, and an update of her trials and tribulations with the Waldorf Astoria, her agent in England, and her gig at the Algonquin. Food is okay, the service attentive, the price excessive. Do they rely on Saks appeal?

Spend time (and 27 dollars!) negotiating the online check-in for the return flight tomorrow. That small blow is cushioned by an emailed commission from Jazz Journal, to review Graham Collier's new book.

Friday May 8th 2009.

The hotel bill is pushed under the door. The amount is approximately what was expected. After breakfast we walk to Rockefeller Plaza, where I have my shoes shined. Five chairs are available in the parlour where shines are $2:50. Waiting customers queue. Each shoe shine takes 10-12 minutes. A brilliant job ensures that the brown brogues have never looked better. Well worth a $2:00 tip, which is what most people give.

Our cabbie to JFK is another Korean from Seoul. He is chatty, and a smooth driver, which earns him a $10 tip.

The plane on the KLM-booked flight from JFK is a North Western 757, though the business-class seating is inferior to that of the Malaysian Airways plane (another KLM partner) that took us to Australia last year. One of the NW flight attendants is barely competent. As she brings the wrong food she allows her trolley to career around the cabin, spilling cutlery and food. She has difficulty in reading aloud from her script. How she would cope in an emergency, I can't imagine.

The toothache continues. Oh, the glamour of it all.

Updated and maintained by: routeToWeb