Friday, September 10, 2010

Some Places I Would Like To Revisit, But Can’t

Around this time every year, for reasons that I suspect are obvious, I am reminded of various places I would like to see and visit again, but am unable to do so.

A few of them are:


1.       1.  Androscoggin Island, Wayne, Maine:   In the 1960s, I attended a summer camp called Camp Androscoggin on a small island in the middle of Lake Androscoggin.   I was a fairly miserable camper, but as you can see, the island (pictured in the distance behind the canoe) was very beautiful and I loved that.  Each summer in late August, the camp counselors built a spectacular bonfire to celebrate the end of camp and it really was something to behold.  The camp was closed during the 1980s and consolidated with its “junior camp” on the mainland.  The bunks, buildings and other man-made structures were razed and I’m told the island has completed reverted to “wild” status.


1.       2.  Hurlburt dormitory, The Gunnery, Washington, Connecticut:  During my freshman year at The Gunnery in 1967-8, I lived in this Revolutionary War-era house.  It was considered a small dorm, but was actually a rather beautiful and capacious house, although the rooms and plumbing were hardly glamorous.   Our dorm monitor, Edsel Ford II, who was the son of Henry Ford II, Chairman of the Ford Motor Company, was given his own study, which contained the first privately and individually owned jukebox I had ever seen.  Being from Detroit, Edsel filled it with all the Motown hits and it was great.  Edsel had a really excellent wardrobe for someone so young and was rumored to garage a Lotus automobile off-campus in violation of school rules.  Some years after I left the school, The Gunnery sold Hurlburt to a person who lifted the building off its foundation and drove it down the road.


3.     3.  The Kinks at the Fillmore East, New York City, October 1969:  In the fall of 1969, the American Federation of Musicians lifted their four-year touring ban imposed on The Kinks for unprofessional behavior, and my favorite group ever resumed playing US concerts with a two-night stand at the Fillmore East, the finest rock concert venue I’ve ever attended.  They shared the bill with Spirit, a good band, but not a great pairing, and The Bonzo Dog Band, kindred spirits and real genius stuff. (Sadly, the Fillmore shows were among the Bonzos’ final appearances before disbanding.  The memory of a shaven-headed Vivian Stanshall in a silver lame suit doing a split and singing Blue Suede Shoes lingers.)   The Kinks premiered the Arthur lp and were everything I had hoped for.  I had deceived my parents about my weekend whereabouts and there was hell to pay, but it was worth it.   When the Fillmore East closed in the early 1970s, the New York concert scene never really recovered.  Presentation, atmosphere, vibe, value – the Fillmore had everything (even Ratner’s next door and Gem Spa nearby.)  Every other venue is at best second-best.  By the way, The Move (another favorite band of mine listed on the third line of the Fillmore marquee) canceled their show.


Picture shows:  Mary Lyon 3 dormitory, Swarthmore College

1.       4.  Mary Lyon 3 Dormitory and Tarble Social Center, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania:  I attended Swarthmore College from 1971-1975 and spent several stretches living in Mary Lyon 3. a small off-campus dormitory that was originally part of the Mary Lyon boarding school.   ML3, as it was known, was a males-only dorm (unlike its neighbor, the larger ML4) and had a well-deserved reputation for wildness and slovenliness.  It was a world of fun and I still have dreamy images of the wobbly black and white tv screen in the common room. We were all pretty wobbly back then.  Tarble Social Center, on the other hand, was an elegant facility in the middle of Swarthmore’s beautiful campus, which in earlier eras housed the school library and later (when my mother-in-law attended Swarthmore) the dining hall.  It was much too classy for the students who populated it -- three floors of elegant paneling, stained glass, open balconies, fine pool tables and velvet sofas, a snack bar, kitchen and good juke box, many small private rooms for study and disporting, and a Rathskellar for music.  It was just unbeatable and I wish I had some color pictures of the interior to post.   After my graduation, both Mary Lyon 3 and Tarble were, incredibly, attacked by arsonists.  ML3 is gone.  Tarble is a shell of its former self and has been repurposed by the college to weird effect as a studio arts space.  For a school that has been home to some fine art and architectural historians, Swarthmore has made many odd architecture and facilities decisions over the years.


Pi  Picture shows:  Tarble Social Center, Swarthmore College

Picture shows:  Greene Street, SoHo, New York City

1.       5.  Richard Feigen Gallery, Greene Street, SoHo, Manhattan:  I worked at the Richard Feigen Gallery during the winter, spring and early summer of 1971 as a gallery assistant as a student independent study project.  In many ways, it was the most enjoyable job I ever had.  I learned so much from the gallery staff, art handlers and director (a charismatic man named Michael Findlay, who was married to the beautiful model, Naomi Sims) about the mechanics of making and presenting art.  I can’t remember the gallery’s exact address or find a contemporary photograph, but it was on Greene Street, a street of fine cast-iron buildings that, like so much of SoHo now has become entirely “gentrified”.  The Feigen Gallery, along with Paula Cooper’s space and Ivan Karp’s O.K. Harris Gallery, was a SoHo pioneer.  In the early days of galleries opening down there, there was a genuine and exciting Wild West sort of feeling that is entirely absent from the area now.  The Feigen SoHo gallery closed after several very distinguished years forging the new art scene in New York City in a space that welcomed, but did not demand, larger scale works than could generally be exhibited uptown on 57th Street or in the East 70s.  Richard Feigen remains a very active and distinguished art world figure.

1.       6.  Museum of Modern Art, West 53rd Street, New York City:  This 1972 photo shows how MOMA looked before they repurposed it into its current Disneyland incarnation.   This version of the museum (I believe it’s MOMA’s second building), which was designed in the International Style by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durrell Stone and built in 1937, was a lovely, human scale and manageable museum where curators could tell coherent stories both in their displays of the permanent collection and in mounting special exhibitions.  Climbing the main staircase to the second floor and facing Oskar Schlemmer’s 1932 Bauhaus Staircase Painting (which is currently not on view!) was a mentally invigorating experience that prepared you for the wonders ahead. Those were the days.  I wish I could have found a photograph of one of the summer concerts they used to run in the Philip Johnson-designed sculpture garden near my favorite Aristide Maillol  “River” sculpture.   Soft Machine’s 1968 MOMA performance would have been nice to show.



Picture shows:  CBS/FOX Video Reception Area, ca. 1984

1.       7.  CBS/FOX Video, 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York City:  I worked at CBS/FOX from 1987-2000 and in this glamorous, capacious office space from 1987-1991.   To my great surprise, I found a picture of our reception area online.  I loved working there and have many happy memories of our enormous one-floor New York facility and, especially the reception area, which was the first part of the company I ever saw.  (I am still quite friendly with the person who greeted me at the door in May or June 1987 when I came for my first interview.)  After the  company was restructured in 1991, we moved further up 6th Avenue to the old ABC Building, where Caroline used to work, right around the corner from MOMA.  The CBS/FOX space was entirely remodeled and is now invisibly part of News Corporation edifice.  For years I would pass by the building and look up at several of my old offices.  It’s sadly  really true: You can’t go home again.

1.       8.  La Caravelle, West 55th Street, New York City:   La Caravelle was our favorite restaurant in the world.  It opened in 1960 as one of  several progeny of Henri Soule’s Le Pavillon and it flourished and maintained its excellence (although it had some ups and downs during periods when food faddishness gained ascendancy) until  it closed in 2004.  I was first taken there for lunch at my request on my 18th birthday and, while it’s tempting to say that we celebrated many important events at La Caravelle, what I really feel is that every time Caroline and I dined there it was an important event.  We’re not high-rollers and it was definitely our  “big deal” restaurant, but even as young people we were always treated by the owners and staff with the same graciousness and kindness as they bestowed on the captains of industry, potentates of all kinds and the socialites and celebrities who dined there.  At one point when we were told that the restaurant considered us part of the “Caravelle family”, it meant a great deal to us.  La Caravelle’s barware was magnificent.  I dearly wish I owned one of the wine glasses with the etched Caravelle sailing ships, in which they served their excellent martinis and Kirs.   Throughout the years, La Caravelle’s Dover sole, pike quenelles, ris de veau and, especially their dessert soufflés, bested all the competition (and La Caravelle had extremely fine competitors).  I don’t ever expect to see any restaurant who can match them again.


        9.  Fauchon,  442 Park Avenue, New York City:   For several years earlier in this decade, we had an apartment at 480 Park Avenue and having Fauchon as your down-the-street breakfast place was the most extraordinary, unexpected thing.  That period was a sort of disorienting, upsetting, out-of-body time for us for many reasons and we lived in a neighborhood which, while extremely pleasant, was inconvenient to ALL conveniences (except, perhaps, if you had an urgent need to get to Chanel or Louis Vuitton) and very expensive. Beginning the day at 6:30 a.m. with a cup of Fauchon  coffee and a Fauchon croissant and preserves, and reading the newspaper seated at a quiet, elegant table inside the store made one feel alive, sane and filled with an adequate amount of self-worth.  The glittering displays of confitures, patisserie, cheeses and quiches were all uplifting.  It was also extremely inexpensive, very little more than buying from a street vendor or your average Manhattan coffee shop, and ever more soul satisfying.  Fauchon also served a superb, good value lunch from a carefully chosen short menu and offered an interesting, fairly priced wine selection.  Naturally, they lost their lease.  They were fine, fine people.

1.        10.  Twin Dolphin Hotel, Transpeninsular Highway, Los Cabos, Baja Sur, Mexico:  Caroline and I discovered Hotel Twin Dolphin in the early 1990s and spent the happiest vacations of our lives there.  We repaired there immediately after our kidnapping in Mexico City in 1995 and their kindness, care and comfort restored my sanity.  Eventually being able to introduce our daughter Jane to Twin Dolphin, and having her there when we renewed our wedding vows brought us perfect happiness.   Unlike the other good Los Cabos hotels, Twin Dolphin was designed and built by its founder, David Halliburton, to be in perfect sympathy and harmony with the spectacular Los Cabos landscape.  Essentially, you can take any Four Seasons hotel and set it down anywhere on Planet Earth.  You will be in a very good hotel, but essentially you will be in a Four Seasons.  At Twin Dolphin, you were somewhere singular and perfectly poised in relation to the collision of sea, sky, desert and mountain that is Los Cabos.  The hotel even created its own organic farm to support their simple, but spectacular, kitchen.  Sadly, David Halliburton, Jr., found the grind of running Twin Dolphin ultimately too taxing and Twin Dolphin is no more.  New time-share condos, the lingua franca of Los Cabos, are being erected and will dominate the peaceful Bahia Sta. Maria.

1.       11.  The World Trade Center, New York City:   Like most New Yorkers, I always had mixed feelings about the World Trade Center.  Tall buildings are cool and impressive and, although the WTC’s architecture wasn’t a patch on the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building or the other buildings New Yorkers really love, the place was spectacularly tall.  Attending business meetings at WTC was always an incredible hassle, both in terms of getting downtown and the security that was (necessarily) put into place after the first World Trade Center bombing in the mid-1990s (the “Blind Sheikh” attack), and the subway was more than your usual nightmare. (Too many lines running, too many people going too many places.)   

However, on a personal level, I remember a fancy party my parents gave for my grandparents at Windows On The World in honor of a big wedding anniversary that seemed to mean a lot to the people who attended.  I remember having cocktails in the bar with Caroline and other friends and, especially taking Caroline’s mother there for drinks at sunset, which she enjoyed immensely.  The view was really incomparable – much better than from the John Hancock in Chicago or One Liberty Place in Philadelphia, for instance. I remember especially a wonderful celebration dinner Caroline and I enjoyed at Cellar In The Sky, Windows’ “oenophile prix-fixe restaurant” and an amusing  business dinner a long time ago where Caroline entertained Tim White and Chuck Young, then young journalists from Musician magazine, who were good dinner companions.  

Psychotic al-Queda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, destroying the Twin Towers and some nearby buildings and killing thousands of helpless, innocent victims.  It was a beautiful late summer Tuesday morning and we were returning to work from a weekend at the beach in Avalon, New Jersey.  About 1000 feet before the George Washington Bridge toll booth, they stopped our car and we saw a new illuminated bridge sign saying “Bridge Closed”.  That sounded crazy (it translates as "New York City Closed"),  but we turned on the radio and soon figured out what was happening.  When we arrived home about four hours later (they had to literally turn around the highways leading into Manhattan), the two Brazilian women who were taking care of Jane greeted us with some shock and disbelief.  They were under the impression that World War III had broken out and thought we were as likely dead as alive.    

Obviously, since that day, nothing has been quite the same.


  1. Thank you very much. It's difficult to impress teenagers (Jane just turned 13), but seeing Hurlburt on a truck had the desired effect on both her and Caroline. We're currently down in Avalon again until tomorrow "keeping the summer alive". The beach, ocean and birds are great down here and the Cape May County Zoo is worth a special trip. Curtis

  2. Gee, I really liked this. Many shared memories. I used to go to MOMA during my lunch hour when i worked at Saks Fifth Avenue as a buyer. I would sit out in the sculptor garden and decompress. It was friendly and lovely. I was 22 and La Caravelle was our favorite "special" restaurant too. So true about the loveliness of the staff: they never looked askance at how we ordered as reasonably as possible just so we could be inside that beautiful room!

  3. Wendi -- Thank you so much for writing. I posted this so long ago, obviously as a reminiscence prompted by the impending 9/11 anniversary. These memories mean a lot to me and it's really nice to share them with someone who understands. Traveling through Manhattan yesterday (I don't live or work there any longer and I don't spend nearly as much time as I used to) gave me rising and falling feelings about some of my memories. (Passing the former site of the 8th Street Bookstore really got to me.) The closing of La Caravelle was sad. I always knew it was irreplaceable and that's how it turned out. I hope you have an opportunity to visit here again. I try to keep things varied and interesting. Funny day today -- my laptop screen cracked and the next couple of days' posting, not to mention getting my work done, will be a challenge. Curtis