Sunday, 28 March 2010

All Good Things...: part 7

After a good nights sleep and another fabulous breakfast at our favourite place Dave and I decided to take a trip to Brooklyn Museum to see a photographic exhibition called 'Who Shot Rock and Roll?'.

We took the subway and on our way there a young man of about 19 entered our train carriage with a box of kit kats, he addressed the packed carriage and gave a confidently executed and engaging speech about being a young entrepreneur trying to fund his college education by selling sweets to commuters.
I remember thinking what a good story it would make if he ever made it big and wrote his autobiography. He was a charming boy, if I'd had any change in my pocket I would have bought a kit kat from him.
The exhibition was inspired, it was absolutely full of iconic photographs. My favourite was this image by Andy Earl for the cover of an album by Bow Wow Wow.

Beautifully costumed by Vivienne Westwood it is a recreation of Edouard Manet’s famous painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass).
The picture caused quite a stir at the time because Anabella Lwin, (the naked lead singer,) was underage and did not have her mothers permission to pose nude.
I loved the vibrant colours and the modernity of this version of such a classic image.

By the time we left the museum it was blowing a gale out side, it was snowing heavily and it was freezing cold. We battled against the wind as we walked towards the high street in search of somewhere warm to stop and have a bite to eat.
I had on my red leopard print ballet pumps which I had believed to be the sensible choice being that they were flat and I'd expected to be on my feet all day.
My shoes were soaked through and my feet were numb with cold...(proving to me, as if proof were needed, that flat shoes are never a sensible choice for a fasionista.)

We reached a road which must have had a blocked drain or something because there was a river of freezing water to cross! Davy gallantly scooped me up in his arms and carried me across the road to a welcoming, warm, dry pizzeria. We ate slices of homemade pizza and drank diet coke as we watched the snow fall.

We'd lost track of time waiting for the weather to improve and suddenly I realised how late it was.
There was no question of me going out in Manhattan on a Saturday night wearing a denim mini and flat shoes with wet hair so we made our way back West so that I could change in to some sequins and killer heels and put on some lipstick.

We had arranged to meet my friend Tim in the bar at his hotel and I realised now that we were going to be very late.

Tim is a very talented, very handsome graphic designer who I'd met at the wedding of a client and all round lovely girl, who's bridal gown I had made.

We had become facebook friends and through the boastings of our status updates had realised that we were going to be in the big apple at the same time, so, we arranged to meet up.

Tim was in New York with his mother to celebrate her birthday.
Tim's mother (who I have never had the pleasure of meeting) is by all accounts a bit of a fox and unsurprisingly had secured a date with a pleasant gentleman from Kentucky that evening which left Tim free to enjoy a cocktail or two with us.

I got ready as quickly as I could, but to be fair, you can't hurry heated rollers can you? They take as long as they take.

We got to the hotel an hour late.
"I'm so sorry" I said dramatically as I flounced in to the bar, and I meant it, but I mean, there had been a blizzard to contend with! and we'd been in Brooklyn of all places!

My excuses fell on deaf ears as Tim berated me for leaving him on his own for an hour and greeted Davy warmly, the boys shared a joke about my hopelessness before ordering 'one for the road'.

Our pretty barmaid eyed Tim wistfully while we drank up and my guilt eased slightly as I realised he'd probably been well looked after in our absence.
We finished our drinks quickly and hailed a cab on 5th to take us East.

Now... I am in the very fortunate position of having a very beautiful and very talented freelance seamstress in my employment who happens to have a very handsome and very talented brother who is in the employment of Hendricks Gin, as the national rep for the company his knowledge of the best bars in any city is second to none...

I was marginally apprehensive but very excited none the less about introducing my friends to one such bar.

We exited the taxi at the correct address and waited outside briefly for George and Stefania to arrive.
We were all gathered in the door way of a dodgy looking hot dog shop, all neon signs and $1 dogs.
Everyone was looking to me for an explanation but I knew it would make sense in the end.
I motioned for everyone to follow as I walked into the hot-dog shop, people in coats were queueing to buy fast food, paint was pealing off the walls, there was a strong smell of frankfurters and onions, in short, there wasn't the slightest hint of glamour anywhere to be seen. It has to be said, I felt quite out of place.

I looked around nervously... eventually I spied a battered old phone booth in the corner, relief washed over me and I confidently strolled over fluffing up my hair and entered the booth.

I picked up the phone.

'Welcome to Please don't tell, can I help you?' said the professional female voice on the other end of the line.

"I have a party of 5 please." I answered hesitantly.

Just then a secret door in the back of the phone booth opened to reveal a quilted leather clad haven decked with crystal chandeliers on the other side, the beautiful hostess looked us up and down and ushered us inside. You are very welcome, she said but we may need your table by 1am.

Translation: if we decide you are not fabulous enough for us we reserve the right to kick you out in 30 minuets time.

We were shown to a comfortable booth with red leather seats and subtle lighting. and given elegant cocktail menus to peruse.
George shook my hand enthusiastically and quipped " bloody hell Gill, it's like you have the key to this city or something! I can't believe they let us in here."
"You can get in anywhere as long as you're consistently over dressed and subtly over confident" I answered with a wink.

We enjoyed a wonderfully decadent evening of bespoke cocktails and table service in beautiful surroundings and were grateful to note that we didn't get kicked out at 1am, in fact we stayed until after 3.
Obviously we were, just, fabulous enough.

On the way home we stopped for a late night bite at and a nightcap and Tim got chatted up by the waitress. Again.
We said our goodbyes to George and Stefania then and that's when I first felt a little sad, we'd been having so much fun I'd almost forgotten that I'd be leaving the next day.

Tim, Davy and I shared a cab back up town and I stole a little kiss from Tim as he got out of the car, "see you back in Bristol kid" he said with a parting wink.

Davy slept the rest of the way back West and I watched him fondly as I reflected on the weeks events.

That I was in love with Manhattan there was no doubt, but being with her this past week had rekindled a love that I'd thought had been lost.
I thought about the offers of employment I'd had and I thought about Gilly Woo.

I'd stuck up for her and been angry when Mark* had slagged her off and suggested she was inadequate, I'd felt disappointed and uninspired at the thought of designing under another name...under someone elses name.

I'd felt uneasy about the prospect or compromising her artistic integrity and potentially, her reputation, for commercial success.

I didn't want to loose her... suddenly I felt short of breath at the thought of loosing Gilly Woo.
No matter what I'd gone through, the long hours the financial struggle, the constant pressure, never switching off, never being able to do enough, all the sacrifices I'd made...I'd made for the love of it, for the love of Gilly Woo.
I couldn't feel that way working for a business like Marks where money in the till was more important than happy customers, or Carries where I'd be designing dresses I didn't care about for women I'd never meet.
This is what I was meant for, Gilly Woo and I belonged together. Manhattan was a glamorous and exciting mistress no doubt, but no one does glamour like Gilly Woo!

I slept a little uneasy that night, my head full of thoughts and ideas and apprehensions.

Davy was flying from JFK and I was flying from Newark so after breakfast we said goodbye and I wished him a safe journey and told him not to be late (cos he's always missing flights,) and then I walked back to the hostel feeling a little melancholy if truth be known.
Once there I collected my bags and checked out.
I received a text message from Mark while I was waiting for my cab to the airport.
'Meet me for lunch?' it said,.
I replied that I was leaving today and had a flight to catch so I would be unable to.
'Stay longer...If you need money just say how much.' came the reply.
To say I was tempted, is probably understating it, but I had a business to get home to and a reignited flame of passion to fan.

Maybe one day, with hard work and dedication, we could return to Manhattan together, Woo and I, and the three of us could make a go of it....Stranger things have happened.....Well spoken James Bond baddies in coffee shops, Talking walruses, Hawks living in penthouses....

If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere....It's up to you....Well, actually, it's up to me...

The End.

(or's just the beginning ;-)

Friday, 26 March 2010

Girl Interupted: part 6

I don't recall exactly what time Davy arrived but I'd fallen asleep in my clothes, (boots and all.)
It was Frank Sinatra that woke me up, 'heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can barely speak...' my mobile phone ring tone sang, 'I seem to find the happiness I seek, when we're out together dancing cheek to cheek'....I answered a little dazed...
It was Davy..."oh my God! are you actually here?"
I ran down stairs and there he was, waiting in reception like it was the most normal thing in the world.
"I can't believe we're in New York!" I squealed hugging him tightly.
"You were asleep weren't you?" Davy asked with a knowing Irish grin.
"I had a late night" I shrugged trying to look innocent.
"Why doesn't that supprise me? trust you to find a party on a Wednesday night...lets go for a pint and you can tell me all about it"
We dumped his bag in my room and headed out on to West 94th Street in search of local hospitality.
We found an Irish bar not far from where we were staying and settled there for the duration, we had intended to have a quick pint and go exploring but it was only Thursday. We had big weekend plans and besides, there were some incredibly drunk locals who were entertaining us no end.
A pretty American girl, immaculate in a glamorous cocktail dress was screeching at her boyfriend whilst stumbling around delirious with the heel of her shoe in her hand,"oh myee Gaad! my heel snapped off honey, I've broken my gaad damn shoe!"
Her beau looked bored and continued to watch the football game glassy eyed with his head propped up on one hand while he vaugely waved the other in her direction, motioning for her to sit down.

Meanwhile a fat guy in shorts and a baseball cap (it was December!) tried quietly and tentatively to chat her up whilst keeping one eye on her boyfriend the other, nervously watching the door.
It was like being in an episode of some far fetched sit com! New York so often makes me feel like I'm in the middle of a film set.

Davy and I observed and giggled and chatted and then it was after 1am and we realised we hadn't eaten.
We asked the landlord where we could get food from at this time of night and after the obligatory, I'm Irish, you're Irish, where do you come from chat with Davy, he produced a Mexican menu from under the bar, we ordered, and ten minutes later a courier arrived with nachos and quesidia in little foil parcels :-)

The morning After the Night Before...

I was excited about taking Davy to my local diner for breakfast, I knew he'd love it as much as I did. No one does breakfast like New Yorkers.
On previous visits I'd sat at the counter and chatted to the waiters but this time we chose a booth, we ordered blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon, home fries, coffee and fresh orange juice, and perused the New York Times. What better start to a perfect New York day?

The weather was mild for the time of year and we decided to go for a walk in central park.
there was magic in the air again that bright December morning, and we came across, quite by accident, a bronze statue of Alice in wonderland sat upon a mushroom.

It was really was quite delightful and instantly my favourite line from the book sprang to mind.... "the time has come the walrus said to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings"...I know it's supposed to be surreal but when I first read it, I simply thought, 'what wonderful conversational topics that Walrus suggests,' I had new red patent leather shoes with ankle straps and bows on the front, I'd just discovered that sealing wax was different from candle wax during a project on Victorians at school, and our neighbours were growing cabbages and marrows in their garden, I think I was 7 or 8 at the time.

A little later we stopped to admire an apartment block with a penthouse roof top garden.

"Next time I come here I'll be staying in your penthouse Gill, cos you'll have one one day" Dave quipped with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.

Just then we noticed a majestic bird of prey with a huge wing span glide right off the top of that penthouse and into a tree in the Park, we observed it for a while awe stuck before we noticed a couple of twitchers with enormous telescopes right behind us.

"we've been here everyday this week hoping for a glimpse of him and you guys just happen to be walking by when he arrives, must be your lucky day" one of the bird watchers remarked.

It turned out that the bird we had been so fortunate to observe was 'Pale Male' a daring red tailed hawk who has managed against the odds to thrive in New York City and has become somewhat of a local celebrity by all accounts.

Complete with his very own swanky penthouse nest over looking central park and paparazzi photographers camped out in the bushes with telescopic lenses waiting for a glimpse of him, he seemed to me, every bit the handsome wild thing you would expect to solicit such a glamorous lifestyle :-)
We left the park refreshed and wandered aimlessly around Tribecca for a while, window shopping and stopping for coffee and cake in a little gallery cafe where we admired tiny sheep sculptures and photographs of India.

Davy had a friend, George, who he'd met when he was travelling, George lived in Manhattan with his Italian wife Stefania.
They had kindly invited us over for dinner that evening and I was excited about meeting them.
We took the subway the rest of the way to the lower East side.
Dave and I tried in vain to pick up a nice bottle of wine for dinner in a local shop but everything was either German or in a carton so we opted for some bottles of beer instead, it was George's birthday and it had occurred to us a little too late to pick up a gift for him, choice at the 7-11 was limited but we opted for a bouquet of bright blue flowers, "blue for a boy!" I exclaimed excitedly when I noticed the bouquet.

We found their apartment easily as Davy had been there before, it was one of the cleverest, quaintest spaces I have ever been in.
Their entire apartment was smaller than my average sized bedroom at home and there were two people living in it!
There was a cabin bed with a desk underneath it and various musical instruments hung from cleverly constructed hooks and pulley systems on the ceiling.
When we arrived Stefania put the flowers in water and George assembled a low table from different bits of wood which he produced from various nooks and crannies around the room, he then arranged cushions about the table to create a lovely dinning space.
It was quite wonderful and certainly innovative. George is a furniture designer and he had made excellent use of the tiny space with very clever storage and shelving.
Stefania was in the kitchen (which was in the bedroom...) she is a chef and dinner smelled fabulous!

The reason they live in the smallest apartment I have ever seen?
Simple. It's rent controlled and it's in Manhattan.

George has lived there for years and If they moved now they couldn't afford to live on the island so they sacrifice space for the love of Manhattan. I would do the same in a heart beat. (Only I'd have to rent a storage unit in Brooklyn for my shoes;-)

We were treated to a wonderful pasta dinner followed by apple and Cinnamon doughnuts and herb tea. It was delicious and I felt blessed to have spent my evening with three such lovely people.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the blue flowers Davy and I had bought for George were now quite white and the water they were in had turned electric blue! We all laughed and laughed and then we arranged to meet for drinks the following evening.

I had a hot tip on a swanky cocktail bar not far from George and Stefania's apartment and there was a good chance that they might not have been there before.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Miss Golightly: part 5

We stood there in the street in the middle of Manhattan at 2am in the pouring rain.
Mark was pleading with me not to go, and I was trying to hail a cab.
A homeless dude in a wheel chair who I'd given a couple of dollars to earlier that evening in return for a surprisingly moving, (if a little drunk,) acapela rendition of moon river, came over to check if I was ok..."Hey fella, you best not be messin' with ma sista y' hear. I got her back. m'kay?"
He scowled at Mark before turning to me and asking earnestly "you cool Woo, you cool? 'this guy bothering you?"
"I'm cool Joe, thanks for asking" I took my umbrella out of my bag and gave it to him, he took it, opened it and looked up with a grin, he kissed my hand before wheeling himself off down the street shouting as he went 'Like I told you fella, don't you be messin' with ma sista! I got her back y'hear!'
We were wet though, Mark was obviously a little shaken up, I felt sorry for him.
'Look, this is your neighbour hood, where can I get a pint?
We walked to a little Irish bar about a block away and I ordered two pints of beer.
For the first time that evening I paid the bill.
Mark opened up a little then and I won't go in to his personal life here but suffice to say I was right on the money about the British heart breaker.
This man was hurt and once he admitted it he wasn't so bad, he apologised for his behaviour and told me that I'd impressed him, he thanked me for listening to him and he offered help and advise if and when I was ever in a position to move to New York.
We have stayed in touch and he's actually a nice guy deep down, I'll visit him next time I'm in town.
There are important lessons here people...
1.don't be afraid to be honest with people, putting on a front can get you in to all sorts of trouble, people can generally sense when someone is not being genuine, communicating honestly with people if often difficult but usually rewarding... shouldn't always judge on first impressions, or take to heart peoples first impressions of you, if you have inner confidence and you are honest with yourself you can learn from constructive criticism and dismiss unnecessary nasty comments without a second thought...
3.It's never to late to change someones mind including your own, you just have to be open to it.
It was dawn by the time I finally got in a cab, Mark gave me fifty dollars to pay for it, (which was 3 times what it cost) I imagined myself as Audrey Hepburn in breakfast at Tiffany's for a moment, (before I realised the connotations and tried in vain to give the money back...)
I slept late and read a little the next day, I was reading an autobiography 'Dior by Dior', after reading about his experiences in New York City, filled with admiration and awe, I took a long shower in the small dingy bathroom and afterwards dressed in a bright floral tshirt dress, high heeled biker boots and a black leather jacket....I needed to be ready to go out, I had a friend coming to visit from London and I had a feeling he'd be wanting to go straight to the pub.

To Be Continued...