“Paul Simon’s last concert is going to be in New York City in September,” Mary Perrin announced earlier this year.
“Where?” I asked.
“Madison Square Garden for two nights, then a surprise location for the final show on Saturday, September 22. I really want to go.”
“Well, I bet it’s going to be in Central Park,” I stated with full authority. “Let’s see where he announces and see about going.”
We monitored Paul Simon’s website every night after work, every weekend, every morning over coffee. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.
“Corona Park,” Mary Perrin said one morning after the refresh button provided news. “His last concert is going to be in Corona Park. Where’s that?”
“Well, I don’t know,” I replied, “But, is that what Rosie was queen of when me and Julio were down by the schoolyard?”
My blushing bride blushed, “Oh my gosh, you’re totally right. It’s in Flushing. Can we book it?”
So, the year of 2018 is the Year of the Fully Lost Mind.
We booked Paul Simon over the weekend of July 7th. Our American Express cards helped us get earlier tickets and access to the alleged VIP section.
We booked four tickets. May be some friends would want to go with us?
We asked some friends for hotel recommendations for hotels close to Grand Central as Mr. Simon advised we should take The 7 to Queens.
We booked the direct Hedge Funder Flight from Charleston to New York on Delta.
(It leaves at 6 a.m. and you can be in Midtown by 9:15 if the traffic isn’t too bad, your cabbie doesn’t take the Queensborough/Ed Koch/59th St. Bridge, and you have no bags to collect.)
More importantly, I sent out the APB to my Andover friends in New York.
“Wait, this is not going to turn into some kind of Andover party, is it?” asked Mary Perrin.
Of course it is.
What did I care if someone had Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes or would act as my Bridge Over Troubled Waters? I had friends to see in the Big Apple.
“Well, some of the folks would like to see us.”
APB generated immediate response.
“Will see who’s around”
“Can get our crew together 4 sure”
(An ancient Andover statement of excitement)
“New phone, who dis?”
“Ha ha – it’s Hammy”
For two months the messages flew back and forth.
For two months I scoured Eater NY, Grubb Street, Trip Advisor for restaurant recommendations.
I asked a one time resident who’s a true foodie, excellent cook, and cookbook author for ideas; she sent back recs of impossible-to-get-into places.
What am I, a movie star?
(More likely to get an audience with The Pope than get into these joints).
Plus, we had little time: lunch Friday, supper Friday, breakfast Saturday, lunch Saturday, brunch Sunday.
For two months I tried to get more friends into the City. One agreed, but, then life got in the way. One would just be returning from the City a few days before our arrival.
Back to the food, which, for me, is one of the main reasons to go to New York.
I am a complete fool for old school French restaurants of a certain type. Think La Grenouille. Think Lutece. Think La Cote Basque. Think 1983.
Eater New York announced that La Goulue had returned to the Upper East Side as of January 15, 2018. It had closed in 2009 due to landlord issues. But, the old girl was back with the same 212 phone number. Cheese soufflé takes twenty minutes, but who cares? What else did we have to do? I would be happy to be a glutton at The Glutton.
So, La Goulue it would be for 12:30 on Friday.
After one last consultation, we chose The Benjamin Hotel at Lex and 50th, a short walk to Grand Central. More importantly, for Mary Perrin, a short walk to Saks.
Our pal Michelle Pae sent out an email to a bunch of the Andover crew who get together fairly regularly in the City to see if a Friday night at Yakitori Futago (a Japanese Barbecue/You Cook Your Own Meat at Your Table) would work.
Michelle’s organizational skills were excellent.
She provided a forum for reliving some glorious times we spent at Guyahma, a Japanese restaurant in Boston that served us well when we were well under-aged. Everyone invited on that Friday night had been to Guyahma. I’m not saying that anyone had ever consumed any alcohol under-aged at Guyahma, but I am saying that we had all been there once, twice, twenty times our Senior year.
They practically took out an ad in our yearbook.
I use chopsticks proficiently because Guyahma had no forks or knives. They did have large Kirin beer in the bottle. Not that I know if anyone consumed any. They did know how to make Black Russians. Not that I know if anyone consumed any.
Our pal Erik Moody showed up with pictures of past events at Guyahma, specifically a friend’s 18th Birthday party. What happened at Guyahma will stay at Guyahma.
I still have a certain Irish fisherman’s sweater that I may or may not have been wearing at said birthday party. All of the folks I was with on that Friday night a few weeks back in Manhattan may or may not have been at the same party. May or may not.
Our pal Seth had to back out at the last minute due to family obligations. Another friend, Cynthia, couldn’t come, either. Unfortunately, Rob could meet us for a drink then had to head on back to Lawng Oisland.
So, it would be Yvette Lee, Susan Marcus, Ricky Shin, Chris Swihart, Hamlin O’Kelley, Erik Moody, all Phillips Academy ’90. Poor Mary Perrin. Spouses would be coming. At least to supper. Thank you Mrs. Swihart and Mrs. Moody for being there to soften the full Blue wave breaking over my long Andover-suffering bride. Our organizer, Michelle Pae, ended up booking a last minute trip to a spa in Mexico, but she’d meet us for a drink later in the night on Friday. The most interesting people live in New York.
Swihart, Shin, and I planned for the pregame before Friday night all during the week prior to the supper. More back and forth. How about here? How about here? What about this place? What time? You tell me. I’m the tourist.
Finally, Swihart graciously opened his house to us. See you at the Swiharts’ around 6 on Friday.
Extra tickets for Paul Simon promised to Pae. Michelle would find a friend.
Mary Perrin contacted a Davidson College pal just back from a two week work trip to Sri Lanka and Kenya. No kidding. Typical work trip of course. Brunch on Sunday booked in The Village with her, her husband, and their daughter. The most interesting people live in New York.
I called the hotel to see if we could have an early room if one was available, “Oh, yes, Sir,” said the front desk clerk, “ if it’s available. The U.N.’s big week starts on Monday, so we are pretty full.”
We bid our children goodbye as we have now reached the place where we can leave them at home. They can get themselves to school. They can get themselves to where they need to be over the weekend.
We kissed them goodnight.
We told them that we would not see them in the morning.
The Hedge Funder Flight is one where we always know someone. Sure enough, at 4:45 in the morning we struck up conversation with some friends.
“What y’all doing in the City?”
“Paul Simon’s last concert in Queens.”
“We’re going, too.”
“We’re in the VIP section.”
Not to be outdone, I replied, “Oh, yeh; we are, too.”
“Oh, great. See you there.”
“See you there”
By 8:30 we were in rush hour traffic into the City. Cabbie took the tunnel to Midtown after a few short turns and almost an hour later, we were at Lex and 50th.
Magically, The Benjamin had a room ready. I am now fiercely loyal to The Benjamin Hotel.
Out into the concrete jungle for some breakfast.
It was 9:15 when we emerged on 50th.
We walked over to 5th Avenue.
“What are you? Tourist?” to quote from this summer’s Ocean’s 8.
We’ve established that.
The Today Show had quit filming
Line at Bouchon Bakery was short. Quick breakfast? Sure.
“Henri Bendel’s closing, we should go there.”
Ugh. I hate that place. I can see why it’s closing.
The windows are pretty, I guess.
After we walked through, “I can see why it’s closing, too,” said Mary Perrin.
Quick walk through Bergdorf.
“Ma’am, is this whole floor nothing but Goyard?”
“Goyard does not engage in any form of e-commerce, Sir.”
In the home department, I said aloud to what I thought was an empty room, “Wow, three hundred dollars for a small glass tumbler? Can’t even put it in the dishwasher.”
Lovely clerk replied, “Actually, Sir, we sell a lot of those.”
“Of course you do.”
Long, long walk through Saks. Hours it felt like.
New shoes. For me.
Salesman looks at the shoes I’m wearing, “Man, we sold a TON of those back in the day.”
“These are thirteen years old.”
“I know that’s right,” he said, “I’d say you got your money’s worth. I don’t mean that they’re old or out of style or anything.”
New bag. Not for me.
Long, long walk through Zara.
“Didn’t we just go to one of these in Santa Monica?”
“That was in March”
Success for the girls.
“Let’s go to Sherry Lehmann to get the Swiharts some wine as a hostess present.”
So, we walk to 505 Park into that pristine purveyor of wine and spirits.
The clerk helped us pick some champipple.
I pay with cash.
“Are you from the U.S.?”
“Um…well…South Carolina did try to leave the Union once, but we’ve been in it pretty squarely since that war back in the 1860’s”
“It’s just that it’s mainly our foreign clients who pay with cash.”
He wraps the wine in a gift bag.
“Want to walk to Barney’s?”
So, we walk to Barney’s.
It’s near La Goulue.
It’s a wee bit humid.
“Have I pitted out?”
“Why aren’t we wearing better shoes?”
Barney’s air is working. Whew.
We go look at a friend of a friend’s jewelry collection.
“Let me know if you want to see a piece,” says the nice man.
“Just looking,” we say.
“I’ll be right here,” says the nice man.
We walk over to 29 East 61st
We are seated immediately in a small corner table with no one around us. Perfection.
We pass Robert A.M. Stern holding court.
I text an architect friend of mine.
“He’s a hack” comes the reply
Cheese souffle…yes…we’ll wait.
Washed down with pinkish wine
“May I tell you about the desert?” asks our attentive waiter.
“Et bien sur!”
“The pastry chef has a special of profiteroles filled with cocoa crème patissiere, a quenelle of coconut ice cream, homemade marshmallows, and dark dark chocolate. It is lovely.”
Oui oui oui oui oui oui oui oui oui oui.
After lunch we mosey slowly, satedly to Henry Clay Frick’s home.
It’s the last day of Canova’s George Washington Exhibit with a piece borrowed from Charleston’s own Gibbes Museum.
The Charterhouse of Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus, and Jan Vos.
“No pictures. No touching”
Four Turners, one of which is a little sloppy, as compared to the ones in The Getty in L.A. (I’m now a Turner expert)
That perfect Roman atrium with fountain.
An hour or so with art.
“How about a drink?” asks my bride.
“How about Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle?” I suggest.
No one’s really in the bar at 4:05 p.m. There are a few folks in there. One table of ladies with martini glasses. Well played, Ladies.
We have a drink.
We take pictures of Madeline’s father’s artwork.
To the left of the bar are twelve little girls in two straight lines; the smallest one is Madeline.
“I think we need a rest period; we’ve been on the go since 4 a.m.”
Another Uber ordered as I don’t want to walk 26 blocks.
We notice that Jane Lynch will be at The Carlyle Café with Kate Flannery in Two Lost Souls
And, there’s one of the lost souls crossing Madison Avenue as we wait for another Uber.
She smiles; says “Hello.”
We get in the Uber
“You got to call someone about that.”
At the hotel, we make a run for the Duane Reid in the next block.
Isn’t there’s a Duane Reid on every block?
Or a bank?
Or a Starbucks?
Time for a rest.
Dogs are a barking.
Yvette Lee sends a message, “I’m running a little late.”
I reply, “We’ve been up since 4 a.m. See you at Swiharts’”
We jump in another car and head over to the Swiharts’.
We are immediately buzzed up.
Wish that were the only buzz of the night.
There are my people.
Greetings all around.
“Dude! You’re here.”
“Hammy in the CITAY!”
“Can’t believe it’s been three years since we’ve seen you.”
“How’s the writing going, Hammy?”
“You remember Mary Perrin”
“I’m so glad you’re in the City”
“Look at this picture of your husband in 1990, Mary Perrin.”
“Oh hell no”
“Is that […..……………..]’s 18th birthday party at Guyamha?”
“What’s everyone drinking?”
”Kirins and Black Russians.”
We talk. We visit.
“Y’all, where’s Marcus?”
“Meeting us there”
“We went to Paul Simon last night. You’re going to love it.”
From there, it’s a love fest at supper.
We make Ricky Shin order for everyone.
“Is it because he’s Asian?” I ask Susan Marcus.
“No, dummy, it’s because he’s been here before.”
“God Almighty, I really do love these people,” I think to myself as I grill beef tongue over the brazier.
We finish supper.
They won’t let us pay.
We may be half lit by now.
Or totally lit.
Off to McSorley’s Old Ale House.
Quickest ten block walk with a group ever.
We occupy a booth built for a much smaller group.
I knock over a pitcher of beer onto myself, Yvette Lee, and a little on Chris Swihart. But, mainly on Yvette.
“You never change, Hamlin” says Swihart
“These were the only pants I brought to New York,” I joke.
“Thanks, Hammy,” says Yvette,
Everyone is laughing.
Moody shows us more pictures.
At long soggy last, Mary Perrin pulls the trigger.
It’s kind of late.
“Y’all in a few more hours, I’ll have been up for 24”
Back to the hotel we go in the back of another cab.
“Want another drink?” I ask in the cab.
“No, and you don’t either,” comes the reply.
The next morning, I advise my people that I had just wrung out my pants into a glass for a nice eye opener.
“We’re coming to Charleston”
MP and I head to the New York Luncheonette for breakfast.
I see Jerry and Elaine and George in one corner.
After breakfast we hear from Michelle.
In less than five minutes she has us a table at the rooftop at Eataly.
It’s a gorgeous day.
We go to Bryant Park waiting for a store to open.
We stop at & Other Stories on the recommendation of a pal.
More successful shopping for the girls.
Down, down, down 5th to the Flatiron.
We walk to Fish’s Eddy to see if there is anything we need.
Register to Vote.
Fight the power.
“Isn’t this is a home goods store?”
We walk over to Eataly.
Michelle’s in line.
Perfect meal on the rooftop.
Glass of wine?
“Any allergies?” queries our waitress.
“Just to hipsters,” I reply.
She does not laugh.
Mary Perrin and Michelle laugh.
We had just seen Michelle in April, but this was a better visit over artichokes, farro, mushrooms, beets, burrata, arugula, parm, bread, olive oil.
“My cousin is going to join us tonight. She’s sort of a master of the trains. We’re taking the E to the 7. We’ll meet at the Lex and 53rd station – northeast corner – at 5. Don’t be late.”
“Sounds great; see you there.”
“I need to go rest.”
We walk to Washington Square.
We walk through NYU.
“I would love for Margaret to go to school here.”
“I don’t think she would, though.”
“Well, there’s that.”
Then, much like our Lord and Savior, we descended into Hell.
SoHo on a Saturday.
Worse than the Mall of America.
I hadn’t been to SoHo in thirty years.
I text a friend about SoHo and the crowds.
“It’s the WORST.”
Another Andover pal, Daphne Matelene, Class of ’92, wanted to meet for a drink that afternoon. Done. 4 p.m.
So, we hustle back to the hotel.
We throw some stuff in a bag for the concert.
We brush our teeth.
Back on the street in a New York minute.
We go meet Daphne, who is always delightful. She grew up in Columbia, SC. Her parents live in Charleston. Like me, she’s bilingual. She speaks Southerner and Yankee.
She was just back in the City from Berlin. The most interesting people live in New York.
After a quick, quick visit, it’s time to hit the trains.
Michelle and her cousin, our personal expediter, Jennifer, are waiting for us as we walk up.
“I don’t have a metro card,” I say.
“We’ll swipe you in!”
Tokyo subways have nothing on us.
Sardines have nothing on us.
There’s more space between molecules in inert gases than we had on the trains that evening.
“They’re all going to Flushing,” Michelle announces.
“How do you know?” I ask.
“Because there aren’t usually this many white people on this train.”
We all laugh.
We hang from the metal. We sway. We rock.
We finally get to the right stop in Queens.
“And, now all the white people get off the train,” says Michelle to me knowingly.
We cry laughing.
“We’ll meet you right here after the concert and can get you back,” says Jennifer.
“We can make it back,” I say.
“They totally can,” says Michelle. “They’ve been to New York before.”
“If we don’t see y’all, thanks for everything”
We all hug.
We all separate to stake our places in the grass.
Mary Perrin and I go get our spot.
We stake a place next to a delightful couple from Queens. She grew up in Flushing.
“I went to Forest Hills,” she announces.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“It’s where Paul went to high school.”
I guess they knew each other.
She called him Paul.
All that crap you knew in high school.
The sky blazes over the Unisphere.
The moon is just starting to rise over an open field when the Mayor and the Queen’s Borough President step on stage.
They boo DeBlasio.
Bronx cheer in Queens.
“Why did you all boo DeBlasio?” I ask.
My Flushing friend says, “He’s the woist mayah evah. I miss Bloombuhg.”
And, then, Mr. Simon and friends appear on stage.
For the next few hours.
With tears in his eyes.
With tears in our eyes.
And, he sings
“…and the moon rose over an open field”
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
“Set yourself free”
Boy in the Bubble
“Days of miracle and wonder”
Song no one knows.
Another song no one knows –go to restroom
Third song no one knows – go get beer
Mother and Child Reunion
“I would not give you false hope”
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – with Mrs. Paul Simon (Edie Brickel) whistling
“And when the radical priest/come to get me released/we’s all on the cover of Newsweek”
Fourth song no one knows – more beer, more bathroom.
Fifth song no one knows – contact high from clouds of weed smoke swirling around us
Bridge Over Troubled Water
“I’m sailing right behind”
“The riots started slowly with the homeless and the lowly”
“All these spirit voices rule the night”
The Obvious Child
“We had a lot of fun/We had a lot of money/We lad a little son and we thought we’d call him Sonny”
Questions for the Angels
“Who believes in angels? Fools do/ Fools and pilgrims all over the world”
Sixth song no one knows – more beer, more bathroom, getting even higher through osmosis
The Cool Cool River
“I believe in the future. I may live in my car. My radio tuned to the voice of a star”
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
“She makes the sign of a teaspoon; He makes the sign of a wave”
You Can Call Me Al
“…angels in the architecture..spinning in infinity he says amen and “hallelujah”
Encore No. 1
Late in the Evening
“…stepped outside to smoke myself a j….”
Crowd goes wild.
Still Crazy After All These Years
“But I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers”
“The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National Guitar”
Encore No. 2
“I wish I was” (which should really be “were” since it’s the subjunctive, but o.k.)
With a nod to Forest Hills.
“Everything looks worse in black and white”
“For a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises”
Simon on the guitar playing the Seventh Song no one knows which sounds just like “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”
And, then, the finale.
The tear jerking finale.
The Sound of Silence
“And whispered in the sounds of silence”
After which Mr. Simon said, “It means more than you can know.”
Esp. to us.
Exit, stage right.
Then Forty to Fifty Thousand of our best friends all tried to get on The 7 at the same time.
It’s an apocalypse movie come to life.
The line for metro cards stretches to hyperbole for effect.
Finally, one of New York’s finest makes the decision.
He opens the gates and says, “Just come on. Get on the trains. No cards needed.”
Free ride to the City.
Like a yokel, I took the Local.
We finally arrive at Grand Central after more than an hour.
We say a brief word of thanks to the Commodore for his temple to train travel, and then it’s back to the hotel.
The next morning, we store our bags with the bellman who says he can get us a car service to LaGuardia at 1 p.m. Perfect.
We store our bags and walk to Starbucks.
We then walk to Central Park.
It’s 60 degrees. No humidity.
As we walk toward The Mall we see a man walking his two Labradors. Really handsome dogs. He has on his Beats and smiles wanly as he walks by.
Immediate recognition by me.
“That’s Charlie Rose,” I say to Mary Perrin. “Alleged flasher in the Park; New York moment.”
We stroll up The Mall.
We walk to the Bethesda Fountain.
We walk over to 72nd Street and catch a cab to the Village.
We arrive early for brunch at Rosemary’s.
We walk over to Patchins Place and see e.e. cummings’ house.
We walk around the gardens at Jefferson Market.
We then meet our pals and have a lovely stereotypical brunch and hear all about the trip to Sri Lanka and Kenya. The most interesting people live in New York.
On in the background: Paul Simon and The Smiths.
“Of course There’s a Light That Never Goes Out. This is New York.”
From there, it’s back for one more surgical strike at Saks.
From there, it’s back to The Benjamin
Private car to LGA
LGA –> CHS
I Heart NY
They should put that on a t-shirt.