Wednesday, September 26, 2012

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

Many years ago, I lived downtown in a neighborhood that became known as SoHo, an abbreviation of South of Houston Street.  At that time it was not really a residential neighborhood.  Most of us who lived there were artists who had commercial leases with the quiet collaboration of our landlords, who were happy to fill large, primitive, spaces in their buildings formerly used by light industrial businesses.  Many of these businesses were textile-related.

The facades of many of these buildings were decorated with cast iron.  Most of these buildings were not in great shape and were cold in winter.

The picture below shows a current view of where I once lived.  The building is now painted off white.  It was not painted when I lived there on the fourth floor (third floor to some readers.)  I think the fire escape was a rusty green.

I reluctantly left my loft in the early 1980's because I could no longer afford to live there, and  had not had an official lease for some time.  By the time I left, the term Loft had attained glamour and SoHo was awash with galleries, restaurants and small unique shops.

Since then, the neighborhood's galleries and most artists have moved on.  Big commercial interests (Chanel, Prada, Tiffany, etc.) have arrived.  The primitive old lofts have been vastly  improved and house millionaires.  Tourists still seem intrigued by quaintness we old timers no longer see.

I now work in a SoHo shop, and had an interesting experience last Sunday.  An older gentleman entered the shop and, as is our way, we greeted him and his companion, and let it be known we were there to assist.  

The gentleman and his companion walked around for a while and then seemed ready to depart, and so I inquired if I could help him find what he was looking for.  He smiled and replied no, because it wasn't there anymore.  This intrigued me and so I said that we often here that phrase...what was it that he sought?

And so, he told me.  Years ago, he'd made a movie in the neighborhood and was trying to find the location he'd used.  He said the film was An Unmarried Woman.  Well!  Of course, I remembered the film very well, and was able to tell this gentleman that the film was made on Greene Street where I had lived.  This gentleman was Paul Mazursky, the writer and director of that wonderful movie.  It was such a pleasure to meet him, and to be able to direct him to the street where I'd lived.

If any of you have seen the film, perhaps you will remember that last scene of the unmarried woman trying to carry a very large canvas down a street?  If you've not seen the film, I would recommend it!

Now, I will wrench myself from nostalgic indulgence and show you what's happening in Central Park these autumn days.

By the Lake, there are some late flowering plants and shrubs, and the weather is still warm enough for rowboats and ducks to share the water.

Alas, the next photo is not clear enough to provide evidence of two fast-moving little hummingbirds who were feasting yesterday afternoon.  I do not believe that I had ever before seen a hummingbird!

I continued my walk by the lake, and somehow did not take lake photos.  Instead, I will treat you to some of the decorative sculptures along the grand staircase that leads to the Bethesda Fountain area.

You can see how intricate these nature inspired sculptural friezes are.

I think that they are quite beautiful.

Heading just a bit south of the Bethesda area, I came upon the old Band Shell plaza area, that has many benches and quite a few large, decorative planters.  Pleased do not be fooled by the  next photo.  That gorgeous leafy tree is not, repeat not, growing from the planter.

As you look at the next picture, imagine that you can hear the bossa nova saxophone music played by the gentleman  just to the right of the lamp post on the left.  You can also imagine having ice cream or a hot dog or other snacks purchased from the vendors to the right.

Here is a reminder that Central Park really is in the middle of  Manhattan.

It's always interesting to see what improvements are underway around the Park.  Although I saw no workers yesterday, someone has definitely been doing a fine job in making an attractive amendment to an existing pathway 

The project is not yet complete.

These stones look very heavy.  Would any of you all like to volunteer to finish the project?

As always, there are quiet places in crowded New York, where a couple might enjoy a sweet romantic moment.  This boulder makes a sweet spot.

The shadows were beginning to grow, as they do earlier each afternoon, and so I began walking home.  I passed by another little grove featuring a wonderful mix of plants.  I do not know what this pale pink berry might be.

I thought it interesting that now that summer has departed, we again get a glimpse of golden yellow flowers.  It does not seem so long ago that the daffodils charmed us with their colors.

I hope that you all are also enjoying these late September days.  They have much to offer!


  1. Hello Frances:
    We have just returned from a walk through some of the City streets on what has been the most gloriously warm and sunny September afternoon and now, delight of delights, have come home to your latest post.

    How wonderful to have encountered Paul Mazursky who is, of course, exceedingly well known for his work within the film industry, and also as an actor. There is something very touching that he should have returned to see where he once filmed, and how very exciting that it should have been in the very street in which you lived [on, for us, the third(!!) floor].

    That an area should change so much in a relatively short period of time is remarkable. However, deep down one rather regrets too much in the way of gentrification. Indeed, only now on our walk we were commenting on the black grittiness of Budapest, once off the very main streets, which appeals to us so much.

    The sculptural friezes are marvellous and remind us of the wood carvings of the C18 Grinling Gibbons.

  2. What a wonderful tale!
    How things change in a dynamic city-and how one half wishes they wouldn't......
    but Central Park is so much more wonderful now than in the very gritty 80's.....

    I suppose just a lesson to seize the day!

  3. Hi Frances,

    I can't recall the film but will look out for it now. How wonderful to meet the director.

    Do you think that in the winter the rain gets into those deep friezes and turns to ice?

  4. In New York I guess there's always the possibility that someone interesting could walk in the door. I am not familiar with the director or the film I'm afraid.

    I think I may have taken photographs of your old apartment in SoHo Frances, some years ago. In the '90s I think. What a coincidence if they were the same! I will send copies in a separate email and you can see for yourself.

    I enjoyed walking with you.

    Bella B.

  5. This post was a real pleasure to read, Frances. It was like a snippet from a novel, and I loved seeing the photo of where you used to live and hearing the story of it. How wonderful you met the film director (and knew the film) and that the location was your old street :) I will put the film on my list now.
    Loved the walk in the park too.
    Wishing you a happy day!
    Helen x

  6. What an amazing encounter! He must have been very grateful to you. You've brought back distant memories of a good film - I think I may need to find it to re-watch now!
    Your photos and descriptions of Central Park are so evocative, as always, and it's fun to be taken along for a stroll.

  7. I enjoyed your tale very much Frances... I cannot believe there are hummingbirds in central park. I have never seen a hummingbird and it would be such a delight if I did. We were given a framed photograph of one of those buildings in SoHo for our wedding, not the building you lived in, but a neighbouring building. Enjoy the rest of your week x

  8. Another lovely trip around your city. I did enjoy that Frances. I think the happy farmer would be at home with those stones they resemble the huge ones he uses when repairing the drystone dykes here. Funny you meeting the director of the film in your shop, I happened to have the guy who wrote and produced the series Taggart in my little pottery over the summer and I too only discovered this as we got chatting about various things, it is very humbling when you meet someone who has produced something you have watched and admired.
    Enjoy your autumn,
    Posie x

  9. How wonderful that you could gie the directions for him to find the place he was looking for. It is very hard to go back to a place one knew many years ago and realise that nothing is the same.
    I first saw humming birds in Canada, and could watch them all day!

  10. Frances, I certainly do enjoy these late summer days or perhaps early fall but what I enjoyed the most is now seeing your place in that particular light. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful discovery through the Park and SoHo. It looks so peaceful and quiet, difficult to imagine that this is Big Apple. The stone path invites me to continue the pattern but only because it has started. However, I believe the job would be very higgledy-piggledy (had to watch up the writing ;-)) certainly not what is required in such a place :-O.

  11. I see someone has beaten me to it with the Grinling Gibbons comparison, what wonderful sculpting! And so lovely to see one of your old 'pads' which I remember you telling us about. Another feast of a post Frances, thank you!

  12. Wonderful post - great story about the gentleman looking for a location. Photographs of Central Park are lovely.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  13. What a super story Frances... and I love your loft building! Your posts always make me want to visit New York.

  14. Dear Frances,

    Your encounter with Paul Mazursky sounds really special. It's not every day that you meet someone like him. Do you know what his reasons were for wanting to see the old film location? It sounds really interesting!

    Lucky you to have lived in that neighbourhood for a while. The apartments look really impressive. We don't have them like that in Holland.

    Happy weekend,

    Madelief x

  15. i enjoyed reading your story frances. your experiance sounds very much like mine here on the west coast. i manage 2 shops that attract occasional producers, celebrities, artists...
    i would have liked to know soho before it went through it's changes, although i do love it now.
    you know i have one child that lives in brooklyn and now another is moving in october to soho, one of these days maybe i'll walk into your shop!


  16. I think I may have seen that movie, if its with Jill Clayburg?
    The stonework is stunning; lots of artistic gravitas in NYC!

  17. Enjoy your sharing.
    I like knowing more
    about the area where
    2 young granddaughter's
    have made their home.
    So much to see and experience.
    I would love to visit them
    but do not know if I can leave
    my country cottage in the woods :)

  18. I loved the story of Paul Mazursky making a sentimental journey - so much like any one else.
    Gentrification of a neighbourhood can be such a sad thing. The people who can afford the new version play at living the life that the people REALLY living the life can't afford!

  19. I always enjoy your reminders of the existence of nature in the big city. Such beauty! And that amazing sculptured detail -- I, too, thought of Grinling Gibbons.

  20. I loved your story of the past Frances, so easy to forget that history trails right behind us. And how wonderful that you met Paul Mazursky and were able to furnish directions to the right location!

  21. Dear Frances,

    My only regret here is that I didn't have a cup of my favourite black tea with rose petals to sip whilst reading your post! It was lovely. I enjoyed the snippet from your artistic past and your meeting with Mr Mazursky.

    Humming birds? Yes, yes! The only place I ever glimpsed some - serveral in fact - was when I worked upstate New York twenty years ago in Old Forge (if you know it). I, like Julie above, have really enjoyed the stone work in Central Park too.

    Warmest wishes for a lovely week, Frances.


  22. I've enjoyed this post so much, Frances that I've been back to read it a couple of times. A wonderful story and a walk in the park as a bonus, too.

    That creeping gentrification is a subject (as you will know from my first novel) is one that very much interests me. I've been watching the subtle changes in a holiday village near me with interest. There are moves, I think, to enhance its appeal to Staycationers, but on balance this part of the world remains pretty much a well-kept secret. Cx

  23. Thanks you for the wonderful stories and pictures. Your travelogues in New York are always brilliant.

  24. I am definately going to look out for that film Frances, how exciting for you to meet the director!

    I visited SoHo a couple of times, it reminds me of an area we have in Manchester which was also a textile area with similar architecture. Like your SoHo it is being slowly gentrified and is now called "The Northern Quarter". No Chanel or Prada but many small arty shops and bars and rent increases no doubt.

    How lovely to see humingbirds too, that would be the icing on the cake.

    Thanks also for directing me to the Budapest blog, I had a quick look but will return soon.

  25. I always wondered why SoHo had a capital H in the middle - now I know! How romantic that you were an artist in a loft all those years ago - what a wonderful thing to be able to say. And the park is beautiful - hard to believe that it is in the middle of a huge city.

    Pomona x

  26. Frances... Greetings! What a lovely walk through the park! I have not had the pleasure of visiting your wonderful city, but feel as if I have made those steps with you today! A real adventure for me.. thank you for sharing. What a wonderful gesture for you to make in asking the gentleman more about what he was looking for. Isn't it odd that we often miss those fascinating life moments just because we do not take the extra measure to reach out? I am sure you made his day... you have added much to mine!

  27. I am so sorry that I am once again arriving very late to accompany you on your tour, both into the past and through the present.

    I know of these SoHo building only through films, of course, how wonderful that you have first-hand experience of them.

    Your daily (?) walk through Central Park must be an absolute delight, to watch the seasons come and go and that you record these changes here is a pleasure for this reader.

  28. What a chance encounter with Paul Muzursky. I will have to look for that film.

    New York City is constantly changing and re-inventing itself, what was is.

    Great to see old stomping grounds.

    Lil Bit Birt

  29. Who could forget Jill Clayburgh carrying that sail of a painting in Soho..?
    Wonderful story Frances and I love your take on Central park and the end of summer.

  30. Just fabulous this post Frances. I am reading it before breakfast and it ha set me up for the day.
    Beautiful story to start of the meeting with the film director - I shall check this film out.
    Beautiful sculpture pics and a tour of your city as seen, as always, by the eye of an artist.

  31. I will look out that film and think of you. I have often wondered what SoHo was abbreviated from and now I know.

  32. You always have such little gems to tell, to show us and take us on interesting tours. Love the sculptural frieze , very intricate and beautiful .
    I heard it was John Lennons birthday yesterday, thought about the garden in Central Park, you introduced here in your posts.
    Hope you are enjoying some lovely Atumn days.