Ed. note: WiFi spotty on American Airlines so I am posting this after a great re-entry to Santa Barbara with J, Emma and Ollie. I had a terrific brunch at Cafe Stella: crab/avocado melt with fontina on rye with Pays D’Oc, surely the best 6 dollar a glass Sauvignon anywhere.
Also, while my father was a loyal American Airlines/Admirals Club member his whole career post-bench (allowing me to fly to Yale on frequent flyer miles much of my undergraduate career) and my dear, beloved aunt is still a flight attendant, I cannot recommend this airline (for coach). The seats are cramped and horrible, even for a slender woman 5 feet, 8 inches tall. I can hardly imagine what a normal-sized man of 6 feet would feel like and shudder to think what a slightly to moderately overweight man or woman would experience for 5 or 6 hours on coach in a 737. The entertainment system is antiquated and the cheese plate inedible. The wine sucks, even for coach. I flew Jetblue nearly 3 years but it doesn’t fly out of SBA and after going through our cute little TSA in an airport I liken to the villa of a Columbian drug cartel leader, complete with an restaurant with more than respectable Bloody Marys and fish tacos, I won’t ever fly LAX again if I can help it.
Sigh….my last hours in the city but the ambivalence is mitigated by the knowledge I will be back in mid-July for the Luigi Jazz Dance one-week intensive (five to six hours a day)! I will stay in the city after that before heading up to the Cape and possibly Barrington, RI for a bit as well. Thursday afternoon, I met my friend who introduced me to my dear friend in Jersey (high school classmates in fact in Rockland County) at the Terrace Club, just off Rock Center.
Unbeknownst to me, his incredibly smart business partner decided to join us for stimulating conversations about Judaism, marriage and much else. They had tea and coffee while I enjoyed the salad special: watermelon, feta, and arugula with prodigious amounts of iced tea. (Bloomberg would be so proud. Don’t even get me started on this absurd proposed soda ban, however happy I was for the 600K gift to Planned Parenthood in the wake of the Karen Handel brouhaha and however I am committed to genuine campaigns to reduce obesity, a problem costing America 150 billion or so a year and directly linked to 5 out of 10 of the leading causes of death.)
Later, another friend I met for the first time last trip came from DUMBO, where she is currently staying, to meet us though she doesn’t know either of them. They left us to eat and I loved the brie and chicken sandwich (I left off the bacon) and she enjoyed her coconut shrimp. The server was very rude, clearly aware we were not members and also clearly of the opinion that two male members must not have thought us fit dining companions. A busboy was so nice we tracked him town to give him a cash tip separate from our waiter. I dislike Cosmos as a rule–far too sweet–but these were perfect.
Dance was wonderful. For the first time, I made an attempt (however humiliating) at the combination at the 1PM intermediate/advanced class. It doesn’t look hard but the footwork is fast and with the oppositional shoulders and weight changes–the classic Luigi style–it was not at all easy and I was pouring with sweat, huffing like the Big Bad Wolf as Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) said to Mongo Monahan in Season 1 of Rescue Me. It’s hard even to nail the footwork, much less to make it look graceful doing so. I am very excited about the one week intensive in mid-July and will Fed-Ex the check as I misplaced my checkbook when in the city (it was in my Bronx Zoo bag with the stuffed animals I bought my father and my FB mom’s first grandson). Here I am after class in my Star and Shamrock t-shirt from the Atlas District (H Street) in DC from March.
I posted two pictures on my Facebook Victorian Chick page. The “insights” merely confirm what I have learned in this year or so of blogging: food, pets, and sex sells. About 78 people saw this (FB has “organic” and “viral” viewers and you can see which status updates of photos or notes reach which type). I also posted one without tummy exposed and it had about 20% fewer views. A picture from the Christopher Street subway last Friday night after the play garnered about the same number of views. (See below.)
I must express my gratitude to Facebook and Victorian Chick readers. It may be a server issue, but I had 71 followers on the blog when I left CA and overnight–literally–the number jumped to 480! I’m just shy of 500 and I don’t know whether to attribute that to being in the city and chatting it up with everyone or to the fan page, whose weekly reach is holding steady at 1400 or so. In any event, very little in life has the capacity to bring as much joy as knowing that people are reading and enjoying my writing.
Here I am in the Christopher Street subway around 1 AM after Psycho Therapy: Couples Counseling for Three, about which I will blog this week. It was approximately 400 degrees in the subway but I was on my way back to the apartment after drinks at Cuba with three people who work for Bloomberg (media not politics) and a bite alone at Sushi Samba, a favorite place of my Jersey “sister,” who was at NYU for a time years ago.
Yale was amazing too. I got a late start and didn’t realize the last Amtrak was 9:20 PM. Amtrak, incidentally, is highway (or train) robbery! Pricing varies according to availability so already reeling (but prepared by last summer’s train to Providence en route to the Cape) from sticker shock at the 92 RT from Penn Station to New Haven, I got a further hit the next morning when the crowded train required 27 bucks on top of the 37 I had paid for the return.
It was more than worth it. After dinner at Chin Chin on 49th and 4rd, a wonderful New Wave Chinese favored by my family friend who has known me since kindergarten, with my Kalorama/Barrington/UES friends, I was so happy after 2 bottles of Robert Mondavi Sauvignon between the three of us, that I thought it would be fun to take Metro North. A conductor told me the trains’ blue and vinyl seats have not changed in some four decades. But in the morning, without wine or whiskey fueling nostalgic dreams, I opted for Amtrak and I am so glad I did. I stayed at New Haven Hotel on George and with Booking.com, it was only 119. That was absolutely a nostalgia thing as it is across from my old gym, Downtown Health and Racquet, and just two blocks from the Taft, where I lived from 1993 to 1996, minus summers in Los Angeles. This is the side facing the New Haven Green.
The Taft used to be the best apartment building in New Haven. York Towers was a close second and the apartments were slightly larger but this was definitely the primo place. It was in the Gilmore Girls, though Logan’s apartment was most certainly not in this building, nice but not luxe and palatial.
I hear there is a new luxury building with rooftop garden, amenities, 1700 a month for a one-bedroom, 3200 for a two-bedroom and 3900 for a three-bedroom. That’s very pricey for New Haven. As a Californian by upbringing, I didn’t understand that on the East Coast, a two-bedroom is usually 75% more money than a one-bedroom. That’s not the case where I live. My two-bedroom in Santa Barbara (cheap by NYC standards) is only 25% more than the one-bedrooms in the complex. I would guess a one-bedroom in the Taft has to go for 1400 now, but I could be wrong. I paid 550 for a single, 550 feet, on the 10th floor with a small view of Long Island Sound from the very large kitchen. I loved living here. Mine was on the other side.
The Taft sits on the corner of Chapel and College (265 College is the address), right next to the Schubert Theater, where I saw Alvin Ailey, Sisters Rosensweig and Laughter on the 23rd Floor, all wonderful. That bank wasn’t there but Ann Taylor was and I bought my graduation dress there. It’s a 2 and it fits but it’s too tight. Mom said it looked fine but I wouldn’t wear it just yet: mauve, silk, to the knee with a slight button and v-neck. Ann Taylor had jeans for 29 dollars in all colors and I never bought any other kind of jeans. Their sale sweaters were great and it was very convenient to have an Ann Taylor 30 seconds away.
Basta is a gem! Owned by Claire, who sadly lost her beloved husband Frank not long ago, it’s a terrific Italian restaurant, less expensive than Scoozi but just as good in a slightly more rustic, less nouvelle way. It’s more bistro-like and my mussels appetizer for 12.95 in a tomato cream sauce was sublime. I drank a Sauvignon I enjoyed very much and it was at Basta I realized I could not go home on the 9:20. The ceiling reminds me of the old Cielo on the Upper West Side in the early 1990s.
This may be my favorite picture from the day in New Haven.
To the right is the edge of Old Campus, my freshman dorm Vanderbilt Hall on one side. I don’t know how I got stuck on the 4th floor all three semesters I lived on campus but I did. And as I often note, these aren’t pussy 20th-century California stairs. The individual steps are high and the flights are long.
It always bewildered me when girls gained the proverbial “freshman 15.” I was never as thin and tight in all my life as when I lived in New Haven, trudging up the four flights many times a day, getting on my Nordictrack daily and eating three–not two–meals a day. Then again, I didn’t go to keg parties (two was enough with drunken freshman and sophomore boys funneling beer and eating shitty pizza), nor did I eat pizza in college. Maybe people who grew up with snow aren’t affected, but I have also never understood why places in the Midwest, say, have such high rates of obesity. Your body has to work harder to survive in the winter temperatures and I know that between Labor Day 1992 and Thanksgiving 1992, I lost about ten pounds and Mom was shocked to find me so thin at LAX when she picked me up. Odd.
The food at Basta is spectacular and reasonable, with a mussels appetizer in light tomato cream for just 12.95. It serves as an entree, but the entrees are in the teens mostly, some in the low 20s.
It got a little bit dark and two people asked me for money, though New Haven strikes me as quite gentrified the last few years. However, five people cited a statistic much on everyone’s mind at the moment, due to what is apparently at best a misleading, and at worst an irresponsible, piece in the Yale Daily News, claiming that New Haven is the fourth deadliest city in the nation. When I got there it was the hood, no question. I’ve mentioned more than a few times that my father simply could not believe that Yale was my first choice and that I didn’t intend to apply anywhere else if I got in early (which I did). That I would not even consider Princeton left him simply speechless.
I do not regret not applying to Columbia for college but I very much regret not applying for graduate school, unaware of the grad student housing subsidies both there and NYU. I really am over it. That ship has sailed–a career of note in the academy which for me would mean teaching at a top New England or Mid-Atlantic liberal arts college or university–but going to Columbia or NYU grad school would almost certainly have prevented me from losing 10 years of my life to depression, whatever did or didn’t happen for me by way of academic career.
Here are the new flower baskets on all the lamp posts lining Old and Cross Campuses. Stunning!
At lunch, someone asked me what “gentrification” means. To me, not speaking as an economist or realtor, it means two things: 1) you aren’t going to get raped or killed strolling around town, 2) the sidewalks and streets are perfect and lined with high-end eateries and boutiques. By this standard, the Yale part of New Haven is indeed more like Cambridge (not that this is in my view the be-all and end-all of New England or Ivy existence and, in fact, my second choice was Penn not Harvard).
I’m no stranger to panhandling, living in Santa Barbara, a “city” which makes homelessness considerably less ghastly than some cities in America. That’s another story. But I decided to move indoors for my last glass of wine and here I am, reading the New Haven Advocate.
From there I went to the Owl Shop, considerably more upscale than when I first came to New Haven. It is a very old cigar shop, which during the summer, has outdoor seating. I always left New Haven by Memorial Day so I never knew of all these patio options. By Labor Day, I think (even though it was always disgusting then), establishments had taken the tables indoors. I hung out with five locals and had a very good time talking about my blog and New York and Los Angeles. They enjoyed the story of how I came to have so many conservative friends, never having known real-life Republicans before Facebook. (Come to think of it, showing them the “red dress” photo might explain the 400% increase in my blog following!)
The Copper Kettle, a greasy spoon around the corner, is gone, as is Seychelle’s, Film Fest Video, Hello Deli and Sugar Magnolia. I loved the sugar free chewy candies there and would often stop by on my way back to the apartment before dinner and the gym. Even then, I preferred to work out late at night but now I don’t mind morning or afternoon swims or walks.
Here are some pictures from campus: Master’s House of Berkeley College (complete with new private parking space on Wall Street!), the Yale School of Drama, YUAG (Yale University Art Gallery), YCSB/Mellon Center (the Yale Center for British Art), the arch between Old Campus and the art galleries, Berkeley North Court entryway from Wall Street. I’ve taken and posted Beinecke pictures but the postcards are so excellent, I decided to leave it to the professionals.
But screw the house. The Master of Berkeley now has his own parking space on Wall Street! That’s real privilege.
The drama school is also relatively unchanged; that’s one great thing about Yale. New Haven may change and there are of course renovations and new buildings but Sterling, Hall of Graduate Studies, CCL (Cross Campus Library, now Bass due to a 20 million dollar gift from the Bass family which I take it entitled them to rename it) looks pretty much the same. I think that’s why people who go to Yale go back and have such a strong reaction, a sense truly of returning to the past. And that’s just not something you get at every university. UCLA and UCSB are always changing and of course you have no Gothic architecture at UCSB and plenty of ugly buildings including South Hall which, of course, houses the English department which made me so miserable.
I have said it before but perhaps now, even without UCSB pictures (the ocean is gorgeous and the new modern buildings, none of which are humanities buildings with the exception of HSSB), one can see how anyone attuned to aesthetics or beauty would find UCSB a terribly depressing prospect after Yale. UCLA has many beautiful buildings and it’s a gorgeous campus, located in prime West Los Angeles real estate. UCSB is on the beach, yes, but it’s in a relative wasteland two hours north of Los Angeles. Word to the wise, my friends with college age kids: if your kids grew up in a city, keep your fingers crossed they get in and get funded at an equally exceptional graduate school. I feel almost a moral duty to prevent others from experiencing the fate I did coming from New Haven to Santa Barbara.
The Yale Rep seems redder than I remember it and the 2012-13 season looks amazing!
All the plays look wonderful, but I really want to see the play about Elizabeth Bishop. I regretted never auditing Elizabeth Cook’s class at UCSB, a course for seniors, she taught as kind of a reward for all her hard work. It was really fun for her and the course was entirely hers: Wordsworth, Dickinson, Bishop. I took very little modern poetry either at Yale or UCSB and I wish very much that I had. I love Elizabeth, who came to UCSB from Yale a year before I did and was the only thing probably that kept me from hurling myself off the tallest building at UCSB (HSSB)! At five stories, it seemed a risky proposition.
The plays are at the Rep but this sign is outside YSD, whose list of famous alums is very long. Meryl Streep, perhaps, is one of the most famous and she credits much of her profoundly fulfilling as well as happy, successful career to YSD. I know someone who graduated with MFA in playwriting in 1993 and he has enjoyed great success in TV. (Of course he’s also just incredibly smart and funny and got a law degree at Tulane after his undergrad at Dartmouth.)
Another Yale Institution, of which I was not a member is of course Mory’s. I have read much about the “new” Mory’s in the alumni magazine (which I consider, truly, one of the best university alum magazines because it is not funded by the university and thus remains independent of university politics and agendas). The food was godawful but you didn’t go there for the food. It is about tradition and drinking of course: Mory’s Cups are part of the Yale experience for singers in a cappella groups and athletes alike. I participated neither in singing nor drama nor sports and was obviously (as a result) not in a Secret Society so my experience at Mory’s is limited to lunch with a lawyer from my gym and my Chaucer professor, Bob Watson.
Yale reunions always take place on Memorial Day weekend. I’m not sure when they started to break them up over two weekends but this explains all the flags around campus. I didn’t know it was also the 100-year anniversary of Mory’s on York. Very cool!
I have more pictures both from Yale and NYC (Rouge Tomate, Brio and Barney’s ballerina dress over which I drooled but whose price I did not find out as I am not a masochist) but want to post this before dinnertime in the West, so will leave off with a few doggie pictures. Emma was overjoyed–truly jubilant–to see me and she is just the best dog ever (even J agrees and he grew up with dogs).
We also had J’s ex-wife’s new German shorthair pointer, Haley. She is very sweet though I have no experience with hounds and find them a bit hyper.
Happy Sunday night!