Into New York City to do Morning Living with Lauren Pressley on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius satellite radio this morning. For the benefit of Brits, this is a subscription based radio service broadcast by satellite with 198 different stations – and no ads. This is a great show, and Lauren is such an enthusiastic and professional host.
But we were booked for 8am and to be safe we’d have to allow two hours to drive in. So we thought: let’s give ourselves a little break. So we drove in yesterday (Thursday) lunch time, visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) then checked into the legendary Algonquin Hotel.
Since it opened over 100 years ago, this has been the haunt of many writers and artists. The New Yorker magazine was founded here, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., John Barrymore and H.L. Mencken all loved the place and, unlike most hotels, from the beginning it welcomed female guests traveling alone and these included Gertrude Stein, Simone de Beauvoir and Eudora Welty. In 1950 William Faulkner drafted his Nobel Prize acceptance speech at the Algonquin.
It’s also famous for its Round Table around which, in the 1920s, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and many others (especially writers from Vanity Fair magazine whose office was nearby) gathered for lunch and repartée every day. Indeed there are quotations from Dorothy Parker on the doors to the rooms. On the door immediately opposite ours was this: Embodying words in sentences, a game frequently played by members of the Round Table – “You can take a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”
After meeting our good friends, photographers Alan and Linda Detrick, for an early dinner at the hotel (wonderful halibut) we were off to W 22nd St to catch the opening night of our friend from England singer Barb Jungr’s run at the Metropolitan Room. Her program of Bob Dylan material, both familiar and obscure, presented Dylan in a new hue – interpreted by this supremely expressive, and at times hilarious, singer.
If you can’t catch this run, catch her when you can - UK or US. New York’s Village Voice says: “Devoted to Bob Dylan, this Manchester-raised and London-based dark lark does his songs as well as he and also vastly differently. She knows where all the darkest corners of his lyrics are on the psychological map and explores each one. The patter in between is also profoundly intelligent and broadly funny.”
Back at the Algonquin, where you can enjoy a delightful leisurely breakfast even if you’re not booked in, there were some impressive flower arrangements in the lobby. They combined plants which are amongst the hardiest of shrubs, forsythia, and the most tender, protea. (Please excuse the below-par flash photo.) And all set off by variegated Swiss cheese plant - Monstera deliciosa ‘Variegata’.
And if you click on the picture, and look in the bottom right hand corner you’ll see Matilda, the Algonquin cat.
To quote the Algonquin website: “In the late 1930s a rather disheveled feline wandered into the hotel searching for food and shelter. Ever the quintessential host, owner Frank Case (the owner at that time) welcomed the furry traveler into the Algonquin and a tradition was born.
“Matilda, the current resident, is very popular with our guests. She has the run of the house (except in dining areas and kitchen) but prefers to oversee the comings and goings of the many guests who cross her threshold.
“Matilda receives mail weekly from friends around the world and has been the subject of countless stories. On one occasion, when her collar was stolen, the “Algonquin Cat-Burglary” was the talk of the town.
“Each year Matilda is given a birthday party, as befits a New York celebrity. A memorable one occurred in 2002 when, while celebrating her seventh birthday with 150 of her closest friends, she jumped on her cake and ran out of the room, leaving a trail of paw prints.”
Then, in the morning, off on foot up 5th Avenue in 9F (-13C) and with a piercing wind. Brass monkey weather, as they say in England. It’s just as well it was only a few blocks. We had a great time with Lauren Pressley, then headed off to the Guggenheim for a few hours (more on that, with a horticultural slant, next time) before heading home to Pennsylvania. Where I find that at 7.07am this morning the temperature hit 1.2F (-17.1C) – and with no snow to provide an insulating blanket. Oh dear. Some plants, I’m afraid, just won’t make it through.