New York Stories :: Saturday in (and around) the Park...

I've always loved capturing people when they are most natural, when they are simply being themselves whether deep in thought, in conversation, enjoying a meal, or relaxing. The photo captures a split moment in time and yet can say and reveal so much more - a simple expression, a wrinkle, a twinkle in an eye, or even a tear. New York has this gruff edge. New Yorkers are considered to be rough, rude, rushed, edgy, harsh - the truth is that really these couldn't be further from the truth. Of course during the week people are in work mode. There are meetings, deadlines, mega-million dollar deals that can put people's livelihood and well-being at stake. New Yorkers can be a serious bunch - of that there's no question. But meander through the city on weekends, especially a summer weekend, and you'll see a side of the city that is not always seen, and not always portrayed. You'll see the softer side of New Yorkers. New Yorkers at ease and play.

Even though I have not lived in the city for well over 20 years, I still and forever will consider myself a New Yorker. I love the city. I love the energy - it always pulls me in. The city is and will forever feel like home to me. There's nothing like walking out into Grand Central Terminal or driving over the bridge as her tall and majestic buildings draw closer and closer. Flying into her airports after travelling locally or abroad. There are many wonderful, beautiful cities, but there is only 1 New York. Although I no longer live here, Manhattan is my home.

I had the privilege of spending the entire weekend here - a mix of business and pleasure. I will, over the course of the next few days, share my journey with you. But for now, as it's the weekend, I will show you what New York at ease is really about - New York through my eyes.

Central Park shuts down to all cars and trucks, and the only traffic is that that is generated by the bicycles, the runners, walkers, skateboarders... New Yorkers are a healthy lot. Wander through the park and you'll also see those doing yoga, and participating in boot camps. You'll see those relaxing on the grass with friends and loved ones, reading the New York Times, enjoying a picnic or cup of coffee. There's no better place to people watch in the world for we are such a mixed cast of characters!

New Yorkers love their pets, especially their dogs. Central Park turns into a dog park, perfect for our furry, four legged friends who, after a long week, get to run around and frolic in the grass too. You will see, from my images, that New Yorkers, especially on Saturday mornings in the park, are no different than anyone else. We may be luckier - we have, after all, some of the best, museums, hotels, restaurants, and events around...




All images are property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House and may not be used or reproduced without proper attribution.

Manhattan when I was young :: A Tribute to a city, the victims of 9 -11 and their families

Photo: Matt Weber

Our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, sons and daughters... Our best friends and loved ones perished much too soon. You remain forever young in our hearts... you remain in our thoughts and prayers... Angels among us...

As many of you know I grew up in Manhattan. The towers, along with the Chrysler and Empire State Building made up the skyline as I knew it. You can't get lost in New York, all you have to do is look up! The buildings will guide you and take you to where you want to go... and they will bring you back home safely. The skyline, the streets filled with cabs and busy pedestrians and extravagant shopping is part of my own personal landscape. Like the street vendor selling hot pretzels. Like the hansom cabs. Like the homeless man on the corner or the children running and skipping down the sidewalk... Or the young lovers strolling through the park holding hands. The artist, the photographer, the crazy haired hippie, the business man, the dog walker with 12 dogs of varying sizes... these people are all my Manhattan. As is Central Park in Spring. Central Park in the Fall. Central Park when it snows. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. St. Patrick's Cathedral. Rockefeller Center. The Plaza. Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue... Tiffany and Company. Wollman rink. The boat basin. The boathouse. The traffic! Tavern on the Green, which sadly no longer exists. They are all my Manhattan when I was young. And all I have to do is close my eyes and know they are there. I close my eyes and I can see the towers. Strong. Tall. Majestic. Radiant in the morning sun. Glorious at sunset. All I have to do is close my eyes...

I left Manhattan when I was in my early 20s. I did not go very far. I went all the way to Greenwich, Connecticut. Highbrow, austere, elegant, tony, wealthy (though I had not a penny!) Greenwich, Connecticut. I didn't care much about the exquisite shopping on Greenwich Avenue back then, I was all about Todd's Point. Park, beach, nature preserve. Sublimely beautiful. Serene. Tranquil. Paradise. Lined by beautiful sandy beaches and endless trails for biking, running and walking. This park is a health enthusiast's utopia... it's heaven even for the non exercise enthusiast. I used to love to go to Todd's to run, walk or rollerblade. I loved most, this one spot, just around the bend... You could see the tip of Manhattan. I paused there often. Just taking in the magnificence of the city. Taking in the magnificence of my hometown. On a clear day she shone with a brilliance rivalled by none. Then again, she was rivalled by none - she was, (is) after all, Manhattan. The towers stood together, proudly, at the tip like watchdogs guarding their home. The towers were infallible... You'd know this, of course, if you ever stood inside their grand lobbies. But the Titanic, I suppose, was infallible too...

On September 11th, 2001 I was in my early 30s and living in my new home in Fairfield, Connecticut, some 30 miles east of Greenwich. I had two babies, the younger one was a mere 9 months old. I was on the phone and watching the Today Show when the first plane struck. A moment in time like no other. A moment in time that will never be forgotten. My Manhattan had been attacked. My Manhattan was forever altered. I think I was too... I think we all were.

"I'm at Todd's" a friend called to tell me. "I can see them. I can see the towers." She said nothing else. I knew what she meant. I wondered how many people - men, women and children, stood there, at Todd's Point, that day watching history... watching history crumble. I couldn't do it. I'd never want to. I have them in my memory. I have them in my mind still. Perfect. Strong. Safe. In my mind, I can remember Manhattan when I was young.

I offer my heartfelt prayers to all those who lost loved ones on September 11th, 2001. They will never be forgotten.



New York, to that tall skyline I come...

Of All days we picked today to reconvene and have lunch. The city is spectacular this time of year. Autumn in New York is magnificent. Unless it happens to be raining monsoon-like rains! I'm braced with my raincoat (Kenneth Cole black with silver faux fur collar) and my black boots (Nine West but look fancy designerish) and my collapsible Burberry umbrella that I will keep wrapped in a plastic shopping bag inside my black patent leather bag for safekeeping when not in use.) I'm ready with plenty of green in my wallet to keep this girl dry. Ordinarily public transportation is not even a fleeting thought but I really don't want the rain to mess with my hair so this girl will be cabbing it today. In my bag I have my iPhone, my dog-eared copy of  Up at the Villa by Somerset Maughm, my agenda (I prefer paper to iPhone for this) a few pens, lipstick, lip-gloss, some make up for touch-up, a few mints to suck on, a bottle of water, some Kleenex and my sunglasses just in case I'll need them. That last item is wishful thinking, I know!

Where am I going you want to know? Well, I'll be headed to Fred's Restaurant at Barney's.

And I've been pondering over the menu, wondering what on earth I will have... everything looks so good!

It all looks marvelous, does it not? I'll most likely be getting a salad...perhaps the Nicoise...

Who will I be joining? I'll be joining the same group of lovely ladies I lunched with a Bergdorf's last Spring. Liz Lange and her sister Jane Wagman of Shopafrolic will be there, as will Stacy of Quintessence, PR Guru and Ridgely's Rader blogger Ridgely Brode, this time we have the pleasure of being joined by stylist Kelley Moore, PR maven Ruth of the Fashion Office... do I have everyone? Have I unintentionally left someone out? Forgive me, please, if I have! I must be off now to wash my hair and check my train schedules. I'll be taking plenty of pictures and if you're a Tweeter I'll be Tweeting out some pictures as well! Look for my Tweets starting at Noonish!

Have a great Thursday and to my East Coast friends, please stay dry!


The Original Gossip Girl

and Blair and Serena Waldorf have NOTHING on moi!

Yes, this cute little girl pictured above with her father (who bore a striking resemblance to JFK) was The Original Gossip Girl... now don't you forget it ;)

(I just learned that my childhood building has become famous. I wondered why so many people out there were Googling 1136 Fifth Avenue!)

This building was also home to (at least) 3 more celebs... Adorbs NBC attorney Dan Abrams was my neighbor down on the 3rd floor.    I used to play with his sister. I thought Dan was a dorky GI Joe-loving pest! Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid would eventually live in my apartment.

Now that you have enjoyed these most exciting facts that make you a better person and have changed your view on life... go enter the Preppy Plaid Photo contest. (See link on side bar)

Yeah... feeling a wee bit snarky after all... Gossip Girls are allowed to ;)

Baby you can drive my car...

I was out with an old friend the other night. We somehow ended up talking about cars, specifically our first cars. Having grown up in Manhattan with its wonderful transportation system I knew that I would never have to learn how to drive. I could walk everywhere and when I couldn't walk there were plenty of buses and taxis and trains to take you anywhere you needed to go.

The summer I turned 18 my mother was adamant that I take driving lessons. I tried to refuse but she wouldn't let me. I couldn't imagine why on earth I would need to drive. This was not an argument she would lose. I would learn how to drive in Newport, a much better option than the crazy, crowded streets of Manhattan. We needed a car. We had just one that sat in a garage on the Upper East Side during the week and would take us to Newport for weekends during the school year and over the summer. My father was not about to let me learn to drive in his car, a beloved Mercedes that would never part his side for about 20 years when it cost him more to maintain than the home they lived in!

Mom wanted something big and sturdy for me. She wanted something nice looking but her frugal ways would also mean that she was not about to dump a lot of money on a sturdy piece of metal. If she could have, I am sure she would have picked out an old Woody. But she found the next best thing. It was a large gray Mercedes with a huge front grill and little fins on the back. She was elegant and sturdy and would be our Newport car for many years to come.She was 18 years old -- the same age as I -- and she was all mine!

While, stunning as she was on the exterior, worthy of any party fit for F.Scott and Zelda, her interior was no frills. I had no CD player (did we even have CDs back then?) or tape deck. I can't remember air conditioning, but that is not something one would need in Newport when cruising along Ocean Drive with all the windows open while blaring Steve Winwood's Back in the High Life Again... or crooning along to Don Henley's Boys of Summer on Bellevue Avenue. My friends adored my car. They loved to hop in and if we were not walking to one of our many evening destinations, I would most often be the designated driver. But long before I was able to take my friends along I had to learn how to drive.

Since I was 18 I was no longer required -- in Rhode Island at least -- to take driver's ed. My mother took it upon herself to teach me. We were prepping for my very first ride. My mother was showing me where everything was and how to use everything. We prepared by adjusting our windows and took a few laps around our large circular driveway, learning how to carefully press on the gas and the accelerator. When Mom thought I was ready we prepared to take the vehicle on the road. As I was approaching the stone pillars I saw a small construction truck appear on my left. As it approached I froze. I had come to a rolling stop but my foot had become paralyzed, hovering mid-air, someplace between the brake and the accelerator. 

What happened next was not pretty. The sound of metal crunching is a sound one tends never to forget. The sound and sight of the crunching of a very large Mercedes grill is something else one tends never to forget. Especially when one attempts to drive for the very first time!

The car's grill had folded like an accordion. I could see the disappointment in my mother's face. But she was not angry... As I would have been. The repairs had cost more than the car had! But the car was loved by us all and was fixed up like new.

I would learn to drive with a certified driving instructor in his small red car and before I knew it I had my own driver's license in hand. My gray car had become one of the family and we had even given her a name. Leibshen. As though she was a family pet. It was really quite amusing. Every time I left the house I'd yell out to my mother that I was taking Leibshen. As though on a walk. Though instead of a leash, I would be taking the keys.

When I was going into my Sophomore year in college my parents explained that they thought that car might be better suited to keep locally. She was getting old, after all, and they worried about her breaking down on the highway or on the busy streets of Boston. So Leibshen would be the Newport car. Eventually she became my mother's car. And my mother loved and nurtured her as though she was indeed the family pet. Older cars require a good bit of upkeep and maintenance and every time Leibshen was in the shop, which was a good bit towards the end of her life with us, mom would call to tell me. And I would make get well cards that would be posted on the inside of the garage where Leibshen slept when she was not at work or play!

I was given another car much more suited to a young girl requiring a reliable car. My father had surprised me with a zippy, fun and peppy red Volkswaggen Jetta. I did love it so. She was perfect. But she was not Leibshen. A dozen or so years ago my mother had to get rid of Leibshen. She had started to rust pretty badly and the undercarriage was in bad shape. Rust, in cars, is like cancer in people. It must be completely removed or it will keep coming back. She found someone who restored old cars as a hobby and he was more than happy to take the car from my mother. My mother was so pleased to be able to give Leibshen a new home.

If you are ever in Newport and ever see my Leibshen wave and say hello!