Monday, June 30, 2014

New Yawk

Only in New York, you might say (Yawk, Yowhk, etc.), how a lone woman sitting on the stoop in Greenwich Village waiting for the restaurant to open reads intently from a large paperback book. She looks blessedly content. So much so that a stranger also hoping to get an early seat at the restaurant (the impeccably popular Pearl's Oyster Bar, even for people who don't do oysters), can't help but wonder at the title. Aha! It is the latest edition of Moss Hart's autobiography ("Act One"), the title of the dramatic adaptation that just closed at Lincoln Center, the very same book the stranger (myself) holds in her hand. Only my edition is dog-eared, decrepit, undoubtedly a 'first edition' paperback of the classic first published in 1959. "Have you got to the part yet where he joyfully escorts his family out of their old apartment, telling them to 'leave it all behind ...we're rich'"....? she asks me. We settle in together at the bar while she waits for a friend to join her.
Of course, this being The City, the woman could not help herself - she had given away the ending, something of a surprise, towards which Hart had been building throughout its 383 pages. Typically, too (generalization?), his final words: Intermission. Always another saga to come.

Always in this gem of a city, a labyrinthine metropolis, is a Next Best Thing. Sometimes the best is some of the oldest, most venerated - as in the 101-year-old Woolworth Building, sanctified now with landmark status and thus, presumably, a public monument. Only it is not. A developer has in mind to build fancy residences (yes, in that tower!) above the office space now let and the building these days is off limits to passersby. The only way to view its imposing interiors - lobby, basement and mezzanine  - is by signing up online for the Woolworth Building Lobby Tour and pay $45. It's worth it just to see the sculpted face in limestone of Mr. Woolworth himself,  counting his money, just one of the many surprising features available to the quick of eye (though guides explain all this of course). The entrepreneurial merchant from Watertown, NY, grew up enamored of French Renaissance styles and strove to make his headquarters an epic recreation of the European art.