On Wednesday afternoon I finished writing my “Sightings” column for Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, then decided to fly the coop. I ate lunch and got a closer-than-usual haircut at Antonio’s, the neighborhood barber shop about which I wrote last year. Then I marched briskly across Central Park and down Fifth Avenue to the Frick Collection, where I had every intention of looking at Goya’s Last Works. The Frick, like the Phillips Collection in Washington, is one of those museums that used to be a private residence and continues to reflect of the personality of its late owner, a nineteenth-century coal-and-steel baron. I like the Frick very much, but it’s been a couple of years since I last paid it a visit, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
I arrived at three-fifty-five and strode into the lobby, where a guard greeted me with the following brusque announcement: “Admission to the left. Next entry to the Goya show at five o’clock.” Not caring to spend a full hour perusing the permanent collection, I went next door to Knoedler & Company, one of my favorite Upper East Side galleries, which was showing a couple of dozen canvases by Judith Rothschild, a wealthy pupil of Hans Hofmann whose work was utterly unoriginal (her paintings look like a cross between Hofmann, Mark Rothko, and Richard Diebenkorn) but nonetheless accomplished and engaging.
After ten minutes it hit me that I didn’t especially want to spend the rest of a spring afternoon looking at paintings, so I returned to Central Park, strolled past the Loeb Boathouse, and plunged into the Ramble. I reflected–not for the first time–on how implausible and miraculous it is that there should be a place like Central Park in the middle of a place like Manhattan. I sat down on a park bench next to a young woman who had her nose in a book. I had Guard of Honor in my shoulder bag, but having just spent an entire morning and part of an afternoon writing, I was content to empty my mind of art-related thoughts and look at the trees, which had just started to put forth leaves, and the overcast sky, which was a pale shade of gray tinged with blue.
At length I found my way out of the Ramble, emerging at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, one of the many places in Central Park of whose existence I had hitherto been unaware. Had there been a show in progress I would gladly have stopped to watch it, but the theatre was shut up tight, so I left the park at Seventy-Ninth and Central Park West, across the street from the Beresford and around the corner from my own modest building. I climbed the stairs to my third-floor apartment, unlocked the door, gazed happily upon the Teachout Museum, and decided that I was through for the day.
So far this week I’ve seen a play, passed a nuclear stress test with flying colors, written two Wall Street Journal columns and the first half of the fifth chapter of Hotter Than That: A Life of Louis Armstrong, gotten a haircut, visited a gallery, and spent a couple of hours wandering through Central Park. I’ll be seeing Awake and Sing this evening at the Belasco and The Threepenny Opera on Saturday afternoon at Studio 54.
I think I earned my night off, don’t you?