Vieux Carre

23 10 2009

We had a penthouse view of Gramercy Park.

Legend has it, this is the only private park in Manhattan. And we had the key.

Well, Barry had the key.

Across from the park, on the Westside, was the apartment. A four-story walk-up, the stairs got narrower as you climbed. The place was quaint with a kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom; all the esstentials for a bachelor pad.

The owner was on vacation in Germany. He was a speechwriter for the President of one of the local colleges and his book collection was quite impressive.

He and Barry agreed to do a home swap, which is quite common, so I’m told, in academia. One condition was that Barry look after the cats.

Come to find out, there were other conditions, but we’ll get to that later.

The cats were shy at first, but became easily seduced once the cat nip was located.

Barry let it be known that he had work to do while in the City and old friends to see. But he was adamant about seeing theater. Together, we scanned the papers and read the reviews. There was a little-known work by Tennessee Williams playing in the East Village that caught our attention.

‘Vieux Carre’

Williams has long been a favorite playwright of mine. He stories of the Old South, particularly New Orleans, ring so true. Many times in my past jaunts into the Louisiana bayou did I find myself in situations that Tennessee had so vividly described in his writings.


Barry arranged for the tickets and we met three of his friends at the theater — Norman, a young actor and his artist girlfriend, Mary, who hailed from Wales and Mr. Christopher Berg, an older fellow from the Bronx.

The show was sold-out. It was a small theater, maybe 200 seats tops, and the crowd was primarily of senior status.

Some of the actors were already on stage as the audience filed in. It felt like we were a part of this French Quarter boarding house and that intimate atmosphere was something I had not experienced in a theater setting in a long time.

Christopher and I really enjoyed the show. Barry not so much.

“I thought it stunk,” Barry said.

Afterwards, I managed to get the director’s autograph and relayed my sincere appreciation for his efforts. My accent gave me away and the director smiled and thanked me for attending.

The five of us then headed for a nearby Spanish tapas eatery, Norman had highly recommended. The food was really good and the conversation free-flowing enough for Mary to invite us all back to her studio for drinks.

I bought a cigar on the way and Barry picked up a case of beer.

Mary said her building was once the home of the Ukrainian embassy. Inside her studio were large scale paintings and photography. She was most certainly a visual artist, but also very humble of her work.

Mary informed me of her ties to the South, having family in Tennessee. I relayed to her my fondness of the British Isles and how adorable I found her accent.

After a few drinks, Barry, Christopher and I called it a night. Minutes after saying our goodbyes, Barry received a call from Norman on his cell phone.

“So, Mary is Not your girlfriend,” Barry said in a voice loud enough for all to hear.

Why Norman felt the need to get that point across was beyond me. Nevertheless, Barry had arranged for Mary to drop by the Gramercy pad the next day to take some photos in the park.

We parted ways with Christopher at the subway station. He gave us both a big hug. Christopher was a nice man, very tall, bald and he wore distinguished purple-framed glasses.

We would see him again.




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