The Age Boom Academy was the reason for my trip to New York City, but it is also the place I consider my “real” home and I tacked on a few extra days to visit with old friends and soak up the city vibe.
There is a lot I miss about New York, but I found that it was the little things no one bothers to mention much that pulled hardest at my heartstrings.
In a city famous for its concrete canyons, it is astonishing how green it is – much moreso than where I live now. The city plants trees for free if residents ask and this view isn't uncommon.
City dwellers work hard to spruce up their homes and apartment buildings with flowers and greenery, sometimes in the tiniest of spaces.
It was great to be reminded of the many, odd, little architectural flourishes in New York.
I had forgotten how many dogs there are in New York – dogs, dogs everywhere, especially during regular outing times in the mornings and evenings. I caught these dog walkers near Central Park on my way to that day's conference sessions.
New York has the best window shopping in the world but you know, when there is only one dress or pair of shoes in the window, you cannot afford them. Don't even ask.
I spent two afternoons walking the streets of my old neighborhood, Greenwich Village. My home there is empty now. All four apartments are owned by one person who started a renovation a couple of years go, but seems to have halted it. The window shutters and flower boxes are missing and the doors have been sanded but not refinished. It looks sad and lonely.
Across the street is the home of Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. I'm pretty sure those were Secret Service agents who walked out of frame when I aimed my camera.
Near the upper East Side hotel where I stayed during the conference was this extremely narrow house.
Too bad I didn't have a tape measure with me because it reminded me of another narrow house in the Village where the poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, lived in the 1920s that is only nine-and-a-half feet wide. Before the advent of automobiles, the space was open, a driveway to residents' horse and buggy stables behind the homes in the middle of the block.
Nearby is one of the last few wood-framed homes in Manhattan. It was originally built in 1799 and is currently owned by a member of the Mattel (Barbie dolls) family.
Legend has it that these mansard-roofed, twin homes were built by a sea captain for his two daughters who couldn't stand to live together. Good story, but it's not true. City records show they were built for a milkman named Peter Huyler in the 1870s.
Just across the street is the Cherry Lane Theater, founded in 1924 by several Village artists and writers including Edna St. Vincent Millay. An astounding number of renowned playwrights have been produced here: Samuel Beckett, William Saroyan, Sean O'Casey, Clifford Odets, Eugene O'Neill, Lorraine Hansbury, Edward Albee, David Mamet, Sam Shepard to name a few.
Not far away is the equally famous Lucille Lortel Theater, renamed such in 1981. I liked the original name better - Theater de Lys - and under that name, it was home to the first production, in 1955, of The Threepenny Opera starring Lotte Lenya, and in the 1970s, Kurt Vonnegut's Happy Birthday, Wanda June. Among many other productions, I saw Steel Magnolias here. I liked the movie, but not as much as the play.
There aren't many backyards in Manhattan, so parks are crucial to outdoor life. This little one near my Village home is named Winston Churchill Park for no good reason other than a nearby apartment house bears the address, 10 Downing Street. But that doesn't make it any less a cool (in both senses of the word) oasis on a hot day.
Greenwich Village is home to a number of private, residential enclaves tucked behind locked gates. They feel like magical little worlds out of time and I always wished I could have lived in one.
Many uptown people consider Central Park their own, gigantic backyard. Mine was the much smaller, although more charming to my eyes, Washington Square Park.
On any given Saturday or Sunday in good weather, there is enough to entertain anyone for an entire afternoon and it doesn't cost a penny. On the day I visited, I found a puppet show...
...a jazz band
...a children's orchestra playing popular music more familiar to elders, and this young man, whose voice had probably changed only the week before, sang Tangerine while I was there.
The fountain was turned on full blast and the kiddies were having a grand old time in it as their parents may have done in their childhood.
Even though street fairs, in recent years, are filled mostly with professional vendors selling stuff you could buy anywhere, I still like the hustle and bustle of them with no cars to contend with.
I couldn't find a hat I looked good in.
But I did buy one of these teeshirts – the same as the red one, but in a dusty green color to remind people, when I feel like it, where I live in my heart.
The design of these other teeshirts is a throwback to the Fillmore Auditorium posters from the 1960s and '70s.
On one of our Age Boom Academy field trips, we met with some members of The New York Times' editorial board in their new headquarters designed by Renzo Piano. (The Times is a major sponsor of the Academy.) The exterior of the building, not yet finished when I left New York in 2006, looks to me to be covered in the world's largest Venetian blind...
But those blinds made a much more interesting shot from the conference room where we had lunch.
Now that you have indulged my overwrought nostalgia for New York, I have an offer for you. Among the materials we were given at the Age Boom conference is a copy of Robert Butler's 2008 book, The Longevity Revolution. I interviewed Dr. Butler about it last year which you can read here. The book is an important compendium of his decades of research into aging as it relates to the political and social changes that need to be made to accommodate an aging world.
My own copy from a year ago is highlighted, underlined and Post-It noted to within an inch of it existence, so I would like to send this pristine, new one to someone who will make good use of it.
If you are interested, email me (use the Contact link in the upper left corner of this page), including your mailing address and let's give it a deadline of 6PM eastern U.S. time today. The 15th person to email will receive the book.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Florence J. Anrud: Reshuffle the Deck.