Sunday, August 14, 2016


Every morning when I get to the subway I pick up one of the free newspapers the city puts out. They're just big enough to hold your interest on a single trip although I save the Sudoku and crosswords for later. On Thursdays there's usually a section on what's happening for the upcoming weekend. That's where I saw the blurb on Free Fridays at the Frick. Beyond free admittance there would be lectures, music, refreshments and sketching materials provided in the Garden Court. I thought why not? The museum was to reopen at six after they had ushered out all the regular visitors. I had stopped at Blink Art Supplies earlier in the day to pick up a sketchpad and some pencils. I hadn't done any sketching for quite some time. I was expecting to be pretty rusty.
One of the things I constantly fail to remember in New York is the importance of "free" and the amount of people in New York that this might appeal to. I sauntered over to the museum expecting to get there around the opening at six. I got there at six only to find the line of guests waiting to get in stretched from the entrance to the Frick on Seventieth all the way to Fifth Avenue then up Fifth to Seventy-First and then two-thirds of the way back down Seventy-First. My options were to either leave or put on my New York attitude and accept the inevitable and wait. I decided to wait. It would be an hour and fifteen minutes before I'd get my chance to walk through the front door and get into the Frick.  It had been years since I'd been in the Frick. I'd forgotten how beautiful it is and how stunning the collection. One of the reasons for the long wait was the museum was adhering to a capacity rule. Once the museum reached its capacity no additional visitors were let in until an equal number of visitors had exited. This had its positive side. What it did was make viewing the collection doable, a pleasure and not having that over-crowded feeling.
I started my stay in the Garden Court. I was eager to find a space to sit and get out my sketchpad and pencils to see if I still had any capability of turning lines into objects that other people could identify.
The court reminded me of the Winter Court at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen with its central fountain and covered glass ceiling.
I found the perfect spot to sit and sketch. I sat down on the steps next to a sculpture called "Angel" by Jean Barbet. I figured if I started with an angel there might be some divine intervention coming into play helping my hand control my pencil
Along with the help and inspiration of Barbet's angel and the soothing playing of the violinists
I found the concentration, freedom and fluidity of hand to enjoy scratching the itch of drawing once again.
I had intended on going through the rest of the museum to capture the collection with my iPhone but the Frick has a very strict policy about photography. It's verboten. I managed to sneak a couple of pictures through windows and around corners
giving the museum a very eerie feel as if its former residents had come back to walk through the rooms with us. The collection is best known for its paintings and sculptures but furniture, lighting and the architecture of the building itself, all contributed to the Frick's mystic and deserved reputation.
The simple displays of the Turners, Vermeers, Rembrandts and one of my favorite Renoirs are devoid of the ostentation of a larger museum. There's grandeur but not over stimulation at the Frick.
I didn't leave until it was past eight-thirty. There was still a line going down Seventieth Street, rounding the corner on Fifth Avenue and going well past the outside gardens. The museum was scheduled to close in less than a half hour. These had to be true New Yorkers, willing to stand in line even with the possibility of rejection. You go New York.

They were a middle-aged couple. She was blond, not plain but with a beautiful that was slightly faded. She wore a black dress with silver threads picking up the light of a fading cloud covered dusk. He was at least a few years older and he carried the weight of those years on the torso his bearish body. His hair, what he had of it, was still black as coal. He kept his face scruffy in a way most men a decade younger were doing. He wore a black suit or maybe a tux. He was bent over in way that made it hard to tell.
It was close to eight-thirty when I walked out of Free Friday Nights at the Frick. I was staying at a client's pied-a-terre on West 75th Street, almost directly across the park from the Frick. There's a crosstown bus you can catch on 72nd Street. It's how I got to the Frick earlier in the evening but at the last minute as I stood on the corner of Fifth and 70th I changed my mind and decided to walk back through the park. The night air was thick with humidity leaving only a few people still in the park. Clusters of families: some old, some with baby strollers, many speaking languages I didn't know sitting on benches lining the walks fanning themselves or relaxing weary at the end of the day.
A man with a big hoop and a bucket full of soap was creating iridescent bubbles the size of fluffy futons floating out over the promenade. The only sounds were the spray of the Bethesda fountain and the slow hollow clomp of horse hooves dragging carriages around a predetermined circuit in the park.
It was the sound of the horse hooves and the horse's pungent smell that made me turn to look at the white carriage trotting up next to me.
That's where I saw that middle-aged couple. She was seated on the red leather bench at the back of the carriage. He was on his knees on the dusty floor facing her and holding her hand. The East Indian driver navigating the carriage was dressed in white pants, a striped vest and a top hat festooned with plastic flowers. He kept his focus on his horse flicking his whip slightly to keep his horse moving forward. Our pace, the carriage and mine, kept us in sync as the romantic drama unfolded like a movie beside me. It was a silent film. I had to fill in the dialogue. I didn't want to intrude on their private moment so I watched it with the jerky nature of an old film shot at an odd number of frames per second.
His intensity was only short of tears, Hers was sweet and trembling and then I saw the ring. Lit by the streetlamps that had just come on, a sparkle flashed from the ring and streaked across her face. I turned my head feeling too much the voyeur. I didn't see the kiss. I don't know if one even happened but as the carriage started to make it's turn on its designated path and I parted heading directly across to Central Park West I found my voice and whispered loud enough that they could hear, "Congratulations".
She beamed and he said, "We've been married eighteen years today".
Doorman at 969 Fifth Avenue, 1938
Berenice Abbott, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

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