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my three favourite men right now – Mark Rylance, Vermeer, and my dad

So in the snow this morning, I decided to go downtown to go to the only chain store here that we do not have in Toronto – Uniqlo, which sells extremely light down vests and coats. The fantastic 6 train down Lexington Avenue was packed but steady, as usual; I walked over to Fifth Ave. and wished I hadn’t – of course, a Saturday just before Xmas, a zoo. Unbelievable. I found the shop, tried on vests. If there is one piece of clothing that essential for me, it’s a vest. Keep that back warm! Had a lively conversation in French with a woman from Belgium who was also trying on vests. She liked the black on me more than the grey. Merci, very helpful. The black, and a little jacket for my grandson.

With two hours before my Broadway show, I had intended to wander, but the weather was so bad and the streets so crowded, I just walked over to Lex and got the 6 train back home, had some chicken soup and cheese, rested, emailed and read the NYT, set off on the 6 train back downtown. This time I got off at 42nd Street, intending to walk to Times Square, when I saw a sign: Times Square Shuttle. And discovered a little subway that just runs from Grand Central to Times Square and back. How brilliant. The transit here is superb, embarrassingly so for a Torontonian. I paid $30 for a 7 day pass, which though I’m only here 4 days has already paid for itself in limitless busses and subway.

I arrived at the play early as we’d been asked to do, because the actors would be on stage and there’d be music. I was there to see “Richard III” by London’s Globe Theatre, an all-male company starring my favourite stage actor in the world, Mark Rylance. They were indeed all on stage, getting into costume and warming up, while listening to Elizabethan music played on period instruments. And then it began. I’ve never seen “Richard III” – “Now is the winter of our discontent …” “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” – and now, I never need see it again, this was a definitive version – and it was a comedy. Rylance, as Richard, is hilarious, as usual, taking the audience into the palm of his hand and never letting us go. But the other actors are superb too, particularly the young men playing the royal women. Breathtaking. Weeping moment #2, at the end, just so thrilling, a brilliant play brilliantly brought to life – how grateful I am to be alive. And tomorrow, the same troupe doing “Twelfth Night,” Rylance apparently the best Olivia ever.

Out into the snow, to get the 6 train back home. Toronto friend Ellen Roseman and her husband Edward, coincidentally in NYC at the same time, made their way here, and we went out to dinner, just around the corner on this very snowy night. I so rarely eat in restaurants in NYC, this was a great treat, to be complaining about Rob Ford over a delicious bit of red snapper, surrounded by le tout New York.

Weeping moment #1 was at the Frick on Friday morning, seeing “Girl with a pearl earring.” I fell in love with Vermeer in Amsterdam in 1979 and go out of my way to see his works; the Frick has 3, but this was a special exhibition of Dutch art. The girl is in a room all on her own – in the other, Van Dyke, Rembrandt, and even Fabritius’s little goldfinch that is so famous now because of Donna Tartt’s book. But it’s the girl, that luminous young woman, the perfect sheen of her skin, the drop of moisture at the edge of her luscious open mouth, her expression – slightly wary but open, looking at us from more than 350 years ago –

I stood in front of her and I could not stop the tears rolling down my silly cheeks, for the miracle that is art. 
Then the rest of the Frick – my favourite Bellini, St. Francis in the desert, with his Birkenstocks kicked off under his desk and his perfect little donkey. Many other portraits, including the wonderful Holbeins, but none of them as engaging, as engrossing, as Vermeer’s girl. The blue, someone said nearby, was made of ground lapis lazuli. 
And then – business. I had an appointment at Sotheby’s, to show them the portrait of my dad and see if they were interested in taking it at auction. My brother and his wife, flying in from Ottawa to meet me there, were so delayed, they missed the meeting. Which went well. They are interested. It’s a very impressive place, is Sotheby’s.

The 7th floor showroom 

Mike, his wife Emilie and I went after that (on the 6 train) to an art dealer on West 19th, which was packed and busy and crazy. Mike and I had to make a decision, and luckily, we both felt exactly the same way – that our father would get lost in this trendy place. We both voted for Sotheby’s. 

But we had thought we’d be leaving the painting at the dealer. There we were on W. 19th, needing dinner and with theatre tickets for a few hours hence, with a large art carrying case containing a portrait of our dad, and their overnight bag since they hadn’t even checked in to their hotel yet. 
So we just had dinner with Dad leaning against a wall nearby, and went to the theatre where we put him and the bag in the cloakroom. We saw “A gentleman’s guide to love and murder,” which is the kind of show called “a romp,” a spectacularly well done musical romp, to be sure. (In fact, watching “Richard III,” today, I thought, this is another version of that show, about a power-hungry man killing the people in his path.) We had a great time. They left to go to their hotel, and I picked up Dad and walked a bunch of blocks to 3rd Avenue to get the bus home. Just me and Dad. This was his city; he was born here. And he has been with us all weekend. It’s been a wonderful weekend so far, even in the snowstorm, and part of that has been – Dad.



6 Responses to “my three favourite men right now – Mark Rylance, Vermeer, and my dad”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It sounds like you're having a marvellous time in snowy, scintillating New York! Y'know, I'd leave Paris in a heartbeat if I could only afford to live in Manhattan.


  2. beth says:

    There is a vibrancy that's a marvel here, Juliet, and people are friendly, strangers talk to each other – but it's also insane, there's almost no sky, just endless canyons of concrete and cars. I couldn't live here. But I do love to visit.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Not in the least bit jealous! Carole

  4. beth says:

    This is the accident of my birth, Carole – the great luck to be half New York Jew and half British countrywoman and to have grown up in Canada. So I feel at home in all those places, and at the same time, in none of them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You are lucky Beth, because you can embrace all of those cultures without fear but with a sense of belonging

  6. beth says:

    I agree, Carole – there was a time when I wanted to be like everyone else, nice and normal – but of course, all those contrasts and differences make life interesting. My father the biologist called it "hybrid vigour."

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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