Friday, June 1, 2012

Lucille and the Big Apple

On the left Last Mango can be seen across the Hudson River at Lincoln Harbor; the view from the pilothouse across to the Empire State Building is on the right. Let's dispel a myth. The cost per night here of mooring one's private yacht is only a little more than the cost of one night in a bed and breakfast in the UK.
Our ferry across to Manhattan takes only six minutes. We spend several days just wandering around soaking up the unique atmosphere in New York, checking out places we stumble into; Susie also hits the museums on her list. Doing a lot of walking and having the occasional foray onto the subway and bus; part of the relatively inpenetrable public transport system. It is always interesting how one soon adopts places as your own as if you have been here for years. I love the delis and bars here, they are great for atmosphere and value. One day we went for brunch at BB King's Blues Club to see the Strawberry Fields show, a Beatles tribute band. They were fab (of course), tremendous fun; afterwards I was talking with "Paul" and sharing memories of seeing the Beatles perform live back in the early sixties - for me it was the Odeon at Weston-Super-Mare. Of course I didn't mention that a few years ago our firm had acted for Heather in the big break up.
I brought the family to New York in the early 90's, we did a number of US-based road trip marathons for our summer holidays. With no particular plan in mind, on one occasion we had landed at Philadelphia and over three weeks drove to New York, Washington DC, New Orleans, Disneyworld Orlando, Savannah and back to Philadelphia. Our New York trip was short; we woke early with the jet lag on the Sunday, were parked Downtown by 9am, up the Twin Towers for the view and a snack and on our way out of town at lunchtime. As usual, Dad didn't hang about. Here now in NY 20 years later the missing Towers and the events of 9/11 are always in one's mind; on the right the Admiral stands by the National Tribute Quilt in the American Folk Art Museum, this is made from thousands of individually named squares, one for each life lost. One can sit quietly here and contemplate such tragic and senseless killing, designed to provoke even more conflict. More people lost their lives than in the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941; another example of how desperate and evil people on this planet can become towards each other, once again with terrible consequences. Pearl Harbor brought about the full scale conflict in the Pacific; by 1945 the casualties exceeded 20 million, including 240,000 from the conclusive bombs "Little Boy" and "Fat Man".
I was keen to visit one or two old haunts from when I used to travel over here on business in the old days. We stayed often then at the Peninsula, so we popped into the Gotham Lounge for a pre-dinner drink. It hadn't changed a bit. But it was empty, and the prices were shocking - these issues are probably connected. On to Palm Too for supper; the food was still very good and the same waiters are still there, although now they actually have a menu. But my instincts tell me that current economic times are taking a vast toll. The streets are absolutely packed, but the busy places are fast food where you can eat virtually anything "and a soda" for only $5, the high end is having difficulty surviving. In a typical diner my iconic pastrami on toasted rye, with fries and a soda, was delicious and a valuesome $9. The pastrami was piled high - all thirty slices of it!
Some four years after the end of the Pacific War, BB King was playing at a dance hall in Arkansas; two men started a fight, and knocked over the kerosene barrel used for heating. He had to run back into the blaze to rescue his guitar. The fight was over a girl called "Lucille" and from then on, BB's guitars bear that name. It is also the name of the bar at the Blues Club, and on a Monday evening Jon Paris plays and hosts a jam session with friends. Jon is an incredible musician, having recorded and played with just about everyone, and he knows just every blues track there is. Well...............yours truly has been playing guitar a lot recently and the fingers are working well so we turned up for the show. It was a high end affair, with some great musicians (Gene Cornish, Joe Berger, Steve Holley), but I am grateful to Jon who introduced me at the beginning of the second set, handed me his Stratocaster and said "You're on!". Seeing a harmonica in his hand - and knowing that one's key selection is essential in these all too  brief opportunities one gets in life - I seized the initiative and hit the E-chord and we were off for a great blues jam. Playing live at BB Kings certainly cures any stage fright you might have.
Andy Warhol said that everyone is famous for fifteen minutes so I had my ration right there. Great fun and something to remember for a long while. Incidentally I was talking to drummer Steve Holley afterwards; he has played with a great many people; in a month's
time he will be playing at the Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent, the week after we will be there. Small world!

Also here is my favorite shot of the evening at Lucille's - the Admiral in full flow, by far the best dancer there that evening Go girl Go!

Soon I turn once again to forward plans...........what next?........

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