Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.
"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Farewell UWS, Farewell Again to Gran
Our last night as residents of the Upper West Side in New York City. And not just any Upper West Side, but a neighborhood that was passed down to me by my grandmother.
How, you may ask, can a neighborhood be passed down? How can a life?
We went to Henry's restaurant for dinner tonight, a TREAT and an ode to my Gran because it was her favorite place. It styles itself as a modern American Bistro, beautifully decorated with dark wood stains and Arts and Crafts lighting. It feels very masculine. It is on the Northwest corner of 105th and Broadway, in the same building as the Clebourne where my grandmother lived in a grand apartment on the ninth floor. Memories flooded through me. Going to Henry's was the high point of her day, week, month for years. She was able to bask in her celebrity, and not be lost in her inability to care for herself.
In the early days of Henry's, it was decorated with old French prints, such as the one above. This elephant was her favorite, and she constantly admired it. When the owners changed the decor, they presented her with this huge framed print. Was it the irony of an elephant, an animal of the wild, pimping for cigarettes that captivated her so? She thought that it looked like the elephant was laughing. Je ne fume que le nil . . . I only smoke le nil . . . was it a big cosmic joke?
I was shocked to remember that Henry's has only been open for the past ten years - it is the same age as my oldest son.
My grandmother represented community, family, the arts, and the place to be was the Upper West Side.
My parents met through her, when my father was chaplain at St Hilda's and St. Hugh's where my grandmother taught creative writing and my mother was a freshman at Smith College. I grew up in Chelsea at General Theological Seminary, but the UWS was never far, and my sister and I were often seen with her at the Cathedral Library, at V&T's Pizzeria, and the Hungarian Pastry Shop, all places that have longevity in a fickle market.
I went to Barnard College, and although I flitted from coast to coast, and sometimes another continent, I always found myself back on the UWS. As an adult, I chose to live near her Clebourne apartment, growing with my own family. Each apartment represents the addition of another child: 114th and Riverside, 106th and Columbus, and now we're leaving 106th and Broadway, now that my daughter is five, and the other two are eight and ten.
Now I think I get it: je ne fume que le nil, said with irony. Things change baby. Nothing stays the same. You can't step in the same river twice, blah, blah, blah. I can imagine Gran smiling, laughing. je ne fume que le nil. It's time to move on from the Upper West Side. Write your own life.
Here we come, Katonah!