The Gift Of Caring

 It was the kind of evening when the wind found every opening in my heavy winter wrappings. There was no escaping the chill that went through my bones as I sat on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth as it sailed down the Hudson River toward the Atlantic and the beginning of our 109 day world cruise.

With my beret pulled down over my ears and scarf wrapped around my neck as high as possible, I leaned against the railing facing the winds watching he magnificent New York City skyline, swimming by so slowly.

Weeks before my friends Lou and Cathy who live in the Village vowed they would add to our send-off by signaling to us from the end of the Christopher Street Pier as we sailed by. 

It seemed a great idea at the time, until our sailing was delayed into the darkness and severe winter weather was moving in. So much for a sendoff, I disappointedly thought. Lou would be working and Cathy would be alone.

As we moved along, suddenly I saw a flicker…a blinking beam of bright light coming from the Christopher Pier. Once, twice, three times. She had come. She had come in the darkness and waited in the cold to wish us a bon voyage as she had promised. Cathy’s life was all about the gift of caring. I will always miss you my dear friend.

Copyright Sandra Hart©2007. From Read Between My Lines: What Was I Thinking.           All Rights Reserved 

I Was Somebody. Honestly.

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(Forty years ago, in 1975, is when my newest Face
of Miami decided this would be his last stop. Then a popular and inexpensive haven for retirees, Miami was sliding rapidly from it’s Magic City heyday into a senior citizen parking lot.
Then came along the popular television series Miami Vice with Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. When they started filming here in 1984 they opened the lid to expose it’s sunshine, beautiful architecture, turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. And in 1992 Versace settled on Ocean Drive when it was filled with boarded up hotels and snow-birds. Both entities gave exposure to the wide and empty tropical beaches and so began the Renaissance of our tropical paradise. A paradise that those of us who have lived here for at least 10 years or more know that with today’s real estate values, unfortunately, only the super rich can buy into our cherished lifestyle.)

Faces of Miami

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On my way home from my morning walk with Sophie along the beach yesterday I stopped to peer into the windows of an empty space that used to be a restaurant, wondering what might be coming there next. In the 10 years we have lived here I think maybe there have been at least four different businesses that have come and gone in that same space.

“There’s a new restaurant coming in there,” said a voice behind me. I turned to see a well dressed elderly gentleman leaning against the bus stop pole with a much worn Priority envelope in his hand.”

“Another one? This corner seems not to be a very good place for any kind of business,” I replied. ‘Come and Go’ should be the name of the next one.”

He chuckled. Then he just looked at me. “Don’t I know you? I’ve seen you before.”

“Well, no, I don’t think so, but maybe you have seen me. I’ve done commercials, movies, television and things like that in New York.”

“What’s your name,” he asked leaning forward so that he could catch the answer more clearly.

I gave him my name and he knit his brows, trying to fit some kind of recognition between the face and the name. “I’m from New York, too. I lived on the upper Eastside and Hal Prince was my neighbor.”

Well, I certainly knew who Hal Prince was. The famous producer of Broadway shows with many of the best-known Broadway musical productions of the past half-century. He has garnered twenty-one Tony Awards, more than any other individual, including eight for directing, eight for producing the year’s Best Musical, two as Best Producer of a musical.

“Do you know the name Lindsay.” he continued.

“John Lindsay, the former mayor of New York?”

“Yes, that’s right. I used to work for him.”

And again I had to admit that I’m old enough to know the name John Lindsay. A U.S. congressman who was elected the mayor of New York City during the 1960s. He was known for his “ghetto walks” and clashes with labor groups. Not to mention he was very handsome in this young woman’s eyes. But eight years later, at the end of his term at City Hall and after a brief run as a Democrat for president in 1972, Lindsay retired. The New York Times Magazine featured his weary face on the cover, with crease lines highlighted by the crises he had. I still thought he was handsome.

“I’ve lived here 40 years now,” my new friend said. New York was a long time ago. See you again sometime. I have coffee at Joe’s every morning,” he offered as the bus arrived at the stop and he climbed aboard.

I continued walking the several blocks toward home once again wondering about chance encounters, the ‘blink-of-an-eye’ lives we all have on this planet and whether the brief connections we have with strangers even matter. I have always be an observer of people, remembering faces, not always names, but am I really so different from most? These chance encounters, conversations, always become the mosaic of who I am.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2015. All rights reserved.

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Barbizon Babes

Congratulations to Nina Guzman on her well-written and researched article “Where The Girls Are” in this month’s issue of BUST Magazine. Nina found me through my blog piece I wrote on my Barbizon Years several months ago. She asked me if she could interview me about my life at the Barbizon for her article. (https://twitter.com/sandrashart/status/448230928112828417)
Well, I thought I knew all about living at the women’s hotel, but Nina’s article showed me there was so much more to the history of this landmark than I realized. Thanks again Nina for asking me to share my memories of life “Where The Girls Are”.

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SWISH….SWISH

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My uncontrollable memory tail has lashed me about recently, taking me to places I would rather not go.

First, the mixed circumstances of joy in reconnecting with a cousin and of sorrow whipping me backward in dealing with the memory of her mother, my famous cousin Carolyn and her illness-which in turn, re stimulated memories of my late husband, Jennings, and his struggles with schizophrenia.

Then this morning on CBS’s Sunday Morning, out of the blue, I was again swished back to a painful time in my young life. Michael Rockefeller.

New York……..1959

I met Michael through my classmate and eventual apartment roommate, Patricia White. She, Michael, Mimi Kellogg and a few others and I would get together the next few years on occasions at parties, either at our apartment or other social events. We were young and all full of life and youthful expectations. All except me, were raised in a social bubble of great material comfort and equally great expectations. I was the anomaly in the group with my Midwestern middle class upbringing. Yet we were all alike in that few of us had experienced great personal losses beyond our grandparents or older relatives. We were invincible with miles of living ahead of us. That is, until Michael.

Michael Rockefeller, just a year or two older than I, disappeared and was presumed to have died November 17, 1961. He was the youngest son of New York Governor (later Vice President) Nelson Rockefeller and a fourth generation member of the Rockefeller family. Our friend disappeared during an expedition in the Asmat region of southwestern Netherlands New Guinea.

At the time we were told that he was believed to have drowned and they never were able to find his body. That was all we knew then. We were shocked and it took so long to accept we would never see him again. It was hard to accept that our intelligent, enthusiastic and sometimes funny friend was gone.

In 2014, Carl Hoffman published a book that went into detail about the inquest into his killing, in which villagers and tribal elders admit to Rockefeller being killed after he swam to shore in 1961.

So once again that memory tail has swooshed, given me a whack and knocked the air from me. As my son’s ‘To Be Young’ lyrics from his album Beauty In Disrepair explains….”As I look back…years of memories so neatly stacked..I forgot about you.”

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.
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The Barbizon Years

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Recently I have reconnected with a cousin who has opened the box of memories of my life with her mother and my early years in New York City. She has taken me back to earlier times and memories of good friends.

February 1960…….

Strange how I remember so much about my life in New York and living at the Barbizon Hotel for women, but for the life of me, I can’t even envision what the lobby of that hotel looked like. I close my eyes and try to take myself back, but it has no memory photo shot of the space I walked in and out of for a year. Nothing. A total blank. Pale overly thin models walked about, in and out with their black portfolios, I remember that, but I don’t even have a clue to what that space looked like.

I remember my room in great detail. Actually, not hard because the room was just a bit wider than I was tall and not much longer. One window overlooking Lexington Avenue, a single bed against the wall and a dresser on the other that I probably could access from my bed it was so close. A sink and small closet at the end of the bed. The showers and facilities were down the hall. Basically it was my expensive closet my parents paid for so that I had secure living in New York while attending the Katherine Gibbs School on Park Avenue.

But I was not alone. That’s the way we all lived. My room was not unique. Nancy DuPont, my neighbor, Alice Blair, from Los Angeles down the hall and close by to Lynn’s room, (MCA Lew Wasserman’s daughter). They were all the same. Glorified closets.

Alice would get visits from home, her mother, and high school classmates including Nora Ephron but, for me, other than my parents once, the only other visitor I had now and then was my older cousin, Carolyn, who grew up next door to me in Steubenville. Without notice she would appear.

Carolyn lived at The Barbizon when she came to New York from Ohio and was first a Conover model and then signed with the prestigious Ford Agency. So, in my eyes, she was always the celebrity in our family. I always felt special when she came. Never a hair out of place and always dressed to perfection. She made elegance look so easy. I just remember that Carolyn was so beautiful and how important she made me feel with each visit. But looking back I now realize those visits were in between times for her. She was on her way to somewhere and needed to fill those empty minutes. Why not at the place with which she had comfortable memories and a relationship. At The Barbizon with her little cousin from Steubenville.

Over five decades have now passed for all of those mentioned in my Barbizon memory box. Each would have a story, yet unfolded, yet unscripted in that year of 1960.

I have often thought if I could, if it were possible, would I want to know my future? My answer is always the same. If I had known then all that I and the characters in my Barbizon life would go through after leaving that hotel, I may not have left.

I, for one, certainly have had my struggles as chronicled in my writings. Alice has had a wonderful life, but also with a few hiccups along the way. Carolyn was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and her glamorous life evaporated. Her mystic unveiled to the world by the worst human betrayal possible-and her life ending in poverty and pain. Nora Ephron received such great heights with her talent that was cut short too soon. All things to come in the future that perhaps had we known would have paralyzed us from going forward with our unthetered souls and hopeful plans.
Copyright 2014 Sandra Hart. All rights reserved

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My New Meaning of Supplements

My cousin Carolyn and her friend Grace Kelly in their 50’s mink stoles

How did this happen so soon?! My ‘over fifty’ meaning of supplement. It now means anything that I think will help me live longer in a healthy way. Yoga, walking, using my mind. All these supplements added to my day are more important now to me than an awesome bracelet or a new pair of shoes. Webmd.com is my favorite website instead of jjill.com. I faithfully swallow daily CoQ10 capsules, Krill oil tablets, eat a vegan diet, stifle my anger that Jane Fonda looks so great. How can I slow the aging process? How do I supplement my life to achieve that? I never thought I would care so much about being over fifty and the other side of young.

It used to be when I talked about supplementing I referred to adding to my wardrobe, accessories that I needed to get the look that I saw in Vogue that would make my department store off-the-rack ‘couture’ more attractive. Bracelet, shoes, scarf, or lapel pin, anything to set me apart from everyone else who also had the same outfit and my good taste. But humor me and allow me digress a minute before I get back to the point of my story. (I find at my age one positive is that a wandering mind is excused)

Anyway, the first accessory I bought with my third paycheck from my first job when I moved to New York City (the first and second went to feed me and pay my rent) was something from Lane Bryant. That’s right. The ‘big girl’s’ store that was and still is known for plus sized women’s fashions. In spite of the fact that I was a trim 120 pounds in a 5’8′ frame, the window display I passed everyday on my way to and from work in the design district on 32nd Street made me quiver with the excitement of ‘wanting, needing and feeling rich’ because I had a paycheck and wanted what I saw in the Lane Bryant window.

By the third week of passing that window I couldn’t stand it any longer. Crossing over the threshold of Lane Bryant I made a beeline to the fur section and bought the mink stole that had been draped glamorously on the slim mannequin I had been coveting from the lowly sidewalk on Fifth Avenue. Never thinking that accessorizing ourselves with animal skins someday in the future would be long gone out and in and out fashion, I couldn’t have been happier with my new supplement to my wardrobe.

I sold my soul for that wrap. I believe it was a whopping $199 that, with a small downpayment, I put on a payment plan. That choice for trying to be over-my-head glamourous would wind up forcing me to eat peanut butter sandwiches and Dannon yogurt for a long long time.

Somehow I am reluctant to let go of the memories of my first ‘I really can’t afford this, but I want it’ purchase. My first big accessory. The over-the-top supplement choice that made me feel grown up and on my own.

Now to get back to my ‘over fifty’ meaning of supplement. I have to admit my dictionary and thesaurus have changed. ‘I really can not afford’ to not afford this new meaning of living my best life now.