Tuesday, 12 June 2012
Every day my train to the city goes through the Bronx and East Harlem. Last week I noticed a billboard above the warehouses. Gratitude it says. It makes me smile, and perhaps that's its purpose. Or perhaps not, but you have to admit it is kind of ironic to have it written in orange against the brown blocks of one of the New York's worst neighbourhoods.
The pictures are a series of random shots of East Harlem and the Bronx, taken from the train one afternoon.
The next morning we drove through Connecticut to Rhode Island. Settled in 1639, the city of Newport is surrounded from one side by New England’s green hills, and Atlantic Ocean from the other. Paradise for Victorian Houses lovers like myself. And a playground for the XIXth and XXth century gazillionaires, who built their mansions here. The Astors, Rockefellers and of course Vanderbilts. If you had an equivalent of 350 million dollars for a summer house, you’d definitely be hanging out in Newport. I’m still working on my New Year’s resolution to win the lottery this year, and though I’m trying hard (played all three times) for whatever reason it’s not working out. Plus, everyone can have a good time staying in seventy-bedroom mansion. Try staying in a back of the truck, with seven people and managing, not only not to kill each other, but to actually have fun – that’s a real trick. And so we did. We played volleyball, walked miles, including the Cliff Walk – path with cliffs on your left and fences of the mansions on the right. Free Ocean view included. We hanged out in Newport’s downtown, with its port, ships, seagulls and smell of fish. We took the ferry to Block Island and rented bikes and rode all over the tiny island. Magnificent views, wonderful weather (I still have marks of a lobster-looking charm on my skin). Finally – the beach – the feeling of sand between your toes, catching the sun, screaming when dipping the feet in the cold, cold ocean water. We even built a sand castle and were so inappropriately happy not to see skyscrapers for a while. And in the evenings there was some cooking, some card playing and some drinking. Till the Monday hit so quickly and Gabbi and I sneaked out early in the morning to actually see the Mansions. Hunter House, Chateau sur Mer, The Elms, Rosecliff, Marble House – are the names of the finest of the houses, which some of them are still private properties. The most famous and biggest of them all, is called The Breakers. Built between 1893-95 by Cornelius II Vanderbilt, is a fine example of 6000m2 summer cottage. The house comes with 13 acres of gardens, lime-stone and iron fences and Ocean view. If you like that kind of stuff. The house was designed by Richard Morris Hunt (the same who designed the facade of Metropolitan Museum in New York) in Gout Rothschild style. What can I say - it’s gigantic, impressive and very, very pretentious. If Louis XIV lived in America during Gilded Age, he’d probably be staying with the Vanderbilts for the summer. It’s like a mixture of Italian Palazzo and Downton Abbey. The marbles imported from Switzerland, the whole library brought from France. Hand-painted wallpapers, three dressing rooms, I don’t remember how many, beautifully furnished (literally) bathrooms. Makes you want to run to New York and propose to Anderson Cooper immediately. I loved seeing the kitchen and the pantry with all the original furnishings and equipment, and imagining what the life must have been like in a house like this. The Breakers belongs now to the Preservation Society of Newport but the third floor and the furniture still belongs to the Vandebilt family. They stay on the third floor, which is of course closed to the public. Gabbi and I lied down on the grass outside, took some pictures and tried to process the ostentatious amount of the wealth that we have just seen. But what I was also thinking about was – as very impressive as the Breakers is – how I’d love to take my friends to Europe. To show them the castles and palaces of France, Italy and England. Even Poland. To show them the originals. They say money can’t buy you class. But it can buy you style – at least in architecture. But among the many things that money can’t buy, there are history and true cultural heritage. And that’s something I’m very glad I can come back to. Someday.
 Nelson is Anthony’s childhood favorite stuffed animal. He deserves a separate chapter, or a comic book rather. The Adventures of Nelson. All you need to know for now, is that Anthony’s love for Nelson has no limits. When the hurricane Irene had hit New York and Anthony’s district was under mandatory evacuation, he packed his toothbrush, shoes and Nelson. One time, I fallen asleep at Anthony’s, cuddling with Nelson. I woken up at 3am when he (Anthony) was trying to take Nelson away from me. If somebody tells me, that men are big babies, I believe it.
 The true version of a story is- the boys and Tamra played volleyball while Gabbi and I were too busy sipping our drinks and taking pictures of THEM playing. Then we made an ambitious attempt of playing badmington (bare-foot on the grass!), and I’m telling you, these small rackets are vicious things after several caipiroskas in the sun.