Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"I was hungry, and it was your world"

The long-deferred biography of a chair and masthead motto of this page converge in origin with a portrait which the architect would intimately recognise, who designed the restaurant of Mark Rothko's ostentatious resistance. Possibly the most naturalistically trashy image ever exhibited on this page, its contemporaneity with my introduction to that place only adds another layer of legitimacy to its posting here. Sometimes, we are blessed to let the nannies of our minds scatter in their dread. They did well.

The restaurant known as Four Seasons recurred continuously in my youth, as a space of primordial revelation; it has always been an extremely sharp irony, to me, that Mark Rothko read the place so prosaically. I can remember every moment I spent there, even the one when a kindly bartender declined me a Delamain, at an hour too late for another. But I did not come to the Four Seasons for that kind of nourishment; I came to be restored by the presiding genius of Philip Johnson. I was indeed, hungry, yet even Philip Johnson, to whose sensitivity to procession through space this restaurant and that block of Park owe so much, could never have anticipated my progress to its door.

That clos was not where I first met Philip Johnson. This took place upstairs in his offices, somewhat perfunctorily but amiably. It was there that I met the gaze through those glasses, of one's own kind of humour but of penetrating curiosity. A pale gray suit, a strong face, athletic. As a freshman college boy one May, I was invited by a friend's uncle in the AIA to join him for drinks at a reception at that office, and for dinner afterward. I took a lively interest in architecture, never expecting to pursue it as a career, but to acquire a fluency to which I was simply drawn by my mind. I recall dashing into the late Langrock's for a fresh seasonal suit, and hopping the train for Penn Station - alas, the new one. But, what did I know; and where else was there to go?

Drinks at Mr Johnson's pass through the mind as vanishing, non sequitur stimulants beside this Warhol, that project rendering. Here is that part of the collection he hasn't given yet to the museum he designed, MoMA, or taken home to New Canaan. The other views, should I want them, are framed by the most-remarked mullions in 20th Century architecture. Only the sunset defies the space. I stroll. It's a party, but it's quiet. I greet no one, I recall nothing but T-squares of latent hypotheses, and paintings that see originality from the other side. I think of myself less than at any party I have ever attended. I do not think, I notice. It is all so familiar, as if dreamt. I must be very young.

A diselevation, to the Picasso tapestry for de Falla in the lobby, finds us turning toward the plaza given back by Phyllis Bronfman to the city of New York. Out there, the Avenue flows in a distant hush, the fountain sparkles where my mother would dance on the night of my wedding, and we head toward the bar to relax with a drink. In a chair, if we can find one.

Title, Bob Dylan
Just Like a Woman

Andy Warhol and
Paul Morrissey
Joe Dallesandro

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Vesperae Solennes
  Laudate Dominum
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Sir Colin Davis, LSO


  1. Diselevation? A neologism?

    1. Thank you very much, Anonymous, for recalling to me this playfully satisfying choice of mine as this entry was put together. Yes, of course, it seems to be a neologism, but I would suppose others have used it before. I liked its feeling in my mind of not just a descent, but a descent from a distinguished height to which one had been "elevated," a transfer away more than a fall. I am sorry if the term interrupted your absorption of the balance of the sentence, always a cost, not always a bad one. Thank you for your visit.