Last week Shabda and I were in New York City for a gentle Peace Walk, inspired by Jack Kornfield. Buddhist, Muslim, Sufi, Jewish, and Christian leaders, we set the pace. I know that the power of that intention of peace held by nearly a thousand people walking in a line makes a kind of rain-of-light that falls on the intended wounds in our earth, and acts as a balm. When a Yogi sits in a cave peacefully, the crime rate in the world drops a little bit. And I believe this is practical thinking, not airy-fairy silliness. So I walk for Peace on Earth, particularly in the Middle East.
New York City knows pain. I feel when I am there, a kind of collective experience, a bit of the maturity the Europeans have. To give words to the feeling: Yes, we have known the harm of 9/11 directly, and that teaches us to overlook our differences and acknowledge a kind of brother-sisterhood beneath petty competition. It is just a layer, a whiff, like the smell of chestnuts, or the subway heat coming up through a sidewalk grill on a cool day. I notice it. I honor it. I am sensitive right now to loss. <>
THE PLAZA HOTELIt is right to mourn For the small hotels of Paris that used to be When we used to be…. The Lost Hotels of Paris ~ Jack Gilbert
A day or so after the walk, I went to 5th Avenue and Central Park. We were meeting my sister-in-law for a stroll in the park. I was drawn to the Plaza Hotel. It is one of my childhood homes, and this year I have been going inside them all: near Chicago this spring – my own house of the first eighteen years; my deceased Grandmother’s beautiful place two miles away; and now the sublime Plaza, her sister, my Great Aunt Marie’s home for part of every year in the decades when the Plaza served as residences as well as hotel rooms. She was one of the last of those who got their mail there, and called it “home.” My eccentric Great Aunt took a special interest in me. She had no children of her own. My mother was unable to care for me in my teen years, and I was sent away to school, then college just outside New York City. Mrs. Paul Healy the permanent guest on the 13th floor was a kind of mother to me. My time with her was the sixties.
Aunt Marie married the man who founded Lyon and Healy music stores, which did well in the depression. He played high-stakes Bridge on the French Riviera. Paul Healy died early, but she was a financial genius who played the stock market from the 40’s through 60’s, so she could afford this life in her widowed years. A strong independent woman!
She lived in the Plaza spring and fall, The Everglades Club in Palm Beach in the winter, and Claridges in London and the Meurice Hotel in Paris in the summer. She wore a reddish wig she called her transformation, gold lace-up heels, fancy French clothing and white gloves every time she went out. She would send me to Elizabeth Arden’s to get cleaned up, have my messy curls set in a Mad Men bee hive.
We would go downstairs to the Persian Room for dinner to see Diahann Carroll sing: Everything’s Coming up Roses. I loved bringing my college friends to meet my “Auntie Mame.” For them it was a movie. Sometimes she fixed me up with men friends in their 50’s because at age 85, we all seemed young to her. She had hopes for me that I would marry “royalty,” but those were dashed when I became a hippy in the late 60’s. She stopped writing me. Wouldn’t speak to her beloved niece who had moved to California and disappointed her so. I was bereft when she died before she saw my life bloom…
So as I walked from palatial room to room, the Palm Court, the Oak Room, The Edwardian Room, where we shared quiet dinners, [now a fancy men’s boutique,] I gave a silent thanks to my wacky, wonderful Aunt Marie who shared her glorious Manhattan with me years ago.