© Miller Mobley Photography
Where are you from and how long have you lived in NYC? I was born and raised in Tuscaloosa. My husband and I moved here with our family in 1995, sixteen years ago.
What circumstances brought you to the city and was this a place you expected/hoped to end up? We moved, as so many people do, because of career opportunities. I would have to say that NYC has been all and much more than I ever hoped. I had wanted to live here since I was a little girl – as long as I can remember.
Is there anything you miss about Alabama? Everyone misses family and friends; that goes without saying. So, in addition to those people I hold close, I miss lots of things about home. This one may seem rather silly but it has to do with Southern manners. I miss hearing children say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am”. I miss hearing grown-ups say that too. I miss hearing children call adults “Miss Nancy” or “Mr. Jim”. I love so many things about NYC, but I just cannot adjust to the custom of children calling adults by their first names.
I miss being a “real” part of the tapestry of the South. And, by that I mean, when you are from the South and in a conversation with practically anyone else from the South, before you know it you find are related by some very small degree of separation. Even if it is not blood relations, it through some close friend or a generation twice removed kinship. In some deeply rooted, almost mystical way, Southern veins run very deep. I miss that.
I miss college football. I miss everyone being “rallied ‘round” in the fall. The Yankees do that – sometimes – for NYC, but it still is not the same as college football for the state of Alabama, no matter which team you favor.
I do not miss summer.
Your favorite neighborhood in the city and why? When we first moved here I really explored the City. I felt I had to spend every minute, every breath seeing, knowing and understanding this City. And, I think that is probably right – the right way to go about moving here. However, after a while, I slowed down. Instead of NYC living me, I began to live NYC. I began to become more comfortable in my own NYC skin. I also began to learn, as native New Yorkers know, neighborhoods change. They can change very quickly. I have certainly witnessed that in the sixteen years I have been living here. So, if you had asked me this question during my first five years in NYC I am certain I would have had a different answer than I have for you today.
Today, my favorite neighborhood is my own, the Upper East Side. I know the UES it is not the “trendy, hip one” but, it is the one that is home to Central Park, which is just glorious right now in autumn, and the Museum Mile. So many of the City’s major art museums are here; my favorite is the Frick Collection on East 70th Street. For culture and leisure activities to fill in your days, the park and the museums are hard to beat. And, here they are, right in my own neighborhood.
There are some great little shops here. Too many to mention them all but a few that I particularly love are: Peipers & Kojen, a jewelry boutique where I can always find unique pieces; Burke’s Antiques, a wonderfully cozy shop of mostly English accessories from the 1800s; and, the original La Terrine, (there is one on the West Side now) a tiny store brimming with Italian tableware and linens. All three shops are on Lexington between 73rd and 74th Street. There is also a famous, classic old-style barber for gentlemen on the corner of 74th and Lexington named Paul Molé.
[Above: Melody in her Upper East Side apartment] © Miller Mobley Photography
The last book you read? I am a Gemini which means I am usually reading one or more books at the same time. So, I have just finished two very different ones. One was Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I loved this novel set in New York City in1938. The beginning is a bit of a twist, which I liked very much, in that it begins in the 1960s at photography exhibit. There a woman sees a black and white image of a man she knew in the 1930s. The entire story then transports her back to that time. It is an intriguing look into the lives of those people and times of NYC in the shadow of what was to come. The second was, The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Although, the book was a gift to me last year, for some reason I did not get around to reading it until this year. The Passage is a science fiction, post-apocalyptic novel. The prose is beautiful written, the characters marvelously crafted and the plot riveting. I read it once, closed the book, opened it up, and read it again. Be warned: The Passage is the first of a three part trilogy. The second part is due out the summer of 2012.
What’s your most treasured possession? Words and voices. Let me explain. When my children where small I kept good journals. I wrote down many of the things they said and today they are the most precious things to have. I go back and read them often. Most of their cute sayings I would never have remembered. So, I would say the journals. Also, I made recordings of their voices, words they actually said, songs they sung, etc. In addition to the journals then, I would add the recordings. Pictures, of course, are very treasured too; but other family members have copies of many of those. No one else has the words or the voices. They are my treasures.
What are some things people who are NYC visiting around the holidays must see or do? If you are here over Thanksgiving, you have to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And by that I mean, you have to stand outside like a real New Yorker on the sidewalk no matter the weather. Standing inside a building, looking out at window doesn’t count. Sorry. Try to make it up to just north of the Natural History Museum on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving to watch them blow up the balloons. Be warned: it is a veritable throng of moms, dads, kids, grandmas, granddads, and just folks having a good look and good time with the balloons. It is so much fun but be forewarned there will be crowds. Still, it is the place to be on Thanksgiving Eve.
For us it just isn’t Christmas without seeing George Balanchine’s classic, The Nutcracker, performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. Balanchine’s dance and Tchaikovsky’s music are so invocative of the season they immediately put you in the spirit even if you are having a real Scrooge of a day. And, of course, all of the little girls come in their Christmas dresses. It is so precious to see. The Nutcracker usually begins Thanksgiving weekend and runs through New Year’s so anyone visiting the City over the holiday season has a good chance to see it. As touristy as it is, I would still recommend seeing the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. You have to see the Rockettes once in your life! And while you are at Rockefeller Center don’t forget to check out the Christmas tree and, perhaps, try some ice skating.
If you are coming with children, you must go see Santa at Macy’s! No place else for Santa will do!!
Of course, shopping in New York is fabulous all year round but the holidays bring in these wonderful Christmas markets. I especially love the one at Grand Central Terminal and the one at Bryant Park. These markets highlight beautiful hand-crafted items, many from local artisans, and are great for finding unique gifts for those on your Christmas list.
I highly recommend Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is an amazingly beautiful and spiritual service. However, it can be difficult to get it. Tickets are given to the parishioners so they are seated first. You must go early and stand in line. Sometimes that can be challenging if it is an especially cold Christmas Eve. If you cannot make it to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, then try one of the other Catholic churches in the City. There are many and most will not be as crowded as St. Patrick’s Cathedral but will still have lovely Midnight Masses. Some suggestions (but not a complete list by any means): St. Jean Baptiste, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Ignatius Loyola (all Upper East Side); and the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street. No matter which church in the City you choose to attend plan to arrive an hour early.
Something not many people know about you? I have a real interest in prehistoric art. And, have had the good fortune to have been to the original, prehistoric cave of Lascaux, France twice. Once, I got to lie down on the floor inside the cave to view the paintings in the Hall of the Bulls from that angle. It was the most marvelous thing to do.
Style Icon? I truly admire Carolina Herrera’s style. Her designs are timeless, feminine and fresh. She always maintains an air of understated elegance whether dressed for evening or a casual day in the country.
What is one of your most memorable “this would only happen in New York” experiences? For me, I find New York City memorable in the small everyday things. In the way life “lives” here. For instance, just being able to walk through your day in the space where you live. New York is a walking city. Of course, you have to jump on a bus, get in a taxi or take the subway sometimes. But for the most part, you walk about where you live. That IS New York City.
There are parades here. There are parades here all of the time and that is really very unique. There are the big parades – Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day. There are small parades. And there are parades for all of the different countries and immigrant groups. There is always a parade. Those are lively “only happening in” New York City experiences.
A few of your favorite restaurants in the city? Picholine, on the Upper West Side, has been a continual favorite for years. We loved Payard Bistro, which was on Lexington between 73rd and 74th, but is now closed. However, Francois Payard has a beautiful bakery on West Houston and a Chocolate Bar in the Plaza Hotel. Still, we are hoping he returns to the Upper East Side soon with another patisserie. Bemelmans Bar, in the Carlyle Hotel, while not a restaurant, is a cozy place for a drink. Its walls are covered in murals painted by Ludwig Bemelman, of Madeline fame. It is very chic. Our best place for burgers in town is J. G. Melon’s on Third Avenue. And for steaks, which we do instead of turkey on Thanksgiving, is Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn.
Favorite city in the world to visit? It is hard to have one favorite. However, one of my very favorites is the stunningly beautiful capital of Malta – Valletta. The entire city is a designated World Heritage site. It is a tiny Mediterranean gem teeming with history and beauty everywhere you look.
Any advice for young people who have hopes and dreams to move to this city? New York is the most creative, energetic city in the world. The most creative, energetic people in the world flock here. Come if you do have the hopes and dreams to make it here. Just know others are doing the same thing. So, come armed with tons of stamina, down coats, boots and determination to stick it out. There is a great openness here and you can find a place to flourish.