Ten years ago tonight, The Skimmer and I were in New York City. We had spent the day downtown, walking and walking and shopping and shopping. In the early evening, we stopped in a restaurant in Soho, grabbed a couple seats at the bar and ordered drinks. As we sat and talked, the news of Princess Diana's car crash came on the TV above the bar.
Everyone, including the bartenders, stopped to listen. There weren't many details at that time, so everyone went back to talking, eating and drinking. I remember thinking, without giving it a second thought, it'll be ok, nothing could happen to her. She's Princess Diana.
The Skimmer and I sat and talked for an hour or so and then decided to hit the streets again. We walked and talked. Stopped in several clothing stores, a few book stores and then decided we were hungry. We ducked into a cozy, little restaurant called Po. It was so small, it only sat, maybe, three people. The hostess was appalled that we would even think we could get a table without a reservation. I remember thinking, it must be a hot new spot. But, as I've written before, The Skimmer is pretty good at buttering up the hostess. He worked his magic and we got seats at the bar. We ordered a bottle of champagne. Then we overheard someone sitting near us talking about who the chef was. They talked liked he was someone. The Skimmer knew who he was, I didn't.
After a few glasses of champagne, we noticed they had a cookbooks for sale behind the bar. The Skimmer asked the bartender if we could buy one of the cookbooks and also wanted to know if the chef would autograph it. The snooty bartender picked up a copy of the cookbook and took it back to the kitchen. She came back up a few minutes later. Mario Batali had signed the cookbook and she added it to our tab. Even though I've always had my suspicions that he was actually back there. I figured they had a stock of signed books in the back.
We finished our meal and our champagne and left the restaurant. It was late in the evening at this point with only the headlights of taxis and a few street lamps to light our way. We held hands and ran down the street and came upon a lingerie store. The Skimmer wanted to go in.
I ran into the front of the store and wrapped a bright red, feathered boa around my neck and did a little shimmy.
"Because I look ridiculous!"
We grabbed a cab and headed back uptown. We were dropped off somewhere on Central Park South and I wanted to take a carriage ride. We did, and rode through the quiet park -- clippity clop, clippity clop -- talking quietly and sitting silently with the beautifully lit buildings looming above.
Heaven. My heaven.
We walked back to our hotel on Central Park West. An old hotel that was a great deal. I remember finding the ad in the Sunday New York Times a few months before and calling to make reservations.
"I haven't been to New York in a few years! We need a good room, please."
"High floor. Central Park view. Yay! I can't wait."
"You got it!"
"You sure? I mean, I'm really counting on a great view!"
"Yep! No problem."
I remember thinking I had lucked out! Not only did we book a pretty good deal, but the woman who took my reservation completely understood where I was coming from and knew what it meant to me. Pretty much unheard of when talking to someone in NYC. Normally, they couldn't care less. I've always chalked it up to sincerity. I wanted it so bad.
The Mayflower, long gone now, was shabby, to put it nicely. Mismatched furniture, worn out shag carpeting. But, the woman who took my reservation was true to her word. We got a high floor, with a Central Park view. And the room even had a gorgeous, large balcony, with an ornate black, beautiful old wrought iron railing.
We were flying high when we got back to our room. We had had one of those special New York City nights. Everything had been perfect.
I walked in the room and flipped on the TV. They were reporting that Princess Diana had died in the car crash. I couldn't believe it. I was in shock. I sobbed. The Skimmer didn't know what to think. He had never seen me cry. He was not emotionally invested in Princess Diana like I was. Why was I? To this day, I still have no idea. He sat in a chair near the bathroom, as I sat on the edge of the bed and cried. He didn't say a word.
After awhile, I went out on the balcony and looked up to my right. One of the buildings glistened with an advertisement for A&E. Beneath their logo in shining, bright white lights were the words "Princess Diana."
I stood out on the balcony for a long time. And took the view in.