Tag: New York

Pancakes to go




By Francesco Bianchini




Before Dan, there was another Daniel, and I lived with him for a time between New York and Baltimore. To be with him I vacated the house I was renting in Italy and put my things in storage. I left for America without a thought for the teaching job I was supposed to return to in the fall.

 Daniel and I in Baltimore

When the sliding doors of the terminal at JFK opened, I was hit by a wall of hot air that almost pushed me back inside. That was my introduction to a country where everything seemed excessive and oversized. The air conditioning in Daniel’s Volvo station wagon was out of order. We made the trip to Manhattan on a sultry night with my feet hanging out of the window; thighs, arms, and back glued to the vinyl leather of the seat.

Moving from the magnificent apartment in an iconic 1920s building overlooking Central Park – as a friend’s guest – to Daniel’s Baltimore house was like being thrown from the carriage to find me astride the pumpkin. Daniel’s apartment – I call him that to distinguish him from the second Dan – was on the top floor of a brownstone, one of those buildings built in the 19th century with red-brown bricks. Nothing bad so far.

Daniel’s brownstone in Baltimore

We arrived at night, and the first task was to install an aged air conditioner hovering between the sill and the raised window in the bedroom. We cut some cardboard to plug the gaps and sealed it with tape. It was so hot that I couldn’t distinguish between the drips of sweat and my tears of frustration. I didn’t pay too much attention to the state of the apartment and surprisingly was able to sleep, despite the roar of the air conditioner that the next day resembled the illustration of General Winter: icicles dripping from the grill onto the floor.

When I awoke, I found Daniel in the kitchen busily preparing breakfast. I loved watching him make scrambled eggs, crisp the bacon in its oil, combine ingredients for his wonderful Bloody Marys. He did it with a concentration of his own, accompanied by an ironic, detached smile. But that hot morning he decided – with an intent I judged perverse – to also make pancakes.

They arrived at the table stacked on a plate next to a jar of maple syrup with vicious streaks along the edges. He asked me if I preferred my pancakes fluffy or thin. Then and there I didn’t answer because I was staring with fascination at the formidable mess of the window-less, suffocating, smoky kitchen. He loaded my plate with a few of them, and before I could protest, had smeared them irremediably with syrup.

The All-American breakfast

I chewed the spongy mixture, occasionally burnt, and smelling of whatever oil he had used to grease the pan. It was still early, and yet the stuffiness had begun to creep in. The thick, cloying, sticky syrup was the measure of how I felt. Daniel ran off to work before I could finish even one of those pancakes.

He was editor-in-chief of a local paper that came out twice per week. Typically, the night before his deadline, everything seemed to jeopardize his morning exit: one reporter unavailable, another one drunk, articles that still had to be paged, others never delivered.

On those days I only saw Daniel when he stumbled home at dawn, usually dog-tired. I used his absences to put the apartment in order. Sometimes it was easier to throw things away than to tidy up. I filled dozens of garbage bags with books, magazines, newspapers, leaflets, old clothes, shoes, scraps of all kinds, and took them to the dumpster in the street. To stave off boredom and earn a little money, I started writing for that same newspaper, book and restaurant reviews – but I was often left with enough time to perch on the fire escape, smoking with fellow aspiring journalists.

When August rolled around, Baltimore emptied out. Deserted asphalt, parched trees, and shuttered windows increased the feeling of overwhelming heat. And with the heat – what with the frustrations at work and my long lonely days – our relationship began to wear thin. Finally one day I announced to Daniel that – in need of a break – I would be leaving the next day and would rather not tell him where.

Daniel walked me to the bus station wondering why I had chosen that means of locomotion. I did know, and when the blue and silver Greyhound bus spun up the ramp to exit the terminal, I felt the same excitement that Sal Paradise experienced as he set out on his adventure on the roads of America. I was not heading west, but rather north: through five Eastern states toward the woods of Connecticut where I hoped to find some cooler weather and a moment of reflection.

 Flight to freedom

As I watched the marshlands of Delaware, the refineries of New Jersey, and the silhouette of New York City from the bus, I felt the mad euphoria of having disappeared from any radar. Nobody knew where I was, and nobody knew who I was. I answered my seatmate, a prying African-American woman with amaranth-colored curls, by playing the part of the good student going home for summer vacation.

At the other end of the trip, I found Richard waiting for me, a pen pal for some time, who had invited me to visit in every letter. Richard lived in a white clapboard house with green shutters sheltered by white oaks, and that first impression was enough to comfort me. It all seemed like the pastoral America of quiet, whitewashed villages, with their flocks of huge trees, pools of coolness in their meadows.

Richard wanted to preserve at all costs the original style of his 18th-century house, inside and out. The lightbulbs were of a type that imitated the flickering lights of candles; in the kitchen, I saw no familiar elements – the refrigerator was hidden in a closet, and the stone sink had an upside-down basket to hide the faucets. The living room featured austere furniture and settees that forced rigid postures, and Richard insisted on accompanying me to my room with a candle in his hand.

Richard’s Connecticut house

When I descended the next day for breakfast, the pine table in the dining room was set with pretty earthenware and rough hemp napkins and was guarded by the somewhat sullen portraits of the first owners of the house that Richard had found after a long and painstaking genealogical research. The lady, in particular, had a resentful face with a slightly cross-eyed look but pointed without any doubt whatsoever toward the center of the table. There stood a towering plate of pancakes, already adrip with plenty of maple syrup.

Colonial Warriors in New York

Edmund Lester, Stan Brading, Robert L. Burell and IL Governor Brian D. White

By Brian D. White

The Colonial Warriors, the male equivalent of The Colonial Dames, is a leader among Hereditary Societies. As such, I’m extremely proud to not only belong to, but serve as the Illinois chapter’s Governor.  It’s a world of private clubs, calling cards, white tie events and one of the most entertaining and civilized groups I’ve ever belonged to.  I joined about 6 years ago after my father passed away. I was told I’d most likely qualify knowing my family was from Massachusetts. After I proposed and supplied the research and documentation, (going back 12 generations to my qualifying ancestor from the early 1600’s in Massachusetts)  I was accepted and immediately made their Social and Membership Chairman — to no one’s surprise.  I especially appreciate this organization because it not only honors my father’s memory, but I have really enjoyed getting to know our own Colonial and American history better.

This all leads up to our recent trip to New York where about 20 Illinois members and their spouses attended festivities culminating in a Saturday night Gala.  Although I can’t name the private clubs we visited each day and night, I can assure you they were some of the most elegant that New York has to offer.

Nancy & Richard Spain, Edmund Lester and William Parke at the gala.

I arrived on a Wednesday and checked into the first club of our stay. I immediately had lunch with a good friend, Christian Leone, who grew up in Lake Forest and moved to New York in the mid 90’s.  I then had to do some damage at some of my favorite stores in the state.

I began at The Belgian Shoe Store which I first discovered in the early 90’s. The Belgian Shoe Store sells handcrafted shoes made exclusively in Belgium — you can only find these shoes at this store. On this visit, I found a “Mr. Henri” in a conservative brown with black piping versus the “Mr. Casual” that I always wore in my twenties.

Next up was Turnbull & Asser who make the most amazing shirts that literally last 15 years. I proceeded to spend an hour picking through swatches for a custom shirt and after selecting everything was told I’d be better off e-mailing my guy in London because the exchange rate was so favorable. I thanked him profusely and made my order after returning to Chicago!  Later that day, I met up with good friends Christopher and Lise Wolf back at the club for the prime rib dinner. I enjoyed several gin and tonics followed by some great wines, then called it a night.

Thursday morning, I was free to meet up with another dear friend Brantley C. B. Knowles from Palm Beach and Va, who is a Colonial Dame and whose husband is a leader in The Colonial Warriors. I then moved my luggage over to another club where it would remain for the duration of the trip. That night we enjoyed a fabulous reception held at a Yacht Club followed by dinner at our favorite “21” Club for the 20 members of our Illinois contingent. It is always a scene and had fantastic food to match. We had lump crabmeat and a rack of lamb followed by my favorite, baked alaska.  After closing at the 21 just after midnight, we all went back to our friends Damien & Pamela Cregeau’s (from Connecticut) suite for a little post party till just around 2:00 in the morning.
















Friday was packed with a few business meetings to hear about the National Society’s updates followed by lunch at The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park — a real treat.  Many then took the opportunity to visit pre-arranged tours of The Frick, Grand Central Terminal, New York Historical Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art American Wing tour while I, on the other hand, was ready for a good nap.

Kelly Penry, Edmund Lester, Priscilla Barlow, Aaron Barlow, Robert L. Burell and Colleen Burell.

Friday evening began with a cocktail party at friends Charlie and Lynn Poekel’s at their marvelous apartment on Sutton Place. Here, we met the owner of Scully & Scully: Michael Scully, who had hosted the ladies for an event at the store on Park Avenue earlier that day. We then proceeded over to another club for a lobster and filet dinner where we viewed the presentation of the Society’s Coat of Arms presented by York Herald Peter O’Donoghue from the College of Arms in England.  We were then invited downstairs to the club in the men’s only section where, after the help took off, you could just keep pouring your own drinks keeping track on a little chit as late as you like!

The Honoree and Flag procession at the Gala.

Saturday was the big night where everyone gathered in white tie vestige for the most glamorous evening of dining and dancing. The Alex Donner Orchestra played that night. They always seems to follow us around from party to party, having joined us in New York, Palm Beach, Washington DC and hopefully Chicago soon too!  There was a photo taken of all the Colonial Warriors attending, just like one taken in 1915 at Delmonico’s in New York. Special toasts were made and then came the flag and honoree presentation where our own Lieutenant Governor John H. Strothman was our Illinois honoree and our Deputy Governor General for the state of Illinois, Robert Lee Burell, was the flag carrier.

Warrior photo taken at the 125 Anniversary Gala


The dinner consisted of the same menu that was served 125 years ago starting with a endive salad with blue cheese, toasted walnuts and caramelized pears. Turtle soup au sherry followed. As for the entrées, you could choose from Steak Delmonico or Lobster Newberg and for dessert, a special red velvet cake with buttercream icing. The cake was presented and cut with a sword by both the oldest member (who was almost 100 years old) and the youngest member of the Society (a young man in his early twenties). The dancing continued in between courses and all the way till just past midnight with a packed dance floor. We then walked over to a Pub next door for a drink, and then over to my favorite bar, Bemilman’s Bar at The Carlyle. After its closing at one in the morning, we moved over to a favorite vintage preppy hangout, Dorrian’s, till about four in the morning.  

During this week of festivities and after meeting the fourth new person or so, I realized that many of the cards exchanged only listed the person’s name. This is because just about everyone you meet is listed in The Social Register! Of course! Who needs e-mails, phone numbers, addresses when it’s already “listed”! I had mine printed up at Tiffany’s when I was 22 and out of college and still do. Nevertheless, I always get a kick out of the reaction when I hand these cards to people who didn’t know what to say after seeing only my name engraved on the card.  It’s just about the same reaction I receive when people realize I carry my father’s or my great grandfather’s cigarette case yet rarely ever have a cell phone on me!

“The Cake”

All in all, it was an amazing and fun week in New York. Our Illinois Colonial Warriors and spouses had a marvelous time! We look forward to the next gathering.