Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Twentieth Date or, Trust Me

Gracie Mansion is, quote, "a house of the people." Or at least that's what we're told Mayor Bloomberg would like it to be during the time he is head of our (5bourough) state and allows Gracie mansion to be stomped upon by visitor's footsteps day in and day out rather than those of his own family. Well, it's a house of the people if you are a person who has arranged a tour on a particular wednesday, in advance, without a stroller, who will not take pictures or lean on the furniture. Yes my friends, it was The Met all over again and though I have the Key to the City, I do not, unfortunately have the prep necessary to impress the feisty tourguides at this historic spot. Alas, we trudge on into the battle against so many rules imposed upon us and enter, date twenty.

The Time: Wednesday, Sept. 1st, 1:01pm (Only one minute late after talking worker's rights in the Bronx = victory!)
The Place: Gracie Mansion, East End Ave and 88th St., Manhattan
The Guy: Marathon-Tom
What Creative Time Says: Any of us could live here if we had a majority (and the power to write the rules. Ok, I added that part, all third-term jokes are now out of my system, almost ;))

Sprinting from our recent jaunt in the Bronx (the key to the city wins again! one of us cries as we peer the train, sunlight glinting off its would-be wet back, come around the corner like a whistletop depression era vehicle up in the Bronx just 17 minutes before our guided tour began), Tom and I exited on the Upper East Side and sprinted the five or so avenues until we, sweaty and very unrefined, made our way to the house of our leader. We were rather brusquely checked in by a woman preppier than a Laura Ashley ad campaign, led through a set of metal detectors, and made our way to the tour where a very sweet looking older woman was gathering us around. I began excited to learn something, perhaps a bit of history, perhaps a bit of intrigue, and to find out whether or not mayors can live without AC (turns out, they can't, everything has been updated to cooled air perfection.)

That is until I was whirled around into a spinny top of rules, unable to find my pin point of reference to keep myself from turning. I swear I was a five year old kid  again trying not to giggle in church, scratchy tights and squeezing mary janes and all.

"No Photos." They said as I turned on my camera
"No touching the furniture." They barked to two tiny little girls who, once anxious looking with key inspired determination, simply turned off, their faces back to the masked performance children are too practiced at giving to seemingly well-meaning adults.
"Ascent the staircase one at a time." "No walking on the grass." "No venturing on the porch." "No dawdling or looking on your own."

No. Just, no. There were interesting things about the tour of course, I learned why chandeliers have so many dripping spheres of glass (to make the small flames more vibrant!). You could tell the women leading the tour had such a love and reverence for history and I, in turn, loved the hand painted, victorian inspired wrapping wall paper in the dining room. It was a delight to imagine we were being bugged and recorded, watched by a sweaty CIA man in a van parked down by the river (was that just me? oh, well, my imagination is very active) and, get this, I was introduced to the actual key to the city, as in, the one pictured on the top of this blog! For a place engaging in a public art project (and trust me, I love  that Bloomberg got so behind this piece, guess third time's the charm, ba-dum CHING!), they certainly didn't embrace the whole freedom, secret, empowered, sneaky, explorative ideals that the project, to me, seemed to encapsulate.

Why couldn't they just trust us? What, with the key we'd run all over Gracie Mansion, flipping over sofa's, carving our names into the prized steinway piano? Just the image of well-meaning new yorkers, willing to wait hours in line in times square for a key, then reserve a spot on a tour, in advance, then brave the upper east side, go through a name check and a full scale security clearance, somehow causing so much damage to the Gracie Mansion (not a museum mind you, but a place actual living humans often occupy and, gasp, hold events in) amuses me to no end.  Jerry Seinfeld does this hilarious piece about spring loaded faucets that comes to mind:

So, I go to the bathroom in the airport. What is the story on the sinks in airport bathrooms
That they will not give us a twist-it-on twist-it-off, human-style faucet? Is that too risky for the general population? Too dangerous?  What is it they think we would do with a faucet?
Turn them all on full, run out into the parking lot, laughing, pushing each other into the bushes?
"Come on, the water's on, let's go!" "I turned it on full blast." "You idiot! We're businessmen, we're gonna miss our plane." "Who cares! Water!" That's how they think we're gonna act.

Granted, I have laughed and pushed plenty of people into the bushes during these key sites, but I've had the deceny of leaving the mayor's home before doing so. But seriously, what on earth is there not to trust, or, if you go into a relationship assuming there is no trust, can it ever fully exist? I broke the rules with my ninja camera skills at Gracie Mansion because there were so many rules placed upon me, I was already told that I was a trouble maker and they knew it so they were going to do everything in their power to stop it, sounds like a challenge to me! I did the same to my poor mother whose head I am sure has extra grey hairs because of the stunts I would pull pretending I was a "bad kid" because she already assumed I'd be acting like one (picture a small bag filled with sugar and me planting sets of baby sitting earned twenty dollar bills in my room as a scenerio).

This can, of course, all be applied to love. I was on my "fourth" date with Tom after all, and things were starting to get pretty serious, nod nod wink wink, mostly to the delight of the ladies outside my tour who wanted to know all about how we met and the project and how it was going (one even wished Tom luck as we parted.)

I have certainly had my ups and downs with trust and love over the years and, can I be honest, there is no way in heck I'd allow someone to enter my home-self with abandon and run on through. Ok maybe  if they waited online and passed a checkpoint and made a reservation and called it art, maybe then they'd be allowed in, but certainly it has to be cautious right? Maybe I would only allow for him to enter single file while holding a handrail with my eyes pasted on the back of my head. Granted, past experiences have left me mostly unscarred. I've had the occasional "kissed another girl on summer vacation" devastation when I was sixteen  but, in general, most who have handled my heart have done so with at least some care, so where do all the eggshells come from? Does Gracie Mansion have some horrible vandal in its past hallowed halls, or were the guards implemented long before a sharpie marker was drawn?

I don't know, or, I have guesses but I can't know for sure and with those inklings its hard to know what is the best way to proceed.  I know I really love hanging out with Tom but when he asked me certain questions as we sat sipping smoothies overlooking Roosevelt island and the many, many, shirtless men who frequent the upper east side on random weekday afternoons, I just froze up. Luckily, of course, I recovered with my amazing leaf-turned-frog-belly horticulture skills. But for a moment there it got a little scary.

Would the art work better if we were allowed to run amok? Does love run more free when we are completely open with all barriers removed? I know you need to make space to allow life to come in, doors closing and windows opening and all that jazz, but can your space still be protected? Can it still be your own? And, if you're not ready to let the wind come rushing through your being like a wooden board house with its doors blown off the hinges in the middle of a hurricane, should you really be putting yourself out there? If you want to impose so many rules upon a visit, so many barriers and "no's" and "don't do's" and "can'ts" should your really be inviting 10,000 strangers to walk through your home?

Four sites left and a boatload of questions to be answered,




  1. is it possible to get a copy of the key to the city? i would make you cookies! i just found out about the project and i suppose you can't get a key anymore.

  2. Hi Meredith,

    The project ends tomorrow, do you still want a key copy?!



  3. what did the key open at Gracie Mansion??

    PS I love your blog even though I'm way behind in reading it. I'm just a college student in Oregon but I hope i get to have an exciting New York life like you someday.