So I went shopping after all. The promise of twenty percent discounts on everything in the store was certainly attractive, but what really sent me to Rochester was curiosity. Could I fit into trousers with a size narrower waist?

(And, while I was at it, how about finding a tie for that shirt that Kathleen bought on sale last winter? It’s not a shirt that I should even have looked at, I don’t think – stripes of violet, sky, and Secaucus green on a black background that is really just more stripes, but black.. I soon saw her logic, however: preppy exuberance with a very downtown accent. Without a tie, however, the effect would be more Soprano Family Bat Mitzvah. The only men who would wear such vibrant apparel as a sport shirt (ie, “casual”) would have putti in the bathroom, peeing into their tooth glasses. With the neck open, and perhaps the tails hanging out, even I would look like Uncle Junior’s most disreputable uncle. So, find a tie, even if it meant lugging in the shirt, stuffed with tissues and inconveniently mounted on a hanger by Perry Process, the deluxe dry cleaner that had issues last year about putting my fancy shirts in boxes, and even though the very sight of an incoming Rochester bag – customer seeking refund or exchange in the middle of a clearance sale? – would give the staff gas, as indeed it did. I found a tie.)

The answer was a triumphant YES. And the trousers, while snug, weren’t even tight. What wouldn’t be snug, after pants that I could pull down over my hips without undoing the belt?

Having taken care of the basics, I looked around to see what else there was. Not much really. This wasn’t surprising. My shirt size is one of the most popular at the store, and the sale was in its final day. Pickings were slim. More than that, though, this season has been pretty drab. Downtown without the exuberance. The designers must be anticipating another Crash, because the most exciting color going is terra cotta. I found five shirts anyway, one of them a Ralph Lauren plaid for Christmas. I have always, always wanted one of these clichés in subdued red and green, which in my eyes turn any man into a Gibraltar. Now I have one.

A pair Oxfords, lots of socks, a banker’s dozen of handkerchiefs – I won’t bore you. Carrying all the bags, though, I was a double-wide proposition. Happily, I “discovered” (and high time I did) that you can get from 55th and Seventh to 52nd and Sixth without walking down either avenue. A series of glossy alleys – it would tempting, but incorrect, to call them “arcades” cuts through at mid-block. Early on a Sunday afternoon, these alleys were open but deserted. At 55th Street, the northern end of the passage, I set down my flotilla of shopping bags and took the following picture of the City Center, one of two buildings in the immediate vicinity that Lincoln Center was built to replace. Thank heaven they weren’t torn down as well. The other one is Carnegie Hall!


City Center was the site of my introduction to the performing arts. Marcel Marceau, Kabuki theatre, Brigadoon, my first Mozart opera (Figaro – how juste!). I have rich memories of all my City Center experiences, except perhaps for Brigadoon, which was rather effaced by the atomic comedy of my sister’s coming out singing, “How Are Things In Guatemala?” All children ought to be exposed to Kabuki by the fifth grade at the latest. Sitting still through the perfectly incomprehensible is one of society’s most precious and needful skills.

Early next year, I’ll celebrate my sixtieth birthday with a matinee of Princess Ida – fittingly enough at City Center. 

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