1975 was designated International Women’s Year and in Book 1 – A Very Good Life in the Dana McGarry Series – Nina, the antique buyer and only feminist at B. Altman, introduces the strides and set-backs of multi-generational women at this transitional period.
“I don’t believe that for a minute,” Nina snapped. “I was there and I know how much she loved that tree.”
Nina steered her VW into the gravel parking area on the side of an ivy-covered stone edifice that, when it was built in 1750, had been nothing more than a barn with an adjoining piggery. The three B. Altman employees had arrived at the Inn at Phillips Mill. The pre-Revolutionary War estate in Bucks County was now a charming inn with period rooms and fine French dining.
“It’s beautiful scenery,” Nina remarked, “but give me the city on a day-to-day basis. Or a foreign country with a bustling population and hundreds of side streets lined with shops, stalls, and artisans. I like to feel the pulse of what’s going on in the world. I need color, movement, variety.”
The Inn at Phillps Mill, Bucks County. PA
“What I need now,” said Andrew, “is a nice meal and a glass of wine.”
“The wine’s on me,” Nina said. “I was introduced to some lovely vintages last year when I visited the Alsace region.”
The trio was escorted to a private dining room with a stone fireplace and a roaring fire. Nina ordered poached salmon, Andrew the baked cod, and Dana the crab salad. Nina ordered a bottle of chardonnay to go with the seafood.
The Inn at Phillps Mill, Bucks County. PA
“Nineteen seventy-five has been designated as International Women’s Year,” Nina said, moving straight from the menu to the topic of feminism. “It’s going to be our year, Dana. Thank God New York will soon have a woman as Lieutenant Governor. Mary Anne Krupsak is fabulous! She has already taken a stand for us. She won’t attend the Democratic Party’s mid-term convention because there won’t be enough women and minorities in attendance, nor will there be balanced geographical representation. She’ll be working closely with Bella Abzug, my congressional representative on the West Side. I know her well, and, of course, Betty Friedan. Betty started the whole idea of an international conference when she met with Kurt Waldheim at the UN last January. The topics we’re going to take on will be all-encompassing: equality in the workplace, voting rights, marriage equality, and reproductive rights, to name just a few. We’re shaking things up!”
The wine had arrived, and Nina raised her glass in a toast. “To women everywhere!”
“Indeed,” said Andrew, lifting his glass.
“This place has an almost hypnotic charm,” Dana remarked after the toast. “I think I’m going to ask for a tour when we finish lunch. I bet the rooms are adorable.”
The Inn at Phillps Mill, Bucks County. PA
“We’ve already made great strides, thanks to the UN report last year on sexist attitudes around the world,” Nina continued without missing a beat. “The report found that the universal image of women was either that of a sex idol needing masculine approval or a merry homemaker fussing over dust mops and laundry. And who do we have to thank for that? The ad men of Madison Avenue! Now that we have all this good information, we can develop a plan of action! We won’t be second-class citizens any longer!”
Lunch arrived, and Nina continued to talk about Betty Friedan, her idol and a woman who many considered to be the founder of the modern women’s movement.
“Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique should be given to every college freshman woman!” Nina said, her voice growing louder with each sip of chardonnay. “They’ll quickly learn that the Mrs. degree they are frantically working towards is not all it’s cracked up to be!”
Andrew smiled, looking at Dana and then at Nina. “We’re behind you, Nina. It’s good to get these things off your chest, but maybe we should speak a little lower. I think the waiter has been giving us the eye for the past few minutes.”
“I’ll tell you what I got off my chest today, Andrew. Clothing! I’m not wearing a bra! What a symbol of oppression, as if women need to wear harnesses. Pour me another glass of wine please.”
Dana, Andrew, and Nina returning to New York from Winterberry Christmas Tree Farm in Bucks County with Dana and Brett’s Christmas tree
Patti and Jack Hartlen, together with Jack’s parents, were also staying at the Sherry-Netherland Whistling a tune from Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” Jack was donning a gray business suit while his wife looked at apartment listings supplied by their realtor.
Jack was a tall, lanky man in his early thirties with slightly thinning brown hair and angular cheekbones. His laidback manner matched his pale blue eyes and measured speech that had the barest hint of a Texas accent.
“Where are you off to?” Patti asked, her index finger running down the listings.
“I’m going downtown to see Patrick Denner,” he replied while slipping on the coat of his gray Brooks Brothers suit.
“I thought your meeting with Patrick was next week.”
“It is, but we thought we’d get together today and tie up a few loose ends. It’s been a hectic few months, hasn’t it? Are you getting used to New York, honey?”
Patti sighed as she brushed away strands of hair from her forehead. “I can’t deny that I’ll miss Houston. We have so many wonderful friends there, but I’m sure we’ll make new ones. Yes, New York is growing on me after making so many trips here with your parents. I can’t wait until we get an apartment though.”
Jack worked for his father, Ralph Hartlen, the CEO of Hartlen Oil. The company was opening an office in New York City after the first of the year. Rumors of an impending oil shortage were rampant in the business community, and there was even talk of an oil embargo by certain Arab states that would stop the flow of oil from the Mideast to the United States and Great Britain. Ralph had decided it was time to better position his company if foreign oil production was going to tighten up in the foreseeable future, although Hartlen Oil also had several subsidiary companies. The main subsidiary, Hartlen Response, was run by Jack, who had taken the lead in laying the groundwork for opening an office in Manhattan. Jack’s company had certain techniques and equipment—cutting edge technology—not utilized by any other oil company, and Ralph thought that the equipment was going to be needed soon if the movement of oil around the globe was going to strategically change in the next year or two. The techniques and hardware were a well-guarded secret in the oil community, and Ralph had naturally deemed it necessary to obtain first-rate legal representation as a natural part of the move north. Competitors would almost surely attempt to copy the proprietary technology.
Jack picked up his black leather briefcase and headed for the door when Patti spoke up.
“Hold on a minute, Jack.” Her tone sounded foreboding.
Jack turned and saw Patti approaching, a worried look on her face. “Is something the matter?” he asked.
Patti drew near, her penetrating violet eyes examining Jack’s face and then his shirt collar. Her right hand reached for his tie and straightened the knot. “There,” she said, patting her husband on the chest. “It’s perfect.”
“Nothing gets past you,” he said with a grin. “What would I do without you?”
“You won’t ever have to find out,” she replied. “You’re stuck with me.”
“Which is my good fortune.” He kissed her on the lips and started again for the door.
He turned around a second time. “Yes?”
Patti was about to speak but stopped, closing her red, sensuous lips. “Nothing. Have a good meeting with Patrick.”
Jack gave his wife a second kiss and this time made it through the door.
The Sherry-Netherland opened in 1927 in NYC on the corner of Fifth and 59th Street at Central Park
Patti walked to the window and looked at the crowded city that would soon be her home. She had considered calling Cheshire Cheese to get the phone number of Brett and Dana McGarry since they seemed like the logical place to begin in forming new friendships in New York City. But she’d noticed something unusual in her exchange with Brett at Saks earlier that afternoon. He had obviously been shopping, but not with his wife, which is what she had almost mentioned to her husband moments earlier. As Jack had pointed out, nothing got past her.
Patti Hartlen – Jack’s wife – A Very Good Life l Lynn Steward
Patti walked to the sitting area of the suite, poured herself a cup of tea she’d ordered from room service, and sat in a wingback chair. She hadn’t completely adjusted to New York yet, and maybe she was being paranoid. Regardless, Brett was a virtual stranger, and his activities weren’t any of her business.
On Fifth Avenue, Jack glanced quickly at his wristwatch and then at the nearest street corner. The offices of Davis, Konen and Wright were downtown. He then pivoted, rapidly walking towards Madison Avenue, looking for a taxi to take him north.
Revolutionized fashion photogrpahy with an avant-garde style
As an editor with Diplomat magazine, Deborah Turbeville was not getting the effects she wanted and was given permission to shoot her own pictures. “I went into a store, bought a camera, and the man loaded it for me,” Ms. Turbeville told The New York Times in 1977. With no formal training, it was her novice approach that became her greatest asset and she began to revolutionize fashion photography with her avant-garde style. Franca Sozzani, editor of Italian Vogue, summed up Ms. Turbeville’s work when he said, “Every detail is perfect and yet wrong at the same time.” She brought an “eeriness, shock and alienation” to the formerly refined and pretty business of selling clothes. The best examples are the 1975 controversial “Bathhouse” American Vogue photographs, and the “Woman in the Woods” series in 1977 for Italian Vogue. In 1979, Jackie Onassis, an editor at Doubleday, commissioned Ms. Turbeville to photography the unseen Versailles. Mrs. Onassis wanted the photographer to “conjure up what went on there, to evoke the feeling that there were ghosts and memories.” After two years of research and photographing, Ms. Turbeville captured the “haunting imagery” that Mrs. Onassis wanted, although the palace had been beautifully restored. Unseen Versailles has been described as “a pioneering breakthrough in photography” and, in 1981, it won the American Book Award. In 2011, at the age of 73, Ms. Turbeville published her first retrospective, The Fashion Pictures.
Amanda Senger was five-four and had a small frame. With blue eyes and brown hair, she’d inherited her father’s features. She was highly intelligent, but she was more serious and intense than her father, whose wit and humor she appreciated but didn’t share. At nineteen, she was a highly-focused young woman excelling in Cornell’s veterinary medicine program. She loved animals and was equally passionate about her riding. Although she lived with her mother in Greenwich, Connecticut, she spent a great deal of time with her father, who frequently joined her when she trained at Judd Baumann’s horse farm in Muttontown, Long Island. Judd, a high school friend of Mark, had arranged the purchase of her Dutch Warmblood, Pepsi, and Amanda could never seem to find enough time to visit her beloved horse. She loved Pepsi from the moment she’d first seen him, and she was allowed to groom the animal, given her equestrian knowledge and abilities. When she rode the horse, the two functioned as one. She instinctively knew each move Pepsi was going to make, and she felt that Pepsi, in turn, could sense the commands that she would be giving him. In fact, her trainer, Paul Arnoff, had told Amanda years earlier that one of the most elemental traits of a great rider was to have a deep bond with a horse and always operate in tandem with it, especially when one reached the competitive levels of riding.
Amanda was currently training to compete for the first time as an adult exhibitor in the High Performance Hunter Division at the Hampton Classic, which was held each August at Bridgehampton, New York. Starting at the age of nine, when she finished first place in the Pony Hunter Division, Amanda had been participating in this annual event. Such hunter classes in the High Performance Division required horse and rider to clear a series of fences three feet nine inches high and four feet six inches wide. When more than one competitor completed the course without missing a fence, they competed against the clock, with the rider posting the fewest mistakes and the fastest time taking the prize. It was a demanding course and called for consummate skill on the part of the rider, and it was a foregone conclusion that all participants rode only the finest and most well-trained horses.
The competition was still a few months away, but the event was one that called for extensive training. Classes for the semester had ended on Tuesday, and Amanda was heading into exams the following week. It was Wednesday, and Amanda thought it would be wise to go to Muttontown over the weekend to resume training with Paul. She was excelling at the basics, such as always looking in the direction she wanted Pepsi to go next after clearing a fence. Horses could sense their next move based on a rider’s intention, which could be conveyed by something as subtle as a quick glance. It was part of the close bond between horse and rider. She also managed to keep her heels down to maintain balance, and she never rushed a jump, which could potentially send a rider catapulting over the horse’s head. It was important to let the horse’s power execute the jump, not speed. Lately, however, Amanda had developed a small hitch in her riding stance. Her shoulders were leaning slightly forward, but it was imperative to keep them back in order to keep her center of gravity. During a jump, a rider’s body left the saddle briefly except for feet in the stirrups. To maintain equilibrium and land safely, riding posture had to be perfect. Amanda and Paul had been working on correcting the problem, and she wanted to get in extra practice time. With the semester’s “dead days” now upon her—time between the end of classes and the beginning of exams that allowed students extra time for exam prep—Amanda thought it was the perfect time to work with Paul and Pepsi.
She’d called her father the previous night, but he hadn’t answered. She then remembered that he was at a meeting supporting his friend Joseph Papp’s proposal for a theater in Central Park that would offer free performances of Shakespeare. He was clearly as passionate about this project as he was the previous year, when he formed a committee to save Claremont Riding Academy. The stables, condemned by the city and marked for demolition, were to be replaced by a residential building. The day the Parks Commission announced a two-year reprieve, Mark sent Amanda flowers, saying he couldn’t have achieved the win without her for inspiration.
As an only child, Amanda was extremely close to Mark and her mother, and although there was tension and frequent arguments between her parents, she was devastated when they separated. Fortunately, Mark and Amanda’s shared passion for riding and horses kept their bond strong. After two years, Amanda had not only adjusted to Mark being out of the family home, she preferred her undivided time with him in the city as well as their private conversations on the trails. She didn’t mind that Pepsi was in Muttontown or that she had to ride a Claremont horse in Manhattan. Amanda loved her precious “dad time.”
Amanda phoned the office of Senger Display and was lucky enough to catch Mark between meetings. She explained that she wanted extra training time with Paul and asked if her father would call the airline and purchase a plane ticket from Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to LaGuardia for Friday afternoon and a return ticket for Monday morning.
“Sure, sweetie,” Mark said. “Do you have time for dinner with me Friday night or do you want to go right to Judd’s.”
“I want to see you first,” Amanda said. “I’ll head to Judd’s early Saturday morning. I’ll take a taxi into Manhattan, but you can arrange a car back to LaGuardia early on Monday. My first exam is at three Monday afternoon.”
“Okay, sounds good. I look forward to seeing you, sweetheart. Ready for exams?”
“I’m almost there. See you Friday. Bye, Dad.”
Amanda hung up and reviewed notes for her first two exams. She felt prepared but, like her father, she was organized and left nothing to chance, especially when it came to her schoolwork. Later, she packed a suitcase even though the trip was still two days away. She couldn’t wait to see Pepsi again and work on her jumping.
* * *
Mark hung up the phone and smiled. Amanda was conscientious about school and riding, and lately she talked of little else but her training sessions with Paul and the approaching Hampton Classic. He was fortunate to have such a mature, intelligent daughter, although she was a child when it came to her parents, still hoping they would get back together. The broken marriage was a heartache Mark wished he could have spared her, but she finally seemed to be adjusting to the new family dynamics. Now that she was in college, she was busy planning her future as an equestrian and a veterinarian. On balance, he thought he’d been a pretty good father. Amanda was turning out to be a mature young woman with poise and promise.
He was about to rise from his desk when he remember his plans with Dana. How could he have forgotten? Dana was coming over Friday evening after work. Should he ask her to come over on Saturday instead? His hand reached for the telephone, but he pulled it back. Dana was becoming an important part of his life and he believed Amanda was old enough to accept the relationship, even if it didn’t happen overnight. Not one to hesitate, he decided that it was time for Amanda and Dana to meet.
Read about Kenneth in an excerpt from A Very Good Life
Kenneth – the salon of Kenneth Battelle, “the first celebrity hairdresser,” who gave Jacqueline Kennedy her tousled bouffant, was located at 19 East 54th Street. The 17,000-square-foot Renaissance Revival townhouse was redesigned as a salon by Billy Baldwin and opened March 4, 1963.
Kenneth the New York hair salon
An excerpt from Dana’s visit to Kenneth in A Very Good Life. Available on AMAZON
Dana decided that in order to retain her ability to focus on her job at B. Altman—indeed to keep her sanity after being humiliated by Janice Conlon—she needed to get through the rest of the day without deviating from her schedule. She had an afternoon appointment with her hairdresser at Kenneth’s, the 1897 Renaissance Revival townhouse at 19 East 54th Street that had been redesigned as a salon by Billy Baldwin. At the request of Kenneth, the lavish décor was inspired by the Brighton Pavilion, and five hundred yards of paisley and nine hundred yards of Indian jungle flower cotton in circus shades of red and yellow were draped in such a fashion so as to create a fantasy palace.
As much as she enjoyed being pampered, Dana was in no mood for such luxury after leaving Mary Elizabeth’s. Janice’s bizarre words echoed in her mind again and again. The woman was impertinent, and her totally unexpected public tolerance of prostitution had managed to sabotage an issue that was important to the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association. But the failure of the meeting was now the least of Dana’s worries. The idea of Brett purchasing a wardrobe for someone was bad enough, but that he had done so for the brash and tawdry Janice was something that made Dana’s mind reel. And then there was the matter of the wine journals. Janice had no more business being with Brett to pick up the gifts Dana had selected than she did attending the neighborhood association meeting. Their client had offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, not at Mrs. John L. Strong.
Dana entered Kenneth’s and was escorted to the chair at the station of Mr. Gino, her personal stylist. Mr. Gino was talking animatedly to Dana about what she wished to be done on this particular visit, but Dana didn’t hear a word. She was rehearsing the questions she would ask Brett later in the day. He was good at thinking on his feet after years of standing in open court and handling unanticipated situations, and she wondered what answers he would tender when confronted with the information she had learned from Janice at Mary Elizabeth’s. The one glimmer of hope that Dana entertained was that it made no sense for Brett to send a woman to the meeting who could offer compromising information on his recent activities. Why would he intentionally incriminate himself?
Perhaps the woman was just abrasive, and Brett would have a perfectly legitimate explanation for his activities on Saturday. For that matter, Janice Conlon might not even be telling the truth. Her histrionic manner and unwillingness to help with the petition had made it clear that she was not someone to be trusted. Dana’s impulse was to pick up the phone immediately, call Brett and clear the air for good or ill, but she wanted to confront her husband face to face. People’s body language sometimes said far more than the spoken word. If Brett flinched the smallest bit when Dana requested an explanation, she would know that something was amiss.
Until the opportunity presented itself, however, Dana decided to relax in Kenneth’s peaceful sanctum while she reveled in Monday’s triumph at B. Altman. There was going to be a teen makeup section, and Helen wasn’t going to be able to block it, regardless of her adamant opposition to the concept on Friday. The air would be chilly for the foreseeable future when the two women encountered each other, but Helen would eventually come around. She might even end up, at some point in the future, speaking of what a wonderfully creative move it had been for the cosmetic section to incorporate a teen makeup counter so as to be seen favorably by Ira and Dawn. Dana knew that everyone was capable of using revisionist history to their own advantage.
Dana was finally beginning to tune into Mr. Gino’s words when the receptionist approached his station and handed her a slip of paper torn from a message pad. Dana read the words and turned to her hairdresser. “Sorry, Mr. Gino, but I have to run back to work. I’ll need to reschedule.”
Dana was out on the street in a matter of minutes. Kim Sullivan’s rack of clothing had been sprayed with water from a pipe being repaired in an adjacent dressing area. Dana would need to make another selection of clothing for the contestant. Before leaving Kenneth’s, Dana had called the Sullivan’s residence and asked the housekeeper to rush Kim to her office for another fitting as soon as she was out of school.
As Dana taxied back to the store, she mentally rehearsed everything that needed to be done before the luncheon. For the moment, her thoughts were no longer on Concolor Christmas trees, the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, wine journals, or Janice Conlon. There was a contest to run, and she was going to see it done correctly—and fairly.
In the Dana McGarry Series, Dana works at legendary department store B. Altman in New York City
B. Altman and Company was a luxury department store founded in 1865 in New York City by Benjamin Altman. In 1906, it moved its location from lower Manhattan to a full-block building on the corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. It was the only parcel of land that did not apply to the Murray Hill restriction banning commercial real estate development. In deference to the exclusive neighborhood, Mrs. Astor’s mansion was across the street, Mr. Altman had the building designed to replicate a Florentine palace, and the department store’s name did not appear on the outside of the building until the 1950s.
The rooms on the executive floor were a facsimile of the 1916 interiors of Benjamin Altman’s Fifth Avenue home, the reception area was a replica of Altman’s well-known Renaissance room. Fine art adorned the wood-paneled walls beyond the anteroom, with elaborately carved woodwork accenting the hallways. The President’s Room was a reproduction of Altman’s personal library, while the Board Room was a faithful rendering of his dining room. Oriental carpets lay on the polished parquet floor, and Dana never ceased to marvel at the rich interior of the executive suite and its expensive art collection no matter how many times she entered the area. It had the ambience of a corporate cathedral.
Read about Claremont Riding Academy in an excerpt from What Might Have Been
Claremont Riding Academy New York
The Claremont Riding Academy, was located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, just two blocks from Central Park’s six-mile bridle path, at 175 West 89th Street. It was built as stables in 1892, converted to the riding academy in 1927; and permanently closed in 2007. Throughout its history, it contributed to the charm of the city. Of the 110 horses that were housed, approximately half were for rent, and the rest boarded, for private owners, but riders were from all boroughs and socio-economic backgrounds.
An excerpt from Dana’s riding lesson at Claremont Riding Academy in What Might Have Been
Dana had no desire to begin her riding lessons on Saturday morning, a beautiful warm day in April. Amanda had grown pale at the mention of Claremont, and Dana was smart enough to recognize territoriality when she saw it. And jealousy. She felt foolish for going to Miller’s and accepting the riding outfits from Mark, for how could she not have seen this coming? Mark had often talked about his time on the trails with Amanda, as well as her show jumping. Of course she wanted Dana excluded from that part of her life. Any child in her situation would feel the very same way. Dana called Mark at eight in the morning, telling him how she felt and that she wanted to return the clothing purchased from Miller’s.
“Let’s not be too hasty!” Mark stated. “I had a good talk with Amanda after you left last night. She said she understood why I wanted to share riding with you and that she would try to give it a chance.”
“You and me. It’s not easy for her, but she loves me enough to know that I deserve some happiness, too. There’s no reason to change our plans.”
Dana remained hesitant. “I don’t know, Mark. It doesn’t feel right. Maybe in time.”
Mark was clearly exasperated. “There’s never going to be a right time, Dana. We can wait six months to re-introduce you to Amanda, but she would still feel the same way then. She has to get past the idea that I’ll never share things with anyone but her. Am I supposed to wait until she’s in her twenties or married before I date or enjoy myself? I’m not willing to put my life on hold, especially now that you’re a part of that life. And the same goes for your riding lessons. We can put them off, but you’re going to feel the same way whenever we decide to go to Claremont, whether it’s today or next year.”
Dana was silent.
“Let me put it another way,” Mark continued. “Last December, you decided to divorce
Brett. It was painful, but it needed to be done and there was never going to be an opportune time to do it. We have to live our lives without giving power over them to anyone else.”
“I can’t argue with that logic,” Dana admitted. “I surrendered my plans to Brett for too many years.”
“I gave Amanda all the reassurances she needs to know that my relationship with her won’t be affected by the simple fact that I’m dating, and that’s all I can do for the moment. Besides, it’s not fair to Amanda to conduct our relationship behind her back. We’re not doing her any favors by avoiding these issues.”
“What do you mean? I’m not following.”
“She’s nineteen. She’s still got a lot of maturing to do, but life is filled with obstacles, and she has to learn to deal with them.”
“And she’s okay with my taking lessons?”
“Yes, so put on those breeches and get over here. You have a nine-thirty lesson.”
“Okay. I’m convinced.”
“Good. See you soon.”
* * *
Claremont Stables was located at 175 West 89th Street on the Upper West Side. A former livery stable converted to a riding academy, it was a multi-story barn with several floors connected by ramps. An indoor riding ring gave the academy a unique and homey feel despite being located in Manhattan.
“I pictured something larger,” Dana said as she looked at a few riders and their trainers in the crowded ring.
“It’s all the space you need to learn the basics,” Mark said. “The rest of the building stables one hundred and thirty-nine horses. About half are boarded by owners, and the others are rented for the bridal paths just a block and half away. Here’s Larry now. He worked with Amanda when she was just starting.”
Larry Cuthbert was one of Claremont’s fifteen trainers. He was a tall man in his fifties and walked with a slow easy gait that spoke of someone quite comfortable around horses. He wore jeans, boots, and a blue work shirt, although he spoke with a New York accent.
“Hi, Mark. Good to see you. This must be Dana. Pleased to meet you, Ms. McGarry.”
“So what have you picked out for Dana?” Mark asked.
“Follow me,” Larry said, leading them to stalls on the second floor. “This is a Tennessee Walker, a chestnut mare named Macy. Pretty gentle and the ideal choice for a beginner. She can rack, foxtrot, and canter, but all you want to do at first, Dana, is follow me while I walk her around the ring downstairs. Let her get to know you. I saddled her just before you arrived.”
The three of them took Macy to the ring, Dana walking next to Larry as he led Macy around the circuit a dozen times.
“She’s used to your being near her now, Dana, so it’s your turn,” Larry said. “Take the lead rope, but don’t hold it too close to the halter underneath her chin. Loop it around your hand but don’t ever wrap it tightly in case a horse decides to get ahead of you. With a gentle horse like Macy, give it some slack. Now stand even with her head, click your tongue, and start walking. I’ll be right beside you every step of the way.”
Dana led Macy around the ring several times, Macy stopping and shaking her head only once.
“Nothing to worry about,” Larry said. “It’s not a tug of war, so just stop and wait. When she’s steady again, click your tongue and resume walking. You’re doing great.”
“I’m proud of you, honey,” Mark said from the side of the ring.
Dana blushed. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything.”
“Sure you are,” Larry said, “but it’s time for you to mount.”
He showed Dana how to climb into the saddle as he held Macy’s reins. “The first thing you need to learn is the correct posture. You want to be able to imagine a straight line from your ear through your shoulder and hips and all the way down to your heel. That’ll help you keep balanced. I’m going to lead you around the ring a few times, but don’t lean left or right. Just stay in alignment. Above all, breathe easy and stay relaxed. Horses can sense the slightest bit of tension in a rider. That’s what I want you to take away from today’s lesson. The correct sitting position and staying calm.”
“You look terrific,” Mark commented. “Aren’t you glad you came? You look like a natural.”
Dana smiled. “I feel pretty comfortable. And I don’t feel so intimidated anymore.”
“Then the lesson has been a success,” Larry declared. He stopped the horse occasionally to adjust Dana’s feet in the stirrups. “Don’t dig them in all the way. You’re walking, not jumping,” he said with a smile. He continued to instruct Dana whenever her body came out of alignment, but Macy, Dana, and Larry circled the ring, with Larry moving farther away with each circuit until the lesson was over.
“It gets easier,” Larry said as he helped Dana dismount. “I can tell you like animals, and so can Macy. You did really well, Dana. I look forward to our next lesson. We can take her out on a trail, and I’ll ride alongside.”
“Let’s go into the park,” Mark said as Larry brought Macy back to her stall. “We’ll walk the short bridle path that goes around the reservoir. It’s such a beautiful day.”
“I’d love to,” Dana replied. “We have the entire weekend to ourselves. Let’s make the most of it.”
* * *
They strolled along the bridle path in Central Park, a place for horseback riding, jogging, and enjoying nature. The trees and shrubs were just starting to display varied shades of green as Mark and Dana walked, hand in hand, beneath the path’s lush canopy.
“I wish everything were this tranquil,” Dana said reflectively. “Or as easy as learning to get on a horse.”
“Wishing it were easier to get to know Amanda?” Mark said, looking at the dirt path ahead as two joggers coming from the direction of the reservoir passed them.
Dana smiled and looked sideways at Mark. “Yes, and getting the boutique up and running.”
Mark squeezed Dana’s hand tighter. “Getting to know the child of someone you’re dating always takes time. The boutique is a different story, however. Helen remains an obstacle, but that’s no reason why we can’t follow our plan.” He returned Dana’s gaze as he spoke. “I’ve had to fight for almost everything in my life. The right to take riding lessons, permission to go to the Wharton School and not a medical college, and, later, the way I wanted to run the company. My dad is a difficult guy, always challenging my vision, but we can’t live in little bubbles, like the Finzi-Continis. I suppose that’s why I create challenges for myself whenever things seem to be sailing along smoothly. It gives me a competitive edge and reminds me that there will always be something to push against what I’m trying to achieve.”
They passed several tourists taking pictures. A photographer with half a dozen cameras slung over his shoulder was looking in the distance through a tripod-mounted zoom lens. He smiled at the couple and tipped his cap. Dana smiled back before walking on.
“You didn’t have to fight for me,” she said.
“Yes, it just feels . . . right, doesn’t it?”
Twenty paces further, Mark stopped and encircled Dana with his arms, drawing her close as he kissed her passionately on the lips.
“For now, it’s a perfect bubble, and I’m happy to live in it all weekend,” Dana said.
“Then that’s just what we’ll do. No talk about boutiques, Marx & Sons , France, or the Hampton Classic. You’ve had your first riding lesson, met Amanda, and the gears are in motion with Irwin. I think we’ve both earned a little quiet time.”
Dana leaned her body against Mark and put her arm around his waist as they continued to walk. An occasional rider slowly trotted by, and they passed an older man in a brown tweed jacket, obviously a birdwatcher, who was looking up into the trees with binoculars and writing his observations in a spiral notebook.
“Where shall we have dinner tonight?” Dana asked. “Sal’s trattoria?”
“I know just the place,” Mark said.
“My apartment. We’ll drop by your place after lunch. You can change clothes, pack a bag, and pick up Wills. Tonight, everything we need will be at my apartment.”
“Yep. You and me.”
“I think you’re spoiling me, Mr. Tepper.”
“Gladly. And you have to start taking care of Dana, too. Stay focused on what you need and what makes you happy.”
“That’s what Father Macaulay’s been telling me.”
“The priest in London?”
“Yes. He’s a wise man. And kind.”
“You’ll have to tell me more about him sometime. Anyway, why don’t we go over to Sal’s for a quick lunch, get our chores done, and be back to my place by four. We’ll have a long, leisurely evening. And we’ll sleep in tomorrow. Read the Times and—”
“And you can make some hockey puck pancakes.”
“Amanda was exaggerating. They weren’t that bad. They could have been oven mitts, but not hockey pucks. I’ll put breakfast into your capable hands. How about a smoked salmon frittata? We’ll buy what we need at Zabar’s after we pick up Wills.”
They kissed again and continued on. Dana leaned her head against Mark’s shoulder and closed her eyes to block out the rest of the world. For the moment, there was no B. Altman, in-store boutique, or private label. She had the present moment, which was more than enough to make her happy.
* * *
It was a challenge to keep the Academy’s doors open as far back as 1973 when the city condemned the building. That year, horses were boarded for a monthly fee of $117.50 and the hourly rental fee to ride was $8.50 . In July of 1973, a two-year reprieve was announced by the parks commissioner and, miraculously, the doors stayed open for thirty-four more years Today, the bridle path is enjoyed by joggers and children in nearby schools.
Here is a passage from a letter written by Paul Novograd, the second generation owner of the Claremont Riding Academy.upon the closing of the he beloved school and stables…….Our remarkable horses are all going to good homes. Some are being retired to green pastures after many years of hard work. Some are being sold to their loving riders. Some are being donated to the equestrian program at Yale University. And most will move down to Potomac Horse Center, a wonderful 60 acre facility with three indoor arenas (no poles there) that we operate. Hopefully you’ll be able to pay them a visit. April 2007