Too many paintings.  Impossible to absorb.  All a blur after a while.  But he had always liked seeing the Mondrians, lingering there as Helen, who had little interest in them, went on ahead.  Dan had taken a couple of art appreciation courses in college and, fascinated by the idea of art as an avenue to utopia, had written a paper on the De Stijl School.  Who could take such notions seriously now? 

Then a building on the other side of the street came into focus.  Medium height, mostly windowless, dark gray, but sufficiently polished to reflect the images of a couple of apartment buildings on his side of the street.  The backside of the new Museum of Modern Art, he realized.

Completed during his absence – some controversy there, but when isn’t that the case?

“He so detested the perfectly straight line.”

Walking

Tour

Dan walked toward a dark awning – Connolly’s Restaurant Pub, a Stella Artois blackboard on the pavement in front of the establishment advertising lunch specials -- and drifted to his right to avoid a woman who was walking toward him, but looking elsewhere.

- - - - -

The woman was wearing a dark blue suit jacket, but unlike the somewhat stolid cut of the one worn by the woman in the hotel lobby, this one was tailored to flatter her waist – perfectly, he noted.  Under the coat, she appeared to be wearing a crisp, white cotton top.  Her straight skirt ended just above her knee, revealing a set of dark blue tights, precisely matching the color of the suit, and dark blue shoes, unadorned and flat for walking.  Her almost shoulder-length white hair, definitely that of an older woman, but refreshingly natural, was surmounted by a little blue hat, worn at a jaunty angle.  Her face – she had a soft, natural complexion with only a hint of makeup -- put her in her late 60s, perhaps beyond.  Only in Manhattan, Dan thought, admiringly the outfit – exquisitely put together, all of a piece. The only thing he would have changed was a purse, hanging from a shoulder strap, that seemed far too large.  But that was the fashion. On the other hand, the classy gray shopping bag she was carrying by its thick, white rope handle was just right.  Living with Helen had left its mark, he realized.

His eyes swept past a sign advertising “Icon 24-Hour Parking” to an empty lot.  Like a missing tooth he thought, looking through the gap at a gray building beyond.

- - - - -

Glancing upward -- it was hard to get a sense of exactly what the weather was doing from the patch of sky visible between the buildings -- he headed east on 54th Street.

Dan observed a vertical cloth banner hanging from the exterior of the hotel:  “Murals on 54,” in restrained Art Deco lettering.  The restaurant was on this side of the main entrance.  “Randolph’s” was on the other side, wrapping around to front on 6th Avenue.

- - - - -

The menu was for Thanksgiving, even though this was only mid October. Grilled stuffed lobster … Russian pumpkin salad  … what was that? … ingredients in writing too small to be deciphered.

- - - - -

Dan lost interest before he reached the desserts, or the price.  Hard to cook Thanksgiving dinner in a NY apartment.  Helen had had friends upstate.  Their job had been to bring a treat from the city.  A whole side of smoked salmon one year.

The door opened and Daniel Pettigrew Morrison, lone occupant of the descending car, stepped out into the babble of a bustling hotel lobby – bustling not because the number of people milling about was particularly large, but rather because the lobby was remarkably small.

- - - - -

... a small couch under a gloomy cityscape in a palate of browns.

- - - - -

Dan admired the wainscoting and elaborate crown molding.  Some square metal vents in the ceiling seemed out of place, but probably didn’t attract much attention.  He turned to the floor -- highly polished, slightly flecked marble, also cream.

"The Warwick, embraced by The National Trust, was one of Manhattan’s treasures, she explained.  Such buildings are to be preserved for the edification of future generations, not altered to accommodate the quotidian requirements of contemporary users.  That was her view, firmly stated and not to be contested.

- - - -

The whole hotel was Hearst’s, or had been.  That’s what Gloria had said.  Built for some mistress in the theatrical world – her name vaguely familiar when Gloria had mentioned it, but Dan couldn’t recall it now.

Gloria, seated between Dan and Marcy at dinner, had turned, looked him straight in the eyes and identified the woman in question as a paramour.