Orpheus

April 16, 2010

Last night I was my dad’s date for the annual Orpheus Gala. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra us a 35 year old New York institution–they play at Carnegie Hall regularly and tour the world.  I learned last night that in addition to playing incredible, beautiful music, they’re extremely democratic, and are organized like a small chamber music group, without one central conductor or leader. For someone who doesn’t know anything about classical music, it was really inspiring.

The event was held at the Metropolitan Club, to which I had never been.  It was on 60th and Fifth, and embodied such old school New York Glamour, with a grand marble staircase, and really a lot of marble everywhere.  There were park views from the main room and plush red carpets with the Club’s logo.  The walls had frescos and friezes and there was gilt on some of the banisters.  I also hadn’t anticipated the size of the diamonds and extraordinary jewels that glossed some of the women, mostly well-coifed upper east siders.  After the concert and the presentations to the honorees, dinner was upstairs in the main dining room.  My dad used to work with Frank Newman, the CEO of Banker’s Trust and his wife, Liz, was one of the honorees.  We were sitting at their table, one of the main tables in the center of the room.  Seats were assigned at the table as well, and we were across from one another.  I happen to be sitting next to Alan Blinder, the economist and Princeton professor.  I took his class about ten years ago, in the spring semester of my freshman year, and let’s just say I didn’t do very well.  I PDF’d the class, hoping for a pass and sadly wound up in the D range, partly because Econ 101 was hard and mostly because I was stupid and cocky and cavalier.  So it was ironic that I spent the entire night talking to him–about Princeton, about changes to his curriculum that incorporate the economic collapse, about his recent trip to Rome with his grandsons.  On his left there was a woman named Brenda–a republican, serious Bush supporter, and ambassador to Jamaica under W from 2004 to 2009.  Her husband sat to my right–his name was Howard Johnson.  I didn’t have the guts to ask if he was THE Howard Johnson, but his wife did say that he was an FBI agent at some point in his career.  My dad and I talked afterward about how funny it was to picture her in Jamaica.  She was charming and friendly, but also wore incredibly large jewelry and frosted blond hair.  It was amusing to see Blinder respectfully disagree with all of her politics.  It was a great evening, I loved every minute of it, and as I said to my dad, it’s fun to be his date, to try to charm the older men and learn some things that I wish I had learned ten years ago in Econ 101.

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