• Marilyn Gardner Woods

"You've Got a Friend..."

One of life’s greatest treasures is a friend.


I moved away from my good friend, Sue, shortly after my husband died. Not far away, just an hour, but it radically changed the dynamics of our relationship. We had been walking buddies—two to three miles daily, made art, partied and traveled together often. And just as I left, an incredible guy came into her life which contributed greatly to our new seldom-together life style.


I have been making annual New Year’s resolutions since my college days. At the top of my list this year, I vowed “Do something special with Sue.”

When the opportunity to visit New York City came up recently, I jumped at the chance. Spring break from my training responsibilities at the art museum made the timing perfect. I winced briefly at leaving sunny San Diego for what I knew could be a brutal March in the big city but reasoned I would stay inside most of the time. Four days in Manhattan and all I wanted to do was see great art. And there was one person in my world I knew might be up for an Art Immersion Experience.


“Any chance you’d like to do this with me?” my text to Sue said. I had barely hit send when a resounding underlined, bold, capital lettered YES with an exclamation point appeared on my screen.


In our glorious four day visit, Sue and I visited The Morgan Library, The Neue Gallerie, MOMA, Guggenheim, Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Met twice. Perseus, Warhol and my favorite, Marc Chagall; The Lady in Gold, Madame du Pompadour and Frida at the Brooklyn Art Museum.


Our very first stop was Rockefeller Center where my husband had broadcast on WNBC weekday afternoons in the late 1960s. How many times I had entered the iconic art deco structure, heading to The Tonight Show and Johnny Carson’s memorable performances? Seeing great art appeals so much more now than in those days of bumping into celebrities like Dustin Hoffman, Joan Rivers or Chet Huntley on the elevator to Jack’s studio, the elevator I entered without looking overhead.


This return visit, Jose Marie Sert’s sprawling sepia toned expansive murals were my first priority, not The Tonight Show, at this point four decades later. At The San Diego Museum of Art, a powerful work by this previously-unknown-to-me artist had just been installed in the upper rotunda.


Instructed to “explain man’s new mastery of the material universe,” the great Spanish muralist, Sert’s, paintings replaced Diego Rivera’s murals Man At the Crossroads, when John Rockefeller and his son Nelson, shocked at the Mexican master’s image of Lenin prominently displayed at the center of the mural, demanded he paint over the offending portrait. Rivera refused, the Rockefellers fired him and replaced the work with Sert’s overwhelming 16-foot high, 41-foot-long American Progress, as the focal point of the massive lobby today.


American Progress Mural Rockefeller Center

This was our beginning of endless art. And unending conversations about the art as we strolled.


We saw three Broadway shows—My Fair Lady, a masterful revival with a Me-Too bent, Beautiful, Carole King’s inspiring story and the astonishing three-hour The Ferrymen. (My heart was pounding for hours after the powerful end of the play!) There is no theater like that which surrounds the neon dazzled Times Square. Up to the top of the Empire State Building, around the beautiful Lincoln Center complex, into the awe-inspiring St. Patrick’s Cathedral for moments of reverence and reflection with throngs of Lenten worshippers, through a winterized Central Park and over the Brooklyn Bridge we went.


At home, our friends call us the Twin Towers. She’s not my 5’10”, but close. In the cold March air in New York, we resembled tall puffy polar bears; her in full length black down coat, me in a dark brown one. When I had difficulty zipping mine from the bottom, my buddy zipped me up like my mother used to do.


We shared small plates, street vendor pretzels dunked in hot mustard, sipped white wine, and walked over twenty miles checking one another’s directions; her with a folded printed street map; me with Google Maps on my phone. We never got lost. We caught our breath mid-afternoon at Starbucks; her with a Chai tea, me with a latte. Mother Nature cooperated with a small bit of sunshine, little wind and no rain. We bounced out of beds, made with crisp white linens, in the morning at the same time and we fell into those same beds each night with a thud.


Our trip together was full of silly laughter, soaring sites, harrowing cab rides, confusing subway junkets and throngs of people. The St. Patrick’s Day parade, which claims to be the largest in the world, even larger than Dublin, began to gather on the streets near our hotel early Saturday, March 17, the day of our departure. We mingled in, around and through the revelers all morning, soaking up the luck of the Irish. For us, our trip to the Empire State Building was fused with good luck—zero lines—we soared to the top and enjoyed unobstructed views north, south, east and west of the city and its Burroughs sparkling in the sunshine. A perfect ending to a multi-faceted journey. Our cab moved slowly and cautiously through the emerald green-clad celebrating throngs and headed to JFK for our flight home.



We all marvel at the ability to “pick up exactly where you left off” with old friends. My journey with Sue—close to three thousand miles coast to coast—was a long rich one, full of adventure, entertainment and education. More than that, my trip with my pendent twin tower was trip a return to the closeness and sharing that girlfriends do so well, another building block in the joy of true friendship.

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