T-Day in New York with Old Friends and New Relatives
Yes, I’m writing you from New York City, with a view of the Empire State Building from my daughter’s West Village windows, currently ensconced in scaffolding while the building does what we would call in French, a “ravalement,” or upgrade to the exterior. It will be there quite a while obscuring the normally clear shot view of the famous tower, but we are not complaining.
For those of you interested in a review of my recent experience taking Norwegian Airlines (see the recent Parler Paris Nouvellettre®), I’d have to give it a general “thumbs up” as far as a “low cost” airline goes. It wasn’t Air France, if you know what I mean by that — which in my experience has provided the best service overall, but no doubt it got me here to New York in one piece unscathed. One word of caution: FOOD. Be sure to order your meal in advance when you’re booking your tickets or bring enough food with you to sustain you for the whole trip. I made the mistake of not realizing this, and particularly because I’m on a the very restrictive diet, I stayed hungry all seven hours while making every morsel of fruit and nuts I had with me last through the seven-plus hours. Note: their pre-ordered meals are expensive for the quality ($35-$45) and so are the online snacks, so plan ahead or suffer. You may also want to bring your own blanket and headset, otherwise, you’ll be paying extra, as these perks come at a plus to your low air fare. One interesting Norwegian Airlines perk, however, is the light show in the cabin as we landed in the dark evening hours at JFK Airport — moving streams of colored lights along the cabin ceilings. It was impressive.
Yesterday our first “order of business” was a visit to the midtown offices of Leopard Films, the producers of the House Hunters International TV episodes for HGTV, the network. There we met with some of the people we’ve worked with and heard the inside scoop on the final editing of an upcoming episode — the one we recently filmed in the Languedoc Roussillon. Chaz, the editor, had called me last week to ask the correct pronunciation of the names of the towns of “Premian” and “Bize-Minervois,” as he cut away 90% of the footage to arrive at 21 minutes and 30 seconds of a finished episode. He told tales of how hard it was to leave in certain lines when challenged by such tight time constraints. The title of the episode and when it will air is up to the network, so stay tuned as we’ll let you know as soon as we know!
As is my habit when visiting a place where we have many friends, Erica and I hosted a dinner party at one of our favorite little French bistrots, Camaje in the West Village. We filled the entire restaurant with friends on both sides, Erica’s and mine. Abigail Hitchcock, owner and chef, did a great job of serving us a sumptuous and delicious three-course bistrot meal, having to deal with all of our dietary restraints. Our friends have much in common, Paris being the main thread.
One whole table of people could each claim owning property in Paris, even though it was a first time for some of them to meet. Two of them own apartments we represent for rental. Erica’s gang of New York buddies took another table — friends of hers I’ve known for many years — as she’s lived in New York now 15 years. At my own table were both family and friends — including the real estate agent who had found our West Village apartment for us, Maryann Johnson, with Halstead. She told tales of what it was like when I gave her a mere five days to find the perfect place, and we “schlepped” from one apartment to another quickly eliminating them all, until we found THE ONE…this one. We walked in, took one look and I said, “I’ll take it”…just like that. We haven’t regretted it since and Maryann stayed a friend.
Of particular note and highlight of the entire evening was the first-time meeting of Miriam Rothstein, the great granddaughter of the first wife of my newly discovered bigamist grandfather! The abbreviated version of the long story goes that my grandfather, Abraham, who had moved originally to New York from Eastern Europe at the end of the turn of the century as Abraham Bierfass, had a family in New York with two children under the name of Bierman (Anglicized, as many did), then abandoned them all, moved to Waco, Texas and created another family — mine, under the name of Beerman, in which he fathered eight children. My father was one of those, whose name was David. David was also the name of his son from his first marriage and the name of his own father.
All this came to light just this past summer when two of my half-cousins living in Upstate New York began a serious probe into the mystery of their long-lost grandfather. Thanks to Ancestry.com and the DNA match of my daughter, Erica, with Bernie Bierman, David Bierman’s son, or we might never have known the truth. As is our fortune, we will be meeting Bernie and his daughter, Suanne, for the first time this coming Friday when we head back from Thanksgiving in Woodstock. Miriam, Bernie’s niece and daughter of Abraham’s granddaughter from his first marriage, Evelyn, attended our party where we met for the very first time.
Miriam confirmed that her mother, who is now in her late 80’s, resembled me greatly when she was my age. The photos we’ve seen of this other side of the family have proven to have striking resemblances — the Bierfass/Bierman/Beerman genes are pretty potent. Abraham was quite a guy, who laid his seed and produced heirs from east to west!
Later today we’re driving from Hoboken (where we were able to rent a car at one-third of the cost of renting it from Manhattan) to Woodstock. It’s my first time in Woodstock, even though I was very much a part of the generation that inaugurated the town by holding the “Woodstock Festival” on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in 1969 which attracted over 400,000 mostly young people for three days of “Peace and Music.” Sadly, I missed it, but some of my friends did not.
Today, and even then, Woodstock is a mecca for artists, musicians, and writers. Many retired film industry people who came from New York, moved to Los Angeles when the industry went west in the 70’s and 80’s, have now moved back east, not to The City, but to Woodstock and the surrounding area — as is the case for my ex-sister-in-law and her husband, who both at one time worked in Hollywood. When we were all living in The City of Angels together, they hosted Thanksgiving Dinner with family and their industry friends. We had the pleasure of eating turkey sitting next to a few Hollywood “luminaries” over the years which was one thing that made living in Los Angeles even more fun.
Friday we’ll head back to New York City, but not without an important stop at Bernie Bierman’s home to discover this new and fascinating family we didn’t know we had until just a few months ago. We are so looking forward to exchanging what we know about one another to try to unravel the mysterious past.
Meanwhile, I myself spit into the plastic tube and sent it off to Ancestry.com just yesterday. Now, I can’t wait to get the results of my own DNA!
Happy Thanksgiving to All Who Celebrate It.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(in New York City)
P.S. A reminder for those of you who also subscribe to French Property Insider, there will be no FPI tomorrow as we take the Thanksgiving holiday off.