2008-11-07 / Columnists

Notes from the High C's

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel

Well, here it is the day after our trip to the Vanderbilt Mansion and The Maine Maid Inn Restaurant. We boarded our bus at 9:30 a.m. and were on our way. The weather was beautiful and added to the enjoyment of being able to walk around the Vanderbilt Estate after our tour. Actually our first stop was for coffee and whatever to tide us over until dinner time. We found a diner along our route and 35 people barged in. The staff was very accommodating and we were all out of there in a half hour and on our way to the Vanderbilt. After a lovely ride we arrived at the beautiful gates entering the estate.

We departed our bus and our first stop was the Planetarium where we all saw a spectacular show including a tornado. If that's what a tornado looks and sounds like, I'm glad I live in Rockaway and not in Kansas. It was pretty scary. As a matter of fact, some of our guests were saying after the show that they felt water on their heads during the tornado.

I thought they were probably crazy, but several people mentioned it, so it must have happened. After the planetarium we proceeded to the main house, which encircles a Spanish courtyard.

Our guides took us to see the beautifully decorated rooms where much of the decor was either brought directly from Europe or copied in European styles. This was the era when each fabulously wealthy family tried to out-do the other. To my eyes, this Vanderbilt had wonderful taste and I could actually see someone living in those surroundings.

One interesting aspect is that both of the Vanderbilts had separate bedrooms connected by a hallway in which a table was set before the windows where they met for breakfast. So convenient!!! Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom was in honor of Napoleon with the same type of bed and a bust of Napoleon on his desk. Mrs. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, had a very feminine bedroom, very French, with a closet as big as my bedroom, where everything hung behind glass sliding doors. There was a ladder on a rail that swung around the room so that the maid could place all the luggage in overhead cabinets. There was a shoe rack that held possibly 100 or more pairs of shoes. (A lady after my own heart). The Vanderbilts had a yacht that was turned over to the navy during WWII and was eventually sunk. It was more than 200 feet long and held many staterooms to entertain their guests. Since the house had no formal living room, the yacht, which was docked in Long Island Sound, right outside their house, served as their place to entertain guests. This trip certainly was "How The Other Half Lived"

From our guided tour we were then on our own to explore the three museums on the property. They collected birds, butterflies and wild animals which they caught in various parts of the world. There was a mummy in a case in one room and stuffed animals in another and the biggest whaleshark ever caught which was hanging from the ceiling and went from one end of the room to the other. It was quite a sight to see.

Before leaving the estate we learned that, while it was left to Suffolk County by the family, the County is having a hard time keeping up with the up-keep of the estate. It would be a shame to have this beautiful home and property neglected because of lack of funds.

From the estate we proceeded on to The Maine Maid Inn in Jericho. Our driver, Ken, was right on the ball and got us to the restaurant on time. A private room was set aside for us upstairs and after a while our dinner was ready. There was pear and goat cheese salad followed by either mango brushed Tilapia, crusted breast of chicken or sliced steak and included side dishes.

Dessert was mango trifle and whatever you wanted to drink. After a leisurely dinner it was back on the bus and our return to Rockaway.

Everyone seemed to have a great time and asked when our next trip will be. Watch this column and you will find out. We have several ideas in mind and will finalize something for a Spring trip.

In reading the Daily News last week, I came across a two page story about Party Pets who are the petting zoo that we have at the Festival each September. Andre Richaud who runs the company is pictured with his mother and members of a senior citizen rehab center in Long Beach. The story goes on to explain that Andre and his assistants visit the seniors often and bring many exotic animals with them. The animals cheer up the seniors, give them a few minutes to think about something other than their reason for being at the rehab and put a smile on their faces. As one woman is quoted, "I go into a different world when I'm playing with animals. He's so soft and I love hearing him purr. It's so calming." As Andre is quoted. "Some of these people don't have any visitors or family. It's always rewarding to put a smile on someone's face." What could be better than that.

Andre and The Petting Zoo are from Baldwin and in addition to visiting festival, schools and senior centers, Andre also appears on television with his menagerie. We have worked with him for many years.

Well, it's time for Chapter III of my story with our local cable company. Finally, finally, the technicians arrived at my apartment when they said they would, that's after waiting over eight and a half hours over two different days when they never showed up. Since they weren't sure which way to go once they drilled a hole from the hall into my apartment, I suggested they draw the cable through the kitchen, up against the ceiling, around the dining area and behind the drapes and into the tv which was the easiest way to get to the tv. "Oh yeah, that's a good idea" one of them said and so they began. This time instead of having to move furniture all I had to move were some plants so that they could get to the television. Great, in no time the television was connected and I was shown how to use the cable clicker. Well, since I haven't blown up Rockaway yet, I figure I got it and my television is running beautifully. However, and of course, there is a however, in drilling from the hall into my apartment all the paint and cement ended up on my hallway floor and I could see straight to the cinderblocks and the same thing happened in the kitchen. After I cleaned up the mess, the technicians said that someone would come by that day to cover the holes in the wall. Needless to say, they never came and I finally had to call the company again and they sent a very nice fellow to spackle and cover up the holes in the apartment. When I went out into the hall I noticed that the technician had removed the molding covering the cable wires and left it hanging and also removed the corner covering. It was no where to be found. When I showed it to the fellow who came to cover the holes, he was flabbergasted at the mess that was left. He put the molding back in place but the corner piece of molding is still missing. I write this all tongue-in-cheek, because to get mad would serve no purpose but the incompetence today is unbelievable. Bottom line, the television is working and all I have to worry about now is the monthly bill. You can bet that will arrive on time. And by the way, there will be a Chapter IV as I had my cable for two weeks and it went out. Nothing for a week until the technicians could come again, but that's another story.

Remember, your RMAC membership helps us continue with all of our programs.

If you haven't returned your membership application, we hope you will do so soon and if you would like to become a new member, please call me. See you around the neighborhood and don't forget to vote.

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