Okay. I lived. I think. This is a really great New York story from The Times Many paragraphs below. It’s strange, for me, to read about a person who denied his own identity. Not because I’m an adoptee–a bit–but because I would never want to deny my own family history as I know it.
Also I will tell almost anything about me if asked or, uh, sometimes not. Though I wasn’t explicit about my recent foray into total physical descent–35 hours of hell. Hope it really is over, because there were times I did want to die. If I’m not at blogs much this week, need today to recover though I really don’t have the time. Managed to totally mess up my apartment. If something fell–and everything did, just stayed there. Couldn’t bend.
Have never felt aged or infirm before. Will do everything in my power to stay healthy. And would like to thank Lucia, the world’s biggest expert on trapped gas–her ex was a cameraman for CNN during Somalia. Brought home a rare bug. Lucia got it in the trapped gas form–never seen before by tropical disease doctors. But Lucia can turn most diseases into trapped gas. Fortunately she was here. Her daughter, the wonderful Little Luce, also rescued me. Unfortunately she has a genetic predisposition to it. Trapped gas, not rescuing me. Told me this was partial payment for all the times….Love, love, love, love that girl. Sometimes if we’re really lucky our best friend will have a great kid so that we don’t have to have one but can share in the glory, the sicknesses, and everything else, almost. Lucia is a great mom Gawd, if everybody we used to know could see her now!
I’m now an official Jiminez–the trapped gas thing–sorry haven’t eaten since Sunday–was feeling weird Monday. This is disjointed and I need to eat. But hesitate.
The comments weren’t personalized. Just absurd. This is why there will be no more issues on my blog. Rule subject to change at my whim and my whim only.
I’m a Times Select member. Will probably always be one no matter where I live–that Times love/hate thing so many New Yorkers know. Enjoy the story. It’s by Dan Barry. He and Frank Rich are my two favorite Times columnists. Would love to add a woman to that list. Maureen Dowd–great on politics, confuses status for achievement when it comes to women. If I harp on that and I do, it’s because I can’t understand why such a brilliant woman, who though her father was the chief cop for the Senate, really came from a non-elite background thinks like that. But obviously that alone gave her contacts. As did her older brothers.
I know how hard it is for women of Maureen and my generation who didn’t have contacts, money, go to elite schools or were Oprah. Oh let me stop, should be resting.
Once again this was written by Dan Barry, not me, though I would love to take the credit.
SOME 40 years ago, a young man who called himself by the distinctive name of William M. V. Kingsland appeared on the Upper East Side scene. Intelligent and engaging, with a fondness for sly puns, he became a regular among a subset of rarefied New York.
He possessed a thorough knowledge of art and books, but his particular expertise centered on the stories of the buildings around him â€” stories of the privileged and rich as well as of the brick and mortar. Blessed with an astonishing memory, he knew pedigrees better than the pedigreed.
Fond of leading friends on informal tours through the streets of the East Side, he would point out a buildingâ€™s new metal railing â€” a clear landmark violation! â€” then share with glee the generations-old melodrama that once played out behind the re-pointed brick. â€œWho had run off with the nanny, who had shot his mother-in-law â€” all their foibles,â€ Elizabeth Ashby, co-chairwoman of the Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side, said. â€œIf you walked around with him, there was always something that sprang to his mind.â€
Looking back, his friends now smile at the thought: William seemed to know everyoneâ€™s past â€” but no one knew his. It was as though he had simply appeared one day, fully formed, with that moustache.
The spare details he shared painted an intriguing background. East Side, it seemed. Groton and Harvard, it seemed. Of rich parents who had lived in Switzerland and died in Florida. Divorced long ago from a French woman of royalty. Wealthy enough to work when the mood struck him, mostly by dealing in and writing about art.
Where he lived was even vague. He said that he lived on Fifth Avenue, but stored his artwork in a one-bedroom apartment on East 72nd Street that very few remember entering. As for M. V., it stood for Milliken Vanderbilt, he confided, but letâ€™s keep that to ourselves, shall we?
Sure, he rarely answered his telephone, had no answering machine, and preferred to be contacted by mail; but then you would bump into him in the park, and hours would pass in conversation. Sure, his shabby-prep style of dress announced his frugality; but then birthday presents for your child would arrive in the mail, courtesy of William M. V. Kingsland.
He was a passionate preservationist, whose frequent notes to the Landmarks Preservation Commission â€” â€œmetal railing installed above 4th floor levelâ€; â€œstone ornament (previously unpainted) painted whiteâ€ â€” earned him distinction as a one-man violations bureau. He was a gifted genealogist who volunteered his services to, among others, the New York Marble Cemetery. Prickly, evasive, witty, kind: a New York character, a friend.
MR. KINGSLAND died, suddenly and alone, in his East 72nd Street apartment in early spring; he was either 58 or 62. All around him were stacks of books and pieces of art, including two of particular interest: a bust that appears to be by Alberto Giacometti, and a small painting by Giorgio Morandi. It could be that his estate is worth as much as $2 million, but no will has been found. His death prompted a frantic search for relatives and for other assets, but the exercise has been like chasing shadows. No Kingsland knew of William M. V. Kingsland. No Fifth Avenue apartment could be found.
â€œHere he was, an expert on other peopleâ€™s families, and we know nothing about his,â€ Anne Brown, the president of the New York Marble Cemetery, said. â€œMany of us are convinced heâ€™s up there, holding his sides, laughing at us.â€
If he is laughing, or even just smiling, it might be because William Milliken Vanderbilt Kingsland was born Melvyn Kohn. In March 1960, when he was either 12 or 16, his name was changed to one that evoked Old New York â€” although his parents, Robert and Loretta, remained the Kohns.
The reasons why a boy would take such Gatsbyesque steps are unknown. It could be that he simply chose to avail himself of that familiar gift of vast New York: the opportunity for redefinition.
Some friends say they suspected it all along, but add that his embellishments were harmless. â€œThere were things that didnâ€™t add up,â€ said Spencer Compton, a close friend. â€œBut the man was so intelligent and charming and full of goodness that one enjoyed him far too much to worry about the accuracy of his pedigree.â€
And many say it doesnâ€™t matter. â€œWe were fond of William the person, not William the name,â€ Ms. Ashby said.
Friends arranged for a funeral in mid-April. William M. V. Kingsland was buried at the New York Marble Cemetery; heirs of Melvyn Kohn have been contacted.