Wandering Eye: Credit Where Credit is Due
Posted by: Marilyn Bethany
Posted on: Monday, November 08, 2010
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Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).
Disclaimer: This blog is not advice about refinancing your mortgage.
I’m wondering what to write about… I’m not crazy about ‘assignments’ (I don’t think I take instruction well…). But left to my own devices, nada much happens…
So I go to a favorite blog, An Aesthete’s Lament, for inspiration. I see Louise Grunwald’s name so I click—and there she is, in all her 1960’s glory, when she was Louise Savitt (nee Liberman, later Melhado, now Grunwald) in her Billy Baldwin apartment. Me, for many, many years I have worshipped at the altar of Mrs. Grunwald. From her, I first heard a cocktail party described as “a rat fuck”—one of those rare gifts that has kept on giving. Rat fuck, how vivid.
Then I think, who in our neck of the woods has the clout of a Louise? Who is smart and involved, stylish and likeable? It’s a no brainer – our friend and almost next door neighbor, Joan Kaplan Davidson.
When we first rented a house in Germantown, three houses north of Joan, the constant refrain from all and sundry who heard where we were, “You must know Joan”. Well we didn’t know Joan. And the more persistent the refrain, the more we dug in our heels. I’d bite my tongue – wanting to scream “We don’t know her and it’s OK. OK?!?!?”.
Then we bought our house and underwent the instant metamorphosis from summer renters to homeowners. (This is key. Who knew?) The first call we got, welcoming us to the ‘hood, was Joan inviting us to dinner at Midwood. Suddenly, we knew her! And there was no going back. We were quickly worshipping at Joan’s altar.
In the maybe 20 years since she landed at Midwood, Joan has worked, talked, schemed and cajoled to make our town, our county, and our state better places to live. She is vocal, opinionated, Liberal with a capital L, and relentless. Since we agree with her 95% of the time, this works for us. We’ve spotted her on the Taconic many Friday’s – her modest little wagon with about 30 bumper stickers on it. Joan wears it on her sleeve
Her “Midwood” is a great Hudson Valley house. Sprawling and organic, big but not grand or precious. Sited close to the river and one of the very few houses with access to the Hudson – via an iron bridge over the tracks to a dock. Very cool. Midwood is a house for family and for friends. When her grandchildren were little, she hosted Camp Midwood in the summer and included the Woods Road kids. She is constantly opening her house and her garden to her favorite orgs – and trust me, this effort is a bigger/better gift than cold hard cash. (OK – maybe not better than cash… But a labor of love!)
On top of it (the rich get richer??), she is very Good Looking and has Great Style. It must be her good bones, because she looks better with age. A few years ago, there was a laudatory piece in the Times with a pic. I called her, “Save that picture. It’s great. Perfect obit material.” I don’t think she took it as the serious advice it was—she seemed to quickly change the subject. Since she’ll live to be 110, I guess there will be other photos that could work (but if she reads this—I am not wrong, great obit photo!)
Joan Davidson vintage: she’s been doing this stuff since black and white days!
I always laugh when I see the plaque at Clermont (State Historic Site) listing Chancellor Robert Livingston’s accomplishments—drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Secretary of State, ambassador to France, chancellor of New York, yadda dadda yadda. That guy was a Type A. I don’t know what Type A really means, but I’ve assumed I’m not one, since I like naps and puppies. Now, two minutes later… Damn Wikipedia!—I was happier in the dark: Type A = “impatient, time-conscious, controlling, concerned about their status, highly competitive, ambitious, business-like, aggressive, having difficulty relaxing.” Which would make Type B = Boring and slow? Oh well.. I think the damn A shoe fits.
Joan’s CV is almost as celestial as the Chancellor’s. For years, she ran the J.M.Kaplan Fund, created by her father Jacob Kaplan. She was Commissioner of New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation under Governor Mario Cuomo. She runs Furthermore, a division of Kaplan that gives grants for publishing books on art, architecture, and design; conservation; cultural history; and public issues. In 2009, when New York needed a Chairperson for the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission, who stepped up? Joan. Get it?
So – Kudos to Joan—a Type A—for Altruist. She sees something needs to be done, and she works to do it, with grace, charm, and those excellent cheek bones.
One of the MOST FUN parts of doing these blogs are the photos I get to cull from the InterWeb. Googling “Joan Davidson” got me lots of stuff—though little of use. Love that…
Pictures that are Not our Joan Davidson…
Harry Potter Joan Davidson, store manager at Haggen Food & Pharmacy in Marysville
Scary Ass Joan Davidson
Smiley Joan Davidson; courtesy of the West Aukland Dental Practice
Jazzercise Joan Davidson or Scary Ass Joan II
For the complete archive of past Wandering Eye blogs, click here.