Posted by jdg | Sunday, March 05, 2006 |

I am writing this late at night in the lounge of the Algonquin Hotel, scamming on the wireless connection, watching old men drink overpriced martinis with their old wives holding playbills, everyone hoping the ghost of Dorothy Parker will inhabit them like the faint scent of menthol cigarettes or old French perfume.

We stay at the Algonquin every March. Last year we got off the red eye and dropped our bags at the Algonquin front desk and posed biblical with Wood holding our crying two-month-old child to her chest, hoping we could get into our room hours before check-in time. The prissy desk clerk was not impressed. "You'll have to wait until 11:00," he said. It was 6:30. Wood asked him if he could at least refrigerate the breast milk she had pumped for me to feed Juniper while she was in meetings the next day. Wood set a leaky Avent bottle on the hotel's marble counter, and breastmilk started dripping over both sides of the counter. I tried desperately the contain the dripping milk while the desk clerk dabbed at it with a handkerchief and Juniper screamed. Score: Breeders, 1. Prissy Manhattan hotel desk clerks, 0.

What a difference a year makes. Juniper is going through what must be her "friendly" stage right now. That means she waves and says "hi!" to everyone. On the subway, she flirts with groups of Puerto Rican girls who coo and awwww at her, and then she continues to wave and say "hi!" to them long after they lose interest. In the elevator of our friend's posh building, a woman with a fur coat and a Zsa Zsa Gabor accent told Juniper she looked, "fabulous," and insisted that she must "work in fashion, you do, don't you dahlink?" The woman was riding the elevator up to the penthouse.

Yesterday in the Algonquin lobby, Juniper attracted a small crowd. She was waving and saying "Hi!" to everyone. A group of tuxedoed guys who looked like gray-haired Kubrick extras bent towards my daughter, offering her diamonds, their hearts melted by her batting eyes as she sashayed like Frankenstein through the lobby on her own two feet. She had the concierge eating out of her hand. Literally. Pirate's booty. She chased down Matilda, the famous Algonquin cat. She walked up to strangers at their tables and chattered at them.

New Yorkers have a reputation for unfriendliness, but they seem to make exceptions for cheerful one-year olds who wave to them while waiting in line for shawarma at 53rd and Sixth or sitting in a coffee shop. Someday she's going to hide behind Wood's legs and refuse to talk to her own relatives, and I know we're going to look back and laugh at these days when she wanted to say "Hi!" to every soul in the city of New York.