H and I had the chance to run out to NYC earlier last month. I apologize to my friends in NYC that we did not have the time to see, but this trip was a bit low profile with work right before 3 days to see the town. In that 3 days, we covered 48 miles through NYC streets with gear and got out before the chaos of a POTUS visit.
Our driver, Eric who was sent from On Time Transport, Inc. was much appreciated. Eric is a 26 year veteran of the NYC Police Department and has his own company that uses exclusively Mercedes Benz automobiles. This ride, our ride into the city was a lovely S550 with plenty of room for all the gear in the trunk and more than enough legroom in the back seat. We were especially appreciative of Eric, his skills and the automobile after we were caught in traffic for 2 hours on our way to the hotel. Eric managed to negotiate horrible traffic and dropped us off in front of our hotel, the Affinia Dumont, ideally positioned in midtown for all of our activities in Manhattan. Many thanks Eric!
This was the first time I’ve been back to Manhattan in over 20 years and much about the city has changed. The skyline for certain, with many new buildings and of course the Twin Towers that my friends and I visited last time. I also have to say that the *feel* of the town is a little different. NYC is cleaner, more comfortable, easier, yet still has that raw and rough edge. Though, it seems that it might be a challenge to find a truly rough neighborhood in Manhattan these days. Even Harlem has 7 figure apartments/condos these days and the empty lots where we’d buy BBQ are gone… filled with high dollar condos. I kept telling H that “it was not like this 20 years ago”…
Central Park has been a refuge for New Yorkers for many years now, but it also has a different feel from 20 years ago. Its cleaner and has gone through some pretty impressive grounds management. The parts of the park that you’d not want to go near 20 years ago are absolutely silvan woods in comparison. Of course it helped that we had amazingly beautiful weather as well. It seemed like the entirety of New York was outside enjoying the weather and *everyone* seemed so irrepressibly happy that it was a bit of a surprise.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my most favorite places on planet Earth. it is one of those places where you would love to go after hours and just walk around in the still and quiet to better take in all the details and history. Its a huge building containing many spaces that segment its contents into a number of galleries that create functional historical categories. One of the galleries I was surprised to see was a gift of John and Carole Moran, the primary benefactors behind our building, the John A. Moran Eye Center.
If you like cookies (and who does not?), you owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to Levain bakery on the upper West side. The double chocolate chip cookie is phenomenal…
Times Square is more mainstream that it was 20 years ago, but I am not sure I like it any more than back then… Its sooo…. commercial.
Of course if clothing is your gig, then NYC is your place to shop. We found this rather futuristic tuxedo and formal that really spoke to us. Its the ideal couple of outfits for a couple to celebrate the move to a new phase of life. Very international intrigue, don’t you think?
St Patricks Cathedral is a must see, though they are ostensibly inspecting everyone’s bags as they come in the front door which was a little strange as it was the first time I’ve ever been asked to be searched upon entering a cathedral anywhere in the world. I politely declined a search and the two gentlemen did not quite know what to do, but they offered no resistance as we walked in as they went back to playing games on their phone. That bit of weirdness aside, this is one of the world’s great gothic cathedrals. Construction was begun in 1858 and completed 20 years later. It really is an amazing space and if you are in the neighborhood, stop by and just sit for a while to take in the space…
I’ve talked before with David Krizaj about the impact of spaces dedicated to worship of all kinds and agree that there must be some neurobiological component… something that spaces of worship, whether they be Buddhist monasteries in China, Gothic cathedrals in France or the unspoiled places that are sacred by virtue of being natural. There is something interesting about the neurobiology of “holy” or sacred.
With all the time I spent in NYC 20 years ago, I never made it out to the Statue of Liberty. For some reason I always thought of it as the “touristy” thing to do, so I avoided it… to my loss. Its hard to imagine that an installation of its kind and size could be completed now, as a gift from one country to another. I would dearly love to think that something of its sort could be accomplished, but the world seems to have moved on from large public works of symbology or art these days and any edifices of this type are designed to glorify individuals or corporations rather than societal ideals, that freedom should be available to all people.
As impressive as the Statue of Liberty is, considering its history, Ellis Island is even more compelling. You grow up reading about Ellis Island and its role in history, but you don’t quite get the feel of the concept unless you actually visit the place and see first hand, a representation of what the struggle and sacrifice meant for people wanting to leave oppression and immigrate to the United States.
Just as important as the physical spaces on Ellis Island are, the exhibits documenting everyday life and the news and politics of turn of the century America are the most interesting. Some things never seem to change, even after 100 years or more including this fear mongering headline from the popular press.
The way to get out to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island is via Statue Cruises. Boats were full, but the ride is not long and its sooo worth going. I don’t know how I could have missed this all those years ago.
This printing press was in Bowne & Co Stationers next to the South Street Seaport Museum located in the Lower East Side. Its a neat shop with original printing presses dating to around the turn of the century.
As for the Lower East Side… Holy smokes! The Lower East Side has certainly gentrified… It seems that back in ’89 and ’90, the Lower East Side was home to a bunch of hippies, but now its gone high dollar. I kinda miss the rougher and more diverse feel of it, but its also easier to walk about after dark now too…
The saddest thing we saw in Manhattan… Actually we saw quite a bit of this violence and neglect against bicycles that have given their all and were ruthlessly stripped for parts as they waited for their owners to return.
A quick pic of Grand Central Station, just to say we saw it. I’ve been here before, but for some reason did not remember the ceiling as being this beautiful… In fact, I did not remember the ceiling at all which is why it surprised me on this visit. The restoration in 1998 was likely the reason I do not remember the ceiling as it was covered in years of accumulated coal, diesel, nicotine and tobacco smoke.
Wish that there were time to see a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman…
Chinatowns around the world are amazing places for photography. If there were another day, I would have spent it down in Manhattan’s Chinatown. There is always so much to see and it makes me want to go back to China just for photography.
Our only real disappointment this trip was walking through the World Trade Center site. We thought that walking by to see the memorial and the reflecting pools would be appropriate, but were amazed and horrified by the wall built around them to limit viewing unless the price of admission was paid to the museum there where trinkets and photographs of the burning buildings were being hawked by the gift shop and people standing outside selling on the corner. It was a disgusting manifestation of opportunism in what is a De facto gravesite, but hey… “That’s America” I guess the saying goes. Disappointing and embarrassing, but it is what it is.
Breakfasts were had more than once at Le Pain Quotidien, a chain that I would love to see expand more in the American West. There are locations in California as well as on the East Coast, but nothing in-between. This portrait of H was made in one of the Midtown locations.
Seeing a Broadway show was something that we debated. I’d seen a couple of shows the last time I was in Manhattan including Les Miserables and Phantom of The Opera which were good, but we were not in the mood for something so mainstream. We considered off Broadway, but then H found Venus in Fur with Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy. Its long been said, but the theatre is where actors go to really earn their chops. Hollywood seems to have forgotten the formula for good cinema or are ignoring it in favor of large profits with movies that have no character development or acting at the expense of story. Venus in Fur is an excellent example of proper character development, good acting and writing and a righteous good use of an afternoon. If you can, go see it.
While police departments nationwide are forgoing mounted divisions in favor of armored vehicles, robots and heavy weapons through subsidies from the government and surpluses from military retirements (another subject entirely), we are losing one of the most effective means of policing and crowd control, mounted police. The mounted police is a time honored tradition that very few cities seem to be keeping these days and one that I am always glad to see. London, Paris and NYC all have mounted police. My hometown of Salt Lake City used to have them, but cities all over the world are cutting back. I hope that some cities will recognize the usefulness and that there will always be a place for a mounted division.
MOMA… My first visit to a MOMA in San Francisco years ago left with me being offended at seeing rooms full of blank canvases and huge blocks of chocolate that were chewed on. I remember feeling ripped off and being angry, like I had been deceived at paying good money to see something that was decidedly not art. With time, I’ve realized that those exhibits were an art of a sort (though I still don’t like them), but I go back to MOMAs ever single opportunity to see exhibits like that and other art that does move me. My favorite art at the New York MOMA is on the 5th floor with the works of Claude Monet, Vincent van Gough and Georges Seurat. For some reason, those artists move me more than many of their contemporaries and more recent artists. I would post pictures of their work here, but it would be a disservice. Instead I grabbed photos of other people looking at these works. Perhaps they will appear here with other photos of New Yorkers in another post…
So long New York. I hope to return soon…