Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Park Rides and Harbor Lights

Day Five, our last day in the City, started with a bike ride along the Manhattan greenway and through Central Park on a clear and sunny morning. We started along the bank of the Hudson River, enjoying our quality Trek bikes, and soon stopped to see the site of Captain Sully's emergency airplane landing, a boat marina and, on the river bank, Trump Center.

Our route to the park took us back through our hotel neighborhood, past the museum of Natural History and into the amazing Central Park. Stops included Strawberry Fields, across from the Dakota apartment building that was the site of John Lennon's murder to the Mall promenade formerly used by the carriage trade to display their Sunday best to the Shakespeare Garden -- beautifully planted with every plant and flower mentioned in the Bard's works.

Here are some Park highlights. Additional pictures are in NYC DAY FIVE BLOG POST photo array.

The Obelisk:

This 3,500-year-old monument stands directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To celebrate the 30th year of his reign, Egyptian pharaoh Thutmosis III (1479-1425 B.C.)commissioned a pair of obelisks for the sacred city of Heliopolis. In 12 B.C., they were moved to Alexandria, where they stood until the 19th century, when all great cities around the world clamored for an ancient Egyptian obelisk. The Khedive of Egypt gave one obelisk to England in 1879 and the other to America in 1881, in exchange for foreign aid to modernize his country.

Belvedere Castle and Tower:

"Right now, the temperature in Central Park is …" New Yorkers and regular visitors know that phrase well from television and radio broadcasts. But not many know that temperature is recorded from atop Belvedere Castle. Since 1919, the National Weather Service has take measurements from the castle's tower with the aid of scientific instruments that measure wind speed and direction. Before it was equipped with meteorological equipment, Belvedere Castle was a Victorian folly. Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park, created the miniature castle in 1869 as one of its many whimsical structures intended as a lookout to the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south. After decades of deterioration, the Central Park Conservancy renovated and reopened the castle in 1983.Belvedere provides the best and highest views of the Park and its city scape which is fitting considering its name translates to "beautiful view" in Italian.

The Shakespeare Garden:

The quiet and beautiful setting features only flowers that were mentioned in Shakespeare's plays and poetry.

Bethesda Fountain and Terrace:

Bethesda Terrace is considered the heart of Central Park. In their original plan, designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned a sweeping Promenade (the Mall) that led to a grand terrace overlooking the Lake. The magnificent carvings represent the four seasonsand, on the side facing the Mall, the times of day.

The Dakota:

The Dakota, at 72nd Street and Central Park West and one of New York's first luxury apartment buildings, was also the location for the movie Rosemary's Baby. A lot of famous people lived in the building including Roberta Flag, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, PaulSimon. Madonna wanted to buy an apartment here but was turned down by the board. Thinking about moving in? If the boardaccepts you, a one bedroom apartment is a bargain at $5,900,000. A fourbedroom  starts at $18,500,000. More information at

John Lennon lived here with his wife Yoko Ono and son Sean when he was shot and killed in front of the building. The tear-drop shaped section of Central Park directly across from the apartment is now known as Strawberry Fields after the Beatles song of the same name. A donation of $1 million from Yoko Ono, along with plants and trees donated from around theworld, turned this small section of the park into a Garden of Peace. A main feature of the garden is a reproduction of a Pompeii mosaic, a gift of Naples, Italy. The black and white mosaic contains the single word IMAGINE—the title of one of Lennon's most popular songs and a tribute to the musician. Visitors to the garden leave flowers and other remembrances on the mosaic nearly every day.

[Much of the park information, above, was obtained from the official park site at Check itout for lots of interesting information.]

Three hours later, having navigated lots more hills and traffic than we expected, we were back at Pier 17, next to the aircraft carrier Intrepid, now a floating museum. With that much exercise, we could afford the calories in a NY restaurant lunch so we splurged -- fish andchips for me and ten ounce megaburgers for Drew and Sarah.

Sarah had the energy to do some more shopping -- this time to get gifts for her sweetheart, Brian, and her brother Jeff. I got off at the Lincoln Center subway stop for a quick "looksee" and headed back to the room to get ready for our final adventure -- a night time sail on the bay.

Our ship was the "Clipper City" -- a traditionally rigged steel replica of the Clipper ships that dominated the coastal trade of the U.S. during the 1800's. She is 158' long with masts rising120' off the deck.

There was a large crowd assembled for the last sail of the night but once we were all on board,Sarah, Drew and I had the port side of the stern pretty much to ourselves. Again, photographs (at least those we know how to take) don't do justice to the beautiful night skyline with the lighted buildings and bridges. I've mixed in some "pro" shots with our amateur efforts so you can get a feel for what it was like.

Absolutely the most stunning was the lighted Statue of Liberty. What a beautiful symbol of our country and the values and principles that we like to think it embodies.

". . . "Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome. . .
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!. . ."

So ended our NYC adventure.

We are already thinking about a Chicago adventure to celebrate the conferral of Sarah'sgraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati, circa 2013.

Hmm, I should probably make a few scouting trips. . .

Goodbye for now from Sarah, her father Preston Drew and her Aunt Pat.

Oh -- and goodbye also from our official dashboard navigator -- The Hat.


Publish Post

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Turns out there are way more than the eight sculptures we saw while in the area of the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park -- actually, 31 sculptures make up the installation.

Here's more --


From March 26 through August 15, 2010, The Madison Square Park Conservancy will present Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon, a landmark public art exhibition.

In Event Horizon, thirty-one life-size body forms of the artist cast in iron and fiberglass will inhabit the pathways and sidewalks of historic Madison Square Park, as well as the rooftops of the many architectural treasures that populate New York’s vibrant Flatiron District. Event Horizon marks Gormley’s United States public art debut -- milestone for an artist whose work has garnered worldwide acclaim over the past 25 years.

Visit for more information.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NYC DAY FOUR BLOG -- Photos to accompany "Tourists Go Local" post.

The Tourists Go Local

Museums or shopping? Shopping or museums? Shopping won!

Sarah and I walked the Garment District near Madison Square Garden and Penn Station looking for fashion bargains. Since the clothes I now own are sufficient to see me to my grave (and then some) we concentrated on things for fashionista Sarah. Lucky for our wallets, we didn't see much she liked.

For our afternoon adventures, we had the good fortune to be joined by my cousin Gerald and his wife Renee. They've lived on Long Island since Gerald's employer offered him a position in NYC several years ago. Renee teaches social studies in a Manhattan high school. We looked forward to being in the hands of local experts.
Our rendezvous point was the Chelsea Hotel. What a landmark! Any Leonard Cohen fans out there? Bob Dylan fans? How about Mark Twain or Jack Kerouac? The Chelsea has a place in all their biographies and those of many more writers, artists, actors and folk famous or notorious for one reason or another.

Excerpt from hotel web site -- "Owing to its long list of famous guests and residents, the hotel has an ornate history, both as a birth place of creative modern art and home of bad behavior. Bob Dylan composed songs while staying at the Chelsea, and poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso chose it as a place for philosophical and intellectual exchange. It is also known as the place where the writer Dylan Thomas died of alcohol poisoning on in 1953, and where Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols may have stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death on October 12, 1978.

Famous visitors and residents of the Chelsea Hotel include Eugene O'Neil, Thomas Wolfe, and Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Oddyssey while in residence). Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead passed through the hotels doors in the 1960s."

It's an interesting building on its architectural merits as well. When it opened in 1884, it was located in what was then the heart of the Theatre District. Check out photos of exterior and lobby.

In contrast, our hotel Belleclaire has a single historic guest note -- they say Mark Twain once stayed there and Max Gorky was once thrown out for staying with a woman other than his wife -- "This is a family hotel!" said the outraged manager.

With the Chelsea as our starting point, we were off to see the surrounding area -- one of the oldest residential areas of Manhattan-- starting with Chinatown. I though I could pack a lot of "stuff" into a small area but the vendors along the Chinatown streets have me beat by a mile. Lots of food vendors and some great prices for fresh fish. (photos) Sarah tried the currently popular "bubble tea" which is a drink in which pearl tapioca provides the bubbles. Chewy bubbles -- go figure.

Columbus Park is here. It has been an important public space in a neighborhood that has been home to a successive wave of immigrants. It is adjacent to the infamous "Five Points" neighborhood popularized in "Gangs of New York." For many in the area, it is the local "casino" where people gather to gamble at Go and play Chinese Chess, Mah Jong, dominos and cards. Cameras are unwelcome so I settled for a few stealth shots.

Cross a street and you are in Little Italy. Another few streets and its Greenwich Village. And then there's SoHo -- THIS is where Sarah and I should have gone shopping! So, we had to do a little shopping.

We made another visit to Herald Square and the Flat Iron building a were able to get some travel fuel (ice cream) at the nearby Madison Square Park's Shake Shack. (Some consider Madison Square Park the birthplace of baseball, since Alexander Cartwright formed the first baseball club there in 1845.)

Many consider the Flat Iron, also known as Burnham's Folly, to be New York's first skyscraper. On a more anecdotal note, it is said that the building created unusual eddies in the wind which would cause women's skirts to fly around as they walked on 23rd street. This attracted throngs of young men who gathered to view the barelegged spectacle. Police would try to disperse these knots of heavy-breathers by calling to them, "23 Skidoo." This phrase has passed out of common usage, but its descendant, the word "scram" remains in a back corner of the American lexicon. ( Another note -- Few in New York believed that a building this tall could stand so every night for a few months after it was completed in March of 1903, people gathered on the sidewalks at night expecting to see the building collapse.

As you look up at the building, you see the silhouette of a torso at the top of a nearby building. More looking reveals at least six full size sculptures of the male torso located on top of various building and two more in the nearby park. I believe all of them taken together constitute a single installation. If I can find out more about the artist and this work, I'll post the information in a separate note.

Since the Flat Iron is my second on my list of favorite buildng, right after the Chrysler building, I've included a number of different pictures/illustrations of it in the group of pictures that relate to this text post. The photo post also includes several other "skyscrapers" that didn't collapse and in so doing add to the beauty and interest of the city streets.

We finished our explorations with some excellent Italian food served up by the folks at the Rocco Restaurant. My favorite -- a salad of tender baby spinach leaves, slices of a perfectly ripe pear, crumbled gorgonzola and a light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.

Our thanks to Gerald and Renee for a wonderful afternoon being a part of the real NYC.

Friday, July 09, 2010

NYC DAY THREE BLOG PHOTOS -- See text posting for photo related information.

Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia!

Day Three starts with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry.

The terminal is large and clean and still undergoing renovation. Lots of security, including dogs. Since vehicle transport was stopped after 911, only people and bikes are allowed on board.

The terminal and docks were undamaged during the 911 attacks and the ferry was used to evacuate people from lower Manhattan and to emergency personnel and equipment and even U.S. Army tanks to the area. Captains had to operate under zero visibility as the smoke and debris from the tower collapses filled the sky.

Current operational stats -- The ferry annually carries over 19 million passengers on a 5.2 mile run that takes approximately 25 minutes each way. (See route on aerial photo.) Service is provided 24 hours a day, every day. Each day approximately five boats transport about 75,000 passengers during 104 boat trips. Over 33,000 trips are made annually.

The day we rode the ferry was sunny and very hot but it stayed breezy and cool on board. The best part of the trip is going past the Statue of Liberty although the views of the skylines and Ellis Island are also terrific. Back on land we made our way up to Wall Street, stopping at Trinity Church, Ground Zero, City Hall Park and various sites in between.

The first "famous" place you see walking toward Wall Street is Trinity Church, an Episcopal church built in 1846 in the Gothic Revival style. New since my last visit is the large sculpture "Roots." On September 11th, 2001, debris from collapsing World Trade Center knocked over a giant sycamore tree that had stood for nearly a century in the churchyard of St. Paul's Chapel. Sculptor Steve Tobin used its roots as the base for the bronze sculpture next to Trinity Church. Informational material posted at the cathedral said the tree took the brunt of the impact from the fall of the towers and thus protected the St. Paul's from damage.

Ground Zero is filled with cranes and the structural steel framework of new buildings. I couldn't reconcile that space with my memory of the towers and their surrounding mall. It didn't seem big enough for the structures I remembered. See this web site for information about the current design for the site.

My thoughts were interrupted by a commotion in the street -- a tall man running at top speed being chased by a woman in a dark skirt who, although a lot smaller, was gaining on him. Down they went to the end of the block and as they went other security personnel appeared and joined the chase. We hadn't noticed any of them until they broke their cover to help apprehend the runner. In the end, the woman got her man and he was marched back up the street between two officers, to the applause of the onlookers.

We did a quick walk down Wall Street, saw the stock exchange building, Federal Hall, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Reserve. Then it was on down Broadway toward City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Along Broadway we stopped at a shoe store while Sarah checked out what was on offer. While there we saw a number of fire trucks in full siren and lights go by the front window, speeding to an alarm. I watched them head in the same direction as Ground Zero -- Tower Ladder One painted on the side of the lead truck -- and was completely surprised when I broke down in tears. Somehow, I was back to that awful morning of the attack and, at the same time, remembering all of the men and women who had given their lives because they were honorable people doing their duty, and the families and friends left to mourn them. My heart goes out to each of them.

The building at 195 Broadway was originally the American Telephone and Telegraph Company Building. According to architectural information on the structure, the exterior "is styled directly on the Septigorim in Rome, and features dozens of massive, granite columns." It sure caught my eye, especially the bas relief sculptures that decorate its front.

Another historic skyscraper is the Woolworth Building but as with many buildings now, public access is restricted to individuals who have business to conduct inside the building. I've located some photos of the lobby on the web and included them in the photos related to this post so you can get an idea of the place.There are carved caricatures inside the lobby, of men who were involved in the buildings construction. One is a sculpture of Cass Gilbert, holding a model of the Woolworth building, another depicts Frank Woolworth paying for his building in coins. Woolworth chose to pay the $13.5 million cost of the building in cash. Guess he must have had a bad experience with credit cards!

Drew took a break in City Hall Park while Sarah and I walked up the first section of the Brooklyn Bridge and saw more great views of city skylines and other bridges. We decided to let the walk substitute for the bridge bike ride we'd planned. The park was beautiful -- check out the sculptures and City Hall in the photos. History note -- located in downtown Manhattan, this park has played a key role in New York civic life for centuries, from its Colonial beginnings as a rebel outpost to its current function as the seat of City government.The land has been used, among other things, as a pasture, a prison, a parade ground, a public execution site, an almshouse, an art museum, and a post office.

Enough walking! We needed food and were on a mission for a "NYC slice." We found the real deal at the Majestic Pizza, right next to ground zero. This small storefront pizza place is literally within a stone's throw of ground zero.Check out the photo that hangs on the wall showing the post 911 view from the sidewalk in front of the store.

Fueled up, we headed back to the hotel for our big night at the Broadway Theatre. They say folks don't dress up like they used to to go to the theatre but hey, we like to dress up! A quick subway ride to 50th street and we exited right in front of the theatre with the big marquee touting the show we are going to see -- Mama Mia! Mama Mia!

It was great. Cast, music, theatre, seats -- all great. Exiting the theatre, we walked past the rear exit and saw the female lead, Natalie Gallo, and one of the male leads, John Dossett, talking to folks. Sarah posed for a picture with the Mr. Dossett and we thanked him for a wonderful evening.

Times Square at night is a whole other experience from its daytime persona! The lights are so brights and pulsing photographs are nearly impossible. We soaked that up for awhile and headed back to the hotel to play our Mama Mia! CD and plan our adventures for Day Four.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Graduate Meets Midtown Manhattan

There's always an orientation period before using a city's public transit system becomes a pleasure. Our first encounter with MTA was a bus driver who told us cash was not acceptable in payment for our fare. By the end of the day, we had acquired unlimited transit passes and were traveling up and down Manhattan with relative ease.

That's not to say we didn't put shank's mare to the test by doing a lot of walking in between subway rides. I believe by the end of the day I was actually shorter!

That subway is like a magic carpet ride -- get on one place and get off in an entirely new world. Good public transportation is a real asset to the people who live in the community it services.

We took the magic carpet to midtown Manhattan to see the sights -- Top of the Rock, Times Square, St. Patrick's, Diamond District, New York Public Library, and Grand Central Station and its Oyster Bar. And of course, the people and the architecture and the buildings and the energy! High octane! Photos from all are included on the blog via a link to Picasa or an embedded slideshow. Let me know if you have trouble accessing anything and I'll do my best to fix it.

Rockefeller Center is so big -- Radio City, Plaza, Observation Deck and much more -- it took us most of the morning to check out the area and all of the architectural art. Then we had a short stroll down Fifth Avenue which took in St. Patrick's and the bronze Atlas across the street from the cathedral.

Diamond Way is store after store diamonds and other jewelry -- can't imagine the total price tag. It is a neighborhood unto itself peopled to a great extent by Hasidic Jews. We had lunch at a glatt kosher restaurant frequented by merchants in the area -- an authentic neighborhood experience. Best hummus we've ever had. Meat dumplings were a new experience -- a mound of chopped meat and cabbage baked into a thin, crispy bread crust. The menu recommends generous seasoning with the home made sauce provided on the table. I seasoned mine accordingly and had trouble catching my breath -- menu needs to include a heat warning!

Grand Central Station was beautiful and fun. Grabbing a seat at the oyster bar of the restaurant of the same name, Drew introduced Sarah to oysters and she actually ate two of them. I took a quick tour of the transit museum and checked out the architectural details of the building.

We thought about catching a subway home. Too late. The guidebooks warned that rush hour was a form of contact sport and they were correct. If you got sucked into the vortex created by the rivers of people crowding through a doorway, you could end up far from your desired destination. We waited it out in the GCS market. All of the vendors had a wide variety of top quality goods -- it rivaled my beloved West Side Market in Cleveland. We couldn't resist and got some treats to have for a later dinner in the room.

Day Three itinerary includes the Staten Island Ferry and sights of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Financial District, Ground Zero, the Brooklyn Bridge, and surrounding environs.


Monday, July 05, 2010


Ice Cream Fuels Drive to NYC!

My brother Drew and his daughter, Sarah, joined me for a road trip to New York City to celebrate Sarah's graduation from The Ohio State University. I plan to post notes and accompanying photos for each day of our trip.

Day One was our travel day to NYC from Drew's house in Painesville, OH. Our route took us through Pennsylvania, NY State, Delaware, and New Jersey. We made great time with our only stops being for gasoline and that other vital trip fuel -- ice cream. Sarah did the driving which made it a real vacation for me and Drew.

Our introduction to the pitfalls of NYC traffic was being stuck in extended gridlock on the approach to the George Washington Bridge. The folks in the car next to us struck up a conversation and they and my outgoing brother and niece had made new friends by the time the traffic started to flow.

We paid the $7 toll and finally made it to the hotel around midnight. Upon check-in we were reminded of a lesson learned many times -- never believe what the front desk or the web site tells you about the quality of the room you've reserved. Our large upper floor room with a view of the Hudson River is actually a lower level room with a view of a couple of window air conditioners in the rooms across a narrow alley. Compare the photo of our room with the photo of the room posted on the hotel's web site for a real contrast!

No matter -- we came to roam the City and find adventure. The room will be fine for sleeping.

Day Two -- sightseeing in midtown Manhattan.