I'm usually in New York when the weather is ghastly. It's either mid-summer, and I run for the air-conditioned comfort of a museum or bar or other civilized spot; or it's mid-winter, and I run for the heated comfort of...well, a museum or bar or other civilized spot. Last year I was there just after several inches of snow. Back in the 90s, I left town as a snowstorm started...and didn't let up for two days, ultimately dumping about two feet of snow on Washington, DC. This past weekend, however, had lovely weather, with highs in the high 60s and generally clear skies. Luverly. Thus I was able to see the East Village, in all its seedy glory, for the first time.
One stop was at a small bar called Angel's Share, set behind a sushi restaurant on the second floor of a row of houses on Stuyvesant Street. One has to know it's there: the entrance is to the right in the photograph below, beneath the sign reading "Village Yokocho," which I assume is the name of the sushi restaurant. Once in the boisterous eatery, a discreet sign is the only indication that the quiet bar lies beyond. The bar (seen below beyond the three curtained windows) is small and has a series of rules that indicate they are serious about keeping down the noise level: no groups larger than six, no drinking standing up - if there isn't a seat at the bar or at a table, you wait - and so on. I had a concoction called a "Take Five," which I suppose was Brubeck smoky, as it involved Scotch whisky and sake.
At the next table were three young ladies right out of Sex and the City. One was getting married, while a second was pregnant, having only recently dumped her long-term boyfriend and taken up with another. One extolled the virtues of an apartment building - she described various amenities - that was "only" $2700 per month. I have a mortgage substantially less than that, and I'll eventually own the place outright. Lest any readers think I was excessively nosy, the average New York City establishment places about four inches between tables, just enough to squeeze in sideways.
Sunday was so nice that we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Along with half of both boroughs, apparently. The views are spectacular, and the bridge itself is a marvel.
Below, Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge:
Below, Columbus Circle from inside the Time Warner Building, with Central Park and the Midtown East/Upper East Side skyscrapers in the background:
I like writing instruments and paper products, so one of my pilgrimages in the city is Fountain Pen Hospital, on Warren Street just a block or so from City Hall. (Art Brown's, near Times Square, is another favorite.) The first time I was there, the brusque New York manner of the owners intimidated me, but, over time, I learned that these guys know their pens and like happy customers. (I've also learned to be less intimidated. So there.)
Just because something is tourist-y doesn't mean it shouldn't be seen. In previous years, I've been to the top of the Empire State Building and the top of Rockefellar Center. (I bailed out on the World Trade Center in early September 2001 because the line was too long.) This year, the National Park Service re-opened the crown of the Statue of Liberty for the first time since 2001. Only 10 at a time, in quarter-hour increments, are allowed up the spiral staircase and into the crown. (Advance reservations are a must.) We braved the hordes on the ferry, and were rewarded with spectacular views of the statue and of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey.
Below, the interior of the statue. The spiral staircases - one going up, the other down - were a tight fit. The park service has an EMT at the top of the pedestal, on call, just in case.
The next stop on the ferry is Ellis Island. I'll confess we didn't spend much time there, but it's an impressive sight. The photograph below is of Immigrants' Hall; one can only imagine thousands of immigrants at a time, each waiting his or her turn to be processed, having little money and little or no understanding of English. (Mine at least had an understanding of English, or at least the variant they spoke north of Hadrian's Wall.) Those folk had courage, and not a little desperation. (The exhibit noted that the passengers not in steerage went through Customs and Immigration aboard ship, and never had to mingle with the unwashed masses on Ellis Island. Call it unfair all you like, but it's good to be rich.)
While having a drink before dinner at the Plaza Hotel's Oak Room Bar - at truly breathtaking prices, I might add - we noticed a couple who entered and were seated at a booth. "That looks an awful lot like..." "John Kerry?" "Yes, that's what I was going to say." After some time, we concluded that, yes, it was the senior senator from Massachusetts, along with his wife, the $800 million heiress to the Heinz fortune. (Remember, it's good to be rich.) No entourage, although I did note the presence of three beefy guys in suits at the opposite end of the bar. One woman went over and said something; I can only assume it was not, "Cheez Whiz, John. If you had said you like your cheesesteak with Whiz, and not Swiss, for God's sake, you would be here with your Secret Service detail." Anyway, I've long thought that it's a little tacky to interrupt someone eating dinner just because you happen to recognize him.
It took four days, and only minutes from heading back to the airport to leave town, but Guinness was obtained, and a good one, too, at famed bar P. J. Clarke's. Though now partly owned by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, it still exudes 19th century charm. And they pour a lovely Guinness.