Friday, November 13, 2009

I (Heart) New York

I love New York City. Really I do. Though I can't imagine living there, I enjoy visiting to see and experience the historic sites, the neighborhoods, the architecture, the shopping, the bars, the food,... Here are a few highlights:

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:

Getting to see the substantial amount of rust on the steel girders was not reassuring, however.

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.


Breezy Carver said...

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town!
The Bronx is up and the Battery's down
The people ride in a hole in the ground,
New York, New York, it's a wonderful town....

You know what i love most about New York: its an old city with great Stories to tell always :)
thank You for your
wonderful captures Really A most enjoyable stroll with you!!!
other then the ketchup couple
sounded like an enchanting visit!! *smiles*

Rhianon Jameson said...

It was enchanting indeed...though I'll admit I never see the truly seedy sides of the town. But I do love the fact that much of the architecture from various eras remains in place, from the wrought-iron facades of the 19th century to the Art Deco look of the early 20th.

I also love the way the subway system snakes everywhere, with huge pedestrian tunnels for transfers and - this *really* appeals to someone who works in DC - dual tracks. Express trains! A single train failure doesn't bring down the entire line!

Dio said...

nice travelogue, Rhia.

I love that city too--lived there for almost five years. And so much of the historic fabric of the city survives. When you walk around in most neighborhoods, the 19th and early 20th century city can be seen almost intact from the second floor up.

Did you know that the Triangle Shirtwaist building is still standing? (the fire gutted it and burned people, but the structure survived and is now part of NYU). Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace still stands on East 20th b. Park and Broadway (it's a NPS site). The city is full of stuff like that.

And the people--yeah, terse, intense, cranky, frequently profane, and often impatient. Some of the the best folks in the world.

Rhianon Jameson said...

Dio - I spent more time than usual staring at older buildings, thanks to the weather, but I feel like something of a tourist dork staring at buildings, so I usually just sneak a peek while pretending to amble by.

As for the people - on my first trip (well before I lived in Obnoxious Central, aka Washington, DC), everyone moved so fast, jaywalked with abandon, and seemed so horribly rude - especially in places where I never expected rudeness, such as lunch counters - that I was intimidated. Over time, I started walking quickly, jaywalking with...well, not abandon, because I don't trust drivers, but with a little more aplomb than as a 20-something hick, and realized that it's not rudeness, it's just a desire to move things along. Come to DC and we'll show you rude. :)

Rhianon Jameson said...

I should clarify the last remark: clearly there are lots of good folk in DC, too. But some are specialists in being jerks. And the profanity is really pedestrian.

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Great shots - I hope to go there one day too :)

Rhianon Jameson said...

If you get the chance, jump at it. Of course, NYC can't compare to the great cities of Europe, in terms of what "old" means. I've been to London twice - once only briefly, the other time for most of a week - and I didn't come anywhere close to scratching the surface of that amazing city.