Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New York and Dictators' Week

I enjoy New York City. I suspect that if I lived there, I wouldn't enjoy it nearly as much. I don't care for noise, or grime, or crowds, all of which New York has in abundance. It's also not a city in which to be broke, as the displays of wealth are too commonplace to avoid. Still, in small doses, it can be a magical place.

It was less magical this time around for two reasons. Most importantly, I was in the midst of a brief but virulent cold. (Oh, don't look at me like that. I'm pretty sure I wasn't contagious by then. If there's a pandemic in New York over the next week or so, my bad. In public I'll still blame the guy across the aisle on the airplane who coughed his lungs out.) This meant more sleeping and less tromping about than I had hoped.

The other reason was that it was Dictators' Week at the U.N. I had seen the week before that President Obama made a speech, and the crazy Palestinian guy said he wanted a Palestinian state but didn't want to take all those Palestinian refugees around the world, which seemed like a bad deal to me, and the crazy Iranian guy complained about the Jews again, which always seems a dangerous game in Midtown Manhattan. But it never occurred to me that all those Third-World dictators (not Mr. Obama, the other guys) would be wiling to stay out of their countries for a week or more at a time. Don't they worry about a coup when they're dancing the night away at Studio 51?

Also, my knowledge of Manhattan is a little sketchy, despite my many trips there. So while I was vaguely aware that the U.N. building was around somewhere...

UN Building

...and that the hotel was in some proximity...


...it seemed unlikely that the two were as close to one another as a closer inspection of the map indicated they were:

UN to Barclays png

This meant that the hotel had a large police presence, plus dozens of colorfully-garbed men milling about in the lobby at any one time. Plus frequent police sirens as one dictator or another wanted to move from Point A to Point B and thought that petty inconveniences such as sitting in traffic were what he staged a coup to avoid. Attempting to move from the side entrance of the Waldorf to the Bull & Bear bar was a farce that involved, at one point, a crowded elevator ride to the 13th floor and back down to the lobby.

Ah well, not all was lost. Among other treats was a return visit to the J.P. Morgan Library, a beautiful spot inside a wonderful building. (I can't say much for the modern appendage to the neoclassical building, however.)

Morgan Library

And there was a side trip to see where the new World Trade Center tower was rising:

Freedom Tower New

(A computer-generated image, to be sure. But even the unfinished tower reminded me of a big middle finger to terrorists.)

And no trip to New York would be complete without a visit to the shrine of pen addicts, Fountain Pen Hospital:

Fountain Pen Hospital

Sure, it's a nondescript building on a seedy-looking street in the shadow of City Hall, but inside is a top-notch selection of writing instruments: fountain pens, roller balls, ballpoints, and pencils, as well as refills, inks, and books and magazines on pens and pen collecting. They have everything from limited editions costing thousands of dollars to more economically-priced pens, as well as a selection of vintage pens. I must be strong...okay, just one pen.

Finally, though it's touristy, I can't resist the literary credentials of the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel, famed home of Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table:

Blue Bar

The drink was for medicinal purposes only.

(All pictures ripped off the web and are someone else's. Sorry.)

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