Last Day in New York City

Mikey’s flight left early in the morning on Saturday, but mine didn’t leave until the evening, so I had a few hours on my own to try and cross off more items on my list. Here’s a tip: It always takes longer to do anything than you think it will and in New York City, there will always be things on your list. I knew I probably wouldn’t get to all of them, but I thought I’d do my best. First up… the Roosevelt Island Tram.

My friend, Sara, went to New York just a few months before I did, and her photos really inspired a lot of the things that I wanted to see. (Actually, I was just looking at her blog post, and I’m a little embarrassed to discover that we also took a lot of the same photographs… I’m going to say “great minds think alike,” but it might be more a case of my subconscious trying to take photos as amazing as hers are.) When you’re walking around in New York City, it’s easy to lose scale. I think that’s why so many people like to ride to the top of skyscrapers or walk the High Line or ride the Roosevelt Island Tram. They allow you to take in the city as a whole.

Plus, it’s a little exhilarating to realize that you’re suspended from cables. And there was an episode of White Collar where Neal Caffrey has to escape from a tram, and it’s nice to imagine that maybe your tram will be the one that Matthew Bomer is on.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on Roosevelt Island. The point was just to ride the tram, so I walked along the waterfront, where I found a man watching over four fishing poles.

I enjoyed the view while I finished off my breakfast (a pain au chocolat) and then returned to the tram for the ride back.

One of the places I had never been in my few visits to New York was the UN. Since I was on that side of town already, I decided to walk down to it. You know, maybe if I had arranged a tour or something, it would have been worth it. But just seeing the building with all the flags that look like they should probably be dusted or run through the washer wasn’t really worth the almost 20 blocks I walked to get there.

But it’s okay because it was close to another landmark that I wanted to admire more closely – Grand Central Station. On my way there, I couldn’t help but see the Chrysler Building peeking through the skyline. The difficulty with skyscrapers, though, is that it’s really hard to get a good view of them up close.

It has a really pretty entry.

Imagine working in the Chrysler Building. It’s so iconic, but it probably has lots of banal offices renting out the space. I think I’d rather have an office with a view of the Chrysler rather than working in it.

Grand Central is just impressive. The shuttle we took when we first arrived in New York dropped us off there, and seriously, you can’t help but stop and just gawk at its beauty.

I like this little cafe nestled under the bridge.

Once inside Grand Central, it’s hard to take everything in at once. There’s so much going on, not to mention all the tourists (like me) standing around with cameras and other serious photographers with tripods and even wedding photographers taking some photos there. Standing on the balcony, looking down at the crowd, though, I couldn’t help but think that at any moment they were going to break into a flash mob.

They didn’t. I had big ideas about where to go next. I felt like I hadn’t spent any time in lower Manhattan, and I really was hoping to wander around those neighborhoods and do some shopping. I also wanted to walk across Brooklyn Bridge, but the fact of the matter is that I was pretty tired already from walking so much over the past few days. And regardless of where I went, I had to return uptown to pick up my carry-on from the hotel lobby. And then get to JFK. I had never used JFK when flying in and out of NYC, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I decided to shove all of the things left on my list onto the list for my next visit (whenever that is… hopefully soon) and just take a nice, relaxing route back to the hotel through Central Park.

This time, I ended up on the Upper East Side and planned to walk through the park to get to the west side. It was fun to see more buildings. I really love how detailed, beautiful, and elegant they are.

Central Park was full of people. It was a gorgeous day (a little hot, but not too bad) and everyone was outside enjoying it.

I also kept seeing a trend of shirtless boys relaxing in rowboats while women rowed them around.

I totally approve of shirtless men in rowboats, and I’m also totally happy that women can step out of their traditional roles and row the boats, but if it were me, I’d want the shirtless man to row the boat (because lazy).

Seriously, there were so many people enjoying the park. I loved watching them.

As much as I loved spending time in Central Park during this trip, I do have to say I got frustrated with it a lot because I kept taking paths that led nowhere or that circled back to where I was before. Some day, I will know all of the ins and outs of Central Park. I couldn’t stay mad at it, though. It gave me such beautiful views.

So that’s it for New York City. It was a great trip, and I already can’t wait to go back (someday).

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Let’s Run Away to the Met

I haven’t read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler since I was in elementary school, but I have always remembered the premise of it. Two kids run away from home and hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. How great would that be?

So here’s the blog post wherein I pretend to be an art historian and show you pictures of the art that stole my heart during my visit to the Met and tell you what I love about them. Let’s get this started because I still have a whole season of Dance Academy to watch on Netflix (Dance Academy is my latest obsession. I watched the whole first season this weekend.)

Saint Tarcisius by Alexandre Falguiere

This sculpture tells about a boy who was told to carry the Host (the Eucharist… or consecrated bread) along the Appian Way. He is affronted by some horrible boys and is stoned to death, but he never lets the Host fall to the ground and remains faithful to the end. I love the way he clutches it to his chest and the peaceful look on his face… meeting death with confidence that he did his best.

Pair of 18th Century French vases.

I just couldn’t get over the color of these vases! Part of it has to do with the wall color behind it (so vivid!), but I just loved it. In general, my personal taste is much more simple than this, but I love how intricate it is. But mostly the colors!

18th Century French room.

I love the rooms at the Met. It’s so wonderful to feel transported to a different time and place. I also love that it gives our everyday surroundings the name of “art.” I mean, sure… it’s easy to see why these antique vases and chairs and sofas and place settings, etc. would belong in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it’s not hard to imagine that our own (yours and mine) domestic, everyday objects could also be art.

Beheading of John the Baptist (I forgot to write down the artist or date)

I always mean to spend more time with Medieval or Proto-Renaissance (or hey, even Renaissance) art when I return to the Met, but I end up just looking at my favorites (19th and 20th Century European and American paintings) again and again. But this piece is in the Robert Lehman Collection, so I happened upon it. Don’t you love how brutal it is? I mean, look at John the Baptist getting his head sliced off on the left… so much blood! And then it’s carried in on a platter to the feast.

I forgot again to write down the info, but this is a detail of an annunciation painting.

In this one, the Virgin is sculptural (see the heavy drapery that looks like marble, even the book blends in). Everything is calm and muted. The dove (the Holy Spirit) seems almost frozen. Although it’s flying, there is no real movement. I just loved the feeling of this piece.

At the Racetrack, 1950s by Kees van Dongen

In this piece, I loved the flat areas of color. It’s a technique that I’m always drawn to. I also love that neon horse and the patterned clothes in the lower-left corner. Oh, and the dog.

Beach at Deauville by Kees van Dongen

Here again are those flat patches of color, but this time the palette is quite different. It’s much more muted. I think it’s an interesting choice for the beach, where I would have expected more vibrant colors, I think.

detail from Princess Albert de Broglie by Ingres

I didn’t end up taking a full shot of the following painting, but you can find it here. With Ingres, I’m much more interested in the details. I can never get over how silky he makes the dresses look or how delicate the lace is.

Can you guess this artist? Without letting your mouse rest on the image, I mean (that’s totally cheating). Did you guess Renoir? Because you would be right. I feel like I can tell a Renoir from a mile away. There’s something so distinctive about his brush work. I’m not sure what it is or why it’s so uniquely his, but take a look at this detail.

detail of Sea and Cliffs by Renoir.

And here’s something to compare it to.

Valley with Fir by Henri Edmond Cross

Ok, so it’s not a perfect comparison. The Valley with Fir above was painted a few years later than the Renoir and in a different style, but still… it’s interesting to look at the difference in brushstrokes and see the kind of effect it has on the overall painting. And aren’t you amazed that just a few tiny brushstrokes can give the impression of a boat or a woman? I am. Here’s a detail of Valley with Fir.

detail from Valley with Fir by Henri Edmond Cross

Let’s look at some patterns.

Espagnol, Harmonie en Bleu by Henri Matisse

I actually really want that tablecloth. I love how the woman stands out, despite wearing a flower (that should blend into the wallpaper) and her rosebud mouth. She still feels very distinct. It must be the blue.

We’ll return to some 15th Century art for a moment. I had never heard this story before.

These panels tell us about the miracle of Godelieve, a pious young woman who was forced to marry a rich man. Her mother-in-law didn’t like her and made her live in a narrow cell with very little food. The mother-in-law also convinced her son that his wife was a witch. So two men took her and strangled her…

and drowned her in a well. I was confused about where the miracle part happened because that is where the story ends on the panel. But wikipedia tells me that Godelieve’s husband remarried and had a daughter who was born blind. Godelieve supposedly cured her. Which was really generous of Godelieve considering her husband had her murdered.

Let’s visit the new American wing. The last time I was at the Met, the American wing was under construction and all of the American paintings were shoved into an out-of-the way spot. Now the American wing is rather beautiful with lots of space. It also has this cool feature where you get to walk through several hundred years by visiting rooms decorated from different periods in American history. These columns, which I believe are Tiffany, are in a gallery that leads you into the American wing.

It seems like whenever I’m at a museum, I fall in love with a new artist. On this visit, it was Maurice Prendergast. And not just because he has an awesome name. Here’s the first of two paintings on exhibit.

Central Park by Maurice Prendergast

There’s a lot going on in this painting, but it’s still orderly and balanced because there’s a repetition of form. For example, look at the wagon wheels at the top and how the circle is repeated again in the bushes just below them on the right.

Picnic by the Inlet by Maurice Prendergast

I think I just love how busy these are and yet they are controlled. Here’s something on the other end of the scale.

Across the Room by Edmund Chalres Tarbell

The most notable thing in Across the Room is the empty space that takes up most of the canvas. I bet my 19th Century Art History professor (whom I loved… that class was maybe the best class I ever took) at Smith would have said it was “pregnant” with something. He always used that phrase. Does it symbolize the painter’s emotional distance? Whatevs. I just like that the composition is unique.

Lady with the Rose by John Singer Sargent

I love this portrait. I love the somewhat cross, bored look on the subject’s face. But if I were going to have John Singer Sargent paint a portrait of me, I think I’d be a little annoyed if this is how it turned out.

In the Laboratory by Henry Alexander

I don’t know much about science, but I know I am a sucker for lots of beakers and science-y looking things. I mean, look at all those colors! And how they are translucent.

detail from In the Laboratory by Henry Alexander

Science is pretty.

Out of all of the amazing paintings I saw that afternoon, though, I think this one (and a few similar ones) was my favorite.

Office Board by John F Peto

I know… it’s super simple. And how can it compare to all of the other masterpieces? Honestly, it doesn’t. There are way better paintings, but I loved this one. I like how it took something so every day and turned it into art. I love how it tricks the eye by making photographs and bulletins and elastics look real. Here’s a closer look:

detail from Office Board by John F Peto

It reminds me of Maira Kalman’s illustrations, which I also love. But more than anything, I think it’s the first thing at the museum that really made me want to create my own art. I know I could never be a Matisse or Renoir and honestly, I could never be a Peto or a Kalman, but it feels much more accessible somehow.

Are you burnt out on paintings? I just have a few more that I want to share.

Story of Golden Locks by Seymour Joseph Guy

I love this painting of an older sister telling a bedtime story. Mostly I love how her shadow almost looks like a bear, and I love how terrified her little brothers are.

detail from Story of Golden Locks by Seymour Joseph Guy

There is no way that kid is going to sleep that night. Big sis must be a good story teller.

And finally… I loved seeing all the Cezannes and Van Goghs etc. but this time I looked at them a little differently. This time I read names like Aix-en-Provence and Antibes and Arles and saw scenes like this…

Gardanne by Cezanne

and I thought… I am going to be there in less than 3 months! I will get to see those places for my very own self. And then I smiled.

I actually went to the Met for a very specific purpose. I was meeting up with an old friend from junior high and high school who works there. I haven’t talked to Benny in years, though we’ve kept in touch via facebook. I was a little nervous, to be honest, about meeting him again. It can be strange to meet up with people from the past. You forget that they don’t know about everything that has happened in the 15 plus years since you’ve seen them (and that’s a lot of living). But it was seriously the best to catch up with him.

We talked for a little while when I first met up with him, but then he had some meetings to attend and we decided to get together again after he was done with work. Luckily, I could easily entertain myself at the Met for several hours (I never even left one wing). And then we pulled up a bench in Central Park and talked for an hour or two. It’s crazy how he’s exactly the same as in junior high/high school, but more grown up. Later, I met up with him and his boyfriend for a movie and ice cream. I had lots of fun experiences while I was in New York, but the hours I spent with Benny and Malan were my favorite part of the trip. It was just so perfect to reconnect.

And it helps that it was the most gorgeous evening in Central Park.

I’m on Top of the World (in NYC)

Thursday was my long day at the conference. I went in the morning and didn’t get out again until the early evening. Mikey, meanwhile, met up with a friend in the Financial District, so after my conference, I rode the subway all the way to its final stop at South Ferry to meet up with him. Then it was time to visit the one thing in the city that I was really eager to visit the High Line. I kept hearing such great things about this relatively new park. Basically, the High Line used to be a railroad that ran along the west side of the island. But now, it’s an awesome little promenade with the perfect combination of nature, urban scenes, and refreshing popsicles.

There are a few places on the High Line where you can sit overlooking the traffic. This is where we rested for a while so I could enjoy my strawberry rhubarb popsicle (yum) and Mikey could post pictures on facebook. He’s much better at posting in real time than I am.

Don’t these flowers look like badminton birdies? A perfunctory Google search tells me they might be echinacea.

I loved catching little peeks at the Empire State Building. Nothing says New York City to me more than that building.

The great thing about the High Line is that you’re at the same level as things that you would normally see from far below, like this stained glass window in a church.

I couldn’t help but think about the people who lived along the High Line, though. Once they thought their apartments were private and now they have hundreds of people strolling past their homes every day. Which is why this window covering is hilarious and appropriate.

From the heights of the High Line, we went to the Top of the Rock. I heard from several people that this is the best view in New York City. It’s even better than the Empire State Building because you get to see the Empire State Building from its observation deck. You might recall that Mikey and I had already tried to visit the Top of the Rock twice with no success. So I got on my little phone and bought tickets in advance. This time, we were definitely going to the top. I think we chose the perfect time… just as the sun was setting.

I don’t usually take photos of people that I don’t know, but I couldn’t help myself with this visitor. I kept thinking she was run Lola run or the girl with the dragon tattoo, and I wanted to know if she was scoping something out. But she was probably just a regular old tourist.

But what about the Empire State Building? It’s on the other side…

Did you see it? Here’s a better picture.

It’s so easy to think of New York City in abstract or as one thing… a city. I love looking down at these buildings and thinking about how they are all made up of individuals. There are millions of lives happening all at once. It can be overwhelming to contemplate, but I also think it’s a little bit wonderful.

Parks, Museums, Squares, and Desserts: Just Another Day in NYC

My conference didn’t start until about 2 pm on Wednesday, so we decided to go to the Guggenheim. I was a little surprised that it was the first place Mikey mentioned that he wanted to see. He developed a love of Frank Lloyd Wright last fall on a trip to Chicago, so it makes perfect sense. Since we were staying on 79th Street in the Upper West Side, all we had to do was cross the park and walk up a few blocks to the museum. Sounds simple enough. All we had to do was follow this path.

Oh wait, we had breakfast first. Omelettes at Sarabeth’s. They were delicious. I love all the buildings in the Upper West Side with their stoops and their details and their hydrangeas.

And then we got into the park. It was still vibrant green from the rain the night before.

We came across Shakespeare’s Garden.

We wandered around some more up some paths and down some others, and then we came across Strawberry Fields. Ooops… somehow we had gotten off the direct path and went more like this:

Time to backtrack a little. This time, it took us past one of my favorite parts of Central Park, the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace.

The great thing about getting lost in Central Park is that getting lost is part of the charm of the experience. Some day, though, I’d like to know exactly where I’m going in Central Park. We eventually made it across the park and up to the Guggenheim. I told Mikey that we didn’t really need to pay to go inside because the best part was the outside and the lobby (which, coincidentally, are the only places where you can take photos), but he wanted to see the whole thing, so we did.

I actually really love the design of the Guggenheim. We rode the elevator to the top and then walked down the spiral, and it’s perfect. It doesn’t feel overwhelming and you don’t get lost. When you look over the ledge at the very top of the building, though, it is kind of surreal. I wish I could have taken a photo to better explain this, but there’s a bench and a drinking fountain in exactly the same place on each level of the spiral. So when you look down and see them all at one time, you almost feel like you’re watching a loop. It’s really cool. After we finished the loop, Mikey and I went our separate ways. He went to the Met, and I walked up to my conference at Columbia University.

Mikey and I met up again for dinner at a delicious Greek place. It was really good, despite the fact that I somehow ended up with a spider down my shirt (shiver). We decided to attempt the Top of the Rock again, so we headed back down to Midtown. This time we knew exactly where we were going. When we got there, there was a long line of people (see, it would have been so empty if we had gone in the rain), so we chose to skip the rock (and buy some tickets online for Thursday) and head to another New York City landmark, Times Square.

This place. I have such mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I really hate crowds like this. Actually, I love them for about 10 minutes, but then I really hate them. On the other hand, I really love neon lights and the electric daylight that radiates from the whole area for a few blocks down the road. I mean, even the McDonald’s is glitzy.

And it is kind of fun to watch all the people. There was a big group of them waiting for their picture to appear on a jumbo screen.

Seeing all of the billboards for different plays made me really wish we were going to one. We thought about it, but the timing was just wrong for us. To be honest, because of the conference, I didn’t have tons of spare time. Oh well… next time. But we did see a familiar face among the billboards.

Here’s where I name drop for a second. I totally know (well, knew) the person on Bette Midler’s left, Will Swenson. When I was in junior high, I used to do a play at Hale Center Theater on Sunday nights. His grandparents owned the theater and he was in the play with me for a while. I had a huge crush on his younger brother (who was also in the play). I hadn’t thought about Will in years, so I looked up what he’s been up to lately. Turns out, he’s got a pretty impressive Broadway resume. It’s nice to see people make good.

After walking around so much, it was time for dessert. I used my trusty little Urbanspoon app to pick out a little cafe on the Upper West Side near our hotel. It was called Cafe Lalo, and it was utterly charming. Plus, it had an amazing display case of delicious treats. It was so hard to choose just one.

Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel. But we didn’t go straight to sleep. We turned on the tv to relax a little, and since my little brother was in charge of the remote, we ended up watching…

some robots in disguise.

New York in the Rain

First a little background. Months and months ago, I registered for an international e-learning conference held at Columbia University in New York. A few weeks ago, Mikey spontaneously decided to come with me. I’ve been to New York City a few times now. Let’s review them:

1. Circa 1993. I was 15, and we went as a family on an epic vacation that started with visiting family in North Carolina, then Washington DC, then Philly, and finally, a few days in New York City. This was obviously before I started blogging because I hadn’t even heard about the Internet back then. Here’s what I remember about that visit:

  • It was the first time I ever saw naughty chocolates (at Hallmark, of all places) and triple x movie theaters.
  • It snowed, and I remember sliding across Times Square to try and get tickets for a play at the TKTS booth. We saw Forever Plaid.
  • My mom took Amanda and I to Saks 5th Avenue to look at all the clothes we couldn’t afford to buy. Meanwhile, my brothers and dad rode the subway, went to the top of the World Trade Center, and visited Battery Park.
  • We got pizza at Sbarros.

2. I was 19 and a student at Smith College. I went to NYC on a day trip with an art history bus. I didn’t know anyone that was going, so I went by myself. I packed a backpack with no less than 3 books of poetry, a journal, and some Twizzlers. I was terrified of someone finding out that I was a tourist and getting mugged, so I refused to look at a map in public and ended up getting terribly lost.

3. I went to the New Yorker Festival in 2006. (I totally blogged that one…)

4. A last minute decision to visit my friend Emily who was summering there during law school in 2007. Blogged here.

5. And in 2008 for the New Yorker Festival again. Amazingly, I wrapped up that whole weekend in one blog post.

So I wasn’t really a stranger to the city, but Mikey hadn’t been there since he was 13 and ordered lobster for dinner. (That was before he learned that when your parents say you can order anything on the menu, they don’t mean the most expensive thing.) I wanted to make sure he saw all the essentials. We left on the earliest flight possible on Tuesday morning (6 a.m.). Mikey flew Delta and I flew American. Based on our experiences, Delta won the battle of which airline got you there with no delays and not randomly selecting you to pay $25 to check your perfectly carry-on-able carry-on that they said was too big and then refused to refund the money when you complained via email. By the time we actually got into the city and made it to the hotel and got all checked in and settled it was almost 6:00, which was too bad because I had made reservations to visit the 9-11 memorial at 5:30. Oops.

Mikey had a whole list of places to eat from a friend who had lived in New York for a few years, so we consulted the list. The conference hotel was in the Upper West Side, so we wanted something close by (because hungry) and decided on a crepes place. We started walking. And it was rainy. And it was pretty humid. We walked along Central Park, and I wasn’t always happy with the heat, humidity, and rain, but I was pretty thrilled to be there and see stuff like this.

The moment Mikey remembered that I like to stop and take pictures. A lot. He looks thrilled at the prospect, eh?

We finally made it to the creperie. I felt a little embarrassed about going in because by that time, I was soaking wet. I’m sure I looked pretty tragic, but then I decided that it’s New York and they probably see everything there. The food was really good, and it was nice to sit down and relax for a bit. It was also really nice to have someone to eat with. Dining alone is my solo vacationing kryptonite. We thought it might be fun to try the Top of the Rock that night. Since it was so drizzly, we thought it would be pretty empty. So we made our way to midtown. I noticed these mosaics on the Rockefeller Center for the first time.

I think this was my favorite part of the night, even though I was wet and my feet were already kind of tired (bad shoes), but I just loved all of the lights reflected in the puddles in the road and the mist of heating grates letting off steam.

Of course the ticket agents at the Top of the Rock told us we’d be crazy to go up that night because it was zero visibility. It was starting to rain harder, so we decided to just head back to the hotel for the night. After all, we had been up since before 4 that morning. It’s just that when you’re in a place like that, you don’t want to waste any time. There’s just so much to see and do. More of what we saw and did tomorrow (probably).