Wednesday, July 10, 2019

New York City - 2019

New York City

After a red-eye flight from LAX, we arrived at JFK in the morning and took the Airtrain and the Metro into the city. We definitely felt deficient in sleep but were only able to drop our suitcases off at the hotel and not check in until the afternoon.

Our strategy was to take a walk to Central Park and find a comfortable place to relax for a couple of hours. It was a beautiful day so we had a lovely walk through the southern end of the park, then parked our bodies on a grassy spot while listening to a solo guitarist near the lake. 

Central Park

Over the years, Diane and I had visited Central Park several times before but had not been as aware of all the enormous granite rock formations that were there. I suppose they just never made much of an impression on us before. This time, however, it was different. We really noticed their intrinsic, powerful and quiet beauty.

Since our hotel was only a couple of blocks from Central Park, we also took evening strolls through the park. Fireflies were ubiquitous. They were so much fun to watch flitter around. Too hard to photograph, though, so no photos of the fireflies. But I did get a photo of the sky scrapers at night.

The Hilton was quite close to Carnegie Hall. Upon passing it, we discovered that they gave tours of the hall a couple of times a day. Since it’s otherwise closed for the summer, we decided on taking a tour. 

Our tour guide, John, was a unique, crusty character and a brain filled with historical minutiae of Carnegie Hall. For example, he told us of why Carnegie bought the property on 57th Street, that at one time, the building was set to be torn down to be replaced by a gaudy architectural blunder, that it’s a venue solely for listening (not theater) and why the acoustics are so phenomenal to place it in the top three venues in the world for music. In the hallways, there were photos of some of the greats who played at Carnegie Hall. Needless to say, it was an informative and entertaining experience.

We toured the honey-combed looking Vessel at Hudson Yards. Unusual as it is controversial, we enjoyed it. We walked all through it from top to bottom and side-to-side. Aside from the architecture, apparently, the most controversial aspect of it is that it cost $150 million to build. Next to The Vessel is a cushy-looking building - odd but fun.

After our visit to The Vessel, we took a walk along the extremely crowded High Line. We wound up at Chelsea Market, where we explored some shops and stopped for lunch. On the way back to the hotel we meandered through various streets and avenues stopping at Times Square and a pub, where we got to see the Dutch girls soccer team beat the Swedes 1-0 during overtime. 

What really caught our attention was the shear volume of building projects in NYC. Everywhere you look, construction of new high rise buildings was taking place. Half of the workers in NY must be involved in construction in one way or another.

On the 4th of July, we took the metro to the southern end of Manhattan to the Whitehall station. We walked visited Wall St. and Stone St. The bars and restaurants were overflowing with patrons getting ready to watch the fireworks. 

After a glass of wine at an Irish bar, we walked along Water St. and found a spot to watch the fireworks on John St. along with throngs of other folks. Finally at 9:30pm the first explosions of the fireworks show commenced. It turned out we had picked a good spot to watch the show. 

We decided to skip the grand finale so we could get a head-start on the walk back to the metro. As we walked through the crowd, we could hear the beginnings of the explosive finale. After finding our way back to the metro station, the return journey wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated. 

On our last day in NYC we went to the Guggenheim Museum, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed building. Most of the exhibit was abstract modern art, which isn’t our favorite. But they did have a splash of what we enjoyed including paintings by Picasso, Klee,  Cezzane and Pizarro. Also, they had an extensive photographic exhibit that included works by the controversial artist, Robert Mapplethorpe. 

On the way back, we walked through Central Park and had the pleasure to meet a street performer named “Stevie Debbie” (he pronounced his last name with an “ea” sound). Stevie played a bongo drum and engaged us in conversation when I dropped some money into his bag. He asked us if we’d like to hear a song he had written. We said “Of course”. He played the drum and sang it (sort of a soft rap melody) about pastry. 

He then told us of a time when he was playing his drums in the park when Taylor Swift stopped by. At first I thought he was embellishing his story, but when he told us that we could watch it on YouTube, I began to believe him. Here is the Taylor Swift episode with Stevie Debbie.   

Our final day in NY, our flight was departing for Amsterdam at 5:30 pm, so we had until early afternoon to play. We walked to Rockefeller Center, visited the MoMa shop, dropped in at F.A. Schwarz and strolled past the Tonight Show and Colbert auditoriums. Lunch was at Wholefoods. 

We checked out of our hotel at 1:30 pm and took the Metro and AirTrain back to JFK. Next stop - Amsterdam.