I was born at the Rockaway Beach Hospital in the southern part of Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs. The hospital burned down about two years later. Guess they wanted to destroy all the evidence.
About that time we moved a little north to Jackson Heights. Watched them build La Guardia Airport. As a Boy Scout, got one of my merit badges trying to map that area.
Did my 16-mile hike with Louie Mahler through the old sections of Queens, across the Triborough Bridge into Manhattan and came back across the Queensborough Bridge into the home country again.
My first apartment when I got married was right next to Kennedy Airport. I think I was always trying to get out. By 1958, I did. Off to Phoenix, Arizona, but that’s another story.
For most of the last 20 years I’ve gone back to New York during Thanksgiving week. It’s a special time in the Big Apple. Usually cold and crisp, but no snow. The concrete jungle of tall, very tall buildings in Manhattan shield some of the wind.
We usually go to Westchester for the Thanksgiving feast, but this year we decided to return to Manhattan for a few days before the stuffing. Kinda our last foray as tourists.
On Sunday, our first tourist day, we visited the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. MAD, as the locals call it.
Went to the top floor, our usual route in any museum, and worked our way down. On the fifth floor we met Stephanie Beck, their Sunday Artist-in-Residence. She was expanding her interactive tabletop display of art paper buildings that can be reconfigured by visitors to create a changing cityscape.
It was really neat, very inventive and a delight.
Then it was down to the next two floors to see the furniture sculptures of Wendell Castle. They were beautifully crafted and gorgeous in their finish. Because of their size, they were not very practical or functional, but a wonderful display of creative energy.
There was a film on his life and another one on how he crafted these original sculptures in layers.
We followed this with a great lunch at “Robert,” on the top floor overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park.
In the afternoon we went down to the old meat packing district to see the new Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a well designed space featuring an eclectic assortment of contemporary art styles. For me, the highlight of the visit was the red and purple streaks of a glorious sunset reflecting on the buildings to the east and over the Hudson River to the west. What a spectacular sight.
While we were at the Whitney, we were able to sneak a peek at the trendy elevated walkway and park called the HiLine. It’s currently a two-mile creative use of an old railroad trestle and will undoubtedly be extended as it’s becoming a focal point for new apartments and other developments.
On day two we visited my all-time favorite MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art. The featured exhibit was a display of Picasso’s sculptures. He sketched what he wanted to create and a sheet metalworker crafted his designs in metal and wood. Unusual, unexpected and outstanding.
MOMA always has a display from their permanent collection of some of the impressionist masters, which is a total delight, and then a featured gallery of the 20-year evolving work of Jackson Pollack…and much, much more.
On day three we went to the last stop on the “E” subway line. The 911 Museum was exceptionally well done in the exhibits of photographs, artifacts and pieces of the formidable structures that were demolished that fateful day. There were also two impactful films featuring the reactions of President Bush, Mayor Giuliani, Condoleezza Rice, Governor Pataki, and several others about their experiences that day.
There are one or two emotion-charged exhibits you can avoid if you choose. There are also some great exhibits going down seven stories you won’t want to miss.
- The Excavation reveals the steel box column remnants that anchored the Twin Towers to bedrock. It is alongside an exhibition about the original construction of the World Trade Center.
- Center Passage demonstrates the scale of the 9/11 attacks through monumental artifacts, evoking the magnitude of the World Trade Center buildings and their destruction.
- Foundation Hall contains remnants of the original World Trade Center, including the slurry wall and the celebrated Last Column.
It all brought back some memories, but it was not as devastating as I expected. All in all, most worthwhile!
Then it was next door to the World Trade Center. To get to the observation deck elevators, you walked through a tunnel carved out of the building’s bedrock.
Once on one of the world’s fastest elevators, you’re whooshed up 102 floors in less than 60 seconds. There was almost no sensation of movement and the elevator walls were filled with panoramic views of Manhattan over the last 50 years or so.
The observation deck and the restaurant offered spectacular views not to be missed. The restaurant had small portion lunches with prices that didn’t match, but worth the experience.
On day four we went to see a matinee of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night” and had dinner at one of New York’s many good Italian restaurants. The play was exceptional and a wonderfully acted portrayal of a teenage autistic boy on the most imaginative stage design I ever saw. The crowds around Times Square and the Theater District were huge. Incredible to see!
In the past, our tourist days in New York have included:
- The great Metropolitan Museum
- The Guggenheim
- Grayline Tours of Midtown Manhattan and the lower Eastside
- The Public Library on 42nd Street – great art, great building
- Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
- Backstage tour of the Lion King, the Rockettes at Radio City and a visit with a Broadway actor
- Walks up Madison Avenue and its trendy small shops and 5th Avenue and all the fancy stores. The Christmas windows at Saks are awesome.
- A visit to Bloomingdale’s on 59th No other store like it.
Then there are still a few things we never got to see:
- Tour of Grand Central Station
- The New Yankee Stadium
- Architecture tour of Manhattan by boat
What a great city to visit!