Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Hudson River - the Site and Reason for Great Celebrations this year

Dear Lovers of New York,

This past month began with some fresh air, and some clear “bangs” on the West side because the July 4th festivities were moved from the East River over to the Hudson - back where they belong. (Some East Siders objected.) Although, to be fair, the stated reason was to honor the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s journey up the river that is still sometimes referred to as - North River.

Why “North River”? That’s what the Dutch called it; and by the way not simply because, as some would say, that’s the river you take when you go “north,” just as the East River is the river you would take if you wanted to go East, but (and here’s news for some) because they called what we know now as the Delaware River the South River because it was at the southern edge of their New Netherland claim.

But did you know that this year New York State hosts a whole series of celebrations - of three, not just one, great events?

1.) Okay, the first is Henry Hudson’s arrival and sail up the river;

2.) The second, which happened almost simultaneously, was Samuel Champlain’s discover of his body of water;

3.) The third is the successful sailing of another boat up the river: Robert Fulton’s steamship, in 1809

What are we doing to celebrate? Check these out!

River Day! New York Harbor and Hudson Valley-(June 5-13) (Oops, done!)

Festival of Nations and Crown Point Historic Site Opening-Lake Champlain (September 19)

Governors Island Dutch Festival-New York City (September 13)

Walkway-Over-the-Hudson Grand Opening-Poughkeepsie (October 3)

Maybe we can make it to some of these celebrations - I know I will make the Governors Island Dutch Festival. How about you?
And, note this: the Walkway Over The Hudson is - get this - the longest walkway in the world!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Lazy Blogger Returns!

Oh, boy, have I been delinquent! But, the 21st was my birthday ... and I went with my friends to Rao's this past Monday evening ... and it felt like a reward and a relief from all this heat!

I gave a tour this past Saturday to two lovely young couples from Des Moines, Iowa (just in case you don't know where that lovely city is, my urban friends). My last two tours have been very fortunate with the weather, so we had an even more extensive walk this week.

Here are Jessica, Tom, Brent and Christa near Madison Square. Quite the cool crew!

This was summer, and a marvelously green day it was. We even saw some people exercising in the park - but in a way not common in Des Moines:

These people are doing Tai Chi - and that's an exercise that would be more expected in Chinatown - but this practice has a lot of avid practitioners all over.

We had met at their hotel, the Marriott Courtyard on W. 40th Street, between 6th Avenue and Broadway, and by this time had walked through Grand Central, and, having just missed a bus - clever, aren't I? - we walked down Lexington Avenue, and over to Madison Square.

I told my guests that occasionally there have been quite unusual exhibitions of artwork there in Madison Square. In fact, last November, the Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata erected tree huts in the park. What!? Tree "huts"?

Yes, indeed. Just like this:

And this shot makes the water tower in the distance look just like another tree hut - another work of art! And, it is, isn't it?

We walked down Broadway, and over to Gramercy Park. This photo is a little bit of a trick -
because I took through the bars. As many of you know, this is an unusual public park: it's gated and for the use only of those who live around the park and have keys to the gate. There you have it. The ultimate in exclusivity.

Lexington Avenue, which we had left to go to Madison Square, ends right at Gramercy Park, but seems to continue beyond, to the south, in Irving Place. We walked down that street, and visited Pete's Tavern for a short moment.

At the corner of E. 18th St. and Irving Place, Pete's touts itself both as the oldest continually operating bar in town, beginning in the 1860's (but McSorley's, beginning in 1854 is older, although the Bridge Cafe is truely the oldest "surviving tavern," as they say, having been established in 1794), and as the place where O'Henry wrote The Gift of the Magi in one of the booths. But, it's also possible that he wrote that story as he may have done many of his works in just about any bar! He was quite a convivial drinker!

But we were walking, thank you very much, and after our brief visit to the conveniences of Pete's we walked on over to the Union Square Farmer's Market.

And a beautiful sunny day provided ample opportunity for many farmers, from all over, to display their goods. People come from all over - and even Danny Myer of the Union Square Cafe and the Gramercy Tavern nearby gets his restaurants' vegetables from the market just as you would.

But what struck me as the funniest thing was the fact that in spite of the fact that this farmers' market is open four days a week, and has been for I think over twenty years, there is still a Whole Foods market on 14th Street right across from Union Square! You just never know ....

So, we all then finally got into the coolness of the number 4 train right below the market at Union Square and sped non stop to City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge and walked through St. Paul's - and finally to what's my favorite stop downtown in the fair weather warm months: Stone Street for lunch!

Tom knew immediately we were in the right place!

We had a wonderful respite from the heat, some of us had beer, others soda, as we discussed just what it is like to live in a "big city."

In fact, Tom, Jessica, and Brent had come from towns with less than 1000 people; Christa was the city girl, coming from a town of more than 3000. Brent grew up on a farm, even.

Maybe that explains why suddenly he just ups and walks ... away ... down past all the other tables ... exploring? looking for the fields? .....

But he finally comes back!

And so we're off, and we proceed up to Greenwich Village, and take a hike up the High Line -
and, wow! Has that become popular!

Jessica and Christa examine the choice picture they just took of .... who?

The day's tour is almost over - but the most amazing thing happened so surprisingly I was completely caught off guard and didn't think to take a picture.

While we were walking along the Hudson River Park, at about 25th Street, I hear someone say: "No way!" Way?

Yes, right there on the path, on bicycles even, were friends of my four Iowans from Iowa! Right there, by the river, in the Big City of New York!

Who would have thought!?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Gansevoort Street Fair for the High Line!

It was quite a sunny day, Sunday July 12. We started our walk and tour of the city where I met the Everson family, at the Marriott Residence Inn on Sixth Avenue. We walked through Bryant Park and Grand Central Terminal, and bussed ourselves down to Gramercy Park before we went all the way down to Stone Street for lunch.

Stone Street, an outdoor festival of dining all its own, downtown below Wall Street

We left downtown and the Wall Street area and took the number 1 train from its gloriously renovated station at South Street - now all doors open! - and traveled uptown to Greenwich Village. For my family from Cary, North Carolina, I walked them down Charles Street so that they could see that not everyone lives in a big apartment building!

This charming concoction of a home was originally a sort of "back house" up on York Avenue and 71st Street that, in about 1970, was purchased by the owner of this little corner of Charles and Greenwich Streets and brought down by truck. Recently, the original owner sold it, and the new one refurbished and expanded it, but in the original "style," so that his family could be more comfortable. Charming! And with a driveway and front lawn!

We continued up Greenwich Street - toward the special event I had in store for my new friends.

Yes! There was the Gansevoort Street Fair in celebrarion of the opening of the High Line. What a wonderfully colorful event in the Meatpacking District! It gloriously confirmed that the once questionably respectable neighborhood is finally family friendly. Of course, there were some quite curious beings there at the party, as you can see above!

But, some others were more
approachable and seemed quite happy to see us!

I think everyone was really into the event, and the neighborhood certainly seemed ready and willing to embrace such an expression of enthusiasm.

There certainly was plenty to eat, and as this fairgoer seems to be saying: it's hmm-mm good!

There were plenty of orange balloons, but the one below in the left-hand picture belongs to Zach, who is standing behind his brother, Jared, who's looking down and wearing the green shirt, on the right. They were the sons of Paige and Albert Everson, who were here also with Paige's parents - who are momentarily out of sight!

The picture on the right, above, is Jared's and Zach's grandmother and father - I still don't know where the grandfather went! - as they look on at this quite curious event. After all, who expected -

A horse!

So, after our sojourn near the High Line - which we didn't have time to go up because of the sheer numbers of people (there was a line we would have had to wait on). But the Eversons are here all week, so they can return when they like.

We walked across 14th Street to the 8th Avenue subway to board to train to W. 72nd and Central Park West. We saw the glorious sculptures of Tom Otterness on the platform! Here is Zach, with a new hat, a balloon - he's ready to visit Central Park!

Leaving downtown by subway is almost like "changing the channel." We walk into Central Park - and across to Conservatory Water. The peacfulness of the water brought us back to something maybe a little familiar to my family. After all, nearby another North Carolina native made his home ....

Yes, James Buchanan Duke lived at 1 East 78th Street, right there on the corner of 5th Avenue. This is where the famous richest girl in the world, Doris Duke was born. As massive as it is, I remarked to the Eversons, an even larger mansion was razed to create the building that would please the first Mrs. Duke. Ah, what to do!

So this was virtually the end of the day for my Eversons - but for a bus ride down to the John Jay Park and a swim in the pool for the two boys!

No pictures of that from me, for I had to be in the pool - but Paige the mom took a picture of Jared and me! Ah, to swim, in the glorious New York City ....

July 4, 2009 The Fireworks Will be on the Hudson!

This year's Independence Day Celebration was on the Hudson River - and I decided I would finally go again and see what I could see. And, of course, so did thousands of others as well.

We had gone to 11th Avenue and 52nd Street because, well, I thought we could see something from the bleachers in the ball field there - but, no! No way in! Police usher us up or down 11th Avenue - and most of the crowd was going up. It was about 8 o'clock. So - we walked!

People were carrying beach chairs, and some had already sat themselves down on the sidewalk with their grills and coolers! But not for us! We kept on our way - uptown. Maybe to 72nd Street?

But, boy! It was slow going!

But we finally compromised, and walked down W. 64th Street toward Trump City, and decided to stay on the slight rise that was the curbside - and wait.

The elevated section in the distance is the West Side Highway down from the Riverside Park to West Street - and many are standing there; I guess they were the lucky ones! I should have thought of that.

So, we waited and wondered when the show would finally begin.....

Everyone milled around very politely - and left us with a view - and that was good!

I did get some video of the fireworks - but, alas, it was too much to up-load! I have to edit it, and then I'll give you a little.

Suffice it to say, that day the island tilted toward the west!