Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Finally! Some Snow!

Perhaps it came because it was supposed to. Just in time to lend this Holiday Week a little flare, don't you think?

So, my son and I were gifted by Mom with two tickets to see "A Little Night Music" at the Matinee showing on the day after Christmas. I would meet him there - so what does the Street Teacher do? He walks there.

Here I am walking down the west side of 5th Avenue, passing the Pulitzer Fountain, which features the bronze allegorical figure of Pomona - the goddess of abundance! Ah, Christmas is only partially over.

The snow has yet to begin falling in volume, but it is beginning to shower down.

As I look across the intersection of 57th St. and 5th Avenue toward Tiffany's, I see the dampened street, and can see the flurries of snow beginning to whiten the black truck as it crosses. Yes, the forecast was definite: there will be snow.

I walk on down 5th Avenue, and over at 54th Street - just because, you see - and re-discover the great walkways between the blocks of 5th and 6th that can take me through to 52nd Street! Brilliant! Not everything has to be at right angles - or, at least, at such great lengths between them.

So, I begin my walk down the Alley.

Wow, I thought, looking at the Equitable Building portion (on the right) - this is great in the snow.

I wonder how many people really discover this part of the city? It's like opening gifts sealed with velcro: you can leave them, and "close" them up - and come back and they're still fresh. Look -

Now, I really wonder just why an elephant is here. Perhaps I'll take the time soon to ask someone in "authority" there if there is a reason. Perhaps some of you know already. If so, please write a comment - teach me. I'm open to news of all kinds.

But it is a beautiful creation - and the dancer on his head?

Well, why not?

But, that's not all.

I am getting close to my destination - the Walter Kerr Theatre at 218 West 48th Street - and one of the two theaters named after a critic (Kerr won the Pulitzer Prize; Brooks Atkinson is the other critic with a theater) - so I'm hoping I'm just minutes away.

Yet, before I reach the end of my magical alley, there's a leaping rabbit! Seeming so incongruous, don't you think? Looks as if he is leaping out of a hat. Curiouser and curiouser.

But there it is - the theater.

My son's there somewhere - and in we go to see the show. Which was, by the way, fantastic. After all, when you're in the second row, orchestra, and so close to the stars, the magic of the stage just rises up to your brain and charges all your nerves. And we were seated behind four lovely ladies from Florida who loved the theater: Hope, Patti, Susan, and Ginger. They could have such theatrical last names, don't you think?

I took no photos of the show as I was watching it, of course. Take it from me, since the show closes January 9, you would have a very enjoyable evening or afternoon. (And this may be one of the few shows that will close twice within a year. The first production, starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury, closed June 20, 2010, but re-opened with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch on July 13.)

By the way, the songs in A Little Night Music were written by Stephen Sondheim (who now also has a theater named after himself). The show's song list is: Overture and Night Waltz, Now - Later - Soon, The Glamorous Life, Remember?, You Must Meet My Wife, Liaisons, In Praise of Women, Every Day a Little Death, A Weekend in the Country, The Sun Won't Set, It Would Have Been Wonderful, Perpetual Anticipation, Send In the Clowns (perhaps the most well known), The Miller's Son, and Finale.

So, after the finale, we left the theater to - snow and wind. Brrr!

Windbown and dazzled by the lights, and left by my son who immediately went off to meet one of his friends, I walk on back homewards.

Radio City glows among the snowflakes on W. 50th Street, and shines over the traffic on 6th Avenue. Something warming about that, I think.

I walk up 6th Avenue a couple of blocks - and I really didn't expect to see one, but here it is: a hot dog vendor.

Would you have thought one would be out in this weather? I didn't go up for a dog, or to see how he was doing, but most of the vendors I've seen lately do their best to cheer you up by with their enthusiastic participation in the whole holiday cheer.

I wonder if the doorman at the Warwick Hotel, right behind him, ever comes over for a little refreshment?

I was able to walk pretty efficiently back that evening, you should know, because, well, there weren't many cars at all - even on 5th Avenue.

But it only made the lights on the Fendi store (the one on the right) so much brighter.

I walked over toward Madison, and in a few blocks I was into the residential neighborhood of the East 60's between Madison and Park Avenues.

The homes on East 64th Street are freshly layered in snow, and the expanse of Park Avenue as I look to the left, northward, is empty of vehicles.

These are the times that make living in the City almost intimate encounters with its essence. Each of us will stage our own encounter as if we would imagine an ancient narrative.

I look down Park Avenue to the south, toward the Waldorf and Grand Central Terminal - invisible in the far snow shadowed distance, but present in my mind nonetheless. But I'm heading north and east, away from that world.

I walk down my street - and when I reach those bright lights, well, I'm home. Time to let all these images settle. Good night!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What To Do for the Holidays? Shop?

Yes, it's that time again! The "spirit" is being released - in fact you only have to look across the street:
I couldn't catch them all - a whole squadron surged down the street to the right when I took this picture! Santas everywhere!

I was at Union Square, you see, for I wanted to get some idea of the variety of, well - of things and people really, which and who were out and about on this Saturday just two weeks from Christmas.

Egad! Just two weeks! Fourteen days! And I haven't even sent my cards yet!

Oh, you know how it is, you're consumed with your life, your job, your other responsibilities - and wasn't Thanksgiving just a few days ago? Well, yes, but ....

Let's walk into the Holiday Mall .....

The whole neighborhood was thronged (I'm willing to be tagged for that word!) with shoppers and - mallers? - so I was really up against the people of the season. I did see some very intriguing stalls.

Yes, a lot of people just beginning to shop, and a lot of "stuff" that they could buy.

But, what are these squshy animals? Pillows? "Yes, and they're washable too.

Who would have imagined ...

And they (you know, "them," who carry everything and do everything you don't have any control over?) have a lot of these little usables (it has to be a word) that you can't do without. I'm not close enough for you to identify them, but, well, you get the idea.

I walked around trying to get an idea of the variety, but there were so many people, and so many stalls, that I really had to be very gentle and diplomatic - "Excuse me! Thank you very much!" - as I walked so I didn't jostle anyone. Hmm, and it could have been an enterprise for purse snatchers and pick-pockets too, come to think of it. Be careful!

But you had to look - and wonder: who could live without this? More than a conversation piece, but a whole afternoon's cocktail party could, well, just spring from that nice jaunty hat. No?

And of course you'll need gloves and mittens, right?

Yes, perhaps at no place other than a Christmas gift mall can you see the great variety of man's creativity and enterprise. When was the last time, for example, that you saw this:

Yes! Why have a frog at all if it can't "ribbitt"!

And so I walked on. I wondered what else there might be on sale ....

Oh, yes. Can't forget the dog! After all, as I do tell everyone, there's one dog for every four people who live in Manhattan (1.62 million, so more than 400,000 dogs). I do wonder, as I'm sure you do too, just how these dogs feel (they do feel, of course) sitting in these clownish things ... right?

But, excuse me? Hanging Monkeys? Hmm. Maybe from the tree limbs ... from a needle maybe ... and I'll be some people just can't have too many - right?

And yes, there were some more, well, stylish items to wear - for the season!

Actually, they did look quite attractive. Hmm.

But there were some stalls that, well, I thought took liberties with their inspiration, if that's what it was. I mean, would Zapata have a stall at the mall? Really? For handbags?

I saw this one, however, and I knew from my memories of Dr. Zhivago that Russia does indeed have winters. So, I had to see what they had to offer.

Yes, quite colorful dolls and I think I see -

"No take photograph please."

And I was summarily rushed out of there! Who would have imagined! Well! That certainly quashed my voyeuristic Christmas spirit, I will tell you. So, I thought in a huff, I shall walk out.

As I leave, however, what do I see but what you will see in many New York City parks: a chess game! Long live chess!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


This year for me was a little different - I was working out at JFK, dropping off some British travelers for the flight back home, when I was asked by a friend to meet her at the balloon blow-up on Central Park West. Wow - I've not had the chance before, so ... let me see if I could make it.

But the E train wasn't working and I had to walk through the proverbial strange neighborhood at night to get to the F - I could imagine how some could be scared! And, you know what? The city could do better about the signs directing people to such detour locations ... but I'm not here this morning to gripe!

I got to the American Museum of Natural History - and boy! The crowds!

I was lucky I could cross by a short-cut from CPW south of 81st St. - which was jammed with balloons and people. I tried calling my friend to check on where she was - but the call couldn't get through! Everyone was calling everyone else - couldn't get a signal!

But, it was fun, and the three of us met and went to a nice, relatively quiet restaurant on 71st St.: Pasha. Why not Turkish for Thanksgiving, eh?

The evening was certainly cool, but we took to our feet and walked back across the park.

Perhaps you wouldn't want to walk across Central Park at night, but there were three of us, and the lights were bright - and there were others like us walking. It's only half a mile anyway.

I wasn't sure I would be up the next morning early, but I was and there was a message: "I'm going to go watch the parade! You?" Why not!

Yes, yes, that's Ronald McDonald - and boy there were more, and all the marching bands, and all the celebrities and and ... and the people!
Everyone seemed to be out, and especially the grandparents with their grandchildren. But even some who just wanted to see a parade.

I'd be happy to hear from any of my readers - and please submit your comments! - which of all the parades we have in New York is your favorite: Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's, Columbus Day, Steuben Day, or the parade of your choice. And let us all know just what is is about that parade that you like the most.

I think the Thanksgiving Day Parade is my favorite ... because ....

it's for the kids!

But, well, you can also say you like Thanksgiving because it's for the families, right? And it's a time when the whole family - more or less! (And "families" that just seem to form ad hoc!)

It was a nice parade - but it was getting cold so we went in - for we each had places to go people to see!

But, there were more balloons .....

And there were still people there, excited and willing to brave the chill to see the whole thing. Maybe next year!

Let me know how your Thanksgiving Day was - and, did you see the parade?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Walk to Tenafly - Part Three

Thank you for your patience! I know there were some of you out there who were thinking ... "What happens next?"

I left you as I encountered the entrance to St. Peter's College, or, rather, their adult division, on Englewood Cliffs, there in the Palisades. Yes, it must have the best view of all the colleges in the Metropolitan Area:

Photo by St. Peters College

Can you imagine if you had been at the Palisades Mountain House? Or living in the Allison home, at this site?

But maybe you can certainly imagine how attractive this area was for those who could afford to live so far from, yet so close to, the city in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I did, and still do. After all I grew up not three miles from this very spot - but, I was young, had other concerns ... who knew?

So, I will visit St. Peter's soon, and ask those in the know there about their institution. Now, I said to myself, I'm walking on. On up the road - whoosh! More bikers!

And cars. I certainly hoped at this point that my road walking wouldn't last - and indeed, I walked along Hudson Terrace for only 5 minutes (yes, I kept a record! I know how long to each turn on my walk.) before I turned left and walked just about 1 minute to Route 9W, or, and I always thought this name was ironic, Sylvan Boulevard.

At this point I knew I was in Englewood Cliffs. Historically, all Englewood included both Teaneck and Englewood Cliffs, and was originally part of Hackensack, which is now the seat of Bergen County. Without going into all the dates and figures at this time, suffice it to say that although Englewood has less than 30,000 inhabitants (including Eddie Murphy), virtually all of the inhabitants of Englewood Cliffs send their children to private schools; most of the residents of the "East Hill" of Englewood do too. I may talk about schools in another blog ... but now I'm walking!

I turn left at Palisades Avenue (in 4 minutes, if you're keeping track!), and quickly get off that busy road to walk down into the real suburban neighborhood of private homes and lawns. City folk rarely encounter such things, except on television, but these are the staples of the American Dream in the post-war American Dreamscape. And my childhood. We walk:

Well, this is certainly a nice, modest single family home. Leaves on the lawn, nice little awning with pillars at the entry; and wonderfully tall and leafy trees seem to accompany the home and its family in their lives on Floyd Street. This feels familiar ....

But just across the street!

What happened here?! Well, let me leave this Mini-Marriott to your imagination, for I'm sure you all will have seen its like all across the metropolitan area, within sight of the turnpike or the parkway, along highways upstate, clustered like oversized beetles on impossibly green-turfed lawns. I was beginning to become a little afraid for my walk: don't tell me this is all I would have to show of Englewood Cliffs to my walkers?

It's like neighborhoods everywhere, in this particular block, as it proved. But it changed, as I walked on and a little to the west.

One must understand that, like St. Peter's College and the Palisades Mountain House, which were both sited on the former estate and acres of the Allisons', these homes also were on the once expansive acres of prior land-owners. I wonder who they were - and if there's anything left that might remind us of them?

Well, very little is left of the grand estates of yore, and what is has been transformed into the estates of others. But I'll fill you in at least a little when we walk together (we are, aren't we?) about the "Railroad suburbs" of Bergen County.

But we do have watered estates today! A couple of blocks down Pershing brought me to this expanse. A modern luxury. Yet, I hadn't seen anyone yet.

The only people I had seen out were the hired men taking care of the leaves - with machines! The colorful scenery was almost drowned by the roar of leaf blowing machinery; notice the "leaf pusher" this man has - and it's mechanized.

Yes, wide empty streets! But it was a beautiful day.

I was wondering about the neighborhood's history, however, and when I came to North Woodland Street, I turned left.

Hmm. Anyone know Gloria Crest? This was the home of Gloria Swanson, built in 1926 by a member of the Polish royal family (and named after his wife, not Gloria Swanson), and now the home of Jan and Edward Turen, who are also active in the theater world. I didn't poke my nose through the gate ... but we'll look when we all come, ok?

I turned right and began my walk away from the mansion, and down Walnut. Oh! Look at this modest home! Probably an "out" house for one of the neighboring mansions ... but again: where is everyone!

It was a beautiful day, and I was on my way to meet a school friend for lunch in Tenafly, so I had, as they say, things to do and people to meet! And miles to go before I would get a seat?

Well, technically, that's true but not a real problem. It was, you see such a wonderful day!

My ultimate destination: the railroad station in Tenafly - designed by Daniel Topping Atwood and on the National Register of Historic Places - but now it's Cafe Angelique. Time for a brunch snack!