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!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Man on the Street

This will be a quick post; after all, I didn't know where I was going to go when I decided yesterday to take a walk down E. 10th Street from Avenue A and Tompkins Square. I'm a friendly sort of guy.

"Hello! How are you?" I asked the man sitting in the chair, in front of the Chinese Laundry, right across the street from the Boys Club. It was Philip C. LaLumia, 84, Co-Chairman of the A-1 East Tenth Street Block Association. He was born on E. 13th Street, across the street from 509, where Lucky Luciano lived. Oh, boy, this could be a long chat ....

But I did see Sal Anthony walk by - "Hi Sal," Philip said. "He got out of the restaurant," on Irving Place; some of you may remember it, "but the next fellow can't get his restaurant going because he now has to put all sorts of legal improvements into it, like handicapped accessible, bathrooms and everything. Too expensive." Philip has a lot of that knowledge. "Sal was grandfathered, so when that law was enacted he didn't have to do that."

You see, it's this kind of stuff you'll learn about from the "man sitting there, over there," on virtually any street. After all, Philip worked at the Boys Club for over 40 years:

"And the chairman of the board then " - all I remember is that it's not now - "squandered all that money on a basketball court at that wonderful wilderness camp the Club had in Jersey; he had it made so good, he had bleachers put up - and the town then said he had to "by law" put a parking lot in - and it all went the - "

There may be more ... but, I now know Philip - A.K.A. Philippo - who's "always there, they set out the chair for me, for my lunch - it's even delivered -" and I'll see him again ... I'm sure there are more installments to come!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Just Listening In, and then ...

Yes, I was at one of my favorite coffee shops after a great tour on Wednesday last, after taking a group of four Englishwomen on a general tour of Manhattan by car, when I sat outside on the bench at Mud. I had had a nice lunch at Kenn's Broome Street Bar, thanks to my generous travelers, and afterwards it felt right to take a walk. To have my, ah, ambulatory digestif.

I walked up and over and found myself near E. 9th Street, so I walked into Mud and asked for some.

With their large cup I walked out again, and sat myself down on one of the two benches, which were empty, facing west toward the sun, and relaxed. Ahh, feeling very good. Good coffee too.

A young lady in black, wearing glasses, came out with her coffee and sat down across from me. I was paying no attention. Watching people pass. Thinking about the morrow. Computing bills to be paid.

"Can you make 3:30?"

My ears perked up.

"Then I will be there."

I asked my cross-bench companion, "What do you do when people have to change their appointments again and again?" I was really curious, because just the day before someone had been making and breaking appointments with me, and I was getting a little worried.

"Oh, it's always different. This one said he was with his friends - he had a two o'clock appointment but called just at 5 of as I was coming down his street to tell me he was with friends, could he reschedule. Well, so I said yes. I had a window of time, so there he had it."

"That's a little tight! What do you do?"

"I'm a professional dominatrix."

"Excuse me?" I didn't hear her, you see. She repeated.

We talked some more.

"And even you have a hard time controlling your clients," I said. The mind boggles.

I should have known ...

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Walk to Tenafly - Part Two

Thanks for holding on there folks - I knew I would get back to telling you the tale to Tenafly in more detail. So, thanks for your patience.

You must realize: it's only a 25 minute walk across the George Washington Bridge, even with stopping to take a few pictures. And what's that? Oh, maybe a 20 block walk downtown; a walk across Central Park and down to the Metropolitan Museum, perhaps. It's not far, people, you can do it!

And once you have - well, after you've walk down a little, and under the highway and up a flight of steps, you're at the doorway (to adventure!):
Yes, the gateway to a new world - or the escape-way from your old, familiar one! Let's take just a few steps up.

Hmm. A sign: we're going on to the Long Path, eh? Carpenter's Trail ... Allison Park (that looks interesting), and Dyckman Hill Trail - wait! Is that the same Dyckman we know from uptown? From the Farm House at 204th and Broadway?

In fact, that's at least one of the places where the ferry from Dyckman Street would land in New Jersey. I wonder if we'll ever get that again? Because I know there used to be a ferry from over in Jersey that one of my childhood neighbors, when she was a student at Barnard in the 20's, used to take the ferry from her over to 125th Street and walk up the hill of Broadway to class. Ahh, yes, those were the days my friends ....

But I don't think I'll be going all the way to the Dyckman Hill Trail. But Allison Park, yes. We shall see that. So, I walk a bit to the left and, ahh...
This is why I came across the bridge! I'll take that path!

And it was true that at that time I didn't really care where it went! I could walk it, and easily. Such fun.

Just to stroll down with a purposeful stride. As if I knew where I was going - because that wasn't important! I was out and about, and I was on my way.

I knew there were to be some fantastic views ahead, and maybe even some more adventurers out to see the sights of late autumn over the river. But first I had to look back, as I got closer to the edge of the Palisades -
I've come all that way - and farther, it seems.

I spot a family by a lookout, and one who was new to the site. Very closeby was a fork in the path. "Where do we go Dad?" one of the boys asked. "Hmm..." he murmered. My cue: "Take the left path. It goes along the top - and there are restrooms not far!"

Oh, such an authority, I am I am! They exclaimed "Yay!" as I continued my walk.

Well! Who was here? Who have we to imagine lost these - eyes?! No, earrings. They looked rather nice - but I certainly left them there to startle the group now following me - I wonder if they left them there? I hope so, unless they knew who lost them - which I doubt.

The wonders of the woods: "Whose woods are these? I think I know," but he lives in the village below?


A bridge! And not the George - such a change. This path is seeming to get somewhere ....

I cross a running brook, although I didn't see any frogs at first glance. Actually, come to think of it, I was so unlike myself when I was a kid growing up. I didn't stop to search for any wildlife! Hmm. Next time ....

This path seems to be arriving somewhere - and yes, this is Allison Park.

So, naturally, and you know me by now, I wonder who is Allison? As the website for the Palisades Park Conservancy informed me:

"William O. Allison (1849-1924), [...] had an estate at this location. Allison had been born in the "Undercliff" settlements, the son of fishermen and quarry workers. As a child he was made a ward of the Dana family, who owned a large estate on top of the cliffs. He succeeded in business and became one of the largest land owners along the Palisades, and was the principal owner of the Palisades Mountain House, also at this site, until it burned down in 1884."

What was the Palisades Mountain House? I had never heard of it:

And you could drive your rig along the Hudson River on the Hudson River Drive from Edgewater to Fort Lee, and up to the top of the cliffs and to the hotel. Many people did - even Calvert Vaux, one half of the team that designed Central Park, in the summer of 1880.

But today, all we have is Allison Park ... and the remnants of a few foundation elements ... and maybe this?
I have to check this out ....

Many of you have probably driven on Route 9W many times, passing all those spandexed bicyclists in the technicolor crouch of their preferred exercise, and maybe you've seen all the woods and wondered what may lie behind those trees.

I walk on to discover just what's around that corner. A nice stone cabin, filled with building
supplies, but with a wonderful view. I can't help but imagine the wonderful afternoon spend sipping wine and talking with close friends. All quiet, secluded, on the cliff and behind the trees. So close, and so far away.

I fear I'm ending my woods walk soon, but I go out into the clearing of the park - of Allison Park, to catch one of the great views of the river.
The great George Washington Bridge, over a mile away, as I walk on the Palisades, near where the great Palisades Mountain House stood until that terrible fire in 1884.

But now I seem to be heading out, and indeed there's a sign - and I think I'm on - oh no! - I'm on my way to the road!

And down at the end of the road is St. Peter's College, which will not be covered on this blog, at least in these installments - but I'm at the end of my sylvan wanderings - and due to walk for a short street on Sylvan Avenue, also known as Route 9W, into Englewood Cliffs, Englewood, and finally Tenafly. The Next Installment!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Walk to Tenafly - Part One

It was early, maybe, but the weather was bright, clear and cool - alright, chilly - as I stepped out of the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal onto Fort Washington Avenue. Today I’m walking to Tenafly. The suburbs are going to be close, and not so “car far” that we can’t make a day’s walk more interesting and enlightening, even.

So, now you know the hours - but I got there at 8:30AM, a little late by my schedule. We shall see what pace I can keep up.

I had originally intended to take the Northwalk (as they call it) but that one was closed; I don’t know why, but no matter. It turned out I wasn’t alone - but I couldn’t get my camera out in time - whoosh! a whole fleet of bicycles passed me by!

I was amazed, actually, to be able to have an unobstructed view off the bridge. There was no high barrier at all, and considering the recent tragedy of the young man who jumped that was especially unnerving. But it didn’t bother anyone else, I guess.

Away in the distance is a group of speeding bicyclists too fast for me to catch for you, but I just had to enjoy the morning on the bridge - and get the pictures when I could. After all -

I could look over the Henry Hudson Parkway and the River toward New Jersey.

Jersey City is the city in the morning mist

I am planning to make this walk a public tour for those with an interest in understanding the growth of New York, and the establishment of its suburbs. After all, I grew up in Tenafly and biked all around when I was a kid there. Never really knew where I was, but, as they say, I never got lost.

People would stop me on the road and ask where route 501 was, or something like that, and I really had no idea! Maybe I knew that that was County Road, but that didn’t matter to me either. I just knew that was a way to go and that you’d find something down “that way.” My friends Scott and Bob would call, and we would all agree that we’d go for a “bike hike” and be off for the afternoon. We’d always be back home at about 5 or six; we never called to tell our Moms where we were, or if we’d be late. We never were.

We never even told them where we were going. We were, well, just going out. And that was that.

It is amazing how we’re all - or at least many or most of us - attached to our cell phones, our GPS, our umbilicals to Central, so to speak. How did we live back then?

So, Saturday I set out to see if I could, at least in part, recover that old spirit.

I reached the Fort Lee side.

I think that’s where the actual Fort was ... I'll have to go there, some time soon.

But first ... !