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Showing posts from November, 2008

Rainy Day New York: Subway Stops Near Major NYC Attractions

See updated recommendations here . A rainy day in New York City can pose a few challenges for seeing the city, but many attractions are indoors. The subway, depending upon one's proximity to a station, may be the best and most convenient means of maneuvering New York City in disappointing weather. Locate a subway stop near a favorite shopping destination, landmark, or a museum, and you are good to go. Here is a list of recommended subway stops in or near a major NYC attraction: • Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum 2, 3: Just outside the  Brooklyn Museum . • Bowling Green Station, 4, 5: Near the main steps of the  National Museum of the American Indian   (the former Custom House). • W. 4th St., A, B, C, D, E, F, V: There's always a movie. The  IFC Center  on 6th Avenue shows the best of independent film.  • W. 14th St. A, C, E. Make a mad dash west to  Chelsea Market  on 9th Avenue between W. 15th and W. 16th and go on a food spree. • 34th Street-H

Looking Back on Thanksgiving Week: Jones Street, Papabubble, New Museum, Star Trek Art, and More

Thanksgiving Week began for me on Monday when the sun came out after several days of rainy weather. Recovering from a cold and a sore knee, the result of wearing the wrong pair of glasses, misunderstanding the distance from the street to the sidewalk, and then falling down, I wandered, well, hobbled, northwest on Bleecker Street and, later, the same direction on 4th Street. After the rainy weather, and given my state of mind, I thought the streets looked like they were recovering from a trauma. I stopped to gaze down Jones Street , wanting to see the street again after mentioning it in an earlier post about Johnny Mercer . He lived along in here in the early 1930s when he was a young, struggling songwriter /actor/Wall Street errand boy. It's an unhurried block of a street, nestled between the far busier Bleecker and W. 4th Streets, and it looks like it can weather good and bad times. I was on one of these walks that have no purpose and no destination, plus I was walking slow, so I

The Surrealistic Spectacle of the Inflatable Shrek, and Other Creatures: Thanksgiving Eve on the Upper West Side (A Slideshow)

Shrek rests. The inflation of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons on the evening before the parade appeals to the surrealist in everyone, and judging by the size of the crowds on hand last night, there's nothing quite like it. Seeing favorite cartoon characters wrapped in their netting while trucks pump tens of thousands of cubic feet of helium into their bodies seems mighty weird. It looked like a fantasy triage unit. I arrived early in the event, at dusk, and I made my way from the corner of Central Park West and 81st Street west on 81st to Columbus Ave, past the inflating Shrek, Beethoven the dog, Kermit the Frog, Pikachu, and Horton the Elephant, not necessarily in that order. Eventually, I bailed out of the crowd, choosing to see the balloons on 79th St. from a distance. But what fun! (Those of you receiving WOTBA by email may need to visit the main site to see the slideshow.) Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. Wednesday, No

Selected List of Events for NYC Thanksgiving Week and Beyond: Balloon Inflation, Sondheim, Cindy Sherman, Zabar's, and more

Here's my To-Do list (and one Not-To-Do, I'll let you guess) for the upcoming holiday week in the big city. While I eagerly await the feast with friends and family on Thursday, I'm compiling here a list of city entertainments in and around the festive day that others, too, may enjoy. Balloon Inflation (see pix, posted Thursday morning): Wednesday, November 26, 2008, approximately 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation. Central Park West and Columbus Avenue on 77th and 81st Streets. On the evening before Thanksgiving, many New Yorkers like to go up to the Upper West Side and watch the inflation of the balloons on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History, but then on Thanksgiving morning, these same New Yorkers will try to avoid midtown by any means necessary. Holiday Market @ Union Square: Union Square Market Hours: Monday - Friday 11 am to 8 pm; Saturdays 10 am to 8 pm; Sundays 11 am to 7 pm; Christmas Eve: Open 10 am – 4

Escape from Savannah, 1928: Young John Mercer Moves to New York

During my stroll last week through the historic sections of Savannah, Georgia, a visit that included Flannery O'Connor's childhood home and many moss-covered trees, I meandered over to the Mercer-Williams House. Most know this landmark from The Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil as the house built by General Hugh W. Mercer, the great grandfather of songwriter Johnny Mercer. Neither the General nor Johnny Mercer ever lived there. Jim Williams bought the place in 1969 with the intent to restore it to its former glory, and the house is where the murder depicted in Berendt's book took place. The architect of the original house, a New York native named John S. Norris, was proficient in the styles of the era and designed some of the most important buildings in pre-Civil War Savannah, including this house, the Andrew Low House, and the Unitarian Church. The construction began in 1860 and was completed after the war. Norris returned to NYC at the outbreak of the war. As d

Flannery O'Connor's Six Months in New York City

Flannery O'Connor lived for six months in New York City in 1949. Before moving to the city, the native of Savannah, Georgia had been staying at Yaddo, the famed artist retreat in Saratoga Springs, New York. She had received the invitation to stay at Yaddo in 1948 following the completion of her degree at the University of Iowa, and she spent a couple of months at Yaddo in the summer of '48, working on her first novel, Wise Blood . She returned in September, stayed through the holidays, but after a controversy at Yaddo in February of 1949 she cut short her stay. What transpired was that a long-time Yaddo guest, Agnes Smedley, was accused in a NYT article of being a Communist spy, and after some tense conversations with the colony's director, O'Connor and Robert Lowell, the poet and another guest, decided to leave. So, she came to live in New York. Those of you who, like me, cherish their worn copy of Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories (Farrar, Straus a

Catching Up on New York Events and News

Whenever I leave New York for several days, I feel like there's much catching up to do upon my return home. So much can happen in a few days. When I left the city last Wednesday morning for a trip to Savannah, Georgia, New York was still basking in the yellows of autumn foliage. I did notice the blue holiday snowflake lights appearing in Greenwich Village. While in Georgia, I came down with some kind of bad cold, one that I suspect started during my long brisk walk in Prospect Park but that was given optimal conditions to flourish in the steamy rains of Georgia. Now, I see on returning to the city that many of the leaves have blown off the trees, and it feels like winter is setting in. At any rate, I arrived back in the city yesterday afternoon and have spent much of the day today drinking peppermint tea and reading various metropolitan news sources. Here are some items of note: • Grace Hartigan, 1922-2008 . One of my favorite twentieth-century painters passed away on Saturday, No

A Day-long Stroll in New York: From Morningside Park to Battery Park

Visitors to New York or New York residents who are up for some fun exercise may want to consider a day walk that takes in a great swath of Manhattan. I've designed a walk here that begins in the morning hours in Morningside Park and ends in the late afternoon or early evening in Battery Park. As a flâneuse (she who strolls), I'm accustomed to walking at a comfortable pace, with time scheduled for stopping and observing interesting sights along the way. During the course of my walking routines, I often walk farther than I initially plan. For example, if I'm walking from Washington Square Park to Union Square, I often realize that Madison Square Park is just a few blocks north. And once I'm near Madison Square I know it's just another short distance to Bryant Park. And once I'm near Bryant Park, then I think seeing an exhibition at MoMA on 53rd. You see now how this works. I could very well end up at Columbia University just by hopping from one major New York lan

An Autumn Walk in Prospect Park: A Slideshow and Map

A social engagement took me to the heart of Brooklyn today, and afterward, I decided to take in the autumn vistas of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's masterpiece, Prospect Park. I walked from the southernmost section of the park near the lake and then up and around the eastern sections all the way to Grand Army Plaza, stopping at the Audubon Boathouse for a little break. The distance was a little over two miles. How glorious! Considering the diversity of trees in Prospect Park - White Oaks, Camperdown Elms, While Mulberries, Japanese Red Pines, the Bald Cypress, and so many others, the autumn foliage put on a great show. As with Central Park, Olmsted and Vaux designed the park as a series of vignettes and picturesque vistas. (See the discussion of The Landscape as Painting and the Landscape Photograph, with respect to Central Park). In some sense, the park, with all of its imaginative landscapes, was the 19th century Romantic's version of virtual reality. View Lar

Images of the State at the Asian Contemporary Art Fair

I had some surreal and unsettling moments while attending the Thursday night opening of the Asian Contemporary Art Fair at Pier 52. An artist friend was looking forward to seeing how her work was presented at the fair, and so we arrived fairly early in the evening to get an overview of the exhibition booths. Walking into the vast space of over 90 exhibitors from Asia, the near East, and Middle East, we were immediately greeted by symbols of the state in the form of several soldiers in green uniforms resembling those of the North Korean army. As we made our way past the contemporary art displayed in the booths, the soldiers kept reforming in several positions around the exhibition space. At several times, they convened in a checkpoint in the main gallery, lining up around models standing on platforms. If this wasn't enough to make me reach for another glass of wine, there was also the overload of Pop Mao on exhibit throughout the galleries as well as the many Asian variations on Koo

Coping with Anxiety and Crisis: A Selected List of Fine Chocolate Stores in New York

Fears of recession, concerns about the state of the world, worries about job prospects, and anxieties about the future dominate the news headlines these days, but these kinds of stories are perennial, coloring the way we conduct our lives. Fortunately, we now believe that the 400+ ingredients in dark chocolate may alleviate some of the worst symptoms of this kind of external stress. Had a bad day? A little brisk walk to your local chocolate boutique may fix you right up. It's funny, but studies show that taking a chocolate supplement doesn't work as well for a sense of individual well-being as the act of eating a piece of chocolate. I understand. I think aesthetics matter. Eating beautiful chocolates can make you feel all yummy and special on the inside. My chocolate cravings can even be satisfied by unravelling the classic and minimalist Hershey's bar. Yet, I still prefer a visit to the city's finest purveyors of chocolate. At the following places (links provided), c

The Sounds of the Village on Election Night, and the Raw Percentages from the Five Boroughs

Just after 11 p.m. on Election night, the moment the networks projected Senator Barack Obama to be the President-Elect of the United States of America, a great roar went up in Greenwich Village. Opening the door to the balcony, I could hear the collective shouts of joy and celebration emanating from other balconies, and from terraces, the streets, and from the doors and windows of many nearby bars. The sounds could be mistaken for the collective cries of glee following a major sports game, but many people came out on their balconies and simply clapped their hands together, a rousing but polite response to a great symphony performance -"Finally! Bravo America! Well done!" And then, of course, I could hear many sounds of the President-Elect's name, so perfect for rhythmic chanting, shouted into the night air, at short and farther distances - "Obama! Obama! Obama!" Car horns, Yippees, Yays, and Obamas continued long into the wee hours of the morning. I doubt if ma

Election Night Special Events in New York: Salons, Soups, and Sleepovers

After gathering even a short list of Election Night events in New York, I'm wondering why I made plans to stay home. • New Museum of Contemporary Art (235 Bowery): "On Election Night 2008 the New Museum hosts an evening of tequila, trivia, and live-stream coverage of the exit polls. Artist Eduardo Sarabia’s Salon Aleman project, including his sculpture Babylon Bar, and his limited-edition Tequila Sarabia will be imported to the Museum for a gathering of campaign camaraderie and fun-filled, trivia-distracted anticipation." • Exit Art (475 Tenth Avenue): This arts venue's Election Night Party from 7PM - Midnight features a $10 Recession Special, three bands and performances by Exiteers and R. Luke DuBois. They are also advertising "POLITICAL MASKS! SCREEN PRINTING! AND SOUP!!" • Storefront For Art and Architecture (97 Kenmare St): Election Night Sleepover at Storefront "will hold an all-night election vigil in the gallery with a large-screen CNN proj

Casting a Vote at the Break of Dawn

I'm usually only one of a handful of people up and about in the early hours of a typical Greenwich Village morning. It's mostly just the few people who have no homes and who are waking up from their places in the park, the early morning types with dogs, and a few police officers strolling down the street. It's a refreshing way to greet the city, walking through the early morning hours without the crush of humanity. Short of people, I tend to focus on the sky and the weather, on the subtle changes of nature. This morning, the first Tuesday in November, I could enjoy the sites of the autumn leaves in Washington Square Park and watch my dogs jump into a pile of leaves, just like small children. This morning was different, however, and I was not alone. My spouse and I looked forward to casting our votes for President as early as possible, and with the polls opening in New York at 6 a.m., we decided to make our way over to the voting location as close to 6 a.m. as possible. Com

Contemporary African Art in Two NYU Galleries

I recommend seeing two exhibitions at NYU galleries, both located on Washington Square East, before they close in early December: The Poetics of Cloth African Textiles/Recent Art Grey Art Gallery Through December 6, 2008 The Poetics of Cloth: African Textile/Recent Art is a significant exhibition that explores the continuities of the textile tradition in contemporary African art. While the focus is on the medium of cloth, the exhibition nevertheless explores the topic through photography, painting, sculpture, and video as well, showing the continuities of the textile tradition within a larger art conversation. The contemporary African artists represented here show a deep respect for tradition even while departing from it and exploring the dynamics of change on the continent. Atta Kwami, a Ghana native who grew up the son of a sculptor, painter, and textile designer, creates abstract paintings that could belong to western modern painting but also clearly come out of West African vi

Chasing the Demons Away in a Village Full of Ghosts - The Village Halloween Parade 2008

This past week seemed busier than usual, with a myriad of social events, job tasks (I have four wonderful part-time writing and editing gigs, counting this one), and household duties - hosting a houseguest, dinner out at Gemma, a night of drinks at the Temple Bar with an old friend from my Austin days, several telephone meetings, a myriad of important emails to attend, a terrific meeting at the Antique Café on 26th with a new colleague, two sick dogs (both of whose ailments would make me sick to even describe, but they required trips to the vet), a visit to two NYU galleries to review for these pages, and all through the week, a practice of tossing clothes into a dark corner where I could ignore them until today. Before, in between, and after these social events, I was, like many others, checking polls and political websites for the latest election news. The election talk and my need for updates made me so anxious that I felt like I was acquiring a late-onset Attentional Deficit Dis