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Showing posts from November, 2009

A Bleecker Street Holiday Shopping Guide: From Abingdon Square to the Bowery

Fifth Avenue and SoHo may be popular destinations for holiday shopping in New York, but for those who enjoy browsing in small stores away from the crowded sidewalks, Bleecker Street in Greenwhich Village could be the answer. Approximately 1.14 miles in length from Abingdon Square in the West Village down to the Bowery, Bleecker Street changes its mood block by block. Because of the diversity of the street, it's possible to find gifts for the bohemian and the bourgeois alike.

On the north end, stores such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, and Mulberry have turned the street into a designer row. Some Villagers aren't crazy about the embourgeoisement of the historic Greenwich Village street, largely because these stores can me found in any other affluent neighborhood. The stores near the nightspots and bars between 6th Avenue and LaGuardia Place, on the other hand, are far less tailored. The stretch between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue is a heaven for foodies, with Murray's Cheese, …

Alicia Keys and Empire State of Mind, Part II

Thanks largely to the popularity of Jay-Z's now ubiquitous New York-loving anthem "Empire State of Mind," the top song on Billboard's Hot 100 chart this week and on which she sings the chorus and gets credit as a co-writer, Alicia Keys is on a roll these days. Now, with the release on December 15 of her fourth album, The Element of Freedom, and the cut "Empire State of Mind, Part II," the singer-songwriter and actress brings her own voice to the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of. " While both versions of the song narrate their respective roads to success, Keys' take, in addition to adhering to conventions of melody throughout, pays homage to the struggle of hard-working women, something of a flipside to Jay-Z's riffs on girls going bad in the big city.
Both songs, judging by the responses to the video variations on YouTube, have touched many people deeply (excluding New York Yankees haters). Some often-jaded New Yorkers grow misty…

An Unofficial Guide to Macy's New Thanksgiving Day Parade Route

Click here for a new post with updated parade information for 2011.


(revised for 2010)

Following last year, the 84th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, November 25, 2010 will be following a new route through Manhattan. A major reason for the change has to do with the city's recent experiments along Broadway to make the thoroughfare more engaging for pedestrians and bicyclists. The installation of planters and seating fixtures prove to be an impediment for marching bands, entertainers on floats, an army of clowns, inflatable dogs, and ultimately Santa himself, so another route is necessary. As we're getting to know the new path down Seventh Avenue, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at some of the famous buildings and businesses along the way. The first section along Central Park West should be familiar to parade-goers, but new sights will come into view along Seventh and Sixth Avenues - for example, Carnegie Hall and the Carnegie Deli, to name a couple o…

Night Falls on the City: The View from the Brooklyn Bridge

During those liminal moments after the sun sets but before the night has muted the clarity of day, the landscape veers off into abstraction. It's the golden hour, a mystical time favored by visual artists. Familiar sights gradually lose detail, giving way to sheer fundamental shapes, silhouettes, colors, hues, and qualities of luminosity. To describe the sunset you have to think like a painter. For many in New York, this hallowed time is best worshipped under the neo-Gothic arches of the Brooklyn Bridge, the city's-well-known icon that links Brooklyn with Manhattan. Below, silver currents of the East River reflect the day's last light. Above, birds and helicopters streak across an increasingly electric sky. On some evenings, the sunset flames out in a blazing eruption of yellow and plum and crimson glory. The Statue of Liberty makes a dramatic statement silhouetted against the flaming sky. As soon as the colors fade and darkness falls, however, the Manhattan skyline, waiti…

A Cultural Guide to West 57th Street: A Walk and a Map

(revised) It began in 1891 with the opening of Carnegie Hall, the symbol of music world success that Andrew Carnegie paid people to construct on 7th Avenue between West 57th and West 56th Streets. A year later, the Art Students League moved into the new American Fine Arts Building, an elegant French Renaissance building at 215 West 57th Street.

In 1916-17, Cass Gilbert designed the Rodin Studios at 200 W. 57th Street, a building with elaborate apartments. Developing by small increments, by the late 1920s the blocks of West 57th Street between 8th Avenue and 5th Avenue had become a major center for cultural life in the United States.

Steinway Hall was constructed in 1924-1925, a pitch perfect Neo-classical companion to the Renaissance Revival of Carnegie Hall down the street. Art galleries, piano dealers, studios, arts-minded restaurants, hotels, and apartments for writers, artists, and renowned musicians joined them. The building at 130 West 57th, designed as a cooperative for artists,…

An Early Morning Walk in the East Village

Sometimes it's not about where to walk but when. Certain hours of the day carry with them their own qualities, and strange as it may sound, I am fond of the quiet mystery of the early morning. Just before sunrise the day has not yet lost its patina of night, and ever so gradually, the velvety air of the post-midnight hours begins to retreat into shadows. As I walk through the streets in those poignant moments before sunrise, I never see many people, mostly just the silhouettes of lone individuals not yet recognizable by the light of day. Birds rustle in their nests. A few taxis swish by. The coffee cart guys are setting up for the day. We have scientific terms for these moments. Astronomical twilight gives way to nautical twilight before real morning, civil twilight, begins.



As a person with dogs, I am accustomed to venturing out in the city at the first hint of morning light. That's my excuse. Maybe I'm also a little bit in love with the terminology of twilight. I also l…

A Literary Holiday Gift Guide: Best New Books on New York, New York

Not surprisingly, New York as a subject generates a lot of books. Each year the shelves in the New York section of bookstores become overcrowded with new books about the city, each one adding something different to a vast body of city literature. This year the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage to the New World inspired several new books on New York's Dutch heritage, many of them accompanying exhibitions at area museums. In addition, the Lincoln Bicentennial (1809-2009) brought new attention to the role of New York in creating the circumstances for his Presidency. And as always, New York's position in the creative arts and food culture insures that writers will always find new stories to tell about artists and chefs in the city.

The number of new tourist guide books alone continues to grow, each providing the visitor with a new angle on the city. In selecting the best New York-centered books for this holiday gift guide, I decided to leave off the guide books, altho…

Shopping for Dinner at the Union Square Greenmarket: A Slideshow of Seasonal Bounty

Walking through the Union Square Greenmarket, I often feel like such an amateur. Dumfounded by the varieties of potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, squash, or heirloom tomatoes on display and what to do with them, I often beat a retreat to the bakery stands. Here among the pumpkin tea cakes, gingerbread, and sourdough breads, I feel like an authority. I'm also good with flowers. Nevertheless, members of the health establishment have recently urged me to become more friendly with the vegetable and fruit displays, and accordingly, I'm getting acquainted with the edible natural world. Man or woman does not live by pumpkin raisin bread alone. In the spirit of knowing my vegetables, I've recently learned that the rutabaga, for example, came about as an random hybridization, i.e. love child,  between a cabbage and a turnip. Talk about companion planting!


A Walk to See Carl Jung's Red Book: A Journey Into the Psyche

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (July 1875 – June 1961) embarked on an extraordinary journey in the years before World War I, a dangerous adventure that took him inward to the deepest recesses of his psyche. At the time he began the journey, he had broken his close relationship with his mentor, Sigmund Freud. His subsequent six-year long breakdown, largely self-induced, manifested itself in intensive journal writing with the recording of his dream states and visualizations, especially of mandalas. He made notes in black journals, later meticulously recording his images and interpretive text in chronological order all in gorgeous calligraphy in a voluptuous Red Book. Anyone interested in artists’ books needs to see this work with their own eyes.

The exhibit at the Rubin Museum of Art, The Red Book of C.G. Jung: Creation of a New Cosmology, on display through January 25, 2010, explores the visual manifestation of the journal, the diary of Jung's voyage into his own psyche that he recor…

A New York Yankees State of Mind

On Friday, November 6, hundreds of thousands of New York Yankee fans got the chance to applaud their hometown World Series heroes with the parade and ceremony in lower Manhattan, celebrating along the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway and on the nearby streets under a sunny sky.

Like many others I arrived too late to see any of the parade, but I did get to enjoy the moment with the crowds gathered in the chilly autumn weather. The diverse fans arrived from all the boroughs and from places even farther away, but they all shared today's required uniform of navy blue and pinstripes. Many grew frustrated when they couldn't see anything at all and turned around to go home, while the lucky ones up front applauded themselves for arriving hours before parade time at 11 a.m..

They got to see Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Mariano Rivera, or any of the others, standing on floats and waving to the crowd, dressed in their street casuals, even as everyone in the crowd along the sid…

20 Short Walks between New York Landmarks

Favorable weather may encourage long walks through the New York cityscape, but sometimes a short walk of a mile or less may be just the ticket for some serious New York sightseeing. These suggested walks pair two nearby landmarks with a pleasant stroll. The images suggest autumn to be the best time, but the strolls should be nice year round, weather permitting. The cool air on a sunny day invites excursions, a little window shopping, and a stop in cafes or a cozy tavern.

Exploring New York without an agenda or a destination is fun, too, but appreciating museums, public sculpture, parks, and major buildings characterizes the informed and intelligent traveler as well as the savvy resident. Eventually, the well-traveled explorer develops a sophisticated internal map of the city, building up a repertory of options for navigating the city. While the map here should come in handy for visitors looking for sightseeing ideas, residents may want to mentally test themselves by imagining the route…