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Showing posts from August, 2010

Day Trip: Up the River to Hudson, New York and a Visit to Frederic Church's Olana

(updated) Summer in the city has been long and hot, and for those of us who never managed to get away, the season has felt even longer and hotter than usual. Worried that the summer was drawing to a close, I vowed to go somewhere or anywhere, even if overnight, preferably to a small city at a northern latitude with some visual architectural interest, surrounding views of nature, and a sense of history. I also wanted to escape the perpetual sounds of jackhammering, street shouting, car honking, fire engine clanging, and the myriad other noises that characterize my overly-long summer days.

I selected Hudson, New York for my escape largely because of its proximity to Olana, the fanciful residence of Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). Having heard of the marvelous estate he designed, one with Persian-style influences and of a grand scale befitting one of the most successful painters of the latter half of the 19th century, I decided to board Amtrak's Ethan A…

How to Walk Off a Pastrami Sandwich in New York City

Some people can eat a lot and not gain much weight, but many others will simply gain weight if they eat too much and not exercise. Most of us fit in the latter category. Walking is a simple and common way to get some exercise, and if we're out and about in New York City, it's easy to think that we can walk off whatever fun New York foods we've consumed along the strolls - the hot dogs, the cupcakes, the cafe lattes, the precious fusion fried chickens, the three-course lunches, the gelato on a stick, the three sauvignon blancs, etc. We may be correct about the benefits of walking, but we would be completely delusional to think that we can easily walk off all of our favorite New York foods and drinks. Don't forget the drinks.

New Yorkers themselves became more aware of the caloric value of favorite foods starting back in 2007 when chain restaurants were required to post calories. It came as something of a shock to see how many calories a so-called low-fat blueberry muff…

A Walk on Hudson Street

A walk along Hudson Street from its northern tip near the intersection of 14th Street and 9th Avenue and south all the way down its end in Tribeca, a pleasant but hardy distance of about two miles, affords the opportunity to visit a variety of historical sites and to indulge in epicurean pleasures. For area residents, however, Hudson Street is their everyday street, a place of schools, nursing homes, gyms, community organizations, houses of worship, parks and many businesses that support the life of the neighborhood. The neighborly aspect is most notable in the prime West Village blocks from Horatio St. south to W. Houston.

Once the home street of Jane Jacobs, the revered urban activist and writer who passionately championed multi-use street life, Hudson Street is still marked by its easygoing and casual character. The area is a nice place to linger over a casual French dinner or to sit quietly in the serene gardens of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields. The street is home to one…

The Reagan-Bush-Gorbachev Meeting on Governors Island: A Debriefing and a Walk

On December 7, 1988, President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Governors Island, then the headquarters for the Coast Guard. Documentation of the events that day remained secret for twenty years, but the release of both Soviet and American materials, analyzed and posted by the National Security Archive (see sources at end of post), provides a vivid picture of the dramatic events that unfolded around the meeting. Furthermore, now that Governors Island is open to the public, including the Commanders House where the leaders met for lunch, it is now possible to reconstruct the historic events by matching the words of a declassified memorandum describing the lunch with images of the interiors of the house today. The small talk that characterized the lunch, however, does not betray the extraordinary surprise that the Soviet leader unveiled earlier that morning in a speech to the United Nations.


Standing in front of the 43rd U.N. …

Charles Burchfield at the Whitney

An exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), features a chronological overview of the watercolors, drawings, and paintings of an important 20th century American artist perhaps more well known among artists than with the general public. While it's become common to label the painter a "visionary artist," with his exaggerated circular forms and frightening distortions of nature, sometimes bordering on fantasy illustration (but never boiling over that far), Burchfield nevertheless worked prolifically and well within the confines, at least outwardly, of a fairly conventional American life.


Curated by artist Robert Gober and organized and first presented by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the presentation of work over a fifty-year period describes the continuities, creative development, and intriguing backtrack of an artist both "visionary" and yet deeply akin to artists of his own genera…

Hot Days in New York City: An Ennui Advisory is in Effect

URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE...
WALKING OFF THE BIG APPLE GREENWICH VILLAGE NEW YORK NY US A

...VERY BORING WEATHER THROUGH TUESDAY...

AN ENNUI ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM EDT THIS EVENING ACROSS ALL THE BOROUGHS OF NEW YORK CITY AND NEARBY LESSER TOWNS OF WHICH WE ARE UNFAMILIAR.

ENNUI ADVISORY INDICES THIS AFTERNOON WILL REACH THE MID-90S ACROSS NEW YORK CITY, MAKING IT COMPARABLE TO HOUSTON, TEXAS ON A REALLY BAD DAY. INDICES ARE MEASURED BY NORMAL CLIMATE AND HUMIDITY LEVELS COMBINED WITH THE PERSONAL BREAKING POINTS FOR HEATED CONVERSATIONS WITH SIGNIFICANT OTHERS, THE SLOW SPEED OF YOUR DOG WHILE WALKING, THE GENERAL ENNUI OF COWORKERS AND FRIENDS, THE HIGH PERCENTAGE OF CONVERSATIONS STUCK ON THE TOPIC OF THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY, AND THE MALAISE THAT ACCOMPANIES A FEELING THAT THE DAY WILL NEVER END.

COPING/DENIAL ACTIONS...

AN ENNUI ADVISORY IS ISSUED FOR NEW YORK CITY WHEN CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO LIMIT WARDROBE CHOICES AND THE ABILITY TO REMAIN ON A SUBWAY PLATFORM WITHOUT P…

Great Public Spaces: David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center

Longtime New Yorkers walking near Lincoln Center may inadvertently breeze past one of the city's best new public spaces on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Street. A light-infused and music-filled airy space, the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, as it's officially named, is now the starting point for the center's guided tours and ticket office for day-of discount tickets for Lincoln Center performances. But it's an extremely well-designed public space that not just fulfills the city guidelines for such spaces but reaches for a higher design standard.

As I've discussed in other posts on the topic, usually in reference to outdoor spaces such as Greenacre Park, elements that create great public spaces have been well-defined and codified over the years - movable chairs, a water feature, natural elements, the presence of food, a variety of things to do, and so forth. The idea is that people will more likely gravitate to places that humanize them and allow freedo…

Architectural Highlights Along New York's Summer Streets (A Reprise)

Note: Please read this updated post for Summer Streets August 2011.

For three consecutive Saturday mornings in August, the city of New York shuts down major north-south thoroughfares to vehicular traffic so that residents and visitors alike may enjoy the streets without the presence of cars and trucks. Most ride bicycles, some walk, and a few skate, but by whatever preferred means of transportation thousands of New Yorkers have been taking advantage of the Saturdays to exercise and to explore the streets in this novel way.

Summer Streets for August 2010 will take place August  7, 14, & 21 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. This year's iteration will feature MacroSea's repurposed dumpster swimming pools near the Grand  Central viaduct and FringeNYC theater shorts in the Soho rest area.



The event also offers a rare opportunity to look at some of the city's great architecture from a new perspective. Sitting in a moving car, a driver can't fully enjoy urban architecture, or they sh…

For the Flâneurs: After the Museums, A Walk in Central Park

Strolling the uptown museums and nearby Central Park is a time-honored New York pastime dating back to the days of the nineteenth century century flâneur. During the nineteenth century, the building of the park and later the great Beaux Arts buildings of monumental New York, most notably here the Metropolitan Museum of Art, brought out thousands of men and women to admire the natural and artistic wonders of the great city. For the nineteenth century observer, Central Park, the museums, and other attractions made the city a great scene to behold, achieving a cultural status rivaling the great cities of Europe.

From Lloyd's pocket companion and guide through New York City, for 1866-67 by Thomas Lloyd:

From a visitor's account in 1884: