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Scenes from a Walk on a Windswept Afternoon

The passing of Hurricane Earl, thankfully far away in the Atlantic Ocean, kicked up powerful breezes in New York City earlier in the weekend but left a brilliant sky in its wake. The previous stretch of humid days had come to an end, just in time for the first day of a long Labor Day weekend.

The sky was crystalline, giving the the skyline's favorite star, the Empire State Building, the look of a cinematic matte shot. Approaching the building from the block of Broadway south of Madison Square Park, the scene seemed at times like a surreal photo-collage, as if the buildings were cutouts and pasted on another photograph of the sky.

1. the Empire State Building
On Saturday, I set upon a walk uptown to complete a couple of errands, but the brilliance of the day encouraged a longer excursion with additional stops.

2. Eataly. 23rd St. and Fifth Avenue.
Hundreds of people lined the corner of 23rd St. and Fifth Avenue in order to visit Eataly, the new market featuring the foods of Italy, and like a fool New Yorker, I stood in line with them. The wait was not exceedingly long. After strolling through the mega-eatery, not easy with such a crowd, I came away with first impressions - appetizing, frantic, too crowded, expensive, a little disorganized, and not all that reminiscent of Italy. As a resident of the Village, with its remaining echoes of Italian heritage, all I ever want or need is Raffetto's (144 West Houston), a small grocery store with homemade food and a big heart.

This neighborhood near Madison Square Park was one of the most fashionable areas in the city in the 1860s and 1870s. Edith Wharton was born in the house directly across from the entrance of Eataly on W. 23rd St. You can look at it while you stand in line. A Starbucks takes up the first floor. I amused myself with the question, "What do you think, Edith Wharton, of a cafe in your house that's named for a character in an obscure Herman Melville novel?"

 3. The Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building is still one of the most photogenic buildings in the city. Steichen and Stieglitz got it right.

4. Madison Square Park
When not in Forest Hills, a good place to watch the US Open Tennis Championships is on a big screen in Madison Square Park. A handful of excellent area restaurants provide food and beverage service. The park provides some visual entertainment most all the time, as well as an immensely popular Shake Shack.

5. Graduate School CUNY (355-371 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street). Originally the B. Atlman & Company Department Store. 1905-1913
Here's a building - the Graduate School of CUNY (355-371 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street). Originally the B. Atlman & Company Department Store. 1905-1913. Renaissance Revival. Altman led the way in introducing department stores in the northern residential sections of Fifth Avenue. WOTBA's pet literary theory is that Wharton may have based the character of Simon Rosedale in The House of Mirth on Benjamin Altman.

6. Lord & Taylor, 424 5th Avenue
Lord & Taylor. A store with a long history in the city. From a storefront downtown, the dry goods operation moved to Broadway and Grand by 1861, then to a stunning cast-iron building on Ladies Mile (Broadway and 20th Street) in 1870, and finally to its handsome and no-nonsense building on Fifth Avenue in 1913-14.

7. Fortitude at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library currently looks like a Christo project. Businessman Stephen A. Schwarzman contributed  $100 million for the renovation and expansion of the main library. That's why the building is under wraps. The marble lions, Patience and Fortitude (pictured here), have kept watch since the library's dedication in 1911. Each lion faces slightly inward toward the steps.

8. Bryant Park
Bryant Park. Named after American Romantic poet and New York civic booster William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), the park was practically abandoned as a hopeless cause in the late 1970s. Now look at it!

9. Philip Lewisohn building on W. 41th St.
South side of the Philip Lewisohn building on W. 41th St. with four sculptures. According to the Annual real estate review and forecast of 1913, the 22-story building was once "the largest commercial building north of 23rd St," with modern conveniences such as four high-speed elevators and a sprinkler system.

10. Looking north to Times Square
Times Square. One look north, and sometimes, you just want to run in the other direction. On other days, Times Square works like a magnet.

11. Fashion District's information kiosk on Seventh Avenue.
The giant button and needle on 7th Avenue signifies the location of the Fashion District's information kiosk. Stroll around the side streets to appreciate the city's garment industry.

12. Gray's Papaya on 8th Avenue and 37th Street.
Gray's Papaya on 8th Avenue. A wonderful signifier of everyday New York life, Gray's Papaya serves up tasty hot dogs.

13. The New Yorker Hotel (481 8th Avenue & 34th Street
The New Yorker Hotel (481 8th Avenue & 34th Street). Art Deco iconic hotel from 1930. Image is of a side entrance on W. 35th St.

14. The Empire State Building (left) and Madison Square Garden
The Empire State Building (left) and Madison Square Garden (far right), in one frame, 8th Avenue and  34th St.

15. 34th Street. Penn. Station. subway platform
Penn Station subway. This two-mile walk with plenty of stops along the way was enough for the afternoon. The beauty of this walk is that it's available on any other day, even on ones far less beautiful.


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Images from Saturday, September 4, 2010 by Walking Off the Big Apple. Made with an iPhone4 camera.

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  1. Edith would ask them to redecorate the Starbucks..

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