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Showing posts from November, 2011

November Nocturnes: New York City at Night (Photos)

Occasionally, I joke to myself that after four years of blogging about New York, mostly in the daytime, that I should go back and do everything again but at night. The night in the city is a different world, a theatrical space lit with artificial illumination that seems the very opposite of the city's hard-nosed reality in sunlight.

Street lamps, holiday lights, incandescents, LEDs, heat burning devices, spotlights, marquee lights, display case lamps, and a myriad other lighting devices turn New York streets into a theatrical experience. These artificial lights prompt the imagination to make up stories for night's individual street scenes. The images that follow are not depictions of the famous city at night - Times Square, Broadway, the skyline, etc. - but are simply peripatetic snapshots from the more prosaic of our streets.

Please fill in the rest of the picture with your imagination.




After Shopping: Points of Interest and Dining Near the Big New York Department Stores

(updated) Shopping in New York is a major reason many visitors come to New York City, and it's not for the faint of heart. Making the rounds of several stores, especially the well-known large department stores, can seem like an athletic event and requires endurance and fortitude. After browsing or shopping, patience can become short. The feet grow tired. Muscles grow weary holding shopping bags. Companions and family begin to bicker over what to do next.

It's time for a long break. This post is designed to help shoppers at the big New York department stores find pleasant places to sit down and eat. Resting in a nearby park can also provide a healthy balance to the vigorous consumerism. Finding a barstool may also work for some.


The map at the bottom of the post includes a list of major NYC department stores and suggested places to visit and to eat and drink nearby.

Century 21 (22 Cortland Street between Broadway and Church), a large discount store in Lower Manhattan, is nea…

An Architectural Guide to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Route

The 85th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, November 24, 2011 beginning at 9 a.m. will follow a path from Central Park West at 77th Street down to Columbus Circle, then take a quick jog east on Central Park South before heading down 7th Avenue to 42nd Street. Here the parade takes another little jog east to 6th Avenue and then continues south to 34th Street. The finale moves one block west on 34th to Herald Square, the location of Macy's.

Manual Labor: Diego Rivera Paints New York City

The big man arrived in New York just as the town was going bust, sliding into the Great Depression, yet the city maintained its frenetic pace of building anyway. He saw everything with his big eyes, so uncannily large that his flamboyant wife suggested they allowed him as an artist to see more. The occasion of the visit by Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist, was his retrospective (1931-32) at the Museum of Modern Art, a young institution then housed in the Heckscher Building at 730 Fifth Avenue and which offered its second-only solo retrospective to Rivera, the first being to Henri Matisse.

For the MoMA exhibition, Rivera created new murals, complicated in their execution, portraying power relationships in revolutionary Mexico. After the exhibition opened, he painted three more murals inspired by New York. Excited by the experiment in the Soviet Union, Rivera trained his eye on the industrial worker and the dazzling built environment of this new city. At the same time, he was also tr…

The Follow-the-Helicopter Walk (The Clearing of Zuccotti Park)

The news this morning of the overnight eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park surprised many people, according to social media tweets and postings. For a time in the early a.m., many of the occupiers gathered at nearby Foley Square, the location of the first large community and labor march in support of the movement, and later in the morning in a lot near Canal Street and 6th Avenue. I don't believe many of the occupiers have slept at all. The situation was in flux and is still in flux. The police put on their riot gear, took it off, put it back on. Members of the media have been swept up in arrests relating to these events.

Sunday Autumn Morning in Washington Square Park, with notes about the song "Autumn in New York"

Sing it, people. You know the song. "It's autumn in New York." Walking around the city this season, in what looks to be one of the most splendid foliage seasons of recent memory, the song just can't be helped. The title line is brilliant, with its descending notes like falling autumn leaves.


Vernon Duke (1903-1969), né Vladimir Dukelsy, wrote the music and lyrics for "Autumn in New York," the jazz standard that originated in the 1934 Broadway musical Thumbs Up!. The lyrics tie the sight of autumn in New York with a wistful sense of home in the big city, "the promise of new love," and a grateful acceptance for the ways things are, even when mingled with pain. No wonder Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Holiday, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, and a hundred of other crooners wanted to record such a song. The notes themselves were enough for the likes of Charlie Parker and the Modern Jazz Quartet.

10 Short Walks from Grand Central Terminal

(updated March 2017) Famously crowded Grand Central Terminal functions as a major crossroads for the city, hosting busy commuters as they come and go from the suburbs via the Metro-North Railroad or within the city via a few subway lines, but the terminal also happens to be a good place to launch short walks. With its south side fronting E. 42nd Street and its massive structure interrupting Park Avenue, Grand Central provides quick access to many of the city's most well-known attractions.


The New York Public Library and Bryant Park are only a couple of blocks away from the terminal, a quick jaunt on 42nd Street. And from there, Times Square is just another block or two farther west of the library, its neon shimmering in the distance. One wonders, standing near the intersection of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, how many souls have been lured away from their well-meaning library studies by the beckoning lights of the Theater District.

Grand Central Terminal: Before setting out on walks, …

Sunday Walks: SoHo, Gotham, and the New York City Marathon

The arrival of Daylight Saving Times frequently shocks the system, whether on a personal level or for the larger urban fabric. It takes some time to adjust to the change. Of the two seasonal adjustments, I prefer Fall Back over Spring Forward. Aside from gaining an extra hour, I like to think that this time of year is made for those of us in the city who get up at an unreasonably early hour to walk our dogs.


SoHo

I walked an extra hour yesterday, no doubt about it. The first morning walk was through SoHo, always unreal and pretty when few people are out on the Belgian block streets. The frivolous cast iron buildings catch the morning sunrise in just the right way, and if you venture out on a Sunday morning at first light, it can be a surreal personal landscape for one.




Gotham

The morning is not often a good time for surprises, and confronting an unfamiliar scene can be extra challenging. Later in the morning, I was on lower Broadway at the entrance of Wall Street and was startled to se…

Public Art in New York City: Fall 2011

Just as we start missing the artwork that appeared last spring and summer - like the enormous yellow teddy bear at Seagram Plaza, the roses along Park Avenue, the giant girl's head in Madison Square Park - a new crop of public artworks have been popping up over town this fall.


Peter Woytuk on Broadway
On the Broadway Malls, beginning at Columbus Circle and continuing through the Upper West Side through Harlem and Washington Heights, look for 18 whimsical bronze animal sculptures by American sculptor Peter Woytuk. It would be quite the challenging walk to take in all of them. The walk may be easy at first - the pair of elephants at Columbus Circle, this balancing bearcat at 67th St., a kiwi at 72nd St., but you'll need to get out the hiking boots to see fetching ones uptown - a couple of birds perched atop apples at 117th, three bulls at 168th St., and many more whimsical creatures along the way. Better yet, start uptown and walk back. Gotta love those big apples.
A program …

For the 1,000th Post: A List of Lessons Learned

For the 1,000th post on Walking Off the Big Apple (originally published November 2, 2011), I felt it was time to take stock of lessons learned, offer general advice that may be ignored, and suggest a few fun things to do in New York City. I mostly wish to thank readers who have helped sustain this ongoing adventure.

• Don't be afraid to venture into unfamiliar places. For backup or to lead the way, bring a dog.


• I once thought that visiting the standard sightseeing spots was a big cliché, but truly the famous places are famous for a reason. Times Square, so visually overwhelming, often feels like crossing over into another reality. The Statue of Liberty cruise is breathtaking, and so is walking around Liberty Island and taking in uncommon views of the statue.

• When taking a photo, often it's not the interesting view ahead worth capturing. Turn around and face the other direction. There it is - behind you.

• Visitors to New York are inclined to try to do too much and quickly …