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Showing posts from December, 2012

Walking Off New York in 2012: The Watery Shores and a Search for Higher Ground

I suppose we do have a tendency in New York City to look at things high up - the lights on top of the Empire State Building; the staircase to the High Line; the red-tailed hawks raising families in lofty windowsills; the escalators leading us out of the subways or to a higher floor in department stores; the rising floors of One World Trade Center; a high full moon perched over the city; the great Wonder Wheel on Coney Island; the flybys of airplanes, helicopters, and a space shuttle; the splashy painted sunsets over the Hudson River; the prewar penthouses of our fantasies; the ball at the top of Times Square. We dream from tall buildings of dreamy people across town in the skyline.


Near Fifth Avenue's Holiday Frenzy, a Repertoire of Worthy Escapes

It takes a brave soul to withstand the holiday bustle in Midtown, especially Fifth Avenue near the glamorous glittery stores. Anyone who has tried to walk quickly on the crowded sidewalk under those famous high-flying flags knows exactly what I mean. The pedestrian drama at holiday time becomes intense and stressful.

While venturing inside the 5th Avenue stores can offer a momentary escape from the maddening crowd (but good luck with that), those in want of a quick restoration of sanity should take flight to calmer streets.


Consider these nearby Midtown spots to add to your storehouse of escapes:    

1. Alywn Court Building and Petrossian Restaurant, or their café, 182 W. 58th St. (at 7th Avenue). On the ground floor of the ornate Alwyn Court Apartments (1907-1909), enjoy caviar and French-inspired food in a spectacular room decorated with Lalique glass and Limoges china. For a more minimalist experience and lighter fare, try the Petrossian Cafe, my go-to choice in the neighborhood. …

In Light of the Holidays, a Walk Downtown in Darkness and in Art

I hadn't walked downtown since the hurricane, but I often thought about setting out for Lower Manhattan since the storm blew through the city. I wanted to see what it looked like, having read the reports. Unwilling to play the role of disaster tourist, I suppressed my desire to witness the effects of the storm in this part of the city. After all, people had to do hard work there in the cleanup effort, and I thought that if I didn't volunteer myself, I should stay put.

Yet, I am a journalist, after a fashion, at least in the spirit of the etymological origins of the term in French - the word for "day" is "jour" - and though I don't write or take pictures every day (or, at least publish them), I consider myself a diarist of everyday things. The French call this "la vie quotidienne." I also believe in the power of witnessing - to see, to give an account of events first hand.


Last evening, as I leaned out my balcony and gazed downtown, I saw the t…

Imagining Christmas: Washington Irving's Solitary Walk, and a Stroll from Clement Clarke Moore's Chelsea to O. Henry's Irving Place

Many of the ways we think of Christmas, in its secular and most popular forms - the chubby Santa and his reindeer, the newly fallen snow, the warm hearth donned with Christmas stockings, family and friends celebrating in cheer - can trace its roots to the pens of two New York native sons, Washington Irving (1783-1859) and Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), and to another popular storyteller who drifted to New York, William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), better known as O. Henry. What follows are biographical sketches and holiday walks inspired by their stories.


Washington Irving's Solitary Walk Through Christmas
"Stranger and sojourner as I am in the land,--though for me no social hearth may blaze, no hospitable roof throw open its doors, nor the warm grasp of friendship welcome me at the threshold,--yet I feel the influence of the season beaming into my soul from the happy looks of those around me." - Washington Irving
New York native and storyteller Washington Irving made Ch…

Meditations on Light, Freedom, and Architecture: At Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on a Sunday Afternoon

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, located at the south tip of Roosevelt Island, officially opened to the public on October 24, 2012, just a few days before the city was hit by Hurricane Sandy. What follows are pictures and thoughts from a visit to the park on the afternoon of Sunday, December 2, 2012.

The story of the park is long, but in short, architect Louis Kahn designed plans for this monument in the months before his death in 1974.After decades of unrealized plans and lack of financing, momentum to build Kahn's FDR memorial picked up a few years ago. Residents of Roosevelt Island were divided on whether or not this was a good idea. At the time, this site was a rare thing - a small, verdant patch of undeveloped land, a remnant of a primordial Mannahatta. Building on a green space in New York City with uncommon views of the surroundings was a tough decision. Especially if the thing in question was a big deal with many question marks.