nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Oh the places you’ll go

Thanks Dr Seuss, but for me it’s the places I’ve been. At the risk of repeating myself and most of my blog, here’s a quick round up to remind me and you of some of the best places to go if you ever visit New York:

The obvious arty places

  • The Met: it’s big, it’s famous and it’s somewhere you should go if you visit New York.
  • The Guggenheim: it is curvy, white and cooler than it’s stuffier friend down the road. Go, but be careful of the low walls and the height, not good for vertigo sufferers.
  • MOMA: too busy but I quite like it, just wish they would show more Hoppers.
  • Whitney: this is now closed until later this year as it heads downtown away from its Madison Avenue concrete monstrosity. Holds blockbuster exhibitions and is home to a massive collection of Hoppers, which are of course always lovely.

The less obvious arty places

  • Museum of the City of New York: well worth the slightly further trek up 5th Avenue to see this if they have some interesting exhibitions on. Great chandelier and nice cafe.
  • MOMA PS1: the Queens based little and very cool sister of MOMA on 51st Street. Love wacky art? You’ll love this place but watch out for the quizzical expression that will remain on your face for days when you emerge blinking into the daylight.
  • Queens Museum: staying in Queens, this is well worth the visit, all refurbished and shiny (and right by the relics of the World’s Fair from 50 years ago). Not busy, not expensive but make sure the 7 train is running this far out as it’s super expensive by cab.
  • Bronx Museum of Arts: bit of a trek and not the swankiest area, but for the brave, a trip out here puts you well and truly on the ‘wow, you’ve been there?’ end of the spectrum. No one will have heard of it and you look cool.

The obvious touristy places

  • Central Park: have I written about how much I love it?
  • Empire State Building: not been this time, but R and E did and E recommends a small stuffed seal toy as a face warmer when it’s minus horrendous outside.
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: see previous posts about going when the weather is nice but no one else has noticed.

The less obvious touristy places

  • Go to Harlem: have brunch at Red Rooster and wait for ages for a table; listen to amazing ladies singing gospel a few feet away and then stuff yourself with hearty, carb laden breakfast food. Hang out at the Studio Museum on 125th Street and check out some African American art. Walk the 20 blocks to the very top of Central Park around 106 Street on the 5th Avenue side and gaze at Duke Ellington, way up on a plinth, hanging out with his piano.
  • Get on the A train: sticking with my jazz theme temporarily and go to the Cloisters. This is the Met’s older brother, he is mediaeval. Go on a warm summer’s day and walk through nearby Fort Tryon Park; take a picnic and gaze over the Hudson River to New Jersey.
  • Stop walking around Bloomingdales: wander further along 59th Street to the tram way and glide over the East River to one of my favourite places, Roosevelt Island. I have lost count of the number of times I have been, but I never get bored of the Roosevelt Memorial, it’s amazing.
  • And go to Coney Island, the Blackpool of New York City.

There are loads more and most are covered in other blog posts. I shall miss all this discovery, I’ve been to more places in New York in 2 years than I ever did living in London for 12 years.

 

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Crack is wack

R has been nagging me to write about this place we visited before Christmas. If you look at a map of Manhattan and look towards the top of the island on the right hand side you will see a small square of green and the title ‘Crack is Wack playground’. Now that doesn’t necessarily make you want to visit, but being nosey Brits, we went and had a look.

Basically it’s a couple of basket ball courts with a huge concrete wall stuck in the middle, separating the two areas. On each side is a mural done by Keith Haring, he of the funky men and bright colourful paintings. He painted the mural in 1986 to “call attention to the damage drugs can inflict on community welfare” (says the NY Parks Dept website). Haring died four years later at the very young age of 32.

The mural has somehow survived, it’s been painted over and brightened up over the years, but even now it stands the test of time. I love the shadow of the tree on this photograph of one side of the mural.  I don’t have a good photo of the other side, so have a look at NYC Parks website instead.

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I shall miss all this exploring and discovering the less well known parts of New York.


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A new perspective on New York

Take a look at this picture. You see a 3D optical illusion on the right (it goes to a point in the middle when you walk down it, but impossible to represent here), a perspex anchor on the left (as you do) and the Manhattan skyline in the background. Where was I? Well, I was at the Socrates Sculpture Park, home of bonkers outside art in Queens. It was a gorgeous day yesterday and we were there to check out this year’s emerging artists installations. As well as these two, there was a wooden dragon thing that J loved walking along, must have been 30 feet long; a pile of wood painted white which was more obstacle course for small children and dogs than art; and a giant spider with an NYPD spy station on top of it – hard to imagine, I know.  All a bit crazy, but that just seems to be normal here.

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2 years old today

I wrote my first blog post about moving to New York exactly two years ago today. 275 posts later I am still here and still blogging. I love recording my experience and reading it back, I’ve already forgotten so much. Life has changed a lot since we got here, mostly because J is growing up and is three next month. He goes to pre-school five mornings a week now, so our exploring has been curtailed. Even if he hadn’t gone to school, he was reluctant to behave in art galleries and even more reluctant to sleep when I wanted him to. Getting him into and out of the subway now requires a feat of strength with his buggy that is pretty much beyond me these days. This does mean that my blog posts will be different now and may be less frequent. I’ll still try to look for the odd, the amusing and cast a wry eye over it all, recording for me, for my family and for anyone who cares to read my blog. Please continue to enjoy.

Love nyc-newbie.


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Slightly out of my comfort zone

I know next to nothing about classical music. In fact, my only knowledge probably comes from Thatcher’s privatisation campaign in the 1980s when the water boards were sold off and we were all subjected to Handel’s Water Music every day for months in the years when ITV and a young Channel 4 were the only commercial TV channels. So when R and I went to Carnegie Hall last night, it was all a bit scary. I was more worried about falling asleep listening to music where I couldn’t fiddle with my mobile phone or be distracted by making a cup of tea. But it turns out that Sir Simon Rattle, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic does a good job at keeping his audience of thousands awake.

For 85 bucks a ticket we got to sit high up, nearly able to touch the ceiling, and look down on the people who paid way more than we did and probably had more of a clue what was going on. For me, I quite liked the Rachmaninov, 35 mins of up and down music with some amusing bits where the bloke with the triangle and the glockenspiel got his turn. I haven’t seen a glockenspiel since I was at school, I was a bit surprised to see it here, but hey, they had a tambourine too, so anything goes in this orchestra. But my favourite had to be the guy with the cymbals, they were huge and you could see him revving up to do his big crash and I’m just thinking, gawd, I hope he gets his timing right otherwise he’ll just frighten the life out of the blokes in front.

So, yes, I am a philistine when it comes to this stuff, but it was actually very impressive and if I were a violinist there, I’d have pretty sore arms this morning, they were going like the clappers at one point. I think I might take up the tuba, looks like an easy gig, but how do you pick it up?


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She was just having a laugh

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I was having a bit of sit down in this gallery in the Whitney Museum of American Art having been through the Jeff Koons retrospective on the four floors below. Feeling a bit funny after all that Koons humour and colour and general gaudiness, I had found this room on the fifth floor. It is baffling.

What is going on here? I walk in, look at the 12 large silver framed pictures which are basically all white and a bit lined. I pull a face, read the blurb, find out they are by an artist called Agnes Martin who painted them in 1979. The blurb says “The Islands is among the most beloved works in the Whitney’s collection and is regarded as one of Martin’s great achievements. Hmmm.

If Martin had still been alive, I think she should have hung out in the gallery for 20 minute like I did and check out people’s reactions. They walk in one entrance, look at the room  and smile, but then they look perplexed.  If this were a cartoon, they would have a thought bubble above their heads that said “WTF?!?” Then most of them then look bored and walk on through.

Those who don’t get to the boredom stage check out the blurb, pull a face which says “eh?” and then walk out. The more intrigued then go and have a bit of a look at one or two and then clear off. The man next to me on the bench is reading his guide to NY and could be anywhere, he’s not bothered either.

After 20 minutes or so, having tried looking at the pictures by squinting, using just one eye and cocking my head to one side decide that she was just having a laugh. Bonkers.


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Welcome back, Met

As long as we’ve lived in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been surrounded by hoardings, covering up the work being done to reconstruct the space in front of the museum , which runs along 5th Avenue from 79th Street to 84th Street. It was pretty ugly, made the pavement very narrow in places and it was filthy to navigate in the depths of winter.

This week it was finally over. The front of the Met has been revealed and it looks beautiful. The David H. Koch Plaza is clean, simply laid out and resplendent with circular fountains and rows of bright red umbrellas providing welcome respite from the fierce New York sun.

Walking south along 5th Avenue outside the Met

Unfortunately they didn’t get rid of the ugly looking fast food vendors that line up along the pavement and pollute the air with their smoky cooking. Have a look and see what you think.

Walking north along 5th Avenue outside the Met

Walking north along 5th Avenue outside the Met

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Not a Ewing in sight

I have recently returned from a 3 day, child free trip to Dallas. I can confirm:

  1. it is phenomenally hot there, with a peak of 38 degrees, it is a searing, dry heat pretty much unbearable;
  2. there is no one on the pavements because of 1 above;
  3. every building is air conditioned so severely that you need to carry a jumper so as not freeze in side, this is bizarre;
  4. some men actually wear Stetsons. Honest. It’s true. No irony. Nothing.
  5. that you will hum the Dallas theme tune when arriving from the airport because you can’t help it;
  6. the buildings do not appear in panels of 3 as per the Dallas opening credits, although they probably should to make them more interesting;
  7. there is the most amazing herd of life size bronze steers (cows with horns) running down a hillside next to City Hall that are being herded by a cowboy. It’s a great piece of public art;
  8. there’s a Henry Moore piece outside City Hall which is huge and so smooth you have to touch it;
  9. the Dallas Museum of Art is lovely, has a wonderful Edward Hopper painting and is open late on a Thursday; and,
  10. that to walk around Downtown Dallas safely, don’t walk around after dark, walk quickly and don’t show your phone or valuables, there’s an edge to it and a lot odd people hanging around.


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Busts in the Bronx

The weather’s calmed down a bit so J and I have been off on our New York adventures. Today that involved a trip north on the 4 train way up into the Bronx to Burnside Avenue. Not quite like the Upper East Side, that’s for sure, but home to a little known treasure hidden in the vast grounds of the Bronx Community College, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.

I couldn’t quite believe how this could be in an obscure bit of the Bronx, but over 100 years ago the Chancellor of New York University decided to build a monument to mark the great men of America. This involved building a kind of 630 foot open air collonade. Basically an arc of columns under a patterned roof and between each column sits the bust of a famous American.

 

I loved the phrase written into the iron gates as you enter the collonade:

“Enter with joy that those within have lived.”

For me, many of the names were obscure but maybe for Americans they would know them instantly.

The statesmen section included many Presidents: Washington, Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln. Benjamin Franklin stands proud too – we like him because he invented the lightning rod, which I thought was pretty cool. There’s Alexander Graham Bell and Edgar Allan Poe, a new favourite since my visit to the Morgan Library last year. And of the 100-ish busts there are ten women and I’m sorry to say I hadn’t heard of any of them. They seemed to be mostly in education and in the anti slavery movement. And I think Franklin D Roosevelt, President until 1945 is the newest one of the lot and his bust is distinctive because it’s literally just his head, unlike all the others which included their shoulders.

I liked it. I thought it was a really peaceful, thoughtful place. I think in winter you can see right across to the Cloisters and possibly the Hudson River, but there were too many trees full of leaves to tell either way. I don’t know that it gets many visitors, we were the only ones in the hour I spent there. J enjoyed checking out the beards, he has a thing about them for some reason.

It might be worth the trip for anyone interested in US history, but I would recommend dressing down and not looking too much like a tourist, it’s just not that kind of place. Check out the photos below, apologies they are a bit dark, but the light was not in my favour, but you get the idea.

Entrance to the collonade

Entrance to the collonade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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When is Fifth not Fifth?

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Aha, yes, tonight. Fifth Avenue shut down to traffic from 82nd Street all the way up to 104th Street. You’d never know this was Fifth Avenue in my photograph around 94th Street. This is Museum Mile. Starts with your world famous Metropolitan Museum, heads up past the Guggenheim to the Jewish Museum and ends up at the Museum of New York (with others in between). With a marvellous vista across Central Park, this is a beautiful part of New York. Ordinarily spoiled by buses, lots and lots of buses, cars and taxis all crammed into this one way street, but tonight was special, no vehicles allowed.

It is the night of the annual Museum Mile Festival. I don’t remember this from last year, passed me by, but this year we turned up at 6pm to wander down the whole length from 104th Street down to 84th Street. It was great. Lively, full of families with kids drawing all over the road with ‘sidewalk chalk’. Various kids entertainers doing their thing, with an escapologist wowing the crowd with his amazing fire tattoos and ability to escape from chains and a strait jacket. How lovely to wander down Fifth Avenue and not watch for the traffic; let your toddler wander along the road, confused because he can cross when the red hand is showing, rather than waiting for the regular white person to declare ‘it’s our turn to cross’.

And every museum and gallery along the way was open for free to the public. The lesser known Neue Gallerie on 86th Street was doing a roaring trade. It is hosting an exhibition on degenerate art from Nazi Germany and it is proving to be one of its most popular shows. People were queuing down the block for free entry to this one.

Just another lovely part of New York life.