Category Archives: New York City

Fabulous Holiday Windows in New York City

Architecture was the theme of this window at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.
Architecture was the theme of this window at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.

It’s the time of year when retailers ramp up for the holidays with ornate holiday displays.  Nowhere in the U.S. is the holiday decor more fantastic than in New York City.  And, in New York you’ll find the most fabulous of all in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman.

I’ve been lucky enough for the last several years to be in New York during the holiday season.  The corner of 5th and 58th is always my first destination to see what wonders they’ve come up with for the year. (I also enjoy touring the wonders inside the store, but window gazing is much more economical.)

Fabulously ornate windows at Bergdorf Goodman. The subject of this window: Literature. How many authors can you find.
Fabulously ornate windows at Bergdorf Goodman. The subject of this window: Literature. How many authors can you find?

The theme for last year’s windows was the arts, including architecture, theater, painting, music, and my favorite, literature–all absolutely and delightfully over the top. The Creators Project blog has an article about last year’s windows.

If you go this year, send me a picture of Bergdorf’s windows.  And, be sure to read about my literary walking tour of mid-town Manhattan.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Way in New York City

This glowing being looms over a New York policeman on Broadway
This glowing being looms over a New York policeman on Broadway. She’s on a giant advertising billboard and the cop next to her gives perspective.

It’s easy to rush through New York City on your way to the next show, museum, restaurant… the list goes on.  Yet, the best things in travel are seldom planned.  Serendipity is the best tour guide in the Big Apple where it’s crucial to stop along the way and notice the people, street art and all the crazy things going on.  They’re free!

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Fresh: NYU Graduation

This week’s photo challenge is “Fresh” which makes me think of college graduation, which is a fresh start, full of fresh young faces and enthusiasm for the future.

"I'll make a brand new start of it in old New York," from Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York." Part of the graduation festivities at New York University, which is held at Yankee Stadium.
“I’ll make a brand new start of it in old New York….” from Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Part of the graduation festivities at New York University, held at Yankee Stadium.

Graffiti at 5 Pointz New York City

The ultimate in self-expression: Graffiti in the Five Points section of New York City.
Vandalism or self expression? Graffiti in Queens, NYC

This week’s photo challenge is express yourself.  While some call it vandalism, there’s no more in-your-face, larger than life form of self-expression than graffiti.  For the past 20 years, the mecca of that gritty urban art form has been 5 Pointz, a dilapidated  factory complex in Queens, New York City.

Founded as the Phun Phactory in 1993, it was designed as a place for street artists to legally practice their craft. Here, aerosol-can Picassos made the derelict buildings beautiful and gained worldwide fame.

Sadly, the buildings were recently demolished to make way for yet more shiny high-rise apartment buildings.

New: From the Ashes of the World Trade Center

 

The new One World Trade Center rises over lower Manhattan.
The new One World Trade Center rises over lower Manhattan. The final component of the skyscraper, its glowing spire, made the building’s height 1,776 feet, tallest in the Western Hemisphere.

Who doesn’t feel like they know just about everything there is to know about 9/11? We’ve seen the video tapes of planes crashing into the World Trade Center on September, 2001 countless times and viewed special reports and documentaries without end. Yet, when I stepped into the new National September 11 Memorial Museum I found that there actually was more to learn, but more importantly, to remember.

Located underground in the heart of the World Trade Center site, the museum tells the story of what happened on 9/11, including the events at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the story of Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. The exhibition explores the background leading up to the events and examines their aftermath and continuing implications.

In Foundation Hall,  the "Last Column," stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others.
In Foundation Hall, the “Last Column,” stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others.

Even though we’ve seen them so many times, when those video clips and films of what led up to the attack played in the museum the people watching them with me all had the same reaction: “Oh my God.” There are video taped stories from people who were there, displays of artifacts ranging from fire trucks and twisted metal beams to personal objects of people working in the towers that day (really personal things like shoes and purses), papers that rained down, and a portion of one of the stairways from which survivors escaped the building.

The National 9/11 Museum at ground zero in New York City is underground with entry adjacent to a portion of staircase from one of the World Trade Center towers.
The National 9/11 Museum at ground zero in New York City is underground with entry adjacent to a portion of staircase from one of the World Trade Center towers.

As one would expect in such an emotionally and politically charged situation, many parts of the museum have been controversial. Some people object to the the way one exhibit connects Islam and terrorism and the simple fact of tourists gawking at what is essentially hallowed ground offends some of the families. Nonetheless, I felt like the curators struck the right balance.

Many survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center and their families are very involved with the museum and give tours and talks at the complex. I felt lucky to be there for a presentation by an NYPD officer who was on site that day and a young woman whose father died trying to get people out of one of the towers. Their stories made it all very personal. Not a dry eye in the house.

I left the museum to stroll around the 9/11 Memorial outside with its two square waterfalls surrounded by the names of those lost in the attacks. The newly opened One World Trade Center–the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth tallest building in the world–towers, symbolically, over it all.  I’m sappy enough to feel proud of the way the city and the country has moved on, but still remembers.

If you go: Admission, $24 for adults. Go to 911memorial.org to reserve tickets, download the free 9/11 app to enhance your tour and for directions. images-1

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Read up: As usual, I recommend a bit of reading before you go which adds immensely to enhance your experience. And, as usual, I recommend fiction books for their ability to layer events and emotions to create a story that is almost more real than non-fiction. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close– Jonathan Safran Foer, Falling Man, Don DeLillo. For nonfiction, check out an anthology of New Yorker articles,  After 9/11– edited by David Remnick.

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A Flea Grows in Brooklyn (Sorry, I Couldn’t Help Myself): Fashion, Food, and Reading Among the Hipsters

SONY DSCFrannie Nolan, the heroine of Betty Smith classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, just wouldn’t recognize the place. The book opens in 1912 and is set in the (then) tenement-filled Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. It was a place to get away from.

Now Brooklyn is “IT.”  People flock to Brooklyn for its trendy shops, restaurants, and entertainment. They may make fun of Brooklyn’s hipster aesthetic, but can’t resist those skinny jeans, ironic glasses, scarves and all the other accoutrements of Brooklyn hipsterdom. The style conscious from places such as Stockholm, London, and Paris look to Brooklyn for inspiration. And, if that weren’t enough, Girls, the hit HBO show based on the lives of four post-college friends trying to make it in the big city, sort of a poor girl’s “Sex in the City,” has begun to prompt the show’s fans to go on Girls tours of Brooklyn locations featured in the show.

You don’t have to be a hipster or a Girls fan to have fun in Brooklyn, but when you SONY DSCwalk around places like Brooklyn Flea, you may be inspired to join in the fun.  At the very least, you’ll feel compelled to scrounge through your parents’ old clothes (think Mad Men era) or retrieve a few old dresses or flannel shirts from that box you were getting ready to send to Goodwill. This is no ordinary flea market.  The merchandise is mostly vintage or DIY and displayed in a way that makes it look as classy, and much more interesting, than Fifth Avenue fare.   You’ll find cool jewelry made of repurposed zippers or typewriter keys, dresses that would make Betty Draper envious, and re-claimed-repurposed-recycled furniture. In winter the flea takes place in the former Williamsburg Savings Bank at One Hanson Place, where vendors sell their wares from teller’s windows and the zodiac mosaics on the ceiling make it worth the trip, even if you’re not a shopper.  But during warm weather (April through Thanksgiving,), the market takes place outdoors: on Saturdays in Fort Greene and on Sundays in Williamsburg.

When you’re shopped out, I suggest wandering the Williamsburg neighborhood where you’ll find great restaurants (the Vietnamese restaurant An Nhau works well for a group and has a great patio in back), outrageous chocolate and incomparable people-watching. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan offers views of the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and a sense of walking through the city’s history. If you’re looking for a more formal tour, Big Onion tours offers several walking tours of Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Can’t make it to Brooklyn any time soon? The borough has a literary heritage that’s as distinctive as the rest of its culture so there are plenty of books that will make you feel like you know the place before you even leave the L Train. But break out some eccentric-looking clothes–maybe a spangly dress, or a raccoon hat–before you settle in to read them. Here are a few:

Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

David McCullough, The Great Bridge, non-fiction about building the famous Brooklyn Bridge and This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann fiction about tunneling beneath the East River to create another Brooklyn-Manhattan connection.

Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude.

Colm Toibin, Brooklyn

Paule Marshall, Brown Girl, Brownstones

Paula Fox, Desperate Characters.

Red Rooster: A Taste of Harlem with a Chaser of Gospel Music

SONY DSCMy family and I enjoyed a tasty brunch on Sunday at Red Rooster in Harlem. Named after a legendary Harlem speakeasy, it’s one of chef Marcus Samuelson’s restaurants and has been a huge hit since it opened (on Lenox Ave between 125th and 126th) in 2010. While the food is stellar, the restaurant has higher goals: “We aim to play a role in the future of Harlem, by hiring our family of staff from within the community; inspiring better eating through neighborhood cooking classes; and buying from local purveyors.”

But there’s more at the Rooster.  We headed downstairs to Ginny’s Supper Club where they offer a Gospel Brunch every Sunday. For anyone who is interested in the literature, music and culture of the Harlem Renaissance , Ginny’s is a great place to get a little feel of what that era was like, whether you arrive on Sunday morning or any evening during the week. The Sunday morning entertainment is considerably more wholesome than in speakeasy days:  Gospel for Teens. Check out the group’s impressive and poignant story top-circlethat appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes a couple of years ago. Fortunately, we ate before the show started because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to sit still long enough to fit a forkful of food into our mouths with all the clapping, dancing, and those kids singing their hearts out.

For better or worse, this section of Harlem escaped much of the demolition of urban renewal and redevelopment, so a lot of the original gorgeous architecture along Lenox Avenue remains. After brunch, we walked down Lenox and into Central Park. This is a great excursion for anyone who would like to skip the typical mid-town tourist scene. And, if you’re thinking of heading to Harlem, take a look at any of the books listed below regarding the Harlem Renaissance and you’ll appreciate the neighborhood even more.

Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, the complex life of a young African American man in the South and later Harlem.  Winner of the National Book Award.

Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes and Not Without Laughter, classic works from one of the most famous figures of the Harlem Renaissance.

David Lewis (ed.), The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader. An anthology.

James Baldwin, Go Tell It on The Mountain, a semi-autobiographical story of a young African-American boy in 1930s Harlem.

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Though her story takes place in Florida, Hurston was an important player in the Harlem literary scene.

Laban Carrick Hill, Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance. This is actually aimed at young adults, but the book has been so critically acclaimed, it’s great for any age group.