Sunday, September 30, 2018

It's a Hum, Not a Vibration

September 16-17, 2018
Jersey City, New Jersey for New York City

Lower Manhattan 
I used to say I didn't like big cities. I'm finding that what I mean is I don't want to live in a big city.

We've visited some beautiful cities in our travels, enjoyed learning their history and seeing some of their highlights. Inevitably the frenetic energy, the intense vibration, becomes overwhelming. Not unlike the crowds at national parks and major tourist attractions, the vibration makes my jaw tight. Bill too. We've been known to turn around and leave just to avoid it.

Bill was less than thrilled about visiting New York City - after all, it is the biggest of the big, and certainly that vibration must be worse than anywhere we've been. He feels that way most of our visit.

For me, it is a very different experience. There's an undeniable big city energy here. Millions live, work and visit this relatively small island. Streets and sidewalks are a sea of moving humans. Tall buildings house people, taller buildings employ them. In most cases they are separated by inches rather than feet. Sirens are nearly non-stop, honking horns fill in the short silences between them. But rather than an annoying vibration, it's an exciting hum.

I love New York City.

Our Sunday drive from Rhode Island takes us through four states in less than 200 miles. Traveling the expressways, the trees and occasional water views all look pretty much the same. I considered routing around the George Washington Bridge which I've read can be "challenging" for RVs. Bill reminds me that's a great reason to drive it :-)

Here we go!

The tight, packed lanes are less intimidating than the structure itself that looks and feels like it's going to collapse around us!

Happy to be "out", we cross the Hudson River into New Jersey. State #36.
The bridge is easy compared to the drive from I-95 to Liberty Harbor RV Park. Our GPS doesn't tell us to take the right fork at a key location, sending us into a labyrinth of narrow streets and tight right turns to get back on route. Twice we are inches from having to unhook the Jeep! Fortunately New Jersey drivers are helpful and move out of our way, even backing up to let me make the turn. People on the sidewalk wave with big smiles. It definitely lessens the stress.

A couple blocks from the park we join a fellow nomad. When the driver gets out of the RV in front of us to register, he looks up at us and shakes his arms and legs and wipes his brow. We all laugh and congratulate ourselves for making it through the maze! They should seriously give badges.
$100/night to put your awning on your neighbor's slide. 
I've seen many pics of this park and know exactly what to expect. If anything, it's bigger than I thought. As we're pulling in we can see the Statue of Liberty in front of us. The Manhattan skyline is right there! It's already worth the hefty nightly rate, and the stimulating arrival. 

With electric and water only, we're set up quickly to watch football. We plan our next few days around the weather forecast that will bring the edge of Florence's tropical depression over us.

For a couple seconds we think it might be gun fire, but quickly realize there are fireworks over the water. I join several of our park neighbors outside to watch 10 minutes of beautiful colors and light. What a treat! 

We get a later-than-planned start on Monday morning, catching the ferry to the financial district. About 1/2 mile walk from the park and $6 each, it's a great option for visiting the city.

There are several open-top bus options so I choose Gray Lines - the one with the most stops, and the cheapest price. It turns out to be the most popular as well, and next time I'd probably choose one of the others just to have less people.

Lady Liberty 

Amazing views from the ferry. 
Our first steps in the City - the very clean financial district, home to Wall Street and the new World Trade Center One.

What's a visit without a ride in a New York City taxicab? We're successfully maneuvered into the much busier and dirtier uptown area.
All Gray Lines tours start from this location and it is horribly unorganized. I eventually get our tickets (which not one person ever looks at all day), and we cross the street to catch our bus for the Uptown tour. Combined with the Downtown tour, we'll do 40 stops today. 

Our guide doesn't seem to know that his mic is always on so we get lots of water gulping and throat clearing along with all the information he shares. Still, this is a much better tour than Boston. Our Downtown tour guide is exceptional.

Doin' the tourist thing - we see so much in a few hours!
I took so many photos, and want to remember this incredible city - you might want to get a snack if you're going to look at all of the ones I've included here :-)

Combining the old with the new in one structure.

A glimpse of the Tavern on the Green in Central Park.

Beautiful details, 150 years old. The Dakota Building where we lost John Lennon to a gunman (thanks for the reminder Jim!).

American Museum of Natural History with Teddy Roosevelt equestrian statue in front.

The peak is the width of this rowhouse across from Central Park recently purchased for $29M. 

Several buildings including churches, hospitals, and warehouses have been converted to expensive residences throughout Manhattan. They include this former cancer hospital on Central Park West, now 17 luxury condominiums. For just $5.65M you can pick up the available 4 bedroom, 6 bath residence across from the beautiful green space in the city's center.

The 40 foot bronze Peace Fountain marking the 100th anniversary of the St John of the Divine Cathedral.

Taking up four city blocks, the cathedral continued to grow from it's first service in 1899 until the 1970's. Committed to a program of social justice, Dr King and the Dalai Lama both spoke here. It's mission is to be “a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership.”
Looking down every street - multi-level residences as far as you can see.
The center of Harlem's rich history - the famous Apollo Theater. In 1934 Ella Fitzgerald won the first Amateur Night. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the first White musicians to play on the famous stage, in 1957.
Big city grocery stores - no parking nearby. Do people take the subway or taxi to do their shopping?

I love these unique patterns.

Even more unique - empty lanes and sidewalks (it's very Stephen King).

His only museum, and one of his last designs, Frank Lloyd Wright died six months before the opening of what many call his master piece - the Guggenheim Museum on 5th Avenue.
Just a half mile down 5th Avenue the equally recognizable Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Continuing to grow, to reach, to change both it's footprint and it's face - the city lives.
Bill has to duck along Central Park's many low hanging trees. Those overhanging signal lights are a tad "close" as well!

The Plaza where Kevin was Home Alone for Christmas 1992.

Taking nearly 11 years to complete due to the artist's illness and desire for perfection, the General Sherman statue unveiled in 1903, includes two layers of gold leaf. Several restorations of the gold have been completed over the years. The last one in 2013 had to be redone a year later when the leaf began flaking off.
Although Uber and Lyft are both available here, there is no shortage of taxi cabs.

But there are more fun ways to get around Central Park.
Other things to watch for in an open top bus.

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice! Practice! Practice!"
We stop for lunch and to change buses, and I find my favorite place in the city. Times Square is amazing! 

Frozen vegetables and a sultry Jenifer Lopez share space with The Book of Mormon. Something for everyone!

The food cart is tempting, but we opt for delicious pastrami on rye at the Hotel Edison.

A stunning place to enjoy a sandwich while a light rain falls outside.
The famous New Years Eve Ball at Times Square. So what fancy store is the building it sits on? Walgreens :-)))))
Underfoot in Times Square, New York, New York.
Once the largest big band venue in the city, the former Paramount Theater (1926 - 1964) was gutted and re-purposed as office space. Hard Rock Cafe now fills the previous lobby space with a 700+ seat restaurant and large collection of New York music artifacts.

Unveiled in 1996 at the "entrance" to New York's Fashion District, the needle is 31 feet long, the button is 14 feet wide. Both the design and creation are attributed to a design company with no artist names.
Four stories high at Madison Square Garden. While people lost their minds over the former NFL quarterback's appearance, there are several other great stories highlighted in these ads. My mom worked in Compton for a couple years, and called it one of her favorite places.
Empire State Building

Built in 1933, it is very modern looking. At 1454 feet tall (thanks for the correction guys) , it was the tallest building in the world until 1972!

Madison Avenue

Tessa wants to try one of the $40/hour dog walkers we see in Central Park. Uh, no.
The largest shopping bag in the world (per our guide), holds the corner of Macy's New York - over 2M square feet of retail space in 10 stories over an entire city block. It's famous competitor, Gimbels, closed in 1987.
Several of these make their way through the congestion of the day. Note the water - we're under plastic rain ponchos off and on during the last hour.
Adding a fun-house look to the corner.

Don't jump! 
The detail is fantastic.

So many beautiful buildings - I must have 20 pics of walls of windows!
More than prime real estate, if I owned anything in the city, it would be the scaffolding contract! Two of every five blocks have layers of pipe structures.

The iconic Flatiron Building, built in 1902, is a mere 22 stories. It's history includes several oddities like water-powered elevators (replaced by modern equipment), and a basement level that extends under the road. It reminds me of San Francisco. 

Broadway traverses the length of Manhattan. 5th Avenue is the central dividing line.

We get off the bus at Zucotti Park, the home of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A handful of sign-carrying protesters still move through the pedestrians, out-numbered 2-1 by the NYPD presence.
"Falling water is the embodiment of the gravity to which all earthly things must submit." - Lao Tzu
We end our day at the sobering 9/11 Memorial Park. The footprint of each tower is memorialized by 30 foot waterfalls surrounded by the names of the souls lost when the towers fell. 
You don't leave here untouched by the enormous loss.

Called Reflecting Absence, the negative space memorials honor the buildings and their occupants who left nothing but these footprints.  

This aerial shot captures the power of the voids. The pointed building between the pools is the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

World Trade Center One
The tallest building in North America, the fourth tallest in the world.
While I think seeing the city from the top of a bus is the best, there's nothing that feels like standing at the base of this structure. 
I don't realize how late it is, and am surprised to find the 9/11 museum is no longer selling tickets. I plan to come back on Wednesday, but high temps and humidity cancel those plans. I know I'll cry all the way through, but I will come back to see it.

So we have this empty space along the river....why not build an elevated garden space for walking meditation, and light up the base as a separate art piece? 

Lady donning her evening wear as we return home.

Whew! I get it now. 

The reason it's the city that never's that hum.

We spend the next couple days seeing some of the great diversity of New Jersey.