Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New. York. City!!!

20 August 2014

 Early Monday morning, we got up and caught the way-too-early train from Quebec (Sainte-Foy station) to Montreal, and then switched to the Amtrak train to New York.  The train crosses the St. Laurence River, heads south along the western side of Lake Champlain, and then continues along the eastern side of the Hudson River.  Beautiful scenery, wonderful views, and a long day in a train when you (we) don't have a good window seat.  Oh well, we did okay, and enjoyed the little bit of view we did manage to have.  We played on the internet, caught up with some projects (one of which I'll tell you about later, when it comes to fruition - but a long train ride is a great time to focus on composing something on the computer), napped, read, and of course had our meals on the train from the café car.

We also talked about the trips we want to some day take around the US - Lake Champlain is one of those areas we both want to explore further, it just looks so beautiful, with the huge lake and smaller lakes all around, quaint little villages full of historic sites and lovely old homes, and peaceful little hotels and B&Bs to stay in and relax.  It just looks so wonderful.

Anyway, we amused ourselves until we arrived in New York, at Penn Station (despite the fact that we didn't go through Pennsylvania).

We're staying at a little apartment in Hell's Kitchen (just west of the Theatre District in midtown Manhattan) that we booked through - I think I've mentioned this website before, it's a great way to find a place to stay wherever you might be.  

It's great, we're right in the middle of all the action in Manhattan - and it's a cute little apartment.  The first night there was a young Israeli man staying here in the other bedroom, and last night there was a Brazilian man.  But tonight we have the entire apartment to ourselves.

So we're walking all around Manhattan, enjoying the summer weather (which isn't too hot or humid) and appreciating everything New York has to offer.

I always enjoy the buildings, and during the day there are all kinds of wonderful architectural details and embellishments.  New York is an old city and the buildings reflect the changes in architectural style from the 1800s to the present day.  

So this building - the Worldwide Plaza building - that has a pyramid on top, caught my attention.  The pyramid is illuminated from within at night, glowing in the dark, and apparently hot enough to turn the humidity into steam.  Doesn't it look like the building in the first "Ghostbusters" movie?  Can't you just see Zuul standing on top of the lit-up pyramid?  It looks so weird with the steam glowing around the top of the building like a weather halo!

The Worldwide Plaza has a series of window coverings that are almost cartoon scenes of New York - the taxis, the skyline, street signs, street food carts, the bridges, Central Park - it's all there, little vignettes of New York.  I asked the security guard about these, since it seemed odd to cover the windows, even though I liked the little scenes.  Turns out tourists use these as backdrops for photos and selfies, creating personalized postcards.  So of course we had to try, but Richard isn't my best photographer so I have nothing to show for it.  But we had fun playing tourist (or maybe fashion model) with these colourful backgrounds.

New York is full of little stores and stands, many carrying fruits and vegs, and usually flowers as well.  This is one of the reasons that the summer is the best time to visit - the fruits are ripe, just about everything is available, and the flowers are fabulous.  Prices are good, as well, and if we were here for more than just four days, I'd definitely buy some flowers.

But then, we had one of those crazy New York moments.  On our second night here, we were walking around after dinner.  The weather is warm, things are lit up and the streets are full of tourists and the after theatre crowd, and it makes for a pleasant walking atmosphere.  So there we were, walking along 8th Avenue, minding our own business and looking at shop windows.  A man comes up with a plastic-wrapped bouquet of roses, reaches in and pulls out a single rose, hands it to Richard, and says, "Give a flower to the lady."  Yes, out of the blue, a complete stranger gave us a lovely rose, sort of peach coloured with a deep rosy pink edge on each petal.

So of course we thanked him, he kept walking, and we carried the flower back to our little apartment, trimmed it, and put it in a glass of water.  It really is a beautiful rose, and it's a nice memory of a random act of flowers.

Of course, one of our first meals was at the Carnegie Deli, a favourite for both of us.  If you've never been there, you need to understand that seating is often at long groups of tables, so that you might be seated between a family of four on one side and a couple on the other - with you and your friend sitting opposite each other at a small table.  Just the way it is.  So of course Richard and I chat with the people on both sides, joke about eating (or not finishing) one of the gargantuan sandwiches, all that.

I had my usual, a bowl of matzah ball soup.  We chatted with the people who were newly seated at the end of the table.  By the time my cheesecake came, we were talking - the man had worked for Sports Illustrated, the young woman was visiting from the Czech Republic.  I gave her a taste of my cheesecake.  It's just that kind of place.

It turns out the man had published a book about the murals of New York, which go back to the Victorian era.  I asked if there were still any murals by Diego Rivera in the city, knowing he had been commissioned to create murals in Rockefeller Center in the 1930s as part of the WPA projects, and that the murals were too pro-union and political for the times and were subsequently destroyed.  So, the guy (Glenn) says, funny story, Diego Rivera had two assistants who were working with him, one being Lucienne Bloch - and at this point I interrupt to tell him I studied murals under Lucienne in college - and he gives me a weird look and says this is just too strange.  Continues to explain that Lucienne spent some time teaching art in Michigan, and was his first art teacher!!!  I explained that she and her husband ended up teaching a course on murals when I was a student at The Evergreen State College (in Olympia, WA) because their son was a professor there.

So the Czech woman looks at me and says, this really is a small small world!!!

It was just one of those amazing coincidences that happens, often at the Carnegie!

(Here's a link to Glenn's book, and I'd buy it if I had a house to keep it in - I love murals!!!!! )

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