Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Love New York in the Summer

Nina and I began our New York experience with Manhattan and Morgans Hotel. Designed by Andrée Putnam in 1983, the hotel celebrates a retro-contemporary/faux-industrial visual and tactile experience that starts with the lobby’s elegant “3-D” design carpet and the Spartan somewhat oriental-style furniture and reception desk. We got a room on the twelfth floor and as Nina made herself comfortable in the soft Paris sheets, I negotiated the bathroom with difficulty. As I did the water slide down her sink—WOO! Splash!— I realized that I’d become submerged in Putnam’s world of French subversive design.

Putnam says that, “To not dare is to have already lost. We should seek out ambitious, even unrealistic projects…because things only happen when we dream.” Ah, a lady after my own heart…

Morgans Hotel lies in the heart of Manhattan, on Madison Avenue with a view of the Empire State
Lobby of the Morgans Hotel
Building and blocks away from New York icons such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Grand Central Station, Times Square, Broadway and 42nd Street, Rockerfeller Centre, Radio City and the United Nations.

We wandered the streets, rather aimlessly—letting New York reveal herself in vignettes and catching glimpses of character, texture and history wherever we turned.  

We started with the Empire State Building, whose tiered Egyptian-like Art Deco structure reminded me of Fritz Lang’s “Metropololis”. Towering 1,250 feet, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in North America when it was built in 1931 and is now again the tallest building in NYC. The spire at the top of the building was designed as a mooring mast for dirigibles (anyone remember the cool scene in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?). They abandoned it because of too high winds. Kind of burst their bubble, I guess…

Bryant Park
New York bustles with an intense mercurial energy and New Yorkers are a multi-cultural melting pot of genuine, forthright people on the move. In other words, you need to move to keep up! They bluntly let you know if you’re being stupid and lose patience with you if you lack the confidence and direction that they have come to accept as a given in this city of the self-made man, woman and cat. But, if you earn their respect by demonstrating genuine motivation and intent, they will go to great lengths to help you.  I loved their clean honesty and straightforwardness. You get what you see in New York.

When we reached Times Square, we were greeted with an interesting sight: row upon row of lawn chairs filled the square. The lawn chairs in Times Square form a new initiative of the city (just in time for us!) to open up parts of the town to pedestrians with a traffic ban between 47th and 42nd Streets, turning the once bustling crowded sidewalks and honking horns of thick traffic into a giant urban picnic. The city placed brightly colored lawn chairs along the street to encourage pedestrian traffic. It worked!

Says one New York blogger: “Everyone sits there in haphazard rows facing the Jumbotron, like they
Times Square in the summer
were home in Toledo watching their wide-screen TV. They turn the City That Never Sleeps into The City That Ever Sits."

Our unguarded wanderings led us to one of New York’s hidden gems: Bryant’s Park, a green oasis nestled amid towering buildings in the heart of New York City’s Midtown, located just behind the New York Public Library on 40th and 42nd Streets and 5th Avenue and The Avenue of the Americas. I felt immediately at home as we strolled along the twin promenades, lines by London plane trees (Platanus acerifolia). The plane tree is also found at le Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, and contributes to Bryant Park's European feel. Did you know that these trees can grow up to 120 feet in height? shares that "Bryant Park is a remarkably peaceful space in one of the most urbanized parts of the planet."

Bryant Park
As we rounded toward the south south side of the park, Nina practically shrieked and ran toward an old carousel. As she spun around--thankfully leaving me unscathed on the bench--I reflected that le Carrousel at Bryant Park complemented the park's French classical style. The rounding boards, inspired by the park's elegant baroque-style torcheres along 40th Street, blended rather nicely into the levy canopy of the park's plane trees.

After a few dizzying turns, Nina bounded back, face flushed with joy, and settled us on the outside patio of the Bryant Park Grill. We ordered a wonderful spread of cold meats, cheeses, salads and baguette at The Grill, and topped our feast with an exquisite Merlot.

The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue was showing the exhibit “Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation”. We entered the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to find a stately interior attended by art deco-style receptionist (complete with sculpted hair!). As Nina stood engrossed in some artwork, I glimpsed a mass of New York’s finest in blue from one of the windows. They’d
Officer Montalvo gives Toulouse a ride...
surrounded the library! Leaving Nina gawking at a painting, I slipped outside to see what they were about.

Officer Montalvo, a smart cop with a penchant for small animals, befriended me and told me that they’d assembled to form security for President Obama’s cavalcade, expected any moment. It was quite a while before Nina finally flew out of the library, looking for me in a panic.

Ah…It’s nice to be loved. And speaking of love…I love New York. :-3

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