The High Line and Radio City and the Pope, Oh my!

Another gorgeous day in NYC. It’s barely 27C withe clear skies and a light breeze and I thought I’d go check out the High Line this morning, seeing that it is one of the few things that appear to be open before 10am. Yeah, for all they call it ‘the city that never sleeps’, this place feels like nothing is open until the day is half gone.

Anyway, took a bus down town and went to check out the High Line Park. Even though most of the flowers are no longer in bloom as autumn approaches here, I have to say the whole thing is very impressive. A lovely green haven above the meat packing district full of trees and shrugs, grasses and flowers; benches to rest on and even places to grab a coffee or a bite to eat – all elevated over the busy city streets below. Such a wonderful concept – a 2.5 km long park that has been built on an elevated section of a disused Central Railway spur of the West Side Line. Apparently inspired by a similar garden project in Paris somewhere, it is obvious that a lot of people have put a lot of work into making it such a fabulously useful community space. 

You can get up to the High Line in about ten different places between and many of the access points even have elevators so it is completely accessible. I had a lovely walk through the greenery of the park this morning – it has pretty water features, spaces for laying on timber decks and reading or having your morning coffee and browsing the internet… I can imagine that in a place where no one has a back yard, it would be a very inviting place to come read a book or meet up with friends and hang out. Fantastic.
On my way back, I was looking for a Post Office, and ostensibly heading towards the Rockefeller Centre PO when I accidentally stumbled onto a tour of Radio City. I say ‘accidentally’, because I wasn’t planning on doing this today – actually, I wasn’t planning on doing it at all, but I was back from the High Line walk much sooner than expected, and when I saw the 11am tour lined up to go in, I thought, ‘what the hell’.

Now the only thing I knew about Radio City is that it is the largest theatre in the world – that’s it. And the only reason I knew that much even? It was a trivia question while we were on the cruise ship. The place just wasn’t on my radar for some reason. I acknowledge that I had heard of it before, but unlike many of the American’s on the tour who grew up watching Radio City TV shows and attending concerts, I knew absolutely nothing about the place.
So, Michael the Tour Guide, what did I actually learn?   
Originally J.D Rockefeller, who owned the land known in 1929 as the less than savoury, ‘Speak Easy Belt’ was planning on building a grand opera house in an attempt to gentrify the area, however the stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression put the kybosh on that plan. Nevertheless, Rockefeller decided to build a large complex of buildings on the property that would leave a lasting impact on the city’s architectural and cultural landscape. His plan was to create enormous and superior buildings that would attract commercial tenants even though the city was full of vacant rental spaces due to the Depression. It was ambitious and quite the gamble, and it came to stand as a reprieve from the financial woes of man and became an edifice of future optimism. He hired 75,000 men to build the Rockefeller Centre and the Radio City Music Hall. 
The Radio City Music Hall was to be one of the piece de resistance building in the complex and invitations to tender were sent far and wide for applicants to tender for the project. One relatively unknown designer, a Mr Donald Deskey sent in his tender, that he had apparently spent his last $5,000 on for the work and models to be able to adequately communicate his vision for the building. Fortunately for him, his gamble paid off and he won the job. Deskey chose an understate elegance and grandeur over glitzy excess (I’d love to know what some of the other ideas looked like) and his design included more than 30 separate spaces – the theatre itself, eight lounges, smoking rooms with individual themes and motifs. And he gave the building an over all theme meant as a tribute to “human achievement in art, science and industry”. Art was intrinsic to the actual design of the building, and he hired fine artists to create murals, design wall coverings and sculpture; engaged textile designers to custom design draperies and carpets, and many other craftsmen to complete wood panelling, ceramics, and lighting and chandeliers. The entire building is done in a fabulous Art Deco style that is just as stylish today as it was then. 



  The Grand Foyer is 60′ high and truly awe inspiring…. and I absolutely loved the Ezra Winter mural in the foyer (I was unaware of it but apparently I have also seen works by Ezra Winter at the Library of Congress in Washington and possibly several other Washington civic buildings as well). Ruth Reeves designed the uunique carpet which depicts a multitude of musical instruments. Oh and apparently ‘America’s Got Talent’ is filmed here – though why we needed to be reminded of that so much I do not know (thank you little girl in the tour group). 

 This is what it looks like from Centre stage looking out over the audience…  

 The theatre itself seats 5,905 people. And they can add in an extra few hundred if they build out more seating over the orchestra pit. The curtains weigh a whopping 4000lbs (nearly two metric tonnes) and have their own huge counterweighted system to draw them. The stage itself is 144 ft across – apparently that is half the size of a football field (American football I am assuming), and it can fit 38 Rockettes dancing shoulder to shoulder… it was about this point that I kinda thought, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard of Rockettes before, wasn’t that dancer character in Dirty Dancing who danced the merengue with Patrick Swayze supposed to have been a Rockette?’ Yep. Such is the extent of my knowledge of this enormously well known American institution. Anyway, Rockettes. There’s dancing. And there is lots of them. 

The stage is known as the ‘stage of 1000 illusions’, it has multiple moving parts that are all operated on elevators to raise and lower the stage to go between 26′ below and 13′ above the stage. The whole thing is operated on hydraulic elevators that use 20,000lbs of fluid to lift stages with 250psi pressure. Some guy named Peter Clarke designed the stage in the ’30s and it was apparently so well done, that thee US Military got in on using his technology during WWII, and the stage hydraulic system was kept under guard throughout the entire war to stop other countries from stealing the technology. In 1999 extensive renovations to the entire building were conducted at a cost of some $70 million, and the when they sent in a team of engineers to assess the state of the stage and it’s unique hydraulic systems, the engineers recommend that absolutely nothing be changed to the original 1930s system, as it was functioning beautifully and would continue to do so if maintained the same way it always had been.

  This stage has misty steam vents for genuine fog, the orchestra can be moved about on four different elevators, it has housed a 30,000 gallon swimming tank, held 16 elephants, been transformed into an ice skating rink, a basketball court, a stage for an awards ceremony. You name it – the stage managers and stage hands can recreate any new set required within a couple of hours.


Outside the threatre are is a space called the Grand Lounge where patrons enter and exit their seats and can also find the rest rooms. It has been designed to be ‘soothing and calm and quiet’, which is quite the ask with potentially 6,000 people milling about. Apparently the dark colours, soft lighting and diamond shapes that proliferate this area were believed to promote the use of quiet voices much like a library. It also has several ‘silent ushers’ in the form of large pillars that patrons need to navigate which breaks up the flow of people and allows the actual ushers to manage the crowd better – very clever, I thought.

Attached to the Grand Lounge is the Gentleman’s lounge – read: smoking lounge and bathroom. In the Gentleman’s Lounge is a large wall mural painted by Stuart Davis which was removed in the 60s due to the damage being done to it by the smoking. The smoking was banned and the painting was given to MoMA to attempt to restore it. It hung in MoMA until the restoration in 1999, at which point it was given back to its original position in the mens bathroom. 

On the other side of the Grand Lounge is the Ladies Lounge, which is brighter, softer and has 14 paintings by a leading illustrator from the New Yorker whose name I didn’t catch. There are also two rows of ‘powder tables’ complete with dresser chairs and mirrors where ladies could powder their noses. Also, very quaint, the original 1930 pedal operated hand dryers still work which was very cool.  

In it’s heyday, Radio City Music Hall was a venue for film and stage shows and would host both every single day. But in the 60s, patronage dropped considerably with the advent of television and they found themselves $1 million dollars in debt and forced to close down. By 1978, the building was condemned and was scheduled for destruction… but thankfully saved due to public protests. Radio City was rescued and given a heritage listing, but changed it’s format from being film and stage shows to being primarily a concert hall which occasionally shows films. Everyone has performed here – Meatloaf, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Tony Bennet… you name them they’ve probably had a run here.

 They occasionally still do have film showings on – the first Harry Potter film and the Lord of the Rings trilogy were played, but (and this is kinda cool) they remove the soundtrack and have a full orchestra play the film’s score. Radio City has over 2 million visitors s year now and is considered the “show place of the nation” or something like that. It’s obviously one of those things that the locals are extremely proud of but I had never really heard much about it until today (probably because it is far to modern to be of general interest to a history nerd like me).
Anyway, after checking out all these amazing things about the theatre itself, it was off to meet a genuine Rockette – the perky Becky. We all had our photo taken with Becky (and no, I didn’t buy my souvenir photo with the tall leggy Rockette chick for $21.75 + taxes), but she told us plenty of info about how the Rockette’s were formed, and how they were chosen. The girls have to be 18 years or older, be 5’6″ to 5’10”, be proficient in tap, jazz and ballet dance forms and have an ability to work well in a precision line… they match every little detail for uniformity – hand and foot movements, head and eye direction the whole lot.  

 The biggest gig of the year for the Rockettes is the annual Christmas Spectacular which has been running since the ’30s. The show will be preformed this year 200 times, over 8 weeks, with up to six shows a day. The girls will put in 1600 hours of rehearsal time before they even get to opening night. This year there is two casts of Rockettes of 40 girls each… most of the Rockettes come from the US, but they also have 3 Canadians at the moment, 1 Australian and a couple of Brits. 

 For each show there are 25 dressers and wardrobe staff keeping their elaborate costumes sorted as they have numerous costume changes for each show. All the costumes are designed for quick change turnarounds, and the fastest costume change required for this years show is 80 secs and involves switching 23 pieces of costume in that time frame. 



 Becky tells us that one of the hardest jobs is being a replacement dancer in case something happens to once of the main girls. With 36 girls on the line, there is always 4-5 replacements on standby called ‘swings’ who will rehearse behind everyone in the line and memorising the dance moves of nine different peoples roles in case someone drops out and they have to be thrown in at the last minute. These girls could spend years rehearsing and never actually make it onto the stage. Fascinating, aaand, not a little bit crazy.
After the accidental tour I went for a wander down towards Rockefeller Centre – big mistake! Huge! El Papa is in town and in readiness for his Holiness’ arrival, they have put up barricades on every side street off 5th Avenue to stop vehicular traffic on either side from Lexington to 6th. It’s a freaking mess out there. And to make matters worse as you get close to 5th, pedestrian access has been restricted too by the addition of 8′ tall wire mesh fences! I had to walk one block over and three up before I could get into 55th from 6th, and even then had to convince a cop that I was just wanting to get back into my apartment. The city has obviously learned a trick or two over the years – they are using large sanitation trucks filled with sand parked across each E-W street to block the end of all the barricaded streets (wonder where they learned that trick). People are accumulating everywhere hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pope — bearing in mind that this was roughly 2:30pm and his flight was due to arrive at JFK at 5:30pm, which means by the time the singing and dancing and helicopters and motorcades are all done, it was going to be well and truly 6:30pm – 7pm before he came down 5th to St Patricks. I can see why the residents and locals have got the shits with this. I only hope most of it is gone so I can get a cab out of town in the morning without too much fuss.      Empty barricaded streets… 

Anyway, the afternoon’s plan was to meet the lovely Ms KPeth over at Tiffany’s on 5th (yeah, this was before we saw the over the top security measures put in place), and then off to Times Square in search of cheap theatre tickets. We did manage to meet at the allotted time… I was a little early so got in a pick up meeting with a NYPD officer about what the expectations re: road closures, barricade removal and Pope arrival currently were – was a little surprised to hear him confess that he really had absolutely no idea and that they were ‘providing a presence’ until told to move elsewhere. Good times. Yes, so back to Tiffany & Co. There may have been a very planned purchase from one of us and a complete impulse purchase from the other, but who can resist the shinies. 
After this we made our way down to Times Square again to see if we could find some reasonably priced tickets for a show tonight. You know, last time I was in New York, I remember hating Times Square because 1) it was fucking freezing and I could not get used to the way the wind just cut through your clothes, and 2) it was so crowded with people who were pushing and shoving and jay walking and yelling and touting at you and it all seemed so very chaotic. But now I find, that it’s not so bad. The crowd can get pretty full on, but it is mostly well behaved and relatively polite.  I think I can thank my two weeks in China for giving me a new perspective on just how cheek to jowl and rude a crowd can get… Xi’an and Beijing make traversing Times Square, feel like a stroll in the English countryside.
Anyway, we managed to find some great half price tickets to go see the Jersey Boys – had to be done, we are in New York after all. The show was excellent, fantastic music, all those great familiar songs, and the cast of performers were awesome. Very different from my other recent theatre experiences, but loads of fun. Makes me wish I could take in a few more shows, but alas… tomorrow I’m moving on.

On the way back from the theatre I was pleased to see the removal of the barricades process has already started and with a bit of luck I won’t have too much trouble getting out to the airport in the morning.

All things NYC and a Little Great Wave.

Woke up stupidly early this morning and I meant annoyingly stupidly early – 4:30am – and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Which is a pain in the arse no matter where you are but when you are playing tourist in one of the largest cities in the world, it means you have about SIX HOURS to kill before anything is open.  No shops, no museums, no nothing.  Only thing I could have done was go find a Starbucks after about 7am or head to the park to go for a walk and watch all the crazy dog walkers and joggers go by. Nothing opens until 10am… Grrr!  🙁 

Blargh.  Anyway… eventually it gets to be past about 9am and I decide to go out for my first New York ritual and grab a bagel with ‘just a little bit of cream cheese please’ – yes, of course he still drowned it in cream cheese  anyway, but you gotta ask, no? And then went wandering up Madison Avenue to find the New York Beretta Gallery.  If anyone was watching, a few weeks ago, I was at the Beretta Gallery in London and after screws for my 87 and was duly told they have absolutely no handguns in England, but that I would have much better luck in New York seeing I was headed this way anyway.  So I potter around, (read loiter until 10am when everything opens) and go check out the Beretta Gallery New York.

Very pretty place by the way, looks almost identical to the English one with slightly less plaid.  🙂  I get to chatting with one of the gunsmiths there in the Gun Room and am pretty much told the same thing ‘nope, we don’t have any handgun parts at all’.  WTF?  This is America (Fuck Yeah!) where all the guns are, surely they have a screw for me… but nope.  No screws.  I did have a great chat about concealed carry laws in New York and the US in general and it is nice to know that at least some people working in the industry think that the US has a problem with their attitudes to firearms.     

After being completely unable to get a screw in New York, I decided to walk up town along Central Park to go to the MET.  As promised back when I was in Tokyo, I was again in search of the Great Wave of Kanagawa. It was a beautiful day for a walk and the park is looking all lush and green, not all frozen and uninviting like last time I was here. 
Got up to the MET and have to say I don’t remember the fountain out the front, courtesy of one of the Koch Brothers… must be some sort of willful political blindness.  

I pretty much made a bee-line for the Asian Centenial Exhibition to see this elusive print, and ta-da! There it was, in the flesh, err paper so to speak.    

I know quite a lot of famous works of art that seem to suffer dreadfully from over-reproduction; the Mona Lisa comes to mind… just about everyeon you ever meet who has been to see it in the Louvre will tell you how underwhelming it is considering it is such a familiar and famous work of art.  And it precisely because we see it everywhere that finally seeing it in its original form fails to move us.  This can happen with lots of art works, though there are many really famous pieces that I have seen that do not disappoint – Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Starry Night’ or the ‘Bedroom at Arles’; the Cluny Tapestries; Kandinsky (pick an number, any number); Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’; Monet’s various waterlillies… you get the idea.  When seen in original form, these artworks still have the ability to impress and astound.

I am happy to say the Great Wave of Kanagawa has not suffered from the constant reproductions that I saw of it all over New York, Boston, Japan, China, and even London.  The print is smaller than you might expect, but it has an amazingly subtle texture that is just not evident in photographic or printed representations.    So Mr K, it is still well worth hunting.  🙂 

After conning a Japanese tourist into taking my photo with the art work to prove I actually saw it!  I had a good look through the rest of the Asian Centennial Exhibit.  There were ceramic and pottery items, netsuke pieces, lacquerware, gorgeous kimono and the most stunning collection of painted Japanese screens from the Edo period – more even than I saw in any of the museums and palaces we went to in Japan.  The exhibtion closes in just a few days, so I was really quite lucky to be able to go and see it.

After a quick turn around the MET to make sure no one had moved anything or added anything amazing to the Medieval galleries, I decided I would head back down town via the Central Park Zoo… which I hadn’t been to before, but I was led to believe they have puffins, and well, you know – any port in a storm I guess.  Turned out to be not my best laid plan.
  The Central Park Zoo has obviously been there for quite a long time, I didn’t see a plaque saying when it was established, but I imagine it has been around for ages.  Unfortuantely, many of the animal enclosures evidence old zoo practices where animals are overcrowded or have enclosures too small for their natural habits to emerge.  It was not the saddest zoo I have ever visited – that distinction still rests with the Barcelona Zoo – but it definitely wasn’t a highlight either.  You can tell that there has been a lot of work put into trying to make the facilities as good as possible for the animals, but two grizzy bears stuck in a paddock barely big enough for a pair of Border Collies?  I’ not so sure those poor bears have a great life.  

Anyway, there were penguins, and snow monkeys, a snow leopard, sea lions, red pandas and eventually puffins – but weird looking tufted puffins, not the Atlantic puffins that they have on all the banner pictures around the zoo.  False advertising!  I am just going to have to go back to Scotland one day in the right season and do it right.    

After the zoo, I head back to my B&B and managed to relax a bit with my feet up and a Barq’s Root Beer, which I felt was heartily deserved after all that walking this morning.  At around 4:30pm it was time to head back out and meet KPeth for our first foray down to Times Square to have a poke about, find some dinner and go to a show.

The Pope is going to be here on Friday, which is awesome and people seem excited that he is coming – here he is in his official bobble headed goodness with his best buddies – Batman, Iron Man and Superman.  Go Francis, you’re the Man!  I do wonder though… how does the Pope feel about being turned into a bobble head???   

In keeping with my Asian Centennial theme from earlier today, we ended up at a sushi restaurant for dinner called ‘Black Rice Sushi’ over near 45th and 9th.  I had the terriyaki salmon and tempura vegetables to celebrate finally seeing the Great Wave and the food there was really lovely – shame about the hipster mason jug drink glasses though… you’re a Japanese restaurant, don’t do that.    

Then after dinner onto the show!  Originally we had tickets to see Gigi, but they closed their run down early and we had to choose something else.  Being a bit of a fan of the medieval period, Shakespeare and high brow wit, I suggested we go check out ‘Something Rotten’, which turned out to be a fabulous move.

The performance was awesome fun.  From the moment the cutrains went up to the standing ovation at the end of the show, it was a riotous gallop through all things Renaissance, Shakespeare and musical theatre.  There were just as many outlandish codpieces as I had expected, just as many double entendre jokes and some very impressive costuming goign on – those chorus women were wearing their corsets and stomachers, yet still had an impressive range of movement going on.  The characters were well written and the threatre in-jokes were hilarious, though I am certain I must have missed some of them.  It was a lot of fun, and seeing it on Broadway with such a quality cast was a real treat.  My favourite charcters were Thomas Nostradamus, who was highly entertaining, and the rock star style Will ‘Power’ Shakespeare, who seemed to be channeling Tim Curry.  Just fabulous.  I would highly recommend going to see this show and shelling out for some good seats, it was totally worth it. 


And after all that… I’m really quite exhausted (not to mention my pain levels are through the roof). Good thing nothing opens in this town until 10am tomorrow, hey?  😉 


The Ups and Downs of New York City.

New York, the cool shit and not so cool shit. Well, we have finished up the New York portion of our trip and have had a huge time hanging out in NYC. There is so much cool shit here…

Upsides of New York.

  • The MET. Quite simply one of THE best museums I have ever been to… loved the Impressionist galleries, the Medieval armoury and the decorative arts galleries. The building itself is gorgeously impressive and the bookshop? Well, it’s hard to get out of there with your credit card intact! Love it!
  • The Cloisters. Very cool little Medieval museum that feels a lot like it has been modelled on the Cluny Museum (the Musee de Moyen Age, in Paris which is built in a Medieval convent). The Cloisters holds some of the most beautiful artefacts ever. I finally got to see the Minnastracken casket that I had based my embroidered aummoniere purse on, and had no idea it was so small! It’s a hike uptown to get there, but the Cloisters was worth it.
  • Top of the Rock. The views from the top of 30 Rock were incredible. We went up in the afternoon and waited around for night views and got the best of both worlds… New York by day and by night. Awesome views.
  • The MET Opera. Saw an amazing production, La Boheme, at the Lincoln Centre which itself is an incredible venue. Such a beautiful building and even though we were in the third balcony, we had a fantastic view of the stage. Loved it.
  • Statue of Liberty. Very cool landmark. I always thought it was a bit twee, but after getting to go up in the statue and see out through the crown to the views of Manhattan, I was quite impressed. Add it to your list.
  • All the Art Deco buildings. So much of New York is built post depression/post war and the facades of all the buildings are very well kept. If you ignore the signage and vehicles at street level, you can imagine things haven’t changed that much.
  • Times Square. It’s all happening here, so much going on, so many shops, so many restaurants, so many street performers, so much hype and action. Hard to know where to look.
  • Theatres and other museums. New York seems to have a lot of actual culture available for consumption. I swear you could go to a new museum or a new production or a new exhibition every day for a year.
  • Everything is open late. All the shops and restaurants seem to be open until all hours. Everyone is out every night and walking around the Midtown area in the middle of the night feels open and safe.
  • Starbucks. The coffee is apparently ‘drinkable’ as American coffee goes, you can’t knock free wifi, they have cheap yummy bagels which make a quick easy breakfast, you can find one on every second corner and they have totally replaced McDonalds for this travellers preferred place to find clean toilets.
  • Buses. I like the bus system here (can’t believe I am saying that!). They go pretty much in straight lines – up this Avenue, down that Avenue. Most of the popular routes we wanted to use ran every 10-12 minutes or so, they’re clean and you can see the town a bit while you go.
  • Street vendor food. Mr K loved the quick and easy hot dogs, pretzels and other yummies available on nearly every corner. You can always tell which ones are the best, they will have line ups for ages, like the Halal Guys up near Carnegie Hall.
  • Cheap pashmina. Along with food vending carts, there were happily people around selling items of warmth nearly everywhere… beanies, hats, gloves, scarves, pashmina and all good things.
  • The Waldorf=Astoria. We felt it was a wonderful place to stay and it really added to our New York experience. As it turns out, our friends staying over in Times Square were paying roughly the same (okay, they were actually paying a little bit more) that we were, because I found some great winter discount rates. Hunt hard and you can get a good deal.
  • The Colbert Report taping. In spite of having to line up for two hours in the cold, and in spite of the whole thing being over and done before you know it… it was a lot of fun.
  • ‘Buzz’ of the street. Mr K really likes the pace of New York, the hustle and bustle, the noise and excitement in the air. But personally, I think that comes at a cost (see below).

But nowhere is Perfect (TM), so there are always plenty of noticeable things that kinda make you go ‘wha?’…

Downsides of New York:

  • Fat apartment puppies. EVERY dog we saw being walked in the streets and parks was overweight, and some of them were grossly overweight. These poor dogs live in apartments and have no yards and don’t get enough exercise. Was kinda sad and I think a little bit cruel to keep a Siberian Husky in a New York apartment.
  • The Subway. Ok We had a disagreement over this one. Mr K thinks the Subway is ‘Quick. Fast. Direct, Stops every few blocks. Affordable by the weekly ticket. Goes everywhere. Has unlimited travel for $30/week’. (His tautologies, not mine!) I thought it was disgustingly smelly (can’t imagine how bad that gets in summer), it was noisy and uncomfortable. It was full of homeless people desperately trying to stay warm making a huge statement about the US’s inability or unwillingness to look after its disenfranchised and on top of all that there was unreliable disabled access to platforms. I have trouble with stairs and they were unavoidable, I have no idea how you get around if you are wheelchair bound – it’d be totally fucked. No where near as good as the London Tube for access and I am so glad I never have to go near it again.
  • The ‘security theatre’. Everywhere you go there is this pretence of security, but it is inconsistent. Bags, belts, electronics, jackets and shoes at airports; Bags, belts and electronics at Statue of Liberty; Bags and electronics only at 30 Rock. Bags, belts and jackets at the Empire State Building; Visual bag check and metal detectors only at museums and Colbert… the whole thing feels like a farce. If there was true problems and true concerns to protect these environments and the people in them, you’d think there would be a standard of security required and you’d see the same level of security measures everywhere. It all feels like the appearance of security is more important than actually securing these spaces. Meh.
  • “This is for you.” Got pretty fucking sick of this really quick, people pulling you up in the street and saying ‘here take this hat/card/blessing’ and then when you go to walk away, asking you to pay for said item. Worst one we saw – a little Buddhist dud gave Mr K a card with a blessing on it, and the stood there and demanded $20 for him accepting it. Some Buddhist!! Needless to say he got his blessing shoved back where the sun don’t shine… talk about fucking window licking special.
  • Emergency Service Vehicles. Two things about these 1) You can hear the sirens going 24/7. It is so much part of the landscape in the city, that it becomes background white noise after a while and you don’t even bother to turn around to try and see what is going on; and 2) NO ONE makes way for ambulances and fire trucks on the road. Taxis, private vehicles, buses, no one is moving out of the way for them – I’d hate to be the person dying of a heart attack at the other end, knowing full well that help just ain’t coming because they can’t get through the traffic. So fucked up.
  • Smokers. So many smokers here, and you really notice them thanks to the close proximity of the Humanity(TM). I also hate when you’re walking along a sidewalk and someone will bust their butt to move around you to walk in front of you and then you get stuck breathing in a truckload of their second hand smoke. You can keep that shit.
  • Food is expensive everywhere. Some of this impression might be based on the hanging around the ‘touristy’ areas, and the impression might also be attributable to the taxes not being included in prices on menus, and of course the fucking tipping which drives most Aussies nuts.
  • There’s just too much “America, fuck yeah”. New York overloads on the ‘How fucking awesome are we?’ There is so much flag waving, so much over the top patriotism, and a definitely feeling that saying anything critical of the US could get you stomped on. Enough already, you guys are not the greatest country in the world anymore – ask Aaron Sorkin.
  • This nonsense that passes for Spring weather. Outside temps of 2C and 3C but feels like -6C or -11C and threatening snow, again! So over it. There were many nights we wanted to just go wander the streets and take in the city, but instead found ourselves taking refuge indoors. If this is Spring, it can piss off.
  • But the one thing I really dislike in New York was this, Sense of Entitlement, displayed by many New Yorkers. Now this is a big one for me, and it is big enough for me personally, that I feel I could never, ever live here. I don’t know if it is a lack of respect or a failure to recognise what is, and is not appropriate, but there are so many people here who feel it is perfectly within their rights to disturb the people around them, and they have no hesitation in doing so. For example, it is quite common to find yourself walking along with a group of people who seem to be talking so loudly that EVERYONE around them is forced to hear their inane conversations. Then there are people who will walk four abreast on the subway stairs and make no effort to move over to allow people to pass.

There have been some even more special examples of this sort of inability to act privately in public spaces. We were on one train, and two young black guys got on the train, asked people to move out of the standing area near the doors, put on a loud soundtrack and started dancing and doing acrobatics causing a disturbance on the entire carriage and after imposing their impromptu performance on everyone, they walked around with a hat asking for money. Then there is the guy in Time Square, who no doubts thinks he is amusing, calling himself the Work Out Soldier, who walked up to strangers in the street and started yelling at them like a bootcamp instructor, usually kicking off by telling the person he was assailing that they were ‘fat, lazy, obese bastards who should skip a meal’! No shit, this guy was walking up to people saying this stuff. If he had come near me, I would have given him what for.

Another absolutely mind boggling example of a lack of consideration towards others, came in the form of some plonker deciding it would be funny to hit the ‘stop’ button on an escalator at Penn Station, just as hundreds of people were flowing off a crammed platform after the hockey game. Yep, he thought he’d get to the top of the escalator, and prank his friends by making them walk the rest of the way up… never mind the other people already on the escalator, never mind the hundreds of people still stuck down on the platform that were now going to have to take the stairs – fuck you, you inconsiderate little cunt – you’re not funny, you’re not amusing, you’re not witty, you’re just a self entitled little prick who has no regard for others.

These are some of the more extreme examples of what we ran into everyday, and all I can say is there seems to be a pervasive, and frequently displayed, lack of awareness of what private behaviour is appropriate in public spaces, and a complete disregard for the privacy, space and comfort of others.

MOMA. Not my best laid plan.

After spending the morning checking out the beautifully preserved Art Deco hotel we are staying at – the Waldorf Astoria, I decided to spend a few hours at the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon (MOMA). I knew there were a number of very famous works of art here that I was keen to see and I was particularly keen to see the Kandinskys, but other than those few very well known pieces I was unsure what I would find here.
I understand modern art quite well, and I can recognize important pieces that challenged perceptions of what ART (TM) was, over the last century or so, and understand the concepts behind pushing boundaries and challenging audiences… but at some point I have to acknowledge that while I understand and can appreciate various pieces of modern art – I just don’t like most of it. It’s not to my taste.
Van Gogh’s, ‘Starry Night’. I actually really love this artwork (it’s far more interesting than his sunflowers or his haystacks), it is beautiful to look at and stunning to see Van Gogh’s thick and lush brushwork up close and personal, however, I honestly think that this work, and many others like it, are suffering dreadfully for the constant reproductions that we are bombarded with. I’ve seen this painting replicated on posters, notebooks, scarves, umbrellas, phone covers, coffee mugs and God knows what else. And it seems to get to the point where the artwork starts to lose some of it’s intrinsic beauty, and maybe even value, by this constant repetition. I found myself staring at the very beautiful and famous painting, just one of the tourists surrounding it, and thinking, ‘huh’, instead of ‘wow’. Such a shame really (and no, I didn’t go downstairs and buy anything with this image on it from the gift shop, though there were plenty of options!!!)
Mondrian, for BigSal:
For someone obsessed with the man vs machine made, and whose aim was to try to eliminate the trace of man in his work, his brushstrokes are really far more evident than I was expecting.
Mappe of the World. There are over 100 of these mappes that have been embroidered in Afghanistan by women making a statement about geopolitical changes. (will have to look up the designer).
Jasper Johns:
Pollock: (bet they hung theirs the right way up, the first time!)
A rose from the sculpture garden:
So after a quick whip around and deciding I didn’t need to be there as long as originally anticipated, realise my ambivalence for modern art remains no matter how many priceless masterpieces I am surrounded by.