New York, New York
• My first visit to the Big Apple was in 1961 with the family on vacation. We stayed at The New Yorker hotel across from Penn Station, saw a filming of The Price is Right, and toured the usual sights - Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Empire State, and Times Square. My dad took my brothers and I to a Yankees baseball game.
• In 1972, I went on a Study Tour with Advertising, Theater, and Public Relations majors from the University of Texas. We stayed in the Century Paramount Hotel which was later remodeled by Ian Schrager into a boutique hotel.
• During the 1970s, I took several trips to New York while working with the Pressman Company to produce and market the Round Backgammon Board.
• While teaching at the Visual & Performing Arts High School in Dallas, I took a great group of kids to see the Big Apple. That got me hooked on guiding student Study Tours to the city.
• At UCO and OSU, I continued the tours with college students. During each of over 20 trips to the Big Apple, I would comment on how much I would like to live there. So, in 2004, I bought an apartment in New York City.
Why I love NY
The best of the best
Some of the best museums, theater, art, architecture, music, restaurants, parks, design, naborhoods, shopping, and historical sites in the country. People who strive to be/do the best often make a pilgrimage for New York City. The high standard seems to encourage a level of excellence unmatched almost anywhere else in the world.
Intellectual reasonable people
New York seems to contain a greater percentage of people who operate more on reason and rational thought than feelings or beliefs. Sophisticated, respectful, civil (New Yorkers rarely butt in line), and educated; New Yorkers like to linger over meals or coffee and converse about issues and ideas. The influx of people (see below) and quality (see above) may foster more of a desire and thirst for rational and tolerant discourse. They seem to be more 'fluid' - they can adapt and flow with their environment.
People from all over the planet, sharing their cultures, recipes, naborhoods, ideas, and festivals enhances the environment and experiences of all New Yorkers and tourists.
The city is one of the major cities on the planet. It is connected and part of the larger world - what happens in NYC often impacts much of the world.
There are so many layers of cultural, visual, and intellectual stimuli. Overlapping. Lives overlapping - words, glances, colors, here and there, each touching us in a different way.
The physical size, the importance, the architecture, and the robust in-your-face attitudes.
The beginnings of the USA - financial, cultural, commercial. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Washington Square, Stock exchange, World's Fairs, Prohibition, art, Bowling Green, Battery Park, Fraunces Tavern, theater, and on and on - years of richness.
The excitement of the sights, sounds, people, and activities contribute to a fluid momentum of energy and enthusiasm. Clerks, waiters, deli people - among others - all have a sense of speed, efficiency, and hustle.
Opportunities to enlarge oneself
The city makes it easy to expand one's horizons, experience new phenomena, grow and learn; assuming one wants to.
Touching the natural world
Ships on Hudson Bay, the waves, birds, the parks - there are numerous opportunities to connect with nature, even in the big metropolis.
Well-known and familiar icons - Empire State, Carnegie Hall, Times Square, the Met, the Statue, Central Park - help one connect to a shared heritage.
The vastness of the city allows endless opportunities to set out on adventures, to find new things, to discover people, places, and activities. True experiences of serendipity - finding the unexpected, the spontaneous.
As a result of the above, the city is full of creative and intellectual stimuli.
A few things to work on
New York City is a great town, no doubt about it. But (there's always a but) here are some suggestions that would make it even better.
Less horn honking
When clerks bag food items, they put in a whole stack of napkins and lots of condiments. I once asked for 2 packets of salt and got a handful. A handful of pepper, too. On the Staten Island Ferry one morning, I ordered 1 breakfast sandwich and 1 bottle of water. The cashier grabbed some napkins. I sat down to eat and counted the napkins - 25. Yes, 25 napkins for 2 items. I got home and wrote a letter to the Dept of Transportation suggesting they could save money and help the environment by giving 2 napkins per food item bought, not 25 napkins. Cutting back on these freebies would cut back on the amount of materials to be thrown away. I have found this one to be true all over the USA but especially pronounced in Manhattan.
There's a lot of trash everywhere - even when there is a trash can within easy walking distance. I often stoop down and pick up trash and put it in the next trash can (granted there are less trash cans around now since some people have become more paranoid that a terrorist will put a bomb in one) but there are still enough around. I do it partly to make the city look better, partly to set an example and show how easy it is, and partly to stupefy the natives. Imagine how great the city would look if every one of 8 million people picked up just one piece of litter each day.
Holy cow! New Yorkers seem to bitch about any little thing. "Fireworks over our head were too loud." "Trucks driving down my street." The examples go on and on. Get a grip - life in the big city will have some tribulations. I don't know if its cuz New Yorkers are spoiled and coddled, are really fragile, or just like to participate in the national sport of bitchin'.
Thoughts and notes from NYC
There is a subtle move that people (mainly males) do in New York City - I call it the Pocket Pat. Its to check, when leaving one's apartment, to make sure one has keys and phone in the pockets before the apartment door locks behind you. Its a quick movement to check for the bulges - simple pats on the pockets.
July 2004, WTC update: The symbolic cornerstone for the new 'Freedom Tower' at the WTC site was laid on July 4th, 2004, accompanied by speeches from the governor and mayor. While it is planned to be the world's tallest building (1,776 feet) it is currently mired in controversy and legalities and it has yet to sign a major tenant. It will get built but the rest of the WTC complex may take many years. The train I sometimes take from Newark to Manhattan goes under the Hudson River and emerges in the basement of the WTC - now just in the bottom of the pit. World Trade Center 7 (the last building to fall on 9/11) is now topped out at 50 stories tall. One more 40 story building is yet to come down - the structural damage is too much to repair. Another building, an older ornate stone structure, is being renovated. Almost everything else has reopened. City, state, and federal governments are offering hefty enticements for development in Lower Manhattan so there is a lot of activity and new stores, restaurants, and offices. Downtown Manhattan will emerge better than before. The city planners and architects are learning from the mistakes of the WTC in 1972. The WTC complex took up 12 city blocks, closed off streets, and turned its back to the naborhood thereby sucking street life and pedestrian activity from that part of downtown. The new complex will have street level retail (instead of the underground mall); streets will be put back in; and space is being earmarked for a performing arts center, museums, and a children's centers - in addition to the 9/11 memorial and museum.
April 2005: Gettin' into the flow. There is a fluid energy that permeates the city - there is a beat, a rhythm, that should be tapped into. If not, its easy to bump into people, to be a nuisance, to be like a tourist. But, once the rhythm is established and one gets into that groove, once can navigate tight openings in crowds, cross streets without disrupting traffic.
So many people are plugged in - they've got headphones on - listening to all sorts of input. This headphone culture has developed a new etiquette. Communicating to people on the street (sales people, passersby) must be done non-verbally - a nod, a smile, mouthing 'No, thank you.' Hearing people is possible but one must work a bit harder to decipher what is being said. Talking to people with earphones on (the dangling wire is the clue) requires a bit more patience.
Listening to music on the iPod makes the entire environment seem a bit surreal. Sometimes the music fits the people, the pace, the activity. Sometimes it defies those things. Either way the music puts a unique twist on the reality of the here and now that is going on.
Sitting in the sun in Union Square. Listening to the Favorites playlist on iPod. Watching people. Got surreal. Time was altered, slowed down. Some were reading. Playing music. Sunning. Soliciting. Seeking petition signers. Cell phoning. Conversing.
It is such a thrill to wait in a hot subway station, anticipating the air conditioned cars but hoping you won't have to stand in a crowd, then looking into the car as it pulls in and seeing three empty seats - room to sit with one on either side for breathing room. Glorious.
I spent several hours at the Liberty Science Museum across the Hudson River in New Jersey. They have impressive exhibits. The day I went was also the day that 2,000-3,000 kids from the Police Athletic League went. Despite that noise and crowd, I observed some neat stuff:
• In the IMax theater (where I saw a big movie about Hurricane Katrina and the loss of wetlands in Louisiana) a chaperon was telling his charges, "Move down" (he meant move along the row). The kids looked confused. They had just climbed up the steep aisle stairs looking for seats. The chaperon could have meant "Move down" (to another row). 'Move down the row' and 'move down a row' are very similar commands. Often, the context helps us determine which is meant, but, in this case, the context didn't help much - "Move down" could have easily meant either option. He had to keep repeating himself and gesturing before the kids understood exactly what direction to move he meant.
• Exhibits that were 'hands-on' were much more popular than those with just text, images, or stuff to look at. Kids even punched 'buttons' that were actually just bolts or circles. This generation has gotten used to a push-button world that was the stuff of science fiction not too long ago.
• In the Communications exhibit, a father was getting impatient with his girls who were at a busted exhibit. "Come on girls, that's not working." "Come on." he repeated. He probably couldn't understand why anyone would stay so long at an out-of-order exhibit. Finally, one of the girls turned to him, "We're pretending". How cool - the girls found a way to make the exhibit work - just use your imagination. Old guy couldn't see it cuz he probably lost his inner child a while back. The girls played a bit longer, then joined dad and the rest of their party who had moved on.
In New York this summer, I went to a great design exhibit called Sauma [Design as cultural interface]. It was a showcase of innovative design from Finland. From the wall text: The task of the designers is to create the best possible solutions by merging the wisdom of tradition and the excitement of innovation. The designers are deeply rooted in the traditions of craftsmanship and cultural environment. They shape our daily experiences by creating tangible objects that give us a way to relate to the world. As keen observers, the designers translate the newest technical innovations into practical tools. Thus design can be understood as a cultural interface that facilitates navigation in the world of ever changing cultural, social, and technical demands. 2006
Gettin' into the flow. There is a fluid energy that permeates the city - there is a beat, a rhythm, that should be tapped into. If not, its easy to bump into people, to be a nuisance, to be like a tourist. But, once the rhythm is established and one gets into that groove, one can navigate tight openings in crowds and cross streets without disrupting traffic.
So many people are plugged in - they've got headphones on - listening to all sorts of input. This headphone culture has developed a new etiquette. Communicating to people on the street (sales people, passersby) must be done non-verbally - a nod, a smile, mouthing 'No, thank you.' Hearing people is possible but one must work a bit harder to decipher what is being said. Talking to people with earphones on (the dangling wire is the clue) requires a bit more patience.
Listening to music on the iPod makes the entire environment seem a bit surreal. Sometimes the music fits the people, the pace, the activity. Sometimes it defies those things. Either way the music puts a unique twist on the reality of the here and now that is going on.
Sitting in the sun in Union Square. Listening to my Favorites playlist on iPod. Surreal. Time was altered, slowed down. Watching people. Some were reading. Playing music. Sunning. Soliciting. Seeking petition-signers. Cell phoning. Conversing.
2006, I was sitting at the Border's Books on 59th and Lexington (I had just come from seeing the Frank Gehry collection of jewelry at Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue). I was watching people meander around the store when one person approached this narrow passage, stood on the floor, and the floor moved. First it moved her forward about two feet (her feet didn't move) and then - and I'm not making this up - the floor she was standing on began to move up at an angle, like a staircase but she didn't have to climb the steps. By golly, she just stood there. What a great invention that is. You stand on the floor, don't move, and the floor takes you up to the next level. You just stand there. Holy cow. What's next - a small room that goes straight up and down?
Summer 2006 with no television. Well, there is a television in the apartment but the antenna only picks up a slightly fuzzy educational station from New Jersey. To get good reception you have to subscribe to cable and I have yet to do that. It doesn't make sense for the few weeks that I would use it. But, okay, here's the real reason - I just hate the cables that are stapled along baseboards and over door trim to get to the television. The jack in this apt is on the opposite wall from the TV. I played with a different arrangement to get the TV by the jack but it just did not work as well. Anyway, a summer without television has been sorta nice. I can go down to the club room to watch the big screen as I have done a couple of times to watch Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, and The Office. I am much more productive without the regimen of television and enjoy my evenings much more walking along the Hudson, talking with people, and interacting with the city instead of with equipment. I will see how much of this carries over when back in Oklahoma. I will try to watch less television. (I subscribed to cable and internet from 2010 to the summer of 2013.)
Two months and 5 days, 66 days total - my summer in New York City is coming to a close - for the moment; I will be back. This has been one of the best summers of my life. It ranks right up there with the 4 summers that I worked at Six Flags as a Ride Operator and the summer when I was 8 or 12 and I slept in my underwear so that in the morning I could simply step into my shorts (that were on the floor next to the bed) and a tee-shirt. I was ready to go play with my friends all day. Interrupted only by my mother calling me in for lunch and by my father who, after dark, came outside to tell us that "tomorrow would be another day" and to come in and get ready for bed. This summer, 2006, was as good as that. Even though my mom didn't prepare my lunch and my dad didn't remind me when to go to bed. But still, they are responsible for my being able to enjoy this city so much.
June 2008. One weekend, I decided I would be quite decadent and act like a tourist kid. Just to have fun. I went to 42nd street between 7th and 8th Avenues. This area was notorious in the 1970s and 80s for being the epicenter of porno theaters and sleaze shops. True story: In 1981, I was leading a study tour and we stopped at the corner of 42nd and 8th Avenue. I told each student to be careful but to notice what goods might be offered to them as we walked the one block to 7th Avenue. I polled the group - every single student had been offered drugs, sex, or both. Fortunately not one of them accepted the enticements. Soon after, the city of New York set out to clean up 42nd Street. Disney was lured in to renovate one of the theaters (the New Amsterdam) and the other theaters were slowly reverting back to legitimate uses, one porno is now even a children's theater. 42nd Street is alive with fun amusements, restaurants, and shops (if you're interested, some of the sex trade moved around the corner to 8th Avenue.) There are 2 movie complexes - one with 13 screens and the other with 25 for a total of 38 screens on one block of 42nd Street. But I went there to see the 3 amusements pictured above.
A Chorus Line (excellent) at 2pm. That was enough time to be amazed by what had been collected and displayed in the Odditorium. After the show, I went back to the 'Amusement Park' and had an early dinner at Applebee's - the appetizer sampler. Dawg, it was good. Then on to Dave & Busters to play some arcade games. But, shoot, I couldn't find Pong, Frogger, or Asteroids. Not only did I not recognize the new games, I couldn't even pronounce the names of some of them. I asked an attendant if that had any good old pinball machines. "Pin-what?" Apparently they didn't. I finally found a game more my speed - one where you shoot coins onto a pile and when the mechanism pushes some of them into a trough, you win. This I could play. I did and I won. I actually got to where it was enjoyable and fun to play. I had played so long, it was time to go home and walk the dogs. But I went back on Sunday to see Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. This was even better than Ripleys. Spooky likenesses, so realistic - more than once I got caught off guard expecting a figure to move or turn and look at me. The settings and info cards were also very well done. After that I went back to D&B, this time to play Trivia: I sat at chair number 4 - my lucky number. I kicked butt. People would stop playing because I kept winning the rounds. I took my winning tickets to their store and bought some tacky crap: 2 books on Ripley's oddities, a push-button fart machine, 5 sets of green train track layouts with 5 wind-up cars and trucks, Homer and Bart dolls for the dogs, and 124 squooshy-spiky balls.
"Where's my face. Everybody stand still. Don't take a step. I can't find my face." Fortunately, two older men and one really wrinkly old lady calmed me down and told me it was hiding behind that ugly thing between my ears. Whew. There it is, right where I had left it. You never know when it might come in handy. Like when you have to eat or blow your nose. Think how hard either of those tasks would be if you had truly lost your face. Thinking that I had better get out of the garden, I headed inside to the gift shop. One of the security guards snickered as I went by. "Yes, I'm wearing shorts!" (Snickered sure is a silly word - snickered.) In the gift shop I bought a t-shirt, not because I needed it but because I was tipsy and this is America where we just buy stuff. I also tried on some cologne but because the bottle was facing the wrong way (or the right way if you were standing behind me and a bit to the left) I sprayed again. Oops, too much. It was a scent called 'At the beach' and it smelled just like Coppertone suntan lotion. So now, too much to drink, I smell like Coppertone, and I'm in line to buy a t-shirt that I don't need. Damn. The guy behind me took a step farther back and told his wife that it smelled like suntan lotion in here. I suspect he, like many of the men there, was jealous that I was wearing shorts. Even the kids were in long pants. People, its a fuckin garden party. The wine was very good. The snacks sucked.
Fall 2008. At the Terrace Cafe on the fifth floor of MoMA, I looked out on a spectacular fall day in Manhattan. I had a lunch of bread, coffee, and organic deviled eggs: black caviar, pickled red onions, and herb creme fraiche. I don't usually eat caviar (hardly ever) but I love deviled eggs and splurged on this. They were delicious.
To respond to numerous requests for more information about the Lace strip club in New York City (8th Avenue, just north of 42nd Street):
• Yes, you might get special treatment if you mention my name. That can range from a waived cover charge to a stud discount in one of the back rooms. However, if you do mention my name, be aware that they know me only as Rod Thrustenberger.
• In the reference above, I mistyped - Lace is not a strip club, its a Gentleman's Club or Gentlemen's Club (its spelled both ways on the signs in the foto). As far as I can tell, a Gentlemen's Club is just a strip club with better cocktail glasses.
• Please keep in mind, I was there only to assess the design of the Lace logo (as seen on the awning canopy in the foto). Anything I know about what goes on inside is only from stories I've read and heard.
January 2009: While riding on the subway, a woman got on with a large trash bag full of something soft - maybe clothes. Even though there were several empty seats, she scrunched her bag and set it on her lap so she wouldn't take up two seats. People were leaving the seat next to her empty, thinking she might want to set the bag there. But she never did. She was so considerate and mindful of her space and the needs of others. I couldn't help but watch this sweet woman. She also had a very nice smile to go along with her demeanor. I was somewhat envious - this woman, with her big load, still managed to be polite, courteous, and considerate of others. I so wanted to say something to her but i couldn't think of the right thing to say. I thought i would at least tell her she had a nice smile. But then my station approached and a crowd came between me and her as i stood to get off. Another opportunity missed. How often i wish i had acted on my impulses.
March 2009 .Thursday evening of spring break, I was wandering around Times Square. I had gone to get a ticket to 39 Steps, a funny comedy; I decided not to and, instead, just walked around with the flow of the crowds. I went into the Marriott hotel to use the bathroom. When I came out, there was a small crowd across the street, right at the end of Shubert Alley, next to a couple of Broadway theaters. Several men held shoulder mounted video cameras and others had some 35mm cameras with pretty good-sized lens. I stopped to see what was going on. Two of the people in the crowd moved towards me and stood right in front of me, within inches. I was a bit baffled. I looked at their faces. One was Matthew Broderick. The other was Sarah Jessica Parker, his wife. I looked down at her scalp - she is a short woman. They both looked sad. There were a few other people near us that I recognized. Very familiar faces, including her mother, Vanessa Redgrave. Then it occurred to me what was likely going on. They were friends of Natasha Richardson who had just died. As I learned later that night, the lights of Broadway theaters were dimmed for one minute in honor of the actress. This group was standing at the best place in Manhattan to see the most theaters. There are about 6 or 8 theaters within sight of the spot where we were. I suspect the lights were dimmed while I was inside the Marriott. Then a tall man came up and hugged Sarah (is it Sarah or Sarah Jessica?) She whispered, "Thank you, Liam. How are you?" Liam Neeson, Natasha's husband. He, too, was sad. "15 years." He kept saying, fifteen years - they were married in 1994. The crowd of celebs took turns hugging and kissing him. One of the well-known faces asked him what he was going to do now. He said he was going to an Irish bar and get a drink. "You know, a traditional Irish wake." Broderick asked him where. He wasn't sure. This was going on all around me. I just stood still, right in the middle while we were circled by the photographers. The footage was aired on the news later that night. With one goofy looking Okie right in the middle. One videographer bumped over and around me - probably hoping that I would move. I didn't. I was tempted to pull out my iPhone and snap some pictures but I didn't want to look like the other tourists around who were sticking their phone cameras into our circle. Liam gave a few more hugs then walked off down Shubert Alley with a friend. The photographers didn't follow him. They left him alone.
July 1 2009. In 1967 Joe Jackson drove his sons from Indiana to the Apollo Theater so they could perform during amateur night at the famous Apollo in Harlem. They had very little money. He wasn't even sure where they would spend the night. The youngest of the Jackson 5 was Michael, 9 years old. They performed and won. The Apollo wanted them to come back but the Jacksons couldn't afford it. Soon after, Diana Ross saw them perform and she introduced them to the rest of us. The Tuesday after Michael died on Thursday, the Apollo Theater held an open house memorial from 2pm - 8pm. It was part respectful memorial, part party and celebration, and part shopping mall. I went to participate in the event. Michael Jackson's music formed much of the background soundtrack for me in the 1980s. Larry Lewis, one of my high school students, treated me to a ticket to the Victory Tour concert at Texas Stadium in 1984. It was a phenomenal concert. MJ can wow a crowd. Even in death. Some issues to ponder:
• MJ was acquitted - found innocent - of all charges in one of the 2 child molestation charges.
• The other case was settled out of court to avoid the negative publicity.
• The mother of 2 of his kids, his family, and friends have all emphatically stated that Michael is not a pedophile.
There is no evidence that he molested anyone. There is precedent, however, that some adults will exploit celebrity millionaires to get money.
• He did not 'dangle' his baby off that balcony. He had a firm grip around the child. Dangle is the term the media used to sensationalize the event and millions of gullible viewers bought it, without thinking that it was the wrong term. I wonder how the media would report it when dads toss their kids up, "Father abandons child in air" or "Dad lets go of child in mid-air."
Michael Jackson had an unusual childhood, a domineering father, success as a star at the age of 9, etc. Of course, he's going to be eccentric. But what talent. An incredible entertainer. And a great humanitarian.
May 2010 - I was enjoying the latest art project in Madison Square Park: Event Horizon by Antony Gormley. Numerous life-size statues perched on tops of buildings overlook the city. It was fun to seek them out and very dramatic to see these characters out of place. There was a crowd gathering so i asked what was going on - Carmen Electra was going to shave guys' chests as part of a promotion for a Norelco shaver. Carmen Electra? Damn, i felt so old - i thought Carmen Electra was a Buick. Seriously.
i was too embarrassed to ask anyone there (who all seemed quite excited over the prospect of seeing this Electra person - or car). It wasn't until i got home later that i researched her: born Tara Leigh Patrick, married to Dennis Rodman, Playboy model, and movie star who got her start in the chorus line at an amusement park in Ohio.
But, back to the park. decided i better stick around to see the eventness of a celebrity with an entourage. was standing in a prime spot - i purposefully got back by where i assumed they would lead her up on to the temporary stage. didn't care about seeing the guys getting shaved, i wanted to see a star in the city. She is quite stunning, i could see why Rodman wanted to pork her and why she was a bunny, and why guys in the park were so excited.
NY is wonderful. Better than I hoped. Weather has been decent - several cool mornings and days (some hot and muggy). Next summer, will come 3 weeks earlier - cooler weather, longer time. I know that spending time in New York City is a privilege I would never have had if my parents had not sacrificed and saved and given to me and my brothers. I thank them almost every day.
I often see people looking at maps, looking at street signs, or just looking lost. I will go ask them if I can help them find something. I have yet to be stumped. In my naberhood there are many questions about the World Trade Center and how to get there - I guide them there and tell them about the exhibits and models of the memorial and new office towers that are on display. I guide people to subway lines, Brooklyn, Times Square, Little Italy, etc. Someone pointed out (while waiting on me to help some lost folks) that it is the teacher in me, wanting to help and guide people. I also wonder if it is the training I got for 4 summers while working at Six Flags to help guests. Whatever, I enjoy it. I want these tourists/visitors to have a good experience in New York and to not think all New Yorkers are abrupt and rude (I don't let on that I'm not really a New Yorker).
I talked to a woman today in Battery Park and she commented/assumed that I was a New Yorker. I nodded yes. It was the first time I had acknowledged the identity of being a New Yorker. Weird but sorta neat.
There is now a serious police presence in downtown Manhattan - and not ordinary police, but these decked-out military style soldiers. There are also National Guard kids stationed throughout the city. Seeing these quasi-soldiers on street corners and in Grand Central reminds me of seeing soldiers in Egypt - a third-world, unstable government. This is the United States of America. What is going on - paranoia, overreaction?
Update 2020/21: there are armed security guards and barbed wire fences around the US Capitol.
Round-trip journeys between OK & NY
States: New York - New Jersey - Pennsylvania - West Virginia - Ohio - Indiana - Illinois - Missouri - Oklahoma
Time: 23 hours 20 minutes
Average speed: 68.3
Gas: $175. $350 round trip
OKC > Effingham IL (Motel 6, Super 8) > Washington PA (Motel 6, Red Roof Inn) > NYC
NYC > Columbus OH (Motel 6, La Quinta) > Springfield or Cuba MO (Motel 6) > OKC
OKC > Richmond IN (Motel 6) > NYC
NYC > Cloverdale IN (Motel 6) > OKC
Effingham is a town whose economy and even survival seems to be reliant on Interstate traffic. There were numerous amenities - many motel and hotel chains, most fast food outlets, even a TGI Friday's and a free-standing Starbucks - a very nice one. Interesting to see the industry that now relies on truck and auto traffic. Dinner: two Whoppers for $3. What a deal. Watched Boston Legal and Will & Grace. Explored the town and the Old Highway.
Washington, just south of Pittsburgh, is also at an Interstate crossroads. After I walked dogs and they went to sleep (I drove around town. A fascinating Revolutionary-era town. Home of Washington & Jefferson College (founded in 1781 - the oldest college west of the Allegheny Mountains). Here also is the restored home of Francis LeMoyne, an abolitionist who was active in the Underground Railroad providing safe havens for Negroes that were coming up from the oppressive south on their way to Canada (he also built the first crematory in the country). The Whiskey Rebellion also took place in Washington; the 1788 home of the leader, David Bradford, is now a national historic site. The Federal government placed a tax on farmers who distilled and sold whiskey. Whiskey was the main money crop of this part of the country and the farmers refused to pay the new tax. This forced the hand of George Washington who ordered 12,000 soldiers into the area to quell the rebellion. This showed the nation that the new government meant business, was powerful, and was willing to use force to enforce its laws. Got gas (for the car) and a KFC platter meal. Watched some TV and read the book Brokeback Mountain.
Richmond, about an hour past Indianapolis (the midway point), is on the old National Road with a highway museum.
Cloverdale is about an hour past Indianapolis. Just a room to sleep.
All listed motels welcome pets with no fee or deposit.
Almost all breakfasts were from McDonalds (1 from Tim Horton's in Columbus)
Along the way
Dog issues: Manhattan vomits before Tulsa. Stopped at McD in Stroud, let her walk. Greyhound Rescue mentioned later that she had been in an accident on this stretch of the Turnpike. She eventually got used to riding in the car. Vegas stayed on the floor
Turner turnpike McDonalds: consistent morning stop an hour from home, it gave the dogs time to poop and prep for 3 days in the car
Tulsa years of I44 construction
Joplin Bonnie & Clyde apt and their escape route, surveyed tornado damage
St. Louis Route 66, Mississippi River bridges, the new stadium downtown, and
Indianapolis with the RCA/Lucas Oil Dome
Columbus Ohio and an Art Deco tower building
Wheeling West Virginia with an old suspension bridge now used as a pedestrian walkway
Farms and barns in rural Pennsylvania. I stopped at a rest area on the oldest section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, opened to traffic on October 1, 1940. This was many years before President Eisenhower funded the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Ike had seen how efficient the Autobahn was for moving troops while he was commanding the army in Europe. He returned to the US to help implement such a system here - originally it was for military purposes - to move troops and equipment quickly and to allow hazardous materials to avoid city centers. The Department of Defense even had to approve the new routes. The original plan also called for 1 mile of every 5 to be level and straight in order to serve as an emergency runway for aircraft. Of course, the Interstate system has come to serve primarily civilian traffic. This old part of the PA Turnpike was fascinating - it followed the right-of-way of the former Southern Pennsylvania Railroad. The overpasses were narrow and embellished with slight Art Deco detailing. Signs before the tunnels read Remove Sunglasses.
National Road US40, walked the dogs along the old s-shaped stone bridge (too narrow for traffic anymore)
Cuba MO unexpected snow storm 2010: after seeing trucks in the ditch and tires slipping, I exited at the next Motel 6. Manhattan and I spent the afternoon and evening watching the blizzard. Walked to McD and Walmart for provisions.
First arrival in New York City
Exciting sign: New York City 135 miles. I saw it and laughed. I was getting close to something I had wanted to do for several years. The drive into the city was quite easy. I took the express lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike to the Holland Tunnel. I caught one stoplight at the tunnel approach then on under the Hudson River into Manhattan, down West Street to my block. I parked in the groj in the building while I took Vegas to pee and then on up to the apartment. I unloaded the car a bit later. Driving in the city was exciting. I drove like a New Yorker, edging my car into tight spots and zipping around the city. I didn't, however, honk or use any gestures.
I parked the car (next to the white suv below left) in a fenced lot up on the north side of Manhattan, on the edge of Harlem - I bought a monthly parking place for $170/month. Great deal (parking near my apt would be around $700). I was able to keep the key and I have in/out privileges if I want to drive in the city or to another city upstate. I went up twice after that to pay the next month's rent and to check on the car. The car was good but a bit lonely. When it was time to make the trip back, I took the subway up to Grand Central; I needed to transfer to the Lexington 4 to get up to Harlem. I decided instead, to take the MetroNorth train up to 125th Street. Right before the subway doors closed at Grand Central, I stepped off and went upstairs to buy a ticket. I used a ticket machine (the lines at the ticket windows in the Main Hall were very long). Trains were leaving in 5 minutes and in 8 minutes. I missed the 5 minute one because I stopped to help some people buy a MetroCard. I made the 8 minute one. I put the ticket behind my glasses by one ear. When the conductor came by to collect tickets, I told her that I must have lost it, I've looked all over and I can't find it. I turned my head as I was talking so she could spot the ticket on my head. She laughed. I went back to looking out the window at Harlem. The train came out of the tunnel at 98th Street and I disembarked at the very nice renovated wood paneled station at 125th Street. I walked one block to the lot, got to my car and started it right up. It had sat for over 2 months but it was rarin' to go. I had planned to get an oil change before the 1,500 mile drive, but I was enjoying driving around so much that I took my time. I drove past the Apollo Theater (recently restored and still hosting amateur nights), up the Hudson Parkway, to Fort Tryon Park on a hill with great views of northern Manhattan, the Hudson, the Jersey Palisades (the parkland of bluffs and trees along the Hudson), the George Washington Bridge, and then to the West Side Highway; past the new Trump apartment buildings, the piers with 2 large cruise ships docked, and on to Chelsea to an Auto Center.
Even though the car was running well and I had the oil changed 1,500 miles ago, I wanted to have it checked over before the journey to OKC. I ate lunch while that was going on - brick-oven pizza, a salad, coffee and New York style cheesecake with caramel and walnuts on top. Then I took the car 2 blocks down to get it washed - it had 2 months of NYC soot and grime on it. Then on down West Street to the apartment. I looked for a free spot on the street but found none, so parked in the garage under the condo building.
Parking: Trump buildings
I would call Icon Parking (a garage operator with numerous properties), give them a dollar amount, and requirement of being near a subway station, preferably an express stop. They would find a garage and call me back with the address. Often, it was in one of the new Trump condo buildings that were not yet fully leased. Their garages (and Donald) were hungry for paying customers - they cut me some pretty good deals - $200 for a month of parking. The Trump garages weren't too far from the 72nd St Station.
The first drive to Oklahoma
Got up on Sunday and finished packing, cleaned up the apt, talked with Allen down at the desk (we have ongoing discussions about politics and religion), and loaded the boxes and other stuff onto a cart and took it down to the groj and loaded up the car.
I drove up out of the parking groj and took a last look at the naberhood. Turned right, went a couple of blocks, and on down into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (under the ventilation building that served as the headquarters for the Men in Black) and drove alone thru the tunnel and up into Brooklyn, a typical city drive until I caught a glimpse of the Verrazano Narrows bridge that connects Brooklyn to Staten Island.
On across Staten Island and on to the Interstate to Oklahoma. Vegas wouldn't want me to do any sightseeing, she didn't need to go to the bathroom for many hours, and she didn't like to get out of the car; I was eager to get on home, so I just drove and drove, stopping only for gas and snax and bathroom breaks at rest areas. Decided that I could get farther than Washington, PA where I had a motel reservation, so went on to Columbus, Ohio. The next day, we also pushed it - driving for over 10 hours, through Columbus, Indianapolis, and over the Masipi River by the Arch in St. Louis, getting all the way to Springfield, Missouri. After walking Vegas and resting a bit, I had dinner at Cracker Barrel and some birthday ice cream with caramel topping and whipped cream.
• Podcasts: History Channel Bios, Bowery Boys NYC, and some enlightening interviews (about 7 hours worth) on freethought from the Center for Inquiry.
• Larry the Cable Guy albums - hilarious.
• Summer musicals: soundtrax from The Wedding Singer, Altar Boyz, and Tarzan.
• New York City mix, Liza Minnelli, Barry Manilow, hip-hop, rock, and more
• NYC Subway: mix of subway entertainers.
• Audio-books: Microeconomics, and woozy about Steve Wozniak, the brains behind Apple computer. Woe is a problem solver, strives to make things better, and seeks clarity and efficiency; thus, he's a designer - of the premier kind. He covers his career at Hewlett-Packard working on calculators, the Home brew Computer Club, the beginning of Apple with Steve Jobs, his airplane crash, the US Festival, the first universal remote control, and more.
The drives to and from were very smooth, I saw lots of great stuff, I got some good work done on the apartment, wrote quite a bit, visited friends - old and new, and experienced the city as a native rather than an occasional tenant. The dogs were conversation starters. We were stopped almost every time we went for a walk. Most trips, I had two dogs - Vegas & Manhattan or Manhattan & Brooklyn. We stayed in our usual cities of Effingham IL and Washington PA - both towns with great history and plenty of travel amenities.
They were some of the best summers of my life. Ranking right up there with the 4 summers that I worked at Six Flags as a Ride Operator (we got paid to have fun) and the summer when I was 8 or 12 and I slept in my underwear so that in the morning I could simply step into my shorts (that were on the floor next to the bed) and a tee-shirt. I was ready to go play with my friends all day. Interrupted only by my mother calling me in for lunch and by my father who, after dark, came outside to tell us that "tomorrow would be another day" and to come in and get ready for bed. These summers were as good as that. Even though my mom didn't prepare my lunch and my dad didn't remind me when to go to bed. But still, they are responsible for my being able to enjoy NYC summers so much.
Inside the Chrysler spire and other tales of the city
Sunny afternoons at Coney Island August 2006 and August 2012
Coney Island was the birthplace of the American amusement park, the modern roller coaster, the looping roller coaster, the dark ride and even the hot dog! It was named by Dutch settlers in the 1600s for the rabbits that inhabited the island - the Dutch word for rabbits is conies).
New Yorkers started visiting Coney Island via a shell road during the 1830's and by the Civil War there were over a dozen hotels and bathhouses on the island. The Golden Age of Coney came with the opening of the first amusement park in 1885 and lasted until about 1910 when horse racing was outlawed. Billed as the "World's Largest Playground", it was popular for the middle and upper classes to get away from the city to the resort-like atmosphere with clubs, restaurants, theaters, and amusements for the whole family. A seedier element was also attracted to the island (it really was an island at first but the separating channel of water was filled in) since the politicians looked the other way when it came to enforcing prostitution, gambling, and alcohol. That, movies, and the automobile (that allowed people to go farther away from the city) all helped turn the tide and Coney Island began a downward spiral. There are plans to revitalize the area today. The Minor League Cyclones play in a new stadium on the site of an old amusement park, AstroLand park is full of new rides, and the Cyclone and Parachute Jump are still landmarks.
In August, 2006, I wanted to go to the beach and experience the historical Coney Island. I rode the subway from downtown Manhattan and, on the train, read a newspaper so I wouldn't look quite like the old geek that I was - heading for a day at the amusement park. Reading the paper didn't seem to fool anyone. About halfway thru the journey, the train rises up out of the ground and travels in a depressed culvert and then up onto elevated tracks as it nears the ocean communities around Brighton Beach. There the tall apartment buildings had surface parking lots in front of them - something I hadn't seen for a while - ample parking lots. I got a glimpse of the ocean - pretty cool. Then disembarked at the NY Aquarium. I walked on an elevated walkway over Surf Avenue (the main Coney drag) and down to the aquarium entrance. Underneath the walkway someone was mowing the grass. Grass. Mowing. I had grown up smelling cut grass every summer of my life. This was the first time for this summer - it smelled great. It brought back memories and reminded me that I would be soon heading to Oklahoma grass. The Aquarium is part of the Wildlife Conservancy Society, along with the area zoos, dedicated to preservation, education, and conservation. There were school bus loads of screaming kids. I don't know why they scream. Maybe they have buds in their ears with music blaring so often that, even when there is no ear piece, they still scream. Maybe fighting to be heard. I don't know, but they were loud. When I saw a herd of yelling kids wearing identical tee-shirts, I knew it was time to go to another exhibit. Saw the sea lion show, typical, but still a hoot, sharks, and fish stuff. Most fascinating: the seahorses with some males bloatedly pregnant - the males carry 300-400 seaponies in them - I don't know what those females must have done or threatened to make that happen. None of the males looked happy; the females were having a good time and the jellyfish. These creatures astound me with their delicate tentacles and pulsating blobby heads/bodies.
Lunch was at Nathan's Original with the best hot dog I have ever had. Granted, I was hungry and I had been anticipating a Nathan's Coney Island hot dog for about a week. Nathan worked for Feltman's restaurant (about a block over) where the hot dog was invented during the early 1900s and sold for a dime. Nathan sold his for a nickel. The public was suspicious so he heavily gimmicked and promoted and finally it became a legend.
Then, I walked down into the ocean. Yeeha, it was cold. Shivering, take-your-breath-away cold when you dunked under. But refreshing (it was hot at the aquarium and at Nathan's) and delightful to be in the ocean in New York City. Then I strolled the amusement parks and went into the Coney Island Museum where a photo shoot of side show freaks was going on. One sultry looking woman had a large albino boa (snake, not a scarf) draped around her shoulders and arms. I moved on. There are still a couple of amusement parks operating along the boardwalk. The Cyclone, the first successful roller coaster, was built in 1927 and hits speeds of 68 mph. The Parachute Jump was moved to Coney from the NY World's Fair of 1939-40 but closed in 1964. The Wonder Wheel opened in 1920 and is still operating today. Most early buildings were wood and they were consumed by one of several fires that devastated the night clubs, restaurants, and amusements. After about 5 hours of the Coney, I headed back to the train and the ride home to a shower and rest. A great day.
2012: It was time to return to the ocean. I only waded. But, that's because I was protecting my iPhone - I didn't want it out of my pocket and I didn't want my pocket to get wet. I also watched people riding new rides at Luna Park, some rides I hadn't seen before. The Cyclone coaster (above) is still there. Of course, I had to go to Nathan's, but, this time, instead of the famous hot dog, I got a crab roll - a crab salad on a warm buttered bun. It was excellent!
The Gates Central Park, New York City 1979-2005
• Christo Vladimirov Jovacheff of Bulgaria and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon of Morocco moved to New York City in 1964. The two have inspired the world with their public art, which has been displayed on four continents and seen by millions. Other works: Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95; The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85; Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Miami, 1980-83; Running Fence, Sonoma and Martin Counties, California, 1972-76, 24 miles long; and Valley Curtain, Colorado, 1970-72.
• Long wanting to do a major work in their hometown, they first proposed wrapping two buildings in the financial district downtown. That project was not approved. In addition to being impressed with the skyscrapers, they were also influenced by the amount of walking done in New York City. They wanted the new project to reflect this pedestrian river of motion and fluidity. Christo and Jeanne-Claude developed the concept in 1979. The city of New York granted permission on January 22, 2003. Christo and Jeanne-Claude took their young son to Central Park everyday - Central Park became an integral part of their lives. It is the New York City site most dependent on pedestrian activity. The gates did not interfere with any existing tree branches. All material used in the project will be recycled.
• 7,532 gates, 16 feet high, 5.5 feet to 18 feet wide, about 12 feet apart, orange fabric panels hang down 7 feet; along 23 miles of footpaths; 15,000 steel bases; 165,000 bolts and 165,000 nuts; 46 miles of hems; $21 million dollars paid by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
I arrived in New York on Thursday, Febuary 17, and went that evening to the newly-reopened Museum of Modern Art to watch 3 films about the installations of earlier Christo works - Wrapped Coast in Australia, Wrapped Trees in Switzerland, and Wrapped Walkways in Kansas City.
Saturday was the big day. I packed water, snacks, and nutrition bars, put on my iPod, hit the Favorites playlist and rode the subway all the way up to 110th Street, the top boundary of Central Park. I walked up out of the subway entrance and saw the gates across the street. The sun was illuminating them from behind. I started to chuckle - it was so joyous. I spent the next 4+ hours wandering and zigzagging the entire length of Central Park, stopping to rest, eat, and drink when necessary. The sky was bright blue and the crowds were animated - thick at times and nonexistent at times. In addition to feeling exhilarated by the flapping orange panels, I also got to know much of Central Park - the hills, trees, brooks, lawns, and buildings. Its a spectacular park and a great otherworldly setting for this huge display of public art. At one point along the journey, I got a swatch of the orange fabric from one of the docents.
As if drawn to a magnetic focus, I returned to The Gates on Sunday - another beautiful day. This time I didn't have the goal of walking the entire length of the park so I was able to slow down and wander. I sauntered and meandered. I listened to music by Philip Glass - a very minimalist composer. His music is very repetitious which was very fitting for the repetition of the gates, the shadows, and the people. I had lunch at an outdoor cafe overlooking a meadow. There were gates blowing above me and in the distance. A great place for people watching. Both days were like a huge festival - people, food, souvenirs, picture-taking, and the gates with their fluid motion and orange color.
I was awed by several things
The very Dadaist approach to allowing participants to experience a familiar environment in a new and fresh way.
The large number of people experiencing the project during the 16 days, estimated by the Park Service to be over one million. The Gates had to be one of the more photographed events held. I enjoyed listening to comments, talking to people, taking pictures, and getting into several group shots. Lots of people turning out to see works of art.
The incredible attention to detail and meticulous craftsmanship by Christo, Jeanne-Claude, the project coordinator, and all the project workers who designed, sketched, plotted, measured, engineered, and installed each of 7,500 structures to provide such an experience.
• Dates: Saturday morning, Febuary 12, to Sunday evening, Febuary 27, 2005. The artists display their work for about two weeks. This aesthetic decision endows the work with a feeling of urgency to be seen, and the love and tenderness brought by the fact that they will not last. Those feelings are usually reserved for other temporary things such as childhood and our own lives. These are valued because we know they will not last.
Governors Island, NYC
Governors Island is a former military post, with roles in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, both World Wars, and the Gulf War; and a National Historic Landmark District featuring 18th century fortifications, pre-Civil War arsenal buildings, Victorian and Romanesque Revival housing, as well as early 20th century neo-classical architecture.The northern half of the island, consisting of approximately 92 acres, has been designated as both a National Historic Landmark District and a New York City Historic District, and features late 18th and early 19th century fortifications, pre-Civil War arsenal buildings, Victorian and Romanesque Revival housing, as well as early 20th century neo-classical architecture.
June 10, 2007 I took the ferry to the island and spent over 2 hours wandering the beautiful tree-shaded grounds and contemplating, writing, touring buildings, and walking along the seawall for great views of the harbor, the statue, and downtown Manhattan. There were times when, while sitting on the grass, I could hear only sea gulls - no sound of the big city, even though I was right in the midst of it. A few of the buildings were open. Some of the Officer's Quarters, the old revolutionary-era fort. There were signs of history posted outside some of the major buildings. Overall, it was a very enjoyable afternoon at a unique spot in the city.
The old ferry building (new one is to the left in the bottom right foto) with its recently restored beautiful detailing.
Looking over the entry cannon and the ferry landing to downtown Manhattan. The old fort Castle Williams, Staten Island ferry, and the statue.
The parade ground and the old Fort Jay earthworks. Below: black line is my walking path.
Bike riding on the island June 2012
I returned to the island. The entire southern portion had recently been opened to the public. I had just turned 60 years old and when I saw the Bike rental tent, I sat in the grass and pondered. I had not ridden bikes in Breckenridge a week earlier but thought how neat it might be. I was a bit afraid of getting back on a bike after so many decades. But, here on Governor's Island, with no cars and open asphalt, I could ride again with less fear. So, what the hell, I did. Wow. It was exhilarating. What a great place to ride - incredible views, trees and shade, and numerous fellow riders. At one point, I rested by a swing set and, again, thought, why not? So I swung like a kid.
I was rode a bike from my building to the ferry terminal. The white blobby sculpture below was a 'cloud' made of white plastic milk jugs and water bottles that had about an inch of blue water in each. Lunch of a shrimp avocado mango salad and a glass of white wine - a splendid way to while away some time in the big city.
Filming movies in New York City Summer 2006 and fall 2010
Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper's Penguins: filmed in the fall 2010. The weather was quite pleasant, but the action was to take place in the winter - the production crew had to create snow and ice. Some foam pieces created drifts, plastic flakes were sprayed on large flat areas, and actual snow from a a snow-making truck was used in areas that would clearly be seen by the camera.
Disney's Enchanted: I read about this one in our local paper - Downtown Express. The filming would be for three nites and in the same area where other films were shot: the Ghostbusters headquarters building; It Could Happen to You in which Nicholas Cage gave a waitress a million dollar tip; and Zoolander with Ben Stiller and a Wilson brother.
Enchanted is Disney's first feature-length film to combine live action and animation since 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
There were blocks of trucks and equipment, lights on many of the buildings, and lots of people working on the set. This one blocked traffic - cars and pedestrians - while filming short scenes. The streets were sprayed down - the scene was to take place right after it rained. The next nite would be the rainy scenes. There was a truck marked Aerial Water waiting in the next block.
Lights up on cherry picker booms. The far one (the lower of the two) also had a lightning thingy that flashed to simulate lightning - it lit up the whole area. Some of the wind fans ready for the rainy scene and a somewhat confused businessman wondering what is going on.
The lady in white is Amy Adams, the princess banished to NYC. The iPod posters show up in the movie.
The set - a billboard for the Palace Casino, 'Where Dreams Do Come True', the princess is below the castle entrance. Another view - in the background, to the left of the bright light, is the Ghostbusters headquarters building.
The Ghostbusters building where Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts worked. This is still a working fire station - the plaque to the left of the arched entrance honors the one firefighter from here who died on 9/11. The sign from the movie hangs inside.
I was walking through Foley Plaza where the Federal courthouse is. That is the building with the large wide staircase that the Law & Order prosecutors walk down at the end of each episode. In the middle of the plaza was a small stage with an arch over it and a wooden banner that read, 'Thank you Spiderman'. I asked someone who looked like he should know, "Is this for the real Spiderman or just for a movie?" He stared at me for a second and let me know it was for a movie - Spiderman III. They were just now building the set; filming wouldn't begin here for another week. A few days later I noticed many cables running along the curb and that many of the buildings had stage lights on the sidewalk aimed up at the walls. I asked a guard (there are post-9/11 security guards all over the city) who mentioned it was for the Spiderman movie and pointed to the flier (film crews have to post notices in the naborhoods where they film). Filming would be that nite. Cool.
Electricians replaced the NY street lights with their own fixtures. These were custom made to fit inside the standard lights but they had a different color-corrected lamp and their own cable to the control tent. The cables were taped down the side of the pole opposite the camera. The cables entering the fixture at the top might show on camera but no one ever seems to notice or care. Every light (and there were hundreds) had its own cable to the control tent (well, groups of lights on a background building were grouped together on one dimmer).Its all about control. The lighting designer needs to be able to dim each lamp independently to provide just the right look for the film.
The dramatic scenes in the Spiderman movies where Toby Keith (that doesn't seem right - who plays Spiderman - isn't it Toby Keith?, its Toby somebody) swoops through the city streets are filmed by remote control. Amazing. A cable was strung between two buildings in downtown Manhattan. These buildings are about 70 stories tall and the cable stretched overhead for several blocks (I can't imagine the difficulty of the logistics of stringing up a strong cable anchored at the tops of two buildings and hoisting it up over several city blocks). From that cable a trolley could move along. From that trolley the camera was suspended on another set of cables. The camera could move up and down on that set of cables. The pictures below show some technicians working on the camera, the camera (dead center in the pic) being raised, a close-up of the camera, and the camera (the white blob) up in the sky. Under a nearby tent, several people were focused on their Apple laptops. There were laptops all over the set - the lighting tent had some, the camera control, and the people coordinating the shoot. So, the buildings were lit up for several blocks around because they would show up in the swooping scenes. The camera trolley would move along one cable and the camera would move up and down on another. This allowed the swooping motion. The camera could even be turned (for when Toby-somebody looks around) as it swoops.
Another scene being filmed at this location was at the Constellation Restaurant (shown below) The second picture shows some of the actors waiting for their scene to be filmed. The women were talking about the latest dish on Tyra and Naomi and other models. The black drape to the left of the picture is there to block some of the light coming from the drugstore which is across the street from the Constellation. There were also taxis and other cars lined up down the street awaiting their cue. The rest of the pictures show various lighting setups, and some of the many people that were working on this set, including off-duty police and city utility people. The last picture is of the crew working the camera which is behind the guy in the red sleeves. The carts held the computers and controls to operate the camera.
The normal city block before and after as dressed for the movie set. Set dressing elements include the awning, decorative panel over the door, name plate on either side of the door, a floor mat on the sidewalk, and a newspaper box for the Daily Bugle off frame to the left. The light fixtures had special movie lamps installed inside.
A couple of weeks later, I was walking to get lunch at Chipotle and, right there in my naberhood, was the Spiderman crew setting up again for another shoot. I took a few pix, went back with Vegas about 7p and shot a few more and then returned about 9pm.
The cables that run up to the street lamp are taped on the off-camera side of the pole. A huge semitrailer full of racks of costumes and a laundry room at the back. A dressing room trailer. Notice the traditional homey doors. Several others, probably for the stars, were single use pull-out style trailers that were the size of a small apartment.
There were trucks parked along several city blocks, equipment all over, and numerous crew people. One scene took place in a small passageway between two buildings - I couldn't see much - just the bright light emanating from the narrow walkway and the hordes of cast and crew milling about on the closed-off street. The picture below looks a lot like Tobey, the star. But its not. I talked with him later that night - he is Tobey's Personal Stand-in Assistant. He said Tobey would not be in a scene until later that night. But they broke for 'lunch' at 10pm and wouldn't film his scenes until later - I went home to bed. The pic on the right is of the director's monitors. I shot it through the window of a cafe where I had dinner.
On Church Street, a crew was gluing a fake sidewalk over the real sidewalk. The fake one matched the color and lines of the real one. The fake one contained a puddle and it was being glued over something - so I don't know if something will come through the sidewalk or they just needed a controlled reflection in the puddle.
The 'normal' sidewalk, after the film crew cleaned up and left.
Another scene apparently involves a motorcycle chase in which the rider gets thrown off, blown up, crashed or something. The stunt crew was rigging a stuntman into a harness suspended from a truss on the back of a truck. In the pix below you can see the cycle seat and handlebars, the camera, and the apparatus to lift the rider off the bike.
The above pictures were shot in the early evening. I suspect the stuntman here is just for a technical rehearsal - to get the timing, speed, and other details worked out. The pictures below were from the rehearsal with the whole scene later that night
The stuntman here looks much more like Tobey. You can see the cables from his harness that will pull him up.
You can also see one cable going to the upper left - this one pulls off his helmet in the other direction. The guys that pull the rope down to raise the stuntman. The water truck in the background drove ahead of the camera truck to wet the streets. Below: Church Street at the back of Trinity Church (hence the name of the street) is on the left, the subway entrance is one I use a lot and I often eat at Cafe World behind the green globe on the right. My apartment building is 4 blocks to the right. The small blank building in the far background is the back of the Men In Black headquarters building.
Many cars and taxis were in the scene. I had talked to one of the drivers. They are professionals - men, women, different ages and ethnics - they got instructions from crew on the sidewalks. After each take, the entire line of cars (in both directions) would back up to their starting point. It was fascinating to watch.
The great equalizer
For one moment or two, corporate executives in polished shoes and three-piece suits stand shoulder to shoulder to someone wearing scuffed work boots and a tee-shirt. From two different backgrounds, but for a moment they share the same objective - the fastest and most efficient transportation to get where they are going. The doors open, they move apart and they go on their own expected journeys. But for that one great moment, all were one with the same immediate objective in life. They shared a common bond, probably the only time in their lives they will share such a bond. This may partly explain why New Yorkers are more tolerant and accepting of others - they share this commonality.
Many celebrated by putting on their best clothes, going out to dinner, and then taking their first subway ride. Some people spent the entire evening going back and forth from 145th Street to City Hall. Reveling in the sheer novelty of the underground and the unfamiliar sights and sensations. For some, all they could do was stand on the platform and gawk.
Birthday: 7p October 27 1904, City Hall, 28 stations, 9.1 miles of track, City Hall to 145th Street.
Borough extensions: The Bronx in 1905, Brooklyn in 1908, and Queens in 1915.
Three systems merged to form the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority):
• IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit)
• BMT (Brooklyn Manhattan Transfer)
• Ind (Independent)
Activities in the subway car
• Sitting in silence and observing
• Reading a book, magazine, or newspaper
• Working a Sudoku or crossword puzzle
• Listening to music on earpieces
One should not:
• Maintain unnecessary eye contact
• Peruse another's reading material
• Graze elbows or any other body parts
• Sing out loud to one's iPod
• Converse with other riders
• Leave trash on the train, take it with you
• Eat smelly foods (or anything)
• Take up more than 1 seat:
In 1972, New York City-based Italian designer Massimo Vignelli redesigned the New York Subway map, which persisted until 1979, with influence from the London Underground map, created by Henry Beck in 1933.
In late 2007, Men's Vogue magazine asked Vignelli to redesign his classic 1972 diagram and update it for 2008. Massimo and his team did just that. It was introduced in Men's Vogue in May, 2008. Still holding to the design principles, the new diagram is even clearer and less cluttered.
Side-by-side comparisons: 1972. 2008. Massimo signing copies for students during the 2008 Study Tour.
Below is a map from a research project at Columbia University that shows all the mass transit for the metro area.
The old days of nickel rides (now its $2.50) and tokens are long gone. With new technology, these credit card sized plastic cards have become the new way to enter a turnstile at a subway station. When I get to New York, I buy an unlimited ride MetroCard for a week or a month. There are 3 subway lines within a few blocks of my apartment and several more a few blocks beyond those (the lines converge towards the tip of Manhattan.) I started collecting expired MetroCards - I built three vertical sculptural columns from 735 recycled MetroCards collected over a period of several months. The cards take on a new life - from utilitarian access to aesthetic repetition. I have gotten into the habit of grabbing the expired cards that have been left in the stations. I don't know what to do with them. I checked at the Transit Center in Grand Central to see if the cards could be reused or recycled. They said no, they're just thrown away. Seems a waste so I'll probably continue to collect them. As of March, 2008, I had collected an additional 2,000 MetroCards that are waiting for some new life or new use.
Free subway rides?
From an article in New York magazine, 2007
Theodore Kheel thinks we've waited long enough for a transportation revolution - the 93-year-old labor lawyer has a plan: double the tolls on the bridges and tunnels, and the subways and buses would be free. Kheel first floated his idea in 1965. Kheel's Nurture New York's Nature Foundation has subsidized a $100,000 study by a group endearingly called the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility. An early look of its scheme reveals that inbound drivers would be charged $16, about what Londoners pay now. About 20 percent of drivers would then opt to leave their cars at home. The remaining tolls would more than replace the $2 fare we now pay. Fare-collection costs - now 6 percent of the MTA budget - would be diverted into handling the huge swell in ridership. “This is one of the major issues of our time. Right now, I've never seen the automobile traffic as dense as it is, and the cost of that is tremendous. We're not going to tell people not to ride automobiles; we're simply going to say you ought to pay your share."
Advertising in the cars and stations
There have been ads in the subway cars for decades - its a great source of revenue for the MTA. Advertisers can buy an entire car or one side - so their messages will dominate the environment. The fotos below show a clever campaign for the Bronx Zoo that dominated this car. The ads look like there is a zoo ad next to an ad for a legitimate retailer (like a book store, cheese shop, or tuxedo rental). Characters from the zoo ad are intervening in the fake retail ad.
Public Art in subway stations
Public art in the NYC subway stations is a very old tradition. Decorative elements in the stations originally were designed to reflect the naberhood above. Canal Street with Chinese characters, Fulton's steamship at Fulton Street, kinetic sculpture and reclaimed original mosaic tile art at Unions Square, etc.
NRW trains • Prince Street Carrying On 2003
More than 2,000 New Yorkers were photographed walking along the street - 194 were selected as the most evocative, varied, and visually readable. Some of the existing white subway tiles were removed and replaced with new identical tiles that had been cut out in the shape of the figures. The title refers to the figures carrying various objects; New Yorkers carrying on with their lives after 9/11, and the "notoriously opinionated and lively" New Yorkers who "really do carry on." Materials: water-jet cut stainless steel, marble, terrazzo, slate
6 train • Astor Place station Untitled 1986, Milton Glaser
Astor Place has two works of art - the original station tiles of a beaver (John Jacob Astor began his fortune in beaver pelts) shown in the upper rite of the first foto below. Later, Milton Glaser created a series of porcelain enamel panels in geometric patterns and color that echo the historic elements but present them in an entirely new way. Glaser went to school at Cooper Union which is above this station. Material: Porcelain enamel on platform walls
NR train • 23rd Street Memories of Twenty-Third Street, 2002
From 1880s-1920s, 23rd Street was a major vaudeville, entertainment, and cultural district. "Ladies Mile," the fashion and department store row was nearby. With the various hats they might have worn, celebrities include Jim Brady, Oscar Wilde, Sara Bernhardt, Mark Twain, and Lillian Russell. The glass mosaic hats are at the approximate height of the figure and labeled with text. Below: Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain.
ACE trains • 14th Street Life Underground, 2001, by Tom Otterness
The scores of figures created by Tom Otterness invigorate and transform the transit environment into a place of joy and whimsy. His small-scale sculptures invoke the subway and lore of the city and include an alligator rising out of a sewer to devour a man, workers carrying oversize versions of the tools used to build the subways, and people sneaking under fences to watch the construction or sweep up piles of pennies. There are also colossal feet and a totem-like sculpture whose human features are formed into the shape of a telephone. Otterness placed his creations in unexpected places-beneath stairs and pillars, hanging from the ceiling, and on benches and railings-to surprise and delight riders as they come upon these humorous and captivating inhabitants. Material: Bronze sculpture on railings, beams, and columns throughout station
123SNRQW trains • Times Square Times Square Mural, 2002, by Roy Lichtenstein
Lichtenstein's' comic-book-dot style includes icons of a futuristic Manhattan. Material: 16 panels, porcelain enamel on steel, 6' x 53'
A pair of shoes that match but neither person saw the other's shoes and they didn't know each other. I have become fascinated with the variety of shoes I see in the subway. There are probably some interesting stories behind or inside most of them.
A tile art conundrum: I notice that text in the older tiles have a border around the letters in the same colors as the background. Some of the newer ones have the rows of background tiles butt right up to the letterforms.
Going to a Yankees game 6:00-11:00p, Monday, May 21, 2007
A friend, Michael, was in town for a few days. He's a baseball fanatic - we tried to get tickets to a Yankee game but, according to their website, they were sold out (except for the $250-$400 seats). So, to satisfy our desire, we booked a tour of the stadium. Incredibly cool. We saw the press box, the field, the honor courtyard, and the Yankees dugout. Our tour guide was an older fan who was very loyal to 'his boys'. The Yankees are the quintessential baseball team. The honor court reads like a who's who of baseball. The Yankees have won 26 World Championships - the second place team, Boston, has won only 10.
After we toured the empty stadium, we checked at the box office - there were a few seats that might be behind the foul ball pole (they weren't). We bought them. We went back into the city and walked around SoHo. Then back to Yankee Stadium for the game. Fuck, what a hoot (Yankees fans say fuck a lot). This was an incredible experience. The Yankees were playing their rivals, the Boston Red Sox, or, as the many signs said and the fans continually shouted - Boston Sucks.
A-Rod gets up to bat and, on the first swing, hits a home run. We also saw Derek Jeter.
I had decided that morning that, during the game, I would get a hot dog and a beer. I had been looking forward to it all day. It didn't disappoint. One of the best meals I've ever had. Damn, just thinking about it makes me want to go back for another. A home run ball came a few rows in front of us and this man fought and got the ball. He immediately lobbed it to his son who was also in the mix trying for the ball. I snapped the foto a few minutes later of the proud papa and son.
My bat souvenir Before and after the game, I checked lots of concession stands inside and outside the stadium - I was looking for a small bat. In 1961, my father took his sons to a Yankees game. I was 10 years old. I saw this small wooden bat pen and asked dad to buy it for me. He did. I cherished that little bat. I really wanted to get one in 2007 - 46 years later. I finally found one at the NY Yankees Gift Shop in Lower Manhattan, not far from my apartment.
The shot below on the right is of the walk from the stadium back to the subway station, under the elevated tracks. This image has been in my memory since 1961 - not sure why - I just remember dad, my brother, and I making that same walk. So, I took the foto from about where I remembered it from 46 years earlier. In my memory, there were less people which suggests that dad had taken us out of the game earlier to get us back to the hotel - mom was probably worried about us being up in the Bronx. In 1961, Battery Park City where I now live, was still a row of old piers - no parks, buildings, World Trade Center, marina - nothing was there in 1961 but the old freight piers.
40th anniversary visit to Woodstock
I saw the original Woodstock movie in 1970 at the Gemini drive-in theater in Dallas. We sat outside on our cars - almost, but not quite - like we were at the festival. I was between semesters at UT. Austin was so similar to the attitudes, music, and spirit of Woodstock, that I felt a special connection with the event in New York. In 2009 I watched the new release of the Director's Cut of the Woodstock movie.
Friday July 3 2009, after walking the dogs, I took the subway up to get my car from its garage. Then on the road. I was listening to a 1969 playlist on my iPod and drinking Starbucks coffee in my power-windowed vehicle. None of which existed in 1969. I drove straight to the site and, instead of starting at the museum, went to the monument overlooking the stage. A bearded guy was sitting under an awning. Serving as guide/docent, he had photos from 1969 on a table and we talked about the festival. He was there and helped work at several locations. He shared great insight and pointed out the main sights to me - the stage, the performer's tent, the helipad, first aid, camping, and the food tents. I walked down into the bowl and onto the flat area where the stage was. Then I drove back up the hill to the museum. There, I enjoyed exhibits and films, had lunch, and took more drugs (coffee).
Woodstock festival, An Aquarian Exposition, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair: August 15-17, 1969; White Lake/Bethel NY, after Woodstock (venue not large enough) and Wallkill (town said no)
Monument overlooking the site of the stage and the bowl seating. The seating area from the stage.
Below: Friday afternoon, August 15, 1969 and Friday afternoon, July 3, 2009.