In April, we had to fly through O’Hare and saw one of these old school Airfones. I almost forgot about these things:
We ate at Culver’s (nearest location to NYC is about 473 miles west in Reynoldsburg, Ohio).
We saw the D-Backs vs. Giants at Chase Field early in the season when no one — no one! — knew that the D-Backs would be that good:
Posted: November 19th, 2011 | Filed under:The Bronx
The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show is one of my favorite things about Christmas in New York. I mean, yes, there is that gigantic tree in Rockefeller Center and, sure, the Christmas windows all around Midtown are a sight to behold, but there’s nothing like taking in the collection of 140 New York City landmarks entirely constructed from plant material (!) in the Haupt Conservatory.
I mean, have you ever seen a montage of Midtown skyscrapers built from plant material?
Dr. Chi hipped me to it a while back shortly after I moved here and that was his point — there is this thing that happens each year where people make replicas of New York City landmarks entirely from plant material. He probably said something along the lines of, “The original Penn Station constructed from twigs — twigs!”:
The old version of the old Yankee Stadium:
Rockefeller Plaza’s sunken plaza:
And my new favorite, JFK’s Terminal 5:
Here’s the original:
Are the Barney’s windows fun? No question! But the heartfelt, homespun tradition at NYBG is really something special. It would be demeaning to call it “outsider art,” but the near-obsessive attention to detail evokes that spirit. And I suppose to a certain extent, the inclusion of model trains is a dog whistle of sorts for the like-minded among us who celebrate that spirit. So be it. Let the Lionel-Industrial Complex have its time of year. But really, a G-gauge Brooklyn Trolley is only gilding the lily. The train show runs between mid-November and mid-January at NYBG (details).
Posted: November 18th, 2011 | Filed under:Manhattan
The 2011 installment of Canstruction New York is taking place at the World Financial Center through Monday, November 21, 2011. The exhibition features sculptures made entirely out of cans of food, and after all is said and done the sculptures will be dismantled and tens of thousands of pounds of food will be donated to local food banks. The creations are quite inventive — they’re made by people who work for places like design firms and architectural firms, and the New York Chapter of the Society for Design Administration organizes it, so, you know, they all look sharp.
Apparently everyone loves Angry Birds:
And the recent Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met made a splash as well:
The other thing in high demand: puns. The top Angry Bird-themed creation is called “Cangry Birds” and the bottom Alexander McQueen-themed creation is called “Alexander McCan.”
Posted: September 13th, 2011 | Filed under:Manhattan
We got the opportunity to see the new September 11 Memorial yesterday. Short, Tweetable version (126 characters): “visually striking, emotionally distant & physically overwhelming, WTC Memorial pulls you in with its dark, almost bleak power”. Or something like that. I kind of hate Twitter.
It actually wasn’t too hard to get tickets — I just went on the website the morning they released them . . . wasn’t nearly as bad as, say, getting an online reservation at Momofuku Ko. And I don’t know if people reserved tickets and didn’t use them or if the organizers are being cautious about how many people they let into the site at one time, but it seemed pretty uncrowded; they could have packed in more people without it being uncomfortable to move around.
Anyway, after so many years, it was incredible to finally see what they did there. The first thing you notice — a fact in itself almost awe-inspiring — is that you’re actually standing in the World Trade Center site again. After ten years of it being off limits, it’s almost enough just to be able to walk around there. Like, Dayenu! There is no pit; you walk in from street level and just roam around. The first thing you do — the first thing I did, at least — was just look around to see what things look like from this perspective:
Since the memorial pools fill the footprints of WTC 1 and 2, the other thing that came back to me was where the towers actually stood; I remembered going to buy TKTS tickets at WTC 2 (probably the last time I went to the WTC, which wasn’t a space I went to very frequently) and could visualize walking up to the building after seeing where the pool sat. I don’t have many memories of the World Trade Center, but the vague ones I did have came back after seeing the position of the pools within the site. Go and see it; I think you’ll get what I’m talking about.
Like I said, you walk in at street level. Unless I’m mistaken, the old WTC site had a raised plaza, like the one at Lincoln Center (and like every other crappy 60s/70s “superblock” style). The memorial is nice in the way that the pools sit at street level. Not to get all Jane Jacobs about it, but this is the right thing to do — after things calm down, I hope the plaza will be connected with the surrounding streets and pedestrians will circulate through the area while they’re downtown. The other thing about the plaza being at street level is that it makes the approach to the South Pool that much more dramatic; the immense gap surprises you when you finally walk up to it:
The first thing you think: Wow, that’s a big fountain. The sound is soothing. It’s huge. There’s so much water there. They were big buildings. Really big buildings.
Then your eyes drop to the visual focus — the pit in the bottom. One thing you don’t understand from the aerial views of the pools — or at least I didn’t — is that you can’t see the bottom of the pit from street level. It almost looks like a CGI effect:
And then you start thinking . . . this is kind of a bleak way to memorialize 2700-plus people. The water, combed at the top to evoke the graceful lines of the towers and falling like white noise below, begins as a soothing effect . . . until it disappears silently into an abyss no one can see the bottom of. Honestly, it’s kind of fucked up and scary.
All of that points to the big mixed message with not only the memorial but the recent memorial service. The “guidelines” the Obama Administration released in advance of this past anniversary suggested expressing “a positive, forward-looking narrative”. Foreboding bottomless black pits seem off-message, to say the least.
That’s not to say that it’s not a fair reading of 9/11 — I can’t think of anything more bleak and senseless than brainwashed, sexually frustrated 20- and 30-something men flying planes into buildings and killing 2700-plus people; I don’t know where you’d even begin to “learn” from that. But as time goes on, the focus on memorializing 9/11 seems, for better or worse, to have some sort of “teachable moment” attached to it — stuff like tolerance or unity or whatnot. That part is missing in the pools, and in fact the pools seem to want you to dwell on the attack and sink down into the abyss with them. The feeling seems very 2003. Which of course makes sense, seeing that’s when the design was submitted.
A real-life example of this mixed message came on Sunday when Paul Simon apparently switched up songs at the last moment and sang “The Sound of Silence” instead of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The former song is mopey and bleak. The latter seems more hopeful. Can’t find whether this was sanctioned or not, but people seemed to love it. Or at least a bunch of commenters on the NPR website, who seem intent wallowing in that narcotic self-flagellating feeling.
When you come across the North Pool, there’s another big thing you notice that you might not have really (no, I mean really) considered when you read about the plans: The fact that there are 2.6 million square feet of office space standing about 50 feet away from this giant death memorial:
One of two things will eventually happen — either people will be depressed having to spend 40-plus hours a week next to a death memorial or the death memorial will quickly cease to mean what it was meant to mean to as people get used to being around the site. Human beings being what we are, I imagine the latter will happen — not a great way to memorialize an event.
For now, however, everyone seems focused on what they’re supposed to be focusing on.
Speaking of which, the organization of the names of those who died during the attacks (including the attacks on the Pentagon, United 93 and the 1993 bombing) is interesting and they have little kiosks to help you find people — type in a name and a printout shows you where to go:
Finally, there’s this: I don’t know how deep the water is at the bottom of the pools, but I wonder how long it will take for some nitwit to jump in the fountain. There’s hardly any barrier preventing people from jumping over (and not in a suicidal way but rather in some kind of thrill-seeking manner):
And let’s be clear: I’m not saying anyone should do it, just that it looks like you could do it. Please don’t do it though; they don’t even want you throwing coins in there, much less you in your ratty skivvies.
Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, which is making some of the best beer in the region (including Brooklyn Brewery? Maybe!):
I read that they were starting to poke holes in the Spectrum, but when we went by there, it was just one lousy hole — one of those ceremonial jabs at a building’s facade. Not sure how much more progress they’ve made on demolishing the place:
SEPTA sold the naming rights of the Broad Street subway line station at Pattison Avenue to AT&T:
I might feel a little disappointed if I visited Philadelphia and saw Independence Hall with a trompe l’oeil top. Some enterprising artist should do something similar to a building like, say, the Chrysler Building — it’d be hilarious:
The new National Museum of American Jewish History has opened just off of Independence Mall:
. . . to the New York Hall of Science, which I had never been to. I love the quirky architecture of the Great Hall, which was originally built as a pavilion for the 1964-65 World’s Fair and which was designed by Wallace K. Harrison (who also designed the Rockefeller Apartments on 54th Street, the Time-Life Building on Sixth Avenue and the master plan for Lincoln Center, and was the lead architect for the United Nations complex):
This is one of the blocks up close:
The Mathematica exhibit (background here) is vintage 1960s — and as quirky and retro as the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History. A really cool treasure:
We also played miniature golf at the Rocket Park Mini Golf course, next to the Mercury-Atlas and Gemini-Titan rockets that were also from the ’64-’65 Fair:
At least one of us loved the cow eye dissection demonstration:
Tried to work off some of the muffaletta by walking around the French Quarter.
It was my first time in New Orleans, so Jen took me down Bourbon Street, which is rather tame during the day:
I was excited to see the Mississippi River, so we walked along the waterfront:
This was our day of sightseeing, so Jen took me to Cafe du Monde where of course I had to try a beignet even though I wasn’t all that hungry. From there we crossed the street through Jackson Square where there’s a statue of Andrew Jackson and visited St. Louis Cathedral:
After Butcher and Cafe du Monde, I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I wasn’t all that hungry when we went to dinner, but dinner was good, too. A post-dinner drink but we weren’t out late enough for the music to start, because people in New Orleans stay out really late. We took one of those super cool streetcars back downtown.
November 11, 2010: Overeating and Overdrinking New Orleans
The coast is healing, and we saw it as we strolled along the beach in Pass Christian. I don’t know that I really knew how badly that part of the coast was hit during Katrina — there is basically nothing left along the road to Biloxi except for stuff that has been rebuilt. It’s really striking — just mile after mile of empty parcels:
And as of November at least, there were still cleaning crews along the beaches:
Tough couple of years for that part of the country — very sad.
Neil had some sort of Neil Simon image of Biloxi in his head — he wanted to see big 1950s Thunderbirds rolling down Main Street. Or something. There isn’t much of that on Main Street in Biloxi:
The first annual Pass Christian Oyster Festival was happening, so we checked out that and got some oysters at Shaggy’s at the harbor there. The oysters at Shaggy’s were coming from Texas, so that was disappointing, but some places were starting to serve local oysters again.
Around 5:30 a.m. I learned definitively that New York has absolutely nothing on New Orleans. Think you’re out late because the bar you were at closed at four? Try stretching that out until 5:30 or later. The time on the metadata here says 5:57 a.m. (actually 6:57 a.m., but I have it set to Eastern time). I’m actually hoping that I forgot to turn the time back at the beginning of November, but I fear that I didn’t . . .
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