East Coast 08, part 10: Bee-yoo-tee and cultcha – lawts of it

94 degrees, 64% humidity

First stop, the American Museum of Natural History, “New York City’s Top Family Attraction.” Easy to see how this place suggests itself as the perfect location for a movie like Night at the Museum (Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Owen Wilson). Fantastic exhibits on dinosaurs, birds, marine life, space, cultural histories, science, and more.

Our third day in New York was the third day in a row with temperatures above 90 degrees. That’s an official heat wave. Seemed like even the bustling crowds on the sidewalks were moving a bit more slowly. I’m pretty sure we didn’t bring the weather with us from Seattle; it’s now mid-August here and we’re still picking snow peas out of our garden (usually done by early July) and waiting for the first tomatoes to ripen.

Across the street from the AMNH we entered legendary Central Park. What an oasis.

The Reservoir in Central Park
Rick Anderson

The Reservoir in Central Park

It was my first time in the park, and we saw just a tiny fraction of it. These links will help me remember some of the many reasons to go back there. Central Park is more than six times the size of our favorite Lincoln Park in West Seattle, and has one regular zoo and one children’s zoo, a lake and a gigantic reservoir, and a swimming pool that can be used for ice skating in the winter. There are some very cool and funky structures in the park, including Belvedere Castle, an outdoor theatre, the Obelisk, and a fort from the War of 1812 that still stands. Pope John Paul the II celebrated mass on the Great Lawn in 1995, and the park has hosted musical performances by Paul Simon, Elton John, Dave Matthews, and Bruce Springsteen, to name only a few.

Frederick Olmstead co-designed Central Park (among many other projects, including the grounds of the US Capitol) and was considered the father of American landscape architecture. Following his death in 1903, his sons continued the work of their firm. The Olmstead brothers’ footprint in Seattle is large: they designed the University of Washington campus, and designed, influenced, or recommended more than 60 of Seattle’s parks.

We walked through Central Park on our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I’m drawing a blank on what we saw there – possibly a case of Museum Overseeum. Will check with Susan and fill in any pertinent details later… Update: the only thing Susan could recall was that we had lunch in the museum’s cafeteria, and Zack ordered a $15 plate of sushi and didn’t eat most of it. That prompted two mini-lectures from me on 1) the relative sizes of eyes and stomachs, and 2) money doesn’t grow on trees (a perennial favorite).

Just a couple of blocks up the street from The Metropolitan Museum is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s storied creations. The exterior is altogether distinct in New York’s architectural landscape, and the interior makes one marvel at how such a space could even be imagined, let alone built. I was much much more intrigued by the building than by the featured exhibition of the work of Louise Bourgeois. By the time we’d completed one turn of the spiral galleries I wished she’d get over her fascination with sexual symbols; but then again, none of my art hangs in world famous museums.

After a short plunge in the hotel pool, we rode the subway to Greenwich Village to see Stomp. The Orpheum Theatre is a funky venue – perfect for this kind of show. Fifth row seats meant good eye contact with members of the cast and plenty of dust when they swept the stage. This was just their second performance in NYC since returning for the summer; both the show and the audience were fresh and energetic. We’d talked before about taking the kids to see Stomp, so it was our first choice of all the shows to see in New York. We could not have enjoyed it more.

Performance ended about 10:30 PM – we should get some dinner. Streets in the Village were packed, and it wasn’t the Dockers and polo shirt crowd. Lots of tattoos and piercings and hair colors and leather. Great one-of-a-kind people watching here, but we were ready to eat. Butt to belly in the sea of humanity, we eventually flowed past a Thai place that looked about right, and we squeezed ourselves out of the crowd.

Back at the hotel we were still wound up from Stomp, and happened to catch a guy from Everett, WA, on Letterman’s show. He was doing a handstand on a skateboard for one block on Broadway in front of the theater. More fame and fortune for the Pacific Northwest. Most notably, the guy was in his forties. Yes, Dave, you got your money’s worth.

* * * * * * * * * *

Our stay in the hotel had brought some things to our attention that seemed kind of silly, and resulted in an informal study (conducted by me) titled: Form vs. Function: A Guest Looks at the Empire Hotel. First, let’s establish that the hotel was beautiful, clean, in a prime location, offered many nice amenities, and had a friendly and helpful staff. Also, I don’t think it’s mainly geared for families, and that could account for some of the report’s findings, such as they are:

  • Our room was beautifully appointed and comfortable but smallish for four of us. The beds were firm and wonderful. The hanging closet had a mini-refrig in it, so there was no place to store suitcases. The refrig was full of booze which we removed so we could keep our yogurt, juice, fruit, and water bottles cold instead; it took Susan and I almost twenty minutes to figure out how to fit all the liquor back in when we checked out. Should have asked one of the kids to do it.
  • There was a nice big mirror in the living area but no lights near it, so it was only useful during the day if the curtains were open.
  • The shower (in our room, anyway) had one fixed panel of glass but not a sliding one. Because the showerhead was in the ceiling, it was impossible to keep water – quite a bit of it – from splashing out onto the floor. Even a short shower got the floor pretty wet.
  • Dry towels were stacked on a rack in the shower. Other than one short towel bar on the rack (good for hanging a hand towel or a couple of facecloths) and one hook on the back of the door, there was no place to hang bath towels. We ended up hanging anything that needed to dry from the curtain rod in the living area. No small feat, as the ceilings were about 12′ high.
  • The rectangular sink was very stylish. However, it was too shallow for hand washing (sloshed water onto the floor), useless for face washing (sloshed even more water onto the floor), and the bottom was so flat that it wouldn’t drain (gross for brushing teeth). Other than that, we loved the sink.
  • I thought there was a medicine cabinet behind the bathroom mirror, and nearly pulled it off the wall trying to open it. Suckah. Three shelves above the toilet – excuse me, the commode – were the only place to put toiletries, and they were just 3″ deep. If anything fell off the shelves, including the hair dryer, it could easily fall into the commode unless we kept the lid closed.
  • There was a small ventilation louver in the bathroom wall, but no exhaust fan. Enough said.

One response to “East Coast 08, part 10: Bee-yoo-tee and cultcha – lawts of it

  1. I’ll have to remember to talk to you before my next trip to NY. 🙂 Good memories! I love Stomp. The last time I saw a percussion group I went home and promptly made music with chopsticks on the many musical choices in my kitchen. If I remember correctly Cal even joined in.

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