Friday, October 07, 2005

New York Wrap

This week I’ve focused on details in New York, but I did take a little time to see big things. Such as Grand Central Station, which all official signs tell you is really Grand Central Terminal, since trains terminate there. But years of custom, so widespread that a Texan in Illinois thinks of it that way, make it a station.

Terminology aside, it’s one of the great buildings of the city. I walked through twice this time, once upon arriving, once just before I left. The ceiling alone, arrayed with part of the zodiac, is worth going out of your way for.

I noticed a plaque in that station/terminal I’d hadn’t noticed before, dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I don’t have particular strong feelings one way or the other about her, but the plaque revised my opinion of her some, in a positive direction. It seems that she was an important advocate of saving the building from destruction, back when such a thing was imaginable, even likely, and the plaque thanks her for this posthumously.

I also wandered into St. Bartholomew’s on Park Ave., a large, domed Episcopal church finished in 1918. I took a peek inside a few years ago, but most of the lights were off at that time, and it seemed more like a cavern than a church. This time, it was better lighted, the better to show off the church’s superb Byzantine-style mosaics. I sat for a short time and listened an organist play scales slowly. Better than some concerts I’ve paid money to hear.

And I made to Rockefeller Center for a few minutes. Posters in the area advertised the opening of an observation deck at the top of the tallest building—the Top of the Rock, they call it. I would have paid (some) money to see the city from that vantage, but unfortunately it’s not opening until November 1. Still, that’s a good thing. The Empire State Building needs some competition among vistas, now that the World Trade Center observation deck is no more.

Nearby, in fact in the sunken space that’s an ice rink in winter, Habitat for Humanity was building some houses, which I assumed were for demonstration, and would be removed later. The hammering and banging of house construction were an unusual addition to ambient noise, but not a bad one. It was warm, with the wind above the city blowing clouds over the buildings, so I was content to sit on a bench and watch that and listen to the bang-bang-bang. Note to public space designers: benches need backs. Rockefeller Center’s benches have them, and so invite people to sit down, watch the clouds and listen to the hammers.


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