Had a good visit to New York, though I was on the verge of being sick most of the time. I flew in late Saturday the 4th and checked into the Paramount Hotel, which is just off Broadway up at 46th Street, the heart of Broadway. The hotel was clearly an older one that had been renovated with rooms mostly like mine, small but tidy.
It looked like the owners had turned a decorator loose in the hotel with the instructions to make it moderne la a 30s and 40s, but not spend too much on the process. One touch included colored light bulbs in the elevators, a different one in each. One more touch, probably accidental, was that at all times down in the lobby, there seems to be guys dressed completely in black, just hanging out.
That first evening I had a decent but not stellar barbecue dinner at a place called Texas Texas, a few blocks from the hotel, on Broadway at the north end of Times Square, which, even until late, is as crowded as a theme park — which some people compare it to. It’s quite different than in the early 1980s; the city has, famously, cleaned it up. No complaints from me about that. Nearby, 8th Avenue in Midtown hasn’t especially been cleaned up, reminding me, with its dank little shops, crummy sidewalks and throngs of people, of some of the cities of southeast Asia.
On Sunday morning I rode the subway northward to the area of Columbia University. Though not landscaped much, Columbia does indeed have weighty buildings and the feel of an important university. Not far away is the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the Episcopal see for New York, and a massive Gothic edifice besides. I looked around there quite a while, and stayed for a high-church service that included a visit by one of the local bishops and some baptisms.
Afterwards I walked to Grant’s tomb, which is officially known as the General Grant National Memorial, and run by the park service. I understand that it's been renovated recently, and it looks it — the marble skin, for instance, is a stunning white. Inside, the Grants lie downstairs, and there are a handful of exhibits on the ground level, and one park service employee without much to do. The tomb is located in Riverside Park, a long strip of land overlooking the Hudson River.
Then I took a bus southward. We had to detour because of the New York marathon, and eventually I ended up near where I’d thought of going, the Metropolitan Museum. I’d spend the better part of a day in that one in August 1983, but it’s very large and worth another look. But by this time — 3 in the afternoon — I was more than a little tired, and so I opted for something smaller: the Guggenheim Museum.
The building is an eccentric Frank Lloyd Wright design, a spiral with exhibit rooms jutting off in one direction. Makes you wonder if it was a kind of joke on New York by Wright, whom I’ve read didn’t care for the city much. Still, the exhibits were good. The main temporary show was devoted to six female Russian painters active before 1917 — their takes on Impressionism, Cubism, etc.
Monday and Tuesday I was at my NY office most of the time, though Monday night I had a fine dinner of sushi at a place my managing editor recommended. It was very much like being in Japan, except for the customers. After that, I took the subway to Greenwich Village and walked around. I enjoyed a visit to a jam-packed used book store there, the kind I don’t visit much any more, unfortunately.
On Tuesday evening, I caught an evening flight home. Just as I was getting ready to board, the TV at the gate (CNN, I believe) made the first of the now-infamous Florida predictions: Florida for Gore. The crowd was unusually interested in the TV at the gate that night. I thought there would be a winner by the time I got to Chicago, but of course that didn’t happened.
Labels: food and beverage, historic artifacts and sites, hotels and motels, museums, New York, presidents, religious sites