Our special ‘Members Only” nights at the Met are a lot of fun!
I had just finished Finance class at NYU and I needed a break. I could tell that my Professor wanted to leave early as well and the whole class was lost on learning the Income Statement so it was a perfect time to end the class for the evening.
I had signed up for the ‘Private Members Night’ on Valentine’s Day thinking that people would not attend this event on Valentine’s Day. Boy was I wrong! The museum was packed with people all over the museum. Since the whole museum was not open (the Roman and Greek Galleries on the first floor with the American Wing to the back being open and upstairs it was the Special Galleries and the Impressionist Wing), the areas of the museum including the restaurants and gift shops filled with members dining together for the evening and snatching up bargains such as the 50% ornaments from Christmas at the Gift Shop. I had never seen a Private Members Night so busy. That made it more fun as people were out to enjoy themselves without the pressure of the holiday.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue during the day
Since I had seen most of the museum in the past and time was limited (I had about an hour and a half), I decided to spend my time at the new “Mayan Exhibition-The Lives of the Gods-Divinity in Maya Art”.
The entrance to the exhibition: “LIves of the Gods-Divinity in Maya Art”
‘In Maya art, the gods are depicted at all stages of life: as infants, as adults at the peak of their maturity and influence, and as they age. The gods could die, and some were born anew, serving as models of regeneration and resilience. In Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art, rarely seen masterpieces and recent discoveries trace the life cycle of the gods, from the moment of their creation in a sacred mountain to their dazzling transformations as blossoming flowers or fearsome creatures of the night.
Maya artists, who lived in what is now Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, depicted the gods in imaginative ways from the monumental to the miniature—from exquisitely carved, towering sculptures to jade, shell, and obsidian ornaments that adorned kings and queens, connecting them symbolically to supernatural forces. Finely painted ceramics reveal the eventful lives of the gods in rich detail.
Created by master artists of the royal cities of the Classic period (A.D. 250–900) Maya, the nearly 100 landmark works in Lives of the Gods evoke a world in which the divine, human, and natural realms are interconnected and alive’.
(from the Met website)
These were my favorite pieces from the exhibition:
The Mayan Throne at the entrance of the exhibition
The information on the ‘Throne Back’
The beautiful Jade icon pieces
The Rain Deity
The Deity Figure
The King Jaguar Bird Tapir
King Jaguar Bird Tapir
The Rain Deity
The Rain Deity Column
The Rain Deity
The Rain Deity Column
The exhibition was not that long and I was able to see everything in about an hour. I will have to go back to take some more time to read things but the art was just amazing. The detail work that these artisans had back then just showed how advanced they were without our modern tools. The Jade work was especially impressive.
After I finished the exhibit, I went down to the Impressionist Wing for twenty minutes before I toured the gift shop to see if anything new had come in. The museum must have emptied the storerooms of all the Christmas merchandise they were keeping in storage because there were tables of ornaments on sale fifty percent off. People were snatching things up and the lines were about fifteen deep. I have to say one thing, I was much more relaxed by the end of the evening.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at closing
The museum had such an elegant look after dark. As we left the museum that evening, they gave us each sugar cookies that said “Met Member” on it printed on the icing. It was a very nice touch when we left and it was so sweet. It really pepped me up. It was such a nice warm evening (for the winter) and I decided to walked back to the Port Authority. It was quiet on the Upper East Side and it was nice to walk around.
When I got back down Fifth Avenue and passed Bryant Park, I saw the most spectacular view of the Empire State Building lit in pink for Valentine’s Day. What a site! This is why I love Manhattan so much. Where else do you get a view like this?
By the time I got back to Port Authority, things had gotten a little quieter. I stopped for a quick slice of pizza at the 99 Cent Pizza place down the road from the Port Authority and then headed home.
99 Cents Pizza at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 40th Street at 143 West 40th Street
I put my walk of the Garment District on hold as many of the museums are having their Private Members nights before the holidays get into the full swing. It gives the members a chance to really enjoy the museums before the City gets crazy with tourists and people are beginning to return to the City.
It really was a wonderful night. First it was a warm and clear evening and you could see the stars because it gets dark at 5:00pm. We as members got to the museum before 5:00pm and waited in a long line by the Member’s Entrance on the side of the museum and had to show our COVID vaccine cards and ID. Even though we were all vaccinated, we still had to wear masks the entire time we were in the museum. It was not a problem and did not get in the way of us having a nice time.
For the evening, only the first floor was open and only certain galleries and exhibitions but there was plenty to see and do. In all the galleries, there were docents giving talks on the exhibitions and on the gallery displays that were permanent to the museum.
I started my tour of the museum at the Christmas Tree in the Medieval Galleries. It was decorated for the holidays with full detail but it had been corded off and you could not get as close to it as you once could in the past. They had a very interesting docent who went over the not just the history of the Christmas tree with its German-Pagan roots but how it was decorated by people in different countries at different times of history.
The beautiful Christmas tree is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art tradition
She talked about how the manager and the more religious aspects of the art came from Naples and then made its way to the United States with immigration. The works around the tree were collected over time.
Later that evening, they had a singing trio entertaining the crowd with festive Christmas songs. The ladies were very friendly and had wonderful voices. They really put everyone in the Christmas spirit.
I next went to the “In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at the Met” exhibition in the Robert Lehman Collection. I was viewing all the works by Rembrandt and Vermeer for most of the evening. It was nice to just take my time and look at the works one by one without rushing like you normally do when the galleries are busy. The gallery was full of portraits and still lives and being a smaller gallery, I was not over-whelmed by the exhibition.
In Praise of Painting: Dutch Masterpieces at The Met should not be missed.
I walked through the American Wing to the American Wing Cafe which was mobbed. Every table was taken and what was really annoying is that in some cases, one person took a table and threw all their things on the chairs and were eating by themselves. They should have had a limit on that type of behavior as I could see that patrons were struggling to find a place to sit down. I just decided to eat when I left the museum. A $16.00 sandwich did not interest me. I just could not believe how much the food had gone up at the museum.
I spent the last part of the evening in the Temple of Dendur Wing admiring the building. I looked over all the ancient carvings and symbols and then realizing that this temple was created during the Roman Era. I thought that was interesting. I remember reading in the book “Dancing with Mummies” on the former director of the museum discussing how New York City beat out other cities to get the temple.
Every time I enter the gallery I think of this scene in “When Harry Met Sally”
It represents what is best about the Met
I ended the evening exploring the Greek Galleries since the rest of the Egyptian Galleries were closed for the evening. I really loved looking at the Cycladic Art and the way that the galleries are displayed. Even though I have been touring these galleries since they opened, it is always fun to see something new or a piece that you noticed for the first time again.
There is something unique about Cycladic Art
After I left the Met, I walked along the Upper East Side, walking down both Third and Second Avenues and noticing all the restaurants and stores that have closed since the Pandemic and it was scary to see. I thought that Madison Avenue was bad with all the empty stores and the cops protecting them but the other avenues were just as bad. It will take a long time for this to come back.
When I reached East 72nd Street at Second Avenue, I stopped at one of my favorite Chinese Take-out places where you can sit down and eat, Shanghai Chinese Restaurant at 1388 Second Avenue right near the subway station. I am telling you this is some of the best Chinese food in the City and very reasonable for the portion size they give you (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
Don’t miss Shanghai Chinese Restaurant at 1388 Second Avenue
I had the most amazing Shrimp Szechuan with Roast Pork Fried Rice with a side of Hot and Sour soup, the perfect dishes on a cool night. The soup really warmed me up and the shrimp had a nice fiery flavor to it.
I was so content from the wonderful meal that I ended up walking all the way back to the Port Authority. It was such a nice night to walk back and enjoy the cool air. It really a beautiful night to walk around Manhattan.
After I returned from visiting my mother for her 85th birthday, I had another Members Night at the Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue to attend the gallery talk of the Founders of the Talking Heads singing group, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, talking about their time with the group and their experiences. Then we watched the film documentary “Stop Making Sense”, which was filmed over a series of concerts in 1984. The talk and the film were both amazing. I never knew that much about the group, so it was an eye-opener.
The Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue
Ms. Weymouth and Mr. Frantz had gotten older but really had not changed that much. They were really engaging and such interesting stories about the band and the clubs that they played in the early 1980’s. It was fascinating to hear of the other artists that they knew like Debbie Harry and the Ramones who played the same clubs and the long-closed clubs that they enjoyed like Danceatiria and the Mudd Club.
They also talked about the work they are doing now and the revival of the music that they performed so long ago. It was a real blast from the past and most of the audience like me were either in high school or college when the group was performing so it was a real Gen X crowd that evening. After the talk, they left the stage with a rousing applause from all of us and then we watched the documentary, which really rocked the room. I could almost see people wanted to get up and dance and the applause from the songs after they were finished matched what was going on in the film (I included the link to the film we watched below).
The “Stop Making Sense” talk and showing of the film with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth
The ‘Stop Making Sense’ talk at the Museum of the City of New York: The Concert Film we saw that night.
“Stop Making Sense”
I went home that evening humming all the songs that I remembered from the film. It was such a great evening and I still could not believe that I never saw the film when it came out my freshman year of college.
Still my favorite videos from the early MTV days: “Once in a Lifetime”
The last museum Members afternoons that I attended was the “Sharks” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at 200 Central Park West. This exhibition was open to the members first before opening later in December.
The American Museum of Natural History at 200 Central Park West
I have to say it was interesting and very scientific and technical. I was floored by the number of kids that knew so much about sharks. I was listening to this kid talk to his mother on which sharks were which and he was about eight years old.
The exhibition was on the history of sharks and their habitats and the benefits that sharks bring to the ocean like being bottom dwellers and how their eating habits affect the rest of the ocean population. It was more than the movie “Jaws”.
The exhibition also discussed how sharks have evolved over the years since the era of the dinosaurs and how their population decrease is affecting the rest of the ocean population and food cycles. After about an hour in the exhibition it got a bit over-whelming with the information and I will have to go back again to see it.
‘Sharks’ at the American Museum of Natural History
The exhibition discussion:
After the visiting other parts of the museum in both the Central American Wing and the new Minerals gallery, I went outside and enjoyed the nice sunny day. I ended up walking all over the Upper West Side. Homes were decorated for the holidays and it was festive to see all the garland and trees in the windows and on the outside of the brownstone homes.
For lunch, I went to Tri Dim West, the sister restaurant to Tri Dim Shanghai on the East side at 467 Columbus Avenue for a Dim Sum lunch. The restaurant is right around the corner from the museum and was a nice alternative to the expensive fare at the museum.
I had the most wonderful (but pricy) Dim Sum lunch with freshly made Crab & Pork Soup Dumplings, Roast Pork Buns, Chicken Curry Puffs and a Peking Duck Spring Roll. Everything was made fresh to order and one dish was better than the other. The soup dumplings just slurped off the spoon and burst in my mouth with their juiciness. The roast pork buns had their usual sweetness with the combination of roast pork chopped up wrapped in a sweet dough.
The Peking Duck rolls are delicious
The service was so friendly and welcoming. The guy waiting on me kept spooning the dumplings on my plate. I thought that was taking it to the extreme but it was a quiet afternoon.
It is funny for the people who keep saying that New York City is going downhill and Manhattan is falling apart, yet I see that the museums are doing their best to engage with their members and the public in general with taking all sorts of precautions and safety measures. They are doing their best to keep the public informed while still having a good time.
I started my walk today with a walking tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sometimes the Soup Kitchen gets to be too much before these walks and since making my goal of two thousand hours, I have wanted to calm it down. My next goal will be twenty-five hundred hours but I can take my time on that one.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue
I toured the Asian galleries with other patrons of the museum. The exhibition was the “Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal” which was a tour of the famous crowns of Nepal. The funny part of these crowns were that they had always been in the collection but had been marked incorrectly by museum for the Armory Galleries as helmets. When they discovered what they had in storage, they put them out on display and soon will be restored so we won’t see them again for a long time.
The “Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Napel” exhibition at the Met
The unique part of the tour that the docent told us is that they had never been out on display together since they had been bought to the museum and the first time ever had been displayed at the museum the way they are now. You really had to have the details explained as the symbolism of each crown stood on its own, with their Buddhas and flowers described in detail. All of them were accented with semi-precious jewels.
After the tour was over, I had enough time to walk around the new “Visitors to Versailles” exhibition. This is an exhibition you should not miss while it is open. It has all sorts of the pictures and artifacts on the creation of the building, how it progressed, who visited and how it continued to be added on up to the French Revolution and into the modern times. It was fascinating to see the progress on how it started as a hunting lodge right up to the modern gardens that were installed. Be prepared for at least a two hour visit for both exhibitions to see them properly. It was better than spending the morning cutting vegetables.
The “Visitors to Versailles” exhibition at the Met
I started my walk around the neighborhood at East 72nd Street, walking the lower part of the street passing familiar businesses and apartment buildings. It is amazing how fast scaffolding goes up. It must grow on its own because in just a few weeks, more buildings are surrounded by it or are in the process of being redone or knocked down. As I have said in previous entries, Manhattan is changing at a pace that you cannot keep up with it. You can walk a block and a week later it seems that something is in the process of change.
This is true on the first Avenue I walked today, the ever-changing York Avenue. It just seems like the entire Avenue is being rebuilt. I have never seen so many new buildings going up on one street. The rest of the blocks will certainly be going through the transition.
If you want to tour the FDR Walkway tour of the river, cross over at East 71st Street and York Avenue and cross the walkway here. It has the most beautiful views of the river and of Roosevelt Island. This is one way to get down to East 59th Street and the edge of the neighborhood. You can also cross over the East 63rd Street entrance as well to the river walk.
The Riverwalk along the East River
York Avenue has the Cornell-Weill Hospital between East 71st to East 68th Streets so these are busy blocks and then you pass the tranquil Rockefeller University between East 68th to East 63rd Street where most of the property facing York Avenue is landscaped and park-like and very pleasant to walk by. I just wish the campus was more open like the Columbia is where you can walk around the Quad. At the end of York Avenue at East 59th Street under the Queensboro Bridge starts the exclusive Sutton Place.
As I have said in a previous blog, really look at the beautiful artwork on the Queensboro Bridge, with its geometric designs along the sides, its beautiful tiling and its vaulted ceilings. The now closed supermarket under the bridge must have been amazing to shop in when it was open.
For lunch I stopped at Go Noodle Chinese Restaurant at 1069 First Avenue (See review on TripAdvisor) which was part of a series of restaurants near the bridge. It’s a nice restaurant to sit in and people watch. The lunch specials are reasonable and very good.
I started my meal with an egg roll and then had shredded chicken with string beans for my entree. The food here is very good. The entree was loaded with chicken cooked in a brown garlic tasting sauce with properly sauteed string beans. The egg roll was better than most I have tried at neighborhood Chinese restaurants but standard with roast pork and shredded cabbage. At $8.25 for a full meal plus the soda, not a bad price for lunch and it was lunch and dinner for me.
Their Chicken and String Beans was very good
After lunch, I needed a rest from the large lunch and all the walking and I stopped in Twenty-Four Sycamore Park on the corner of York Avenue at 501 East 60th Street right next to the Andrew Haswell Green Park on the other side of the road. This delightful little park is very popular with the kiddie/nanny set and had kids scrambling all over the place on this hot day chasing after one another while all the adults sat in the shade and talked amongst themselves. It was a nice place to just sit back and relax. I just tried to avoid the squirt gun fight going on.
As you turn to the lower part of First Avenue, you still see traces of the older part of the city but as you enter the higher East 60’s, things start to change. More and more new buildings are going up. The popular St. Catherine’s Park is between East 67th to 68th Streets and according to the park system mimics the Santa Maria sopra Minerva Church in Rome in its layout to honor St. Catherine (NYCParks.org).
This is another popular spot in the neighborhood for kids and adults alike. Kids were running around all over the park while the parents were relaxing under the shade trees. The sandbox seemed to be really popular with the kids jockeying for space in it.
When reaching East 66th Street, you will come across the large condominium complex of Manhattan House, which was built between 1950 to 1951 and designed by Gordon Bunshaft for the firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the modernist style. It overlooks a garden that runs the entire block with two sculptures by the artist Hans Van de Bovenkamp (which you can see from the sidewalk through the windows).
Some of the famous people who have lived there include actress Grace Kelly and musician Benny Goodman. The apartment complex reached landmark status in 2007 and take time to walk around the front garden of the complex. It looks like something in Fort Lee, NJ.
Second and Third Avenues are mostly commercial but have many spots to look over and visit. Walking down Third Avenue past East 66th Street is a plaque on the site of the Nathan Hale, the American Patriot and spy, hanging by the British during the Revolutionary War. The site is much debated based on its location near the Dove Tavern on the Old Post Road. Another is by the Yale Club near East 44th Street. There has been a debate where the Royal Artillery Park was located.
If only Nathan Hale knew where he died would now be a Pier One Store, even he would be shocked. It shows just how much Manhattan has changed.
Down the Avenue at East 60th Street is Dylan’s Candy Bar at 1011 Third Avenue, a giant emporium of candy and sweets, (which I hate to say is an exact copy of the old FAO Schweetz, which I ran back in the 90’s when I worked at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue. It was very reminiscent of the department due to the fact that the designers of the store, store management and buyer all came from the store to work with Dylan Lauren, designer Ralph Lauren’s daughter. My boss, Jeff, is one of her partners).
She took the creation and made it her own in a store that stocks 7,000 types of candy and a small cafe on the third floor. With the inspiration of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, the store leads into a real life ‘Candyland’. The store is stocked with a rainbow of sweets and treats and one of the top tourist spots in the City (Dylan’s Candy Bar press).
I stopped at Bloomingdale’s Department Store at 1000 Third Avenue at 59th and Lexington Avenue, the famous ‘Bloomies’, for another visit to ‘Forty Carrots’ (See review on TripAdvisor) on the 7th Floor. I swear on a hot day this is one of the best solutions. For $7.00, I had a small strawberry yogurt with rainbow sprinkles that cooled me down after this part of the long walk around the neighborhood.
40 Carrots inside Bloomingdale’s New York City 1000 Third Avenue
I got a chance to walk around the store and look at the merchandise. I have to say that the store has changed a lot over the years. It has gotten more upscale and the merchandise more expensive. It still has its past allure but has gotten more elegant in its feel.
Walking back up Lexington Avenue there are a few buildings of interest you really have to see. At 131 East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue is The Studio Building, considered one of the purest Italian Renaissance-palazzo style apartment buildings in New York City. The twelve-story building was designed by Charles A. Platt for developer, William J. Taylor, who had developed ‘studio’ apartment buildings on the West Side of Manhattan. Mr. Platt also designed the other sister building at 130-134 East 67th Street (CityRealty).
The buildings are distinguished by the handsome and large cornice and its very impressive entrance portals flanked by columns and topped with broken pediments on the street-side. The building has a nice tall, wrought-iron fence and four string courses (CityRealty). The buildings were designed landmarked in 1949 for their unique design. Both buildings are quite breath-taking to look at for their elegance.
As you walk further up Lexington Avenue, you will pass the Seventh Regiment Armory, whose entrance is at 643 Park Avenue, that goes the full block from Lexington to Park Avenues (you can see the statue dedicated to the regiment on Fifth Avenue), the Armory was built between 1877-1881 and is considered to have one of the most important collections of 19th Century intact interiors in New York City. It is now used as a performance art space.
The building was built in the ‘Silk Stocking’ district of Manhattan and was one of the first regiments to answer the call of arms by President Lincoln for the start of the Civil War in 1861. It was designed by Charles W. Clinton of the firm of Clinton & Russell and had been a member of the Regiment. It had been used as a military facility and a social club Armory History).
Further up the road between East 67th-69th Streets is the famed Hunter College campus. The students were out in full force when I was walking around the campus. Like Rockefeller University, this college dominates this part of the neighborhood with students and businesses catering to them. The problem is that the rents are getting so expensive, the students can’t support the upscale businesses that surround the campus and I am beginning to notice that there are more and more empty storefronts around the neighborhood. Still, it has a great bookstore to visit.
The rest of Lexington Avenue is surrounded by businesses and apartment buildings that are rapidly changing like the rest of the city. It is funny to walk down these blocks months later to see buildings under scaffolding or businesses that were once a part of the neighborhood for years suddenly disappear.
This is why Park Avenue is so nice. It never really changes. Dominated by pre-war and/or Victorian apartment buildings, it still has the look and feel that it did in the 30’s although there is a lot more money here now than then. Here and there is an old mansion or a small shop and I have found it home to three small but interesting museums and galleries.
At Park Avenue & 66th Street is the front part of the Park Avenue ‘Seventh Regiment Armory”. Built in the Gothic style by architect Charles Clinton in 1880, you can see the real detail of the building on the Park Avenue side. The former home of the Seventh Regiment it is now the home of the performing center.
The Americas Society Gallery at 680 Park Avenue is a unique and small little gallery located in the Spanish Institute. There was an interesting exhibition “The Metropolis in Latin America 1830-1930” on the development of cities in Latin America that was very interesting. Another museum/gallery next door to that is Italian Cultural Institute at 686 Park Avenue, who has the tiny ‘Museo Canova’ with the works of Italian artist Antonio Canova.
His “The Tempera Paintings of Possagno” was cataloged in 1817 and reference is made to those paintings depicting “various dance moves, frolics between nymphs and lovers, muses and philosophers, drawn for the artist’s personal knowledge and delight.” (Museo Canova pamphlet). They were interesting little paintings of nymphs and little angels dancing around each other.
The Americas Society and Spanish Institute is housed in the former Percy Rivington Pyne home that was built between 1909-1911 by McKim, Mead & White. Mr. Pyne was a director of the First National City Bank of New York and the founder’s grandson. The other part of the Institute is the former home of Oliver D. Filley (husband of Mary Pyne Filley, Percy Rivington Pyne’s daughter).
Italian Cultural Institute at 684 Park Avenue is housed in the former home of Henry P. Davison, a financier that was designed by the firm of Walker & Gillette in 1917 in the Neo-Georgian style. All three of these homes were saved by Margaret Rockefeller Strong de Larram, Marquesa de Cuevas in 1965 and all three of these homes (now Institutes) were designated as a New York City landmark by the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission on November 10, 1970. Take time to look at the plaques attached to the three buildings and the architecture of the homes. It forms one of the last intact architectural ensembles on Park Avenue (Wiki).
Further up Park Avenue is the Asian Society and Museum at 725 Park Avenue which was founded by John D. Rockefeller III in 1956 with a vision, to create an institute that would build bridges of understanding between the United States and Asia (Asian Society pamphlet). The museum houses the collection of John D. Rockefeller III on the third floor along with an exhibition of local children’s art and their interpretation of Asian Art. The bottom level houses a well-received restaurant and gift shop. It is an interesting exhibition on Hindu and Buddhist Art.
Madison Avenue also offers a wide array of interesting architecture and retail stores. At the very top of Madison Avenue is the home of the main store of Ralph Lauren, which is housed in the former Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo Mansion.
The home was built by the old money heiress between 1893-1898 designed by Kimball & Thompson in the French Renaissance revival design. It has been leased by Ralph Lauren since 1983, whose company redesigned it as a retail store. This is a store that proves that the ‘brick & mortar’ store is not dead with its elegant displays of merchandise.
Madison Avenue from East 72nd Street to 59th Street is really an Avenue of extremes. Just like the uptown blocks from East 72nd to East 96th Streets is full of extremely expensive but always empty looking stores. More and more of the store fronts are empty as even the raising rents are affecting this area of the city as well. Still, it is a great Avenue to window shop.
Still, you will find a collection of top American and European upscale shops that cater to that ‘certain’ customer. Needless to say, this part of Madison Avenue I never notice that busy and late at night the Avenue is practically barren.
One stands out on the Avenue is the St. James Church at 865 Madison Avenue near the Ralph Lauren store. This graceful and beautiful Episcopalian church was built 1810-1883 in various locations until in 1884, the present church designed by Robert H. Robertson was designed and built to open in 1885 in the Romanesque style. It has been added onto since the church has been built. Look at the graceful details around the church when you pass by.
I reached the top of Fifth Avenue that evening and was totally pooped! It was 8:20pm and starting to get dark. I just wanted to get back home at that point. I don’t where I garnered the energy, but I walked from Fifth Avenue and East 72nd Street to Port Authority at West 42nd Street and collapsed on the bus ride home.
On the 25th of May, I started my day at the Soup Kitchen again lucking out at a somewhat quiet day working on the Bread Station. We did not get any donations of sweets or desserts, so it was just bread today and we were able to butter away.
I walked up Sixth Avenue to the Museum of Modern Art to pick up tickets for the museum’s restoration of the movie, “Rosita” with Mary Pickford. This silent film had been all but lost until a print was found in Germany. Most of Mary Pickford’s films were destroyed by the actress herself who I had once read in biography that she did not want to see herself in old films. Pity, she would have been thrilled to see the theater was packed to the gills and they were turning people away.
I had lunch at Halal Guys food cart on the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 53rd Street. I have been coming here for years and the lines for their food always keep increasing (See review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
I had one of their combo sandwiches ($6.00), which is loaded with chopped chicken and gyro meat on a soft pita bread. It is so good, and I highly recommend it when visiting the MoMA. It is nice to have a sandwich or one of their platters and just sit by the stone benches by the CBS Building and watch the world go by.
Halal Brothers cart is always busy on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 54th Street
I started my walk of the Upper East Side with a walk-through Central Park. On the way to the pathway into the park, I noticed a rather weird sculpture by British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibane entitled “The Wind Sculpture”.
The artist created this sculpture to replace a more radical sculpture that had been taken down. The theme behind the piece is tolerance and highlights global migration (The Guardian). The artist concentrates on the themes of Colonial and Post-Colonial art.
As you pass the Batik colored sculpture, you will enter the walk way to Central Park Zoo, one of the biggest tourist spots for kids in the City. The Zoo, which is now part of the Wildlife Conservatory, has been part of Central Park since the 1860’s and then was renovated again in 1934. The current park was designed in 1984 and was reopened in 1988.
The Wind Sculpture at the entrance of Central Park off Fifth Avenue
Like the rest of Central Park in the 1970’s and 80’s, the place got run down. Now it is more open and naturalistic to the animal’s home environment. Don’t miss the seal tanks and the penguin room as I find those the most interesting to visit. Try to get to the seal feeding at 2:00pm when the seals are not too tired of looking at tourists. The gardens are nice along the perimeter of the zoo to just sit and relax on a warm sunny day.
One thing not to miss is the Delacorte Clock just outside of the park. Every half hour, the clock chimes and all the animals do a dance routine. It starts with two monkeys’ hitting the bell and then the animals dance around the clock. There is an elephant, goat, bear, kangaroo, penguin and hippo that dance to songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and 24 other children’s songs. The clock was a gift from philanthropist George T. Delacorte, who also donated to the park the “Alice in Wonderland” statue and the Delacorte Theater. It was designed by artist Fernando Texidor in partnership of architect Edward Coe Embury and was dedicated in 1965 to Central Park. Try to get to the park to hear the songs and watch the animal’s dance.
I also took my first tour of the Tisch Children’s Zoo right next to the main zoo and this rather more mellow counterpart is more for younger children to see and pet smaller animals. Part of the original park, Lawrence Tisch saw to the renovations and it reopened in 1997. This is a great place for the under 12 crowd.
Between the late-night ambulance calls and the work in the Soup Kitchen and the long walks the days before, I relaxed on a grassy knoll in the park near the Fifth Avenue entrance off East 66th Street. I just fell asleep next to a bunch of other people who also were falling asleep in the park.
On a warm, sunny day under a shade tree, there is nothing like it. It is so relaxing to just look up at the trees and the sunshine and not believing you are still in the middle of a busy city. I can’t believe this is the same park of the 80’s when you didn’t dare enter. Just don’t do this late at night.
I walked up and around Fifth Avenue to East 72nd Street and walked back down on the park side. There are two interesting statues to take time to see. At Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street is the memorial to architect Robert Morris Hunt. Unveiled in 1893, this memorial was designed by Daniel Chester French, who was the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Robert Morris Hunt designed some of the most prominent mansions during the ‘Gilded Age” and whose work is still a part of the New York City landscape.
The other sculpture is the memorial to the One Hundredth & Seventh Infantry at Fifth Avenue and East 67th Street. This memorial was designed by sculptor Karl Illava and was dedicated in 1927 to the City. Mr. Illava, a New York City resident, had been in the 107th as a Sargent and wanted to convey the horrors of war.
Across the street from the Robert Morris Hunt Sculpture is the Frick Collection housed in the former home of industrialist Henry Clay Frick. The mansion is one of the last intact surviving “Gilded Age” mansions left on Fifth Avenue. It was designed by architect Thomas Hastings of Carrere & Hastings between 1912-1914 and was lived in by the family until Mrs. Frick’s death in 1931. The house and all its artwork were willed as a museum and since that time, it has been expanded to add a research library and now has travelling collections on top of their permanent collection that contains many “Old Masters”.
I set out to see the new “George Washington” exhibition on the creation of the statue for the Virginia State Capital that was destroyed by fire in the last century. All of the models and drawings were accompanying the display to see how the work was created. After that, I just walked through the galleries to see all the paintings and sit by the fountain in the middle of the old house. The weather got to me and I left the City right after visiting the museum.
The inside of the Frick Museum (currently closed for renovation)
I finished my walk of this part of the neighborhood after another day in the Soup Kitchen on May 30th. I was lucky that there were so many people at the Soup Kitchen volunteering that I got put on the Spoon station wrapping spoons. I needed that after the week of walking around that I did.
There was a restaurant I wanted to try for lunch that I had passed when walking around First Avenue earlier in the visit, New Wong Asian Food Inc. at 1217 First Avenue between East 65th and 66th Streets (See review on TripAdvisor). This little Chinese ‘hole in the wall’ caters alot to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital crowd and seeing the lunch in front of one of the hospital workers, I order the same thing, the General Tso’s Chicken lunch special with fried rice ($7.85).
I thought it was a little to American even for me. It was a large portion of tempura-like fried chicken pieces in a sauce that had not flavor to it. I mean none! It looked so good on the plate that I ordered it because of the worker and someone else ordered it because they saw it on my plate. It looked good but it was so over-fried and under spiced I would suggest not ordering it.
It was a sunny warm day and I decided to double back to see some of the sites I had passed earlier and visit some of the small museums and galleries, like the Asian Society at 725 Park Avenue, the Americas Society Gallery at 680 Park Avenue and the Museo Casnova at 686 Park Avenue. I also revisited some of the sites on Park, Madison and Fifth Avenues ended my day at Glaser’s Bake Shop at 1670 First Avenue (See many reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). This meant that I had to try a few things like the Lemon Crumb Danish ($3.00) and the Kitchen Sink Stuffed Cookie ($3.50). After all that walking, I figured I could walk this all off.
Glaser’s Bake Shop at 1670 First Avenue (Closed in 2018)
My last part of the day before going home I just relaxed at Carl Schurz Park at East 84th Street. I just ate my dessert and walked the boats go by. On a warm sunny late afternoon, there is nothing like sitting in the park and watching the river traffic go by and people walk their dogs and kids play in the playground (See reviews in earlier blogs).
Who says the Twitter generation does not have fun? I did not see many cellphones out while the kids were chasing one another around. By the way, they did finish that luxury building across the river in Queens next to the housing projects.
As I passed Park Avenue and East 72nd Street, I saw an unusual sculpture in the Park Avenue Mall by artist Tony Cragg made of fiberglass with the most unusual spirals called “Hammerhead 2017”. This British artist has been working with uses a form of mixed materials and is part of the “Art in the Park” program. Don’t miss this geometrical sculpture on the mall.
I did walk from York Avenue and East 84th Street back to Port Authority on West 42nd Street. Along the way at the very edge of the neighborhood, there is the famous hotels, The Pierre at 2 61st Street, where I had once worked for a week in college in the sales department and the Sherry-Netherland at 781 Fifth Avenue. These start the upscale hotels and stores of Fifth Avenue until about East 50th Street. I was exhausted by the time I hit the East 59th Street.
Still, it is an interesting neighborhood, loaded with small museums, parks, stores and public art. That’s why these entries are getting longer as there is so much more to see and so much more time to spend walking around.
Hey, I had to work off the Chinese meal, two pastries, two protein bars and three Cokes. I need to buy stock in Coca Cola.
See read my other Blogs on walking the Lower Part of the Upper East Side:
Day One Hundred and Sixteen: Walking the Streets of the Lower Upper East Side:
I finally got out of Harlem and into the Upper East Side. This area is the border neighborhood between East Harlem and the Upper East Side (or as people used to say before gentrification of the Island of Manhattan, the Upper Upper East Side). Most people consider anything below 98th Street on the East Side of Manhattan and East of Central Park as the Upper East Side. However, you call it, you are now out of Harlem.
The mood of the area is even different. It was like when I was crossing 155th Street from Washington Heights to Harlem months before. The mood of the area and its residents starts to change. It becomes the Woody Allen Upper East Side. Again just like Manhattan Valley on the West Side, there is still a very 70’s and 80’s feel to the neighborhood. It’s got a more a middle-class vibe to it and watching the kids at play you can still see that independent streak in them.
There are none of the expensive restaurants and boutiques that you see below 80th Street. The feel of the businesses is more local. Even the Isaacs Housing complex looks more upscale then the projects a few blocks up and their residents have their own security watch (the guy asked me what I was doing there and no one ever asked me anything when I walked through the projects before).
The walk along FDR Drive esplanade has some view. The shore line of Queens is really changing. There is a lot of development around the East River and what a beautiful view of the river and the rising skyline in the background. The esplanade stops around 90th Street for renovation and then continues once you pass Gracie Mansion.
Carl Schurz Park (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com), where Gracie Mansion is located is a nice place to just relax and watch the boats pass by. You get the nicest views of Ward-Randall Island and of Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island (I never knew there was a lighthouse over here). The developers are creating a new ‘Gold Coast’ along the Queens-Brooklyn riverfront.
It was nice to just relax and watch the water. The kids are in full force at this park like many parks around the city and it looks like they are trying to enjoy their last days of freedom before the school years starts in two weeks. Kids were playing basketball, Frisbee, roller skating and just chasing one another. It was nice to see kids not using cellphones.
The homes along this part of Manhattan were a combination of brownstones and prewar apartments but all along the Avenues, you are seeing more and more new construction. All sorts of new apartment and office buildings are being built along First, Second and Third Avenues. The businesses are more local than chains, giving you a peak at time before the late 90’s exploded with the chain stores all over Manhattan. It is funny that I remember a time everyone in the city complained that the chains would not even come to the city now in 2017 they complain that they are taking over the city.
The border of Yorkville, 84th Street, is lined with many brownstone type buildings and private homes along with a series of small restaurants and shops worth exploring. Many are businesses that have been open for years such as Dorrian’s Red Hand Restaurant at 1616 Second Avenue since 1960. It harks back to when the Upper East Side was the land of preppies.
Dorrian’s Red Hand Restaurant at 1616 Second Avenue
When you reach Fifth Avenue, the area between 84th Street and 96th Street is lined with museums giving name to ‘Museum Row’ starting with the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the corner of 84th Street passing the Jewish Museum, Guggenheim Museum, The Ukraine Institute of America and the Neue Museum, which will be fun to explore. Many of the smaller museums of the city line this area as well so I passed names I had never heard of before considering my many trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (I discuss all these museums in later blogs and in VisitingaMuseum.com).
The ‘Museum Mile’ Museums in Yorkville/Upper East Side
The Cooper-Hewitt Museum at 2 East 91st Street
The Jewish Museum at 1109 Fifth Avenue
The Guggenheim Museum at 1071 Fifth Avenue
The Neue Gallery of Art at 1048 Fifth Avenue
The Ukraine Institute of America at 2 East 79th Street
At 91st and 5th Avenue along the wall of Central Park is a memorial to W.T. Stead, a journalist who died in the Titanic. He was a English journalist best known for being an investigative journalist, better known as a gossip columnist. The funny part of his going down in the Titanic is that he had written that he might die in a drowning and wrote two fictional articles before the tragedy about ships colliding at sea and another about a ship that sinks without enough life boats to save everyone. Maybe he just saw his fate. He was into spiritualism, which was fashionable at the time and maybe someone hinted to him.
Mr. Stead’s memorial is one of many that line Central Park that most people don’t even notice. The park is loaded with statues and memorials that most New Yorkers just pass by without a moment’s notice. It makes one wonder why they would put this here. The memorial was designed by artist George William Frampton with the marble sculpture designed by architects Carrere & Hastings, a firm known for their Beaux Arts style.
George William Frampton is a British artist who came from a family of stone carvings who studied at the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy of School. He believed in dynamism and physical realism in sculpture. His most famous work was “Peter Pan” in Picadilly Square in London (Royal Academy of Art/Wiki).
There are glorious views of the reservoir at 90th Street and 5th Avenue that you should not miss. Just walking in the park to see the gardens is worth the trip inside Central Park. Most of the gardens are still in bloom and the park is loaded with tourists milling around the waterfront. The views of the reservoir are breathtaking and it is hard to believe this is right off Fifth Avenue.
Central Park Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and East 90th Street
Walking up 5th Avenue along the park at 96th and 5th Avenue, there is a statue of Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen in a small enclosure on the edge of the park before you enter it. This bronze, life-sized sculpture is a self-portrait of the esteemed Danish sculptor and was dedicated in Central Park in 1894. It is the only statue of an artist displayed in the parks of New York City and honors a titan in his field who had broad influence in sustaining the classical tradition in art. This statute is a bronze version of the original that’s located in Copenhagen (NYC Parks Department-Central Park/Wiki).
As I was walking across 96th Street to finish the upper part of the neighborhood, I had a sudden craving for a sandwich and walked up to Moe’s Grocery Inc. at 1968 Third Avenue, which I had eaten in before (See review on TripAdvisor & my blog, ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com’). They have the best special, a chopped cheese on a hoagie roll and a Coke for $3.00. Ever on the budget, their chopped cheese rivals Haiji’s (Blue Sky Deli) up on 110th Street.
Moe’s Grocery at 1968 Third Avenue in East Harlem, the best lunch specials
I thought I had asked for lettuce and tomato on the sandwich so add another $1.50 to it but when I sat down to eat it at the park at 96th Street, they were not on it. I was a little pissed at paying for something I did not get but the sandwich was so good, I did not mind. It is worth the walk up a few extra blocks to 108th Street for the sandwich. You will also see the distinction of the neighborhoods just by crossing 98th Street (See the previous walk in East Harlem). The sandwich is so loaded with beef and gooey cheese that it makes the nicest meal during this long walk and nothing is better than a Coke on a hot day.
I ended this part of the walk by rounding East End Avenue and relaxing at Carl Schurz Park, which is a true delight. What a beautifully landscaped park with paths of picturesque gardens and statues and active playgrounds with screaming children. The nice part is the bathrooms here are decent and you have a working water fountain, with lots of cold water. It was fun to explore the paths going up and down the landscaped paths.
Carl Schulz Park at East 86th Street and East End Avenue
Security is heavy at the northern part of the park where Gracie Mansion is located, the mayor’s residence. There are NYPD cars all over the place so try not to dwell too long in this area not to get the attention of the police officers. You can’t even see the mansion anymore because of the fencing around the house. This was the former summer residence of Archibald Gracie, a well-known Scottish born, American merchant, who was partners with Alexander Hamilton.
He built the house in 1798 as a summer home and entertained the elite at that time in Manhattan, including John Quincy Adams. Gracie’s daughter Eliza Gracie-King was one of the great social leaders at the time until Mrs. Astor took the throne during the ‘Gilded Age’. The house was sold in 1823 to pay off debts owed by Mr. Gracie and it was bought by New York City in 1896 due to back taxes by the then owners. It has been used as a concession stand for the park as well as the first home of the Museum of the City of New York. In 1942, the house was renovated and became the residence of Florio LaGuardia, the Mayor of New York and thus became the residence of future New York City mayors NYC Parks Department).
I had taken a tour of the mansion years earlier with the Cornell and Harvard Clubs when we had a historical tea at the house. Mayor Bloomberg did not live in the house at the time, so it was used primarily for entertaining. We had a wonderful afternoon tea at the at the house and then a formal tour of the public rooms and gardens. It has the most amazing views of ‘Hell Gate’, a bend in the river along the esplanade, that has some of the roughest waters in the East River. The house does get a nice breeze.
After a long rest on the benches outside the park, I walked over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to spend the rest of the evening. The Met, as it’s called, is open until 9:00pm on Fridays and Saturdays, so you get to listen to the music in ‘The Balcony’ restaurant or just tour the galleries.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1000 Fifth Avenue
Open: Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm/Monday 11:00am-6:00pm/ Tuesday and Wednesday Closed/Thursday-Saturday 11:00am-6:00pm
Café and Shops have various hours. Please check the website for these.
Fee: General $22.00/Seniors (65 and Older) $16.00/Students and Educators $12.00/Children under 12 are not admitted and Children under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. The museum is open on First Fridays from 6:00pm-9:00pm. Please visit the website for more information.