I have been a member of the Museum of the City of New York for almost twenty years and what I love about the museum is that its concentration is to be everything about New York City and what makes the City so great. Its development from a Dutch Colony to the Modern Metropolis that it is today. It covers the history so well that they created a permanent display entitled “New York at its Core”, an extensive history of the City from its start as being…
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 always try to spend part of my birthday doing some form of community service. So I spent the morning of my birthday cutting vegetables for the next few days meals at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.
I spent the morning cutting three big bags of potatoes, a crate of sweet potatoes and several heads of lettuce for salads plus cleaning up the kitchen after everyone. We need to prepare prep for several dishes in advance and several cases of fresh vegetables were coming in so the old ones had to be used first. Needless to say, I was exhausted as usual when I left for the afternoon.
My afternoon was spent walking the ring of the neighborhood, the Upper part of the Upper West Side. Since this area runs from 96th Street to 59th Street, I will be breaking it up into two parts. Years ago, one did not dare venture over 86th Street on the West Side. Then it became 96th Street in the 90’s. Today though, the whole Upper West Side from 59th is really nice all the way to the tip of Inwood. There are some patches above 145th Street as I have mentioned in the blog that are still a little on the rough side but every month seem to get better.
Now that I have finished walking around Yorkville/Carnegie Hill and Manhattanville/Bloomingdale neighborhoods, it now time to tackle the Upper West and East Sides. This stretches from 96th to 59th Streets on both sides of Central Park and line both the East and Hudson Rivers. It will be a lot of walking.
My day starting by taking the subway back up to Morningside Heights for lunch. I had passed several restaurants along the way on Broadway on my days walking this neighborhood and there were still a few I had wanted to try. My choice was Bettolona at 3143 Broadway between LaSalle & Tiemann Streets (See review on TripAdvisor). The food is wonderful and very reasonably priced.
The beauty of Bettolona is the exposed walls and the open air windows that face a quiet side of Broadway to cars but noisy once the Number One subway passes. It was one of the warm, sunny October afternoons at 82 degrees so it was nice to sit by the windows and enjoy lunch. What impresses me about the restaurant is the unusual art up on the walls by the local artists, the calm jazz music and the laid back service. Everyone was so nice without knowing it was my birthday.
I had the Linguine Bolognese, which was excellent. Fresh pasta with a generous portion of a veal ragu on top. The sauce, the owner explained, was made with fresh tomatoes and spices. It had such a nice rich flavor to it. You could taste the red wine in the sauce.
For dessert, I had the Crepelle with Nutella and banana, which I highly recommend. The dessert was two freshly made crepes filled with Nutella hazelnut spread and freshly sliced bananas. A sweet light treat and the perfect way to end the lunch. I enjoyed it while watching students and members of the Columbia community walk by. I highly recommend the restaurant if you are in the area.
After lunch, I wanted to walk off my fullness and turned the corner onto the extension of 125th Street to the St. Clair turn into Riverside Park to the West Harlem Piers Park to look over the Hudson River and enjoy the beautiful sunny day. The West Harlem Piers is a small park inside Riverside Park that faces New Jersey and offers the most spectacular views of the Hudson River and the Cliffs of Englewood Cliffs and Alpine on the New Jersey side. It is a nice place to just sit, relax and think. I do some of my best writing here.
After I rested and digested, it was off to walk the fringe of the Upper Upper West Side. This encompassed 5th Avenue along Central Park to Riverside Drive facing Riverside Park from 96th Street to 84th Street. It was a large area but packed with interesting pre-war apartments, two large popular parks, loads of small local businesses and a few pocket parks along the way.
This area unlike Manhattanville to the north of 96th, is starting to get a little more upscale as people with money are beginning to move above 86th Street, the traditional border of the Upper West Side. The area like the rest of Manhattan just keeps morphing quickly. You will never know when you turn the corner when another business will close and one replace it.
On the way down Broadway, I passed on the Columbia Campus a memorial plaque dedicated to General Garret Hopper Sticker, who led the New York City defense during the War of 1812. This was the location of the McGowan Pass in Manhattanville, which was a major travel artery on the Post Road to the Northern parts of New York and New England.
The McGowan Pass before the park
Fearing invasion by the British, the city rebuilt old Revolutionary forts and this area was home to the Barrier Wall to protect the travel route. It saw no action during the War of 1812, but this important piece of history is noted on the Columbia campus as the McGowan Pass still sits at the northern end of Central Park.
The one thing that I can note about both Central Park and Riverside Park that day is that all the leaves were still green. The vestiges of the fall had not turned color yet and with the unseasonable warm weather still felt like summer. Central Park was crowded that day with people playing Frisbee and walking their dogs. Many tourists were still in the city wondering around the park. It leads me to ask, are any of us still working full time? I wonder.
I had already walked all of 96th Street already, passing the artist Joy Brown statues on Broadway at the subway stop (which run from West 117th Street to West 72nd Street until February 17, 2018) and the now familiar McDonald’s that has been my haunt for snacks and drinks when walking up here. I proceeded to walk down Riverside Drive through Riverside Park to enjoy the foliage and walk through a park still locked in the summer. It was so nice to pass couples walking their dogs or biking through the park. There is so much life going on here and people just enjoying nature.
The homes and apartment buildings that line Riverside Park are from sign from the turn of the last century. There are still some mansions that line the park in the lower 90’s that are currently being refurbished. These you really have to look over for the 1880’s architecture. The loop around 84th Street will either take you to 83rd or 85th Street so opt for the lower one. Take your time and really walk-through Riverside Park and see the foliage and the view of the Hudson River.
Between 90th and 89th Streets, take time to explore the Soldier’s & Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive and look over the monument. It was built to honor the Union Army & Navy during the Civil War. The monument was designed by the firm of Stoughton & Stoughton for the City in 1900. It was dedicated on Memorial Day of 1902 with President Theodore Roosevelt overseeing the event. The monument has seen better days and like Grant’s Tomb, could use a refurbishing. Check out the detail work and the statues. It was well-designed and detailed.
Rounding 84th Street leads you into the former edge of the Upper West Side. Back in the 90’s, one did not venture higher than 86th Street and then it became 96th Street. Now it is all the way up the west side of the island to the very tip. This whole area is being polished up and new chain stores are being opened along the Broadway corridor.
On the corner of 84th and Amsterdam Avenue this is a patch of green in the way of the Urban Green Space Garden run by The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers. The students run this urban garden where tomatoes, cucumbers and root vegetables are grown next to one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. The kids take a lot of pride in this stand so try to stop in and look over their produce. They are a welcoming bunch and the teachers are very encouraging as well.
I walked the remaining parts of the border of the neighborhood along Fifth Avenue and then crossed over the park to the East Side where I ended up at the 96th Street exit. I ended my walk at the El Museo del Barrio a, a Latino themed museum at the edge of the Museum Mile at 1220 Fifth Avenue to see visit the museum for the first time (See reviews on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com).
What an interesting museum. I visited all the exhibitions as the museum is rather small and the displays are very intimate. The ‘Nkame’ exhibition was very interesting dealing with a local religion on the island that it pays great respect. It is interesting in the use of black and white used in the art. Another exhibition that really hit the economic attitude of the island was the ‘Debtfair” exhibition that explained how the island got into its financial straits and how it can be worked out. They also have a nice restaurant and gift shop that you should visit.
I took a quick tour around the Central Park Conservatory at 1230 Fifth Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The garden was still in bloom with early fall flowers and green trees. Even at this time of night the conservatory was still busy. I really like the formal gardens to the south of the garden and the fountain.
My evening ended with a lecture on ‘Rising Waters around NYC’, a discussion of how the rising sea levels affected the city during Hurricane Sandy and in the future. This discussion was at the Museum of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street across the street from the Central Park Conservatory at 1220 Fifth Avenue & 103rd Street (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). Don’t miss their ongoing exhibition on ‘Core New York’ on the history of the city through the ages. It is really interesting and needs several trips to really see the exhibition in full.
The Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue