Monday, February 21, 2011

Got ya! - NYC Day 3

GOT YA, Statue of Liberty! This time I finally got ya!

When I was in NYC the first time and came back with a whole bunch of super cool pictures it happened very often to me that people asked where I had my picture of the Statue of Liberty. I told them that I had seen the lady only for a minute out of my friend's car and that it was all blurry because it was raining cats and dogs. The usual reaction was "Oh :(."
I was all "Look .... all these pictures down from the Empire State Building on a cloudless sunny day, World Trade Center, Central Park, 5th Avenue, China Town, Greenwich Village, East Village - all the cool places from the movies are here in my pictures."  But in Germany it seems New York equals very much with the Statue of Liberty and you better do not come home without her picture. So this time, I swore myself, I would make it happen ... and failed badly yesterday due to the very bad weather conditions.

But a new day, a new chance ...
Today I jumped on the street in bright sunshine - nice if my breath in front of my face would not have turned into fog immediately. It was freaking COLD. But at least - the wind had calmed down and there were no clouds at all.

But before I was ready to go I needed breakfast. The place across the street was closed which was okay - I wasn't keen on going there again. The blueberry pancake I had there the morning before had kicked me in the stomach all day. BUT other than on Saturday (kind of logical) the Jewish bagel shop (and I mean really Jewish and not only ... bakery that also sells bagel kind of Jewish) down the street was open. So I went there - and fell in love. Lovely bagel, funny and super friendly people and a kind and cozy atmosphere.
Funny episode: When I got my order I went straight to the cash desk to pay, but the guy looked at me like I was totally out of my mind and said: "You sit and eat and when you are ready to go you come over and pay."  Ooookay - no problem. And in fact ... everybody got the food, sat down, ate, laughed with family and friends, got another coffee, more food and at the very end usually one person would get up and pay for the table. I'll be back tomorrow - that's for sure.

After breakfast I went down the road to the subway station and took the train to South Ferry ready to ignore the cold and get on the Staten Island Ferry. I arrived perfectly in time and could just go ahead straight through the terminal building on the boat. I even managed to get a place on the right side (the one which would face the Statue of Liberty). It was wonderful - the sun was shining and the view from the ferry is incredible.
The only problem: I was (like all other passengers) dressed up like an Inuit with big winter jacket, scarf, hat, hood over hat, all buttons and zippers closed, gloves and sun glasses to protect the eyes against the wind. I could barely move, but it was absolutely necessary. The next problem: I cannot handle my small SONY camera with gloves. So I had to take the right one off. And I am not kidding you ... after some skyline shots and two decent pics of the statue my right hand hurt so badly that I could not hold the camera anymore and had to go inside and out of the wind.

When the pain finally went away I decided to try to go outside at the other side of the ferry. Contra: no skyline and no statue. Pro: No wind
Gosh - what a difference the lee side can make. Without the wind it was simply wonderful - sunny, warm enough to stay outside, the sea sparkling the sunlight. 

Sad enough the ferry on the way back was constructed differently and there was no gallery on the sides to go outside and the windows were so dirty that I could not take any pictures although we had the best view with the statue and all the skyline all at ones. But hey - the ferry is for free and who would complain about something you do not even pay for?

When I got off the boat I spontaneously decided to walk to the relatively close by Ground Zero. That sounds easier than it is because due to the various construction sites all kind of roads around the place are blocked and sidewalks closed. So I walked along the redirection signs and ended up in the deserted World Financial Center at the Hudson River shore. I enjoyed the silence, the sun and the stunning view before I was facing Ground Zero again from the other side.

Most impressing here was the St. Paul's Chapel. That's the oldest church in Manhattan and it is really tiny - and directly across the street from Ground Zero. It is definitely a miracle that nothing happened to the place on 9-11.  It is SO CLOSE. The story why nothing happened is really amazing: A huge tree in the churchyard kind of absorbed the shock wave - not even the windows of the chapel broke. The tree on the other hand did not survive. Only its root - the so called "trinity root" is left. During 9-11 and the following days the chapel was the shelter for the firemen, paramedics, policemen and all the people who tried to save lives and help. And I guess many of us still remember the churchyard fence. That was the place were people put the pictures of missed family members, flowers, memorial letters. In front of the chapel is a bell placed. Cast by the same foundry like the bell of Big Ben the "Bell of Hope" is a gift of the people of London to the people of Manhattan. The bell rings every year on 9-11.

Although  the sun was still shining I definitely had to get out of the cold and so I took the train in Northern direction to part two of my art marathon and went to the Upper Eastside to enter the museum mile and visit the Guggenheim Museum

Let's start with the first impression from outside: it is much smaller than it looks in all those pictures, but the architecture is really nice and special. The museum was very crowded (cold weather + Sunday) and it was sometimes hard to get a calm second to really look at an artwork.

The collection is dominated by European artists like Kandinsky, Chagall, Marc, Mondrian, Modigliani, Picasso and many more. Sad enough taking pictures is not allowed at Guggenheim, but you can see parts of the collection here online.  It's fantastic, but for me personally not as touching as the one at MOMA.

By the way, dear ex-coworkers from - I guess I have seen in the last 24 hours the originals of like 80% off our all time bestsellers from Monet's "Water Lillies" to Hopper's "Gas Station" to - hold your breath - Kandinsky's "Composition No. 8".  For those who never worked in a retail company for art prints: None of us likes this painting anymore because we have seen it a million times and are so tired of it. It is an all time classic and we sold thousands of  it. 

What I really liked about Guggenheim was the educational approach. Between the artworks you have several times huge displays which give an overview about the cultural and political context of  the art around.  And when I entered the special room with "Composition No. 8" and some additional also very popular Kandinsky paintings I found a lot of kids participating the kids program of the museum. Everywhere on the floor right between the multi-million $ artworks the kids sat on the floor with paper and pens and were playing around with graphic form and colors. Lovely.

After leaving Guggenheim I made a short walk across the street to Central Park to get some pictures with the gorgeous view over the frozen lake to the Upper Westside skyline.

At this point I was already very tired, but I did not want to skip the last one on my list - the close by "Whitney Museum of American Art". First of all ... when I should become a billionaire one day and should after saving the world still have some money left, I would donate a new air conditioning system to the Whitney Museum. It's awful - on a crowded day like today you can hardly breath.

One of my personal highlights here was definitely the Edward Hopper exhibition including the famous Gas Station. You would maybe guess that for a fan of abstract art like me the realist Hopper is not the right thing, but it's the opposite. I really like his work. His paintings often have an amazingly intense atmosphere and they are silent. Not silent in the way that there is no meaning, but silent like catching this moment in the sunset when the wind slows down, the cicadas become quiet and the creatures of the night did not yet wake up.

I was also touched by some of the photographs in the collection like the portraits of Peter Hujar or the self portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe (I need to link here as well since no cameras were allowed at the Whitney Museum). The original is much better than you would guess here from the internet picture I linked to. He created it when he already knew that he had AIDS. The skull in his hand is totally crisp and sharp while his face is slightly blurry and some parts of his body (black dressed in front of a black background) visually disappear.  It is a picture of a person between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Generally AIDS is a very present topic when you browse the collection from Hujar's pictures to Felix Pratz's portrait of his dead friend AA Bronson. This one is hard to look at without crying for everybody who ever stayed with a dying loved one and had seen this kind of expression before. Dying is not always a mild and peaceful process.

As you can imagine after Whitney I was DONE ... I just walked into a beautiful orange and pink sunset down 5th Avenue, stopped again at the Mexican place close to my hotel for a chicken burrito and now I am here at my room and can barely keep my eyes open.

Tomorrow I will take things easy. I guess I will just do a short walk to Times Square and finally start the SHOPPING  ;)  In the afternoon I plan to visit a dear friend at her neighborhood north of Central Park and have a cozy girl's day with lots of chatting and a some pots of hot tea.

BTW ... if you ever wondered how a snowy  New York looks like - there is a good chance that I can show you tomorrow night with my pictures of the day. The weather forecast says it will snow this night and tomorrow. Stay tuned :)

The three pictures of the day:

The Statue of Liberty. Enjoy the picture - it almost cost me my right hand ;)

Ground Zero in the sun ...

The famous rotunda at the Guggenheim Museum - funny enough it looks empty although it was packed.

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