To this point, we felt as if New York had gotten the better of us somewhat. We were losing. Our Friday in town had been nixed in favor of a minor navigational snafu, and our Saturday, while spectacularly enjoyable for the most part, was marred by frustration on the city streets as we flailed and floundered from one traffic jam to the next. Sunday was our last day in town, and the three of us were determined to kick its teeth in.
A relatively early rise gave us ample time to cab it over to Central Park. The weather was sensational, and offered us up a park full of people to watch. Frisbee-throwers, sunbathers and general purpose relaxers made colorful dots all over the park and showed us a relaxing New York scene that we'd not yet encountered. After our two days prior, you'd think the words "relax" and "New York" wouldn't fit together in a sentence.
Central Park shows us an impressive spread of open space, monuments and even some wooded areas - certainly a rare find in this bustling city. But with so little time to spare, it wasn't long before we had to move on to our next attraction.
And by move on, I meant walk about a block to the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art
. If you're devoting any time to the arts in New York City, this is the one place that truly can't be missed.
The Met has a collection that just doesn't quit, featuring paintings, sculptures, photos and artifacts from all over the world, many dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. It's an art student's dream, and instills an appreciation in even the most casual of patrons. The museum is so large, and the exhibits so vast, that anyone is bound to find at least one room they won't want to leave.
One of the most useful sections of this museum, which I fear goes disproportionately underutilized, is the museum's viewable archive space. Yesterday's visit to the Brooklyn Museum showed us a space of a similar nature, where what seemed like mountains worth of artwork lay carefully organized and catalogued, hiding behind glass cases until their next bout in the big game (the main exhibit space). If you ever come across a museum with archives you can openly peruse, don't hesitate for a moment.
Next on our plate was about a half mile walk to the stunning Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – the exterior of which was so unique that I felt like I should have paid admission already. The building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as part of his vision of a city comprised not of soulless skyscrapers, but of tasteful structures that would contribute to a beautiful, tasteful and evocative skyline.
One peek inside the building made me an immediate follower of Wright’s philosophy. This museum was designed like nothing I’ve ever seen before, with one long, winding walkway spanning five floors, and various exhibit halls branching off along the walk up. The displays featured prominently the many architectural works, designs and blueprints that Wright and various other artists had conceived, primarily during the last century.
The museum’s collection was complimented by a smattering of gorgeous Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and modern paintings, comprising a welcome contrast to some of the museum’s somewhat technical concentrations. There was even a section devoted to artistic contributions from students at regional grade schools. This was a different experience than I was used to, a truly enlightening visit among what I must say was one of the calmest, most respectful crowds of museum-goers we’ve experienced thus far.
Last on the ol' agender was a taxi ride back to Midtown Manhattan, to the Museum of Modern Art
, or the MoMA. This place is also a big deal in museum-rich New York, home to some of the most eye-opening, sometimes shocking works that I've ever come across. Across from an extensive library and research area, through a colorfully decorated courtyard lies this vast expanse of culture and vision. And as I very much expected, it was an eye-opener, a wondrous look into the minds of some of the world's contemporary artistic pioneers.
There were items on display that I've seen in countless forms elsewhere, whether in prints, calendars, postcards or what have you - some truly famous (and sometimes infamous) items, spanning a space that, for some reason, I'd expected to be smaller. Not the case. This place went on and on, and the 5:30 p.m. closing time was the only inclination pushing us toward the door. At this point, I was ready to conclude that a proper NYC museum tour simply requires more time than we were able to offer up.
That's not to say we didn't get our money's worth. The price tag on an experience like this is of zero significance in comparison to the imprint that even a single visit has made on me.
We rode cloud nine back to our car, where a parking ticket for $115 promptly lowered my cloud level. You just had to get the last laugh, didn't you, New York.
Determined to come out on top, we shot into Chinatown for a bite before we left town, and were thoroughly satisfied with our findings. I only went as far as sweet & sour chicken, but I'm still just getting my feet wet. The next few days would no doubt provide me with some memorable culinary capers.
Upward and onward, we left for Sarah's parents' place in South Hadley, Mass. More on that very soon.
(From top) Photos 1-6 by Tom Stanley; photo 7 courtesy of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Thannhauser Collection - Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser, 1978; photos 8-10 by Tom Stanley