New York: Arrived July 4, 2002.
We took the subway from Jamaica Station into Manhattan. After checking in, we walk around the hotel area of 57th and Lexington to take in the sights and sounds of New York. We then hop on the subway and head to Ground Zero because I thought it was important to see the devastation first hand before going to the Statue of Liberty. The first shock comes in the form of great absence. We walked down a street towards where the World Trade Center used to be and I remembered it was the same street I walked down last year. The difference is blue sky exists where once there were these two huge towers. I was immediately struck by the complete absence of the tallest buildings I had ever seen. Now there is just a big hole in the ground surrounded by chain link fences. The somber mood of the place is heart wrenching as we walk past hushed crowds, past the red and blue memorials to the fallen heroes and past a few people clinging to the chain link fence, tears streaming down their disbelieving faces. Andrea said it reminded her of the ruins we saw in Rome except that there are NO ruins. Just a big hole of crumbling cement and one twisted metal cross. It is still hard for me to grasp the magnitude of that fateful day when just a year ago I stood in the general area gasping at the enormity of the buildings while fixing a wide-angle lens to my camera. We moved on to the North Cove Yacht harbor to catch our first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty which isn't its real name. It's more like 'Liberty Enlightening the World', a gift from the French people to America commemorating our independence. You know, I just don't understand how anyone cannot like New Yorkers. They are jovial, no nonsense types who go help you when you need it. Sure, they don't smile a whole lot when they help you but they act as if they know you are present and respond to you humanly unlike the numerous self-absorbed assholes you come across in the Bay Area. We never had a single bad experience with the people we came across in Manhattan and they are careful not to get in your way if you are doing something. Spontaneous singing would happen from time to time and getting the answers to something was always direct and forthright. It was like that when I was here last year and it remains despite 911. Much to our chagrin the ferry to the Statue of Liberty was closed on 4th of July. Alas, I will not be able to go celebrate on the statue itself. The next best thing was taking the free ferry to Staten Island to watch the fireworks. The weather was very warm and humid (94 degrees) and a ride on the ferry was very welcome. Check out a short video clip of how close you get to the Statue of Liberty via the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry ride on the way back to Manhattan was bittersweet. The skyline is beautiful but very different. It didn't look like Manhattan anymore. It looked like a small, normal city you would see any place in America. New York suddenly didn't seem so gigantic but you remember there was something very important there and now they are gone as if two fingers on your hand had been severed. It doesn't render your hand useless but you cope with the phantom feeling of those missing fingers everyday. We head back to our hotel weary and somber.
July 5th It's amazing how many choices you have here. We decide to go to Central Park for a while. Along the way, Andrea spots Tiffany & Co. made famous by Audrey Hepburn in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. The weather was a bit cooler than the day before and ideal to walk through the oasis of Central Park. We walk along little lakes, over quaint bridges, through winding paths and watch to see if Madonna happens to be jogging through the park that day. On the grass by the smaller lake are painters with their portable easels. We learn that the memorial to John Lennon called 'Strawberry Fields' lies at the south west end of the park. We visit and learn (much to our mighty chagrin) that there are no strawberries in 'Strawberry Fields'. just an engraving in the ground less than 100 yards where the man was assassinated outside his home at the Dakota. We walk around a bit more and make our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The best museum in North America in my opinion and far better than anything the Bay Area has to offer. The MET makes you feel so welcome and wants to make you as comfortable as possible when you visit. There is so much to see and we spend most of our time in the Impressionist and Modern Art wing on the 2nd floor. We also visit the special Gaugin exhibit. It's always great to check out the Impressionists particularly Van Gogh. You have to see his work in person in order to enjoy the heavy texture he applies to his paintings. You can almost feel him painting "The Cypress Trees" right in front of you. I'm also growing fond of the work of Camille Pissaro but I didn't care for Gaugin too much. Of course learning the history of these artists can be an inspiration in themselves. Many of the great artists in the MET were rejected so often by so many people during their lifetime. It is amazing to think of the dedication they had to make to continue on or give up altogether. We spend several hours at the MET and enjoy a nice meal at the inexpensive cafeteria. (Here the coffee is priced modestly unlike the friggin $8 cups you get at MOMA in San Francisco-what a rip off!) Plenty of places to relax your mind and feet and we have to leave but not before we enjoy a hotdog on the steps outside. We head back to the hotel for a little rest and then it's back out for dinner in Little Italy. We take the R subway to Prince Street and walk down Mulberry street to the heart of Little Italy. It's about 9pm and the place is still lively but not overly crowded. We stop and say hi to everybody at the bar Frank Sinatra used to hang out and then look for a nice place to eat. We find an available table outside at a restaurant serving a $7.99 pasta deal. It must have been around 85 degrees as we sip our wine and enjoy lasagna speaking broken Italian to the neatly dressed waiters. I learned that Italian New York is a bit different from Italian Italy. We finish and decide to walk around to SoHo and Greenwich Village area. We find a secluded bar playing jazz music and sit down for a late night martini. The music surrounded us like the East River surrounds the island. It gently holds us and we feel good to be alive.
July 6th In the morning we sit down to a bagel and coffee with distant relatives of Andrea's. Afterwards, we walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in humid hot weather. Andrea's relatives said we should visit 'Grimaldi's' in Brooklyn which makes the best pizza in the world. In the world! We better go! Once over the bridge we hang out at the park on the east end of the bridge. I videotape Andrea as she looks along the East river to see if there really are people with cement galoshes swimming with the fishes. After finding Grimaldi's we sit down to eat the best pizza ever made with Eddie Grant's 'Electric Avenue' playing in the background. We catch the subway back to Manhattan to see if we can take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. This time the ferry is running but there is a huge line and we decide not to wait in it. Instead we wander towards the Empire State Building stopping in a very nice park called Bryant Park. It used to be a huge crystal palace which later burned down. The city turned it into this beautiful European looking park with flowers, trees and seats. We buy wine, drink and we have a fun time making our own on-the-spot films. NY is so conducive to the filmmaker sensibility. There are so many areas filled with beauty and activity that you just want to shoot tons of footage. Here is a clip of me playing 'a grouchy guy in New York'. Note the Dineroesque way in which I attempt to kick the birds in the path in front of me. Also at this park is free movie night every Monday. They play classics ranging from comedy to drama. They had a great movie selection and it's all free. We amble to the Empire State building and find out that it too has a very long line to get to the top. Suddenly, we find ourselves at the corner of Toidi Toid and a Toid! Would you believe that? There is even a store called, ' Toidi Toid and a Boid'! It sells boids or rather birds. Andrea and I decide to title our new movie collaboration after the bird store. It was either that or 'Chrone in to da East Riva Again'. I rather liked, 'Fagettaboutit Gaddfadda!'. Oh well, we decide to head to Times Square. Times Square is a gas. All the lights, videos and sounds make for a feast for the ears and eyes. It's funny, for all of the ads blaring down at us I can't recall a single ad as of this writing. I do recall a huge billboard of Audrey Hepburn with Julia Roberts suggesting that Roberts is on par with Audrey. Andrea refers to it as 'Audrey and Fraudrey'. Haha. We walked a hell of alot today and pass out at the hotel for the evening.
July 7 We enjoy Central Park so much that we return in the morning for breakfast and do a little people watching. If you look very hard (and I mean very hard) you could swear that Al Pacino was playing right field during a softball game on the Great Field. We stroll past the reservoir and past Solomon Guggenheim and swear that Glenn Close was eating a Mars bar on 79th. Was that Woody Allen jogging past us?? Anyway, we take in as much of the park as we can and spend several hours making movies that encompass the beauty of Central Park. We leave the park and take in a great street fair smack dab in midtown. I guess they close the streets on Sunday and vendors sell all sorts of things and great prices. We go to Battery Park and take time to visit the Jewish Heritage/Holocaust Museum. I sort of knew what to expect but I was moved beyond words nonetheless. If any of us on this planet expects a better life for their children and their children's children, they should understand the profound nature of man's inhumanity to man. It's happened throughout history and continues to happen to this very day where one group commits violence against another group simply because of race or religion under the disguise of something else. The museum and exhibit brings the horror of the 20th century right into your heart and mind and if you think you need not understand this than the horror will appear at you or your child's doorstep someday. We head back to the hotel, turn on the TV and see an L.A. cop beat up a hand-cuffed boy in Calif. We sum up the energy for a special evening out with the actor Robert Dinero. Rather, we have dinner at his restaurant in Tribeca. Ay! With those prices, he shoulda been serving the dinner himself dressed as Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull! Nonetheless, we have a great time and swear that Madonna was behind the bar serving shots of cognac. Late night brings us to Washington Square Park and the arch. There is a small, talented group of singers and musicians playing jazz and rock and roll songs and we sit in the square staring up at the sky counting the stars. We counted only two but what fun we had with those two! Washington Square Park is next to NYU and is a creative hub. Even though it was approaching midnight, we felt very safe and comfortable in the area and people from so many different backgrounds and ages hung out and chatted almost in tune with whatever song happened to be playing in the night.
July 8 Andrea visits people she knows through work in Midtown and I hang out a park. The truly great thing about New York is that there is a very nice park just around the corner. These parks are well maintained and very inviting and makes such a great balance to the rest of the buildings. There is a profound harmony between the buildings and the parks with each providing a reason for each other. The city planners knew that cities need parks too, not just more office buildings and department stores. There are statues all around which remind you of the city's rich history and the accomplishments of its very diverse and wonderful population. Here's to you New York! We prepare to leave but take the time to go up to the top of the Empire State building. We didn't stay long as the visibility was poor due to the smoke from huge fires in Quebec and because we both thought the building was swaying. Not to mention my imagination was taking over and creating all sorts of unpleasant scenarios. So it's back to the Bay Area. It's not goodbye, just farewell. -----
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