NY Resident Tourist

I'm sightseeing in New York just like a vistor would…sort of

A History of the World, Naturally

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We New Yorkers are a fortunate bunch, when it comes to cultural institutions.  On either side of Central Park are 2 of the best museums in the world.  On the eastside, we have the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a dazzling collection of mostly man-made treasures.  Almost geographically opposite like a bookend, we have the American Museum of Natural History, a dazzling collection of Mother Earth’s best.

The Museum was created in 1869, and it boasts some 32 million items in its collection.  It is a massive complex composed of 25 linked buildings; it takes up a large swath of Manhattan real estate, sitting between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue between West 77th and West 81st Streets.  The main entrance is on Columbus Avenue.  (Ignore the scaffolding out front – the Museum is open for business.) Go up the steps and enter the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda.  It’ll give you a taste of the riches that await you inside.

From the picture, you can see the crowds.  There’s a solution to that:  you can enter on the West 81st Street entrance, through the Rose Center for Earth and Space.  The lines there are much, much shorter.

The entrance fee is a suggested $16.  (That means you can pay what you like, but let’s not be cheap.  Pay the full price if you can afford it.)  Special exhibits cost extra, as do tickets for IMAX and Planetarium shows.   If you want to bypass the lines, you can buy your tickets on line, but the privilege has its price:  the Museum tacks on a $4 service fee for the transaction.

Upon entry, you are given a floor plan.  And you’ll need it.  The Museum is a sprawling assortment of halls and rooms spread over numerous floors.  (If you’re anything like me – navigationally-challenged – you’ll get hopelessly lost without a map.)  No matter.  There are a ton of things to see around every corner.  And that’s the beauty of the Museum:  there’s something for everybody of any age.  Because the place is so enormous, I’ll share some highlights with you. Read the rest of this entry »


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July 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm

A Recipe for a Good Book

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New Yorkers are a voracious lot.  I don’t mean that in a literal sense, though that adjective may apply to the tons of foodies in this town.  In my experience, I have found that residents have an insatiable need for knowledge, especially inside dope.  Anyone can know the top attractions in a given field, but it’s the secret, far-flung places that get many New Yorkers fired up.  For foodies, it’s the newest restaurant not yet discovered by the other millions of epicureans in this city.  For art lovers, it’s finding the next big
artist or upcoming gallery.  As much as I love food and art (and I do, believe me), I am more inclined to accumulate touristy insider info.  I love to come across places I’ve never even heard of and check them out.  It is not always a satisfying experience, but, more often than not, I am tickled to find a new destination that makes me feel cooler for knowing about it.  The Center for Book Arts is one of those places.

It is located at 28 West 27th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway.  The building itself is rather non-descript (only the flag denotes the location), but go in and take the elevator to the third floor.

What awaits you is rather overwhelming:  an entire floor crammed with book stuff, work spaces and 2 teensy galleries.  It was like wandering into a hoarder’s house, but in a pleasant way.  The elevator opens directly into the heart of the Center.  To your right is the administrative area; straight ahead are the class spaces; to the left are the galleries; behind them are more work areas.  To visit the exhibits is free.  Classes have fees.

The Center was started in 1974, and it was the first non-profit of its kind:  one that celebrates the creation of books.  Although I came in to see the gallery offerings, I understand that the Center’s bread and butter are its classes.  (There was one going on when I was there.)  If you want to, you can learn bookbinding, book restoration, typesetting, hand lettering and more.   You can get more info here:  http://www.centerforbookarts.org/. Read the rest of this entry »

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June 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Physically FIT

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Boston has MIT.  New York has FIT.  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (which is technically in Cambridge) is a top tier school that churns out engineers of all sorts.  The Fashion Institute of Technology is a State University of New York (SUNY) school that produces all manners of fashionistas. Among its alumni are Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera and Reem Acra.  (If none of these names are familiar to you, get thee to Vogue, post haste.)  FIT has been around since 1944, and the campus sits in the heart of the Fashion District on 7th Avenue and West 27th Street in Manhattan.  The Museum at FIT was founded in 1967, with
exhibitions starting on the 70s.  Today, its collection numbers some 50,000 items.

I had never been to the Museum at FIT.  As I have said before, I’m not much of fashion maven.  When I was in my teens, I was obsessed with designer labels.  Now, as an adult with responsibilities, I cannot justify spending gazillions of dollars on my wardrobe in lieu of paying rent.  I’m not being judgmental, I swear.  I just don’t have the desire to wear fancy duds and thus to be house poor.  That’s not to say I don’t find fashion fabulous.  I still love me some Project Runway.  I am an avid fan of http://gofugyourself.com/.   (If you have never read the hiliarious commentary of the Fug Girls, you absolutely should.)  And Fashion Police on E! with Joan Rivers is a hoot.  The segment “Bitch Stole My Look” is genius!  But when it comes to the words “museum” and “fashion,” I generally think, “Meh.”  But, boy, am I wrong.  Clothing can be a fine art, and the Museum at FIT can certainly prove it.

Take a walk in the door and head straight into the exhibition space.  It’s free – yay!  On display now is a celebration of garments used in physical activity, and it’s called “Sporting Life.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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June 5, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Quilting is Art, Folks

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When you think of art, what comes to mind?  Paintings?  Sure.  Sculpture?  Yep.  Your kid’s crayon drawing tacked onto the fridge?  Most certainly.  But what about quilting?  You know – the sewn blanket on your bed….is that art?  I suppose the answer is a bit murky.  I would not consider a manufactured quilt bought at a chain store a piece of art.  But I do believe individually-created and hand-produced work is art.

I am biased when it comes to quilting – my mother is a master of the craft.  She really is a textile artist, taking needle, thread and fabric to create big, glorious quilts.  She has won awards for her work, I am proud to say, and I get miffed when people scoff at quilting as a handicraft, not as a fine art.  It takes a lot of work to create a quilt (my mom averages about 2 years for each hand-sewn piece, from inception to completion), and those artists that choose this avenue of expression are equally as worthy of admiration as their paint- or clay-using counterparts.  It’s simply a different medium.

So what is quilting?  Basically, it is sewing layers together:  a top, stuffing and a bottom.  The top usually has a design of some sort, and generally, the quilter sews through the fabric with small stitches to keep everything in place.  Traditionally, quilts were used as bed-coverings, so they were rather large.  Today, smaller quilts can be hung on the wall for decoration.  (My mother’s quilts are 6 feet long, and theoretically can be used for sleeping, but I wouldn’t dare.)  The point of a quilt is warmth, and there is evidence of such stitchery in Asia and Europe in early AD.  Quilting has been used in the US since the beginning of the nation, with strong Amish and African-American progenitors.

So — to my great delight — I stumbled on a year-long celebration of this particular brand of art.  The American Folk Art Museum has an exhibit called (what else?) “Quilts.”  The museum is has put some of its masterworks on display, and they are marvelous.  Read the rest of this entry »

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May 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Manhattan, Museums

Discovering New Things About an Old Friend

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I don’t have a backyard.  Most New Yorkers don’t (unless they have serious dough.)  I live in a 5th floor walk-up.  (For those of you that don’t know — that means an apartment on the 5th floor with no elevator.)  Because I live on the Upper East Side, I consider Central Park my backyard.  And it’s a big, luscious one:  more than 800 acres of green space filled with ball parks, lawns, trees, statues and gardens.  I have visited many areas of the Park, but on this particular visit, my Beloved picked areas unknown to both of us.

We entered at East 85th Street, right near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We strolled behind the museum to check out Cleopatra’s Needle.

Contrary to its name, the obelisk has nothing to do with Cleopatra.  This stone structure is from Egypt, circa 1500 BC, and it is one of a set of three (the other 2 are located in London and Paris.)  It was stationed in Central Park in 1881.  The obelisk is covered with hieroglyphics, but, unfortunately, the stone is eroding.  In fact, the Egyptian government has threatened to take the obelisk back, if conservation efforts are not improved.  In the meantime, you can stroll on by and see a bit of ancient history.

Next, my Beloved and I went west to hit Belvedere Castle, which is another misnomer.  According to the placard on the building, it’s called Belvedere Tower, and it is used today to house meteorological equipment.  (The temperature of Central Park is taken there.)

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May 24, 2011 at 7:36 pm

A Heads-Up

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Since it appears that our dreadful rainy weather will be lingering for a few more days, it may be time to enjoy what New York has to offer indoors.   A museum, perhaps?  Why, yes, don’t mind if I do!

What makes going to an inside attraction even more, er, attractive is that tomorrow is Art Museum Day.  On Wednesday, 18 May, museums all over the country are participating in this annual event put together by the Association of Art Museum Directors.  (The AAMD is celebrating International Museum Day, which has been observed since 1977.)  Lots of cultural hotspots, including some great ones here in New York, are offering deals tomorrow.  According to WNYC, you can get free admission to the Bronx Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem.  You can get 2-for-1 tickets at the Brooklyn Museum and buy-1-get-1-half-price at the Guggenheim.  You can read more about it here:  http://culture.wnyc.org/articles/features/2011/may/17/get-into-city-musuems-less-art-museum-day/.  You can also check out the press release (with all the participating intstitutions) here:  http://www.aamd.org/newsroom/documents/AAMD_MuseumDay_Release_2011FINAL5-10-11.pdf

The weather outside may be frightful, but checking out art is delightful.  I encourage you to take advantage of the deals on Museum Day.  I know I will!

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May 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Please Stay on Path

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I am feeling rather hopeful these days.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I am a newlywed, embarking on a partnership with my delightful Beloved.  Perhaps it has something to do with the weather, now that spring has finally arrived.  Perhaps it has something to do with surviving a fire in my apartment building last week.  (No one was injured, thankfully, and Beloved and I escaped unscathed from the harrowing event.)  Whatever the reason, I feel more appreciative of life and the direction in which I’m heading.  It hit me recently during a visit to Brooklyn.  

This past weekend was the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  (Just as a side note:  why is the garden “botanic”?  The big one in the Bronx is called the New York Botanical Garden.  Why does Brooklyn drop the “-al”?  The grammarian in me is confused.)  It’s an annual event that has been celebrating Japanese culture for the last 30 years.  This year’s festival was made more poignant because of the horrific earthquake.  Tens of thousands of people show up to see all things Japan:  dance, anime, music and – of course – the Garden’s 200 cherry trees in all their glory.  Count me among their admirers. 

I went on the last day of the Festival, and it was packed.  The Garden is 52 acres sandwiched between the Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods.   It was started in 1910 and includes several individual gardens and conservatories.  I had been there previously (it’s right next door to the Brooklyn Museum, and doing both places on the same day is a fantastic way to take pleasure in both man-made and natural beauty.)  On this occasion, though, I had never seen the place so mobbed.  I went solo, so I just drifted around quietly among the noise and color.  Read the rest of this entry »

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May 3, 2011 at 9:48 pm

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