Central Park · Historic House Museums · Merchant's House · Preservation

Ten More Reasons Why I Love Living in The City That Never Sleeps

Last year I posted ten of my favorite sites in New York. Here are ten more reasons I love living here.

"Three Dancing Maidens"
“Three Dancing Maidens”

11. Realistic Public Sculpture. New York has plenty of it. There are lots of stalwart men on horseback, but this bronze statue of the Three Dancing Maidens by Walter Schott is my favorite. It is an expression of pure joy. Located in The Conservatory Garden of Central Park, the maidens dance around the Untermeyer Fountain, looking  very much alive. See how their wet dresses cling to their bodies?

Alpples and anthuriaum on Broadway
Alpples and anthurium on Broadway

12. The lovely symmetrical arrangements of fruit and flowers that appear outside all of the small markets. This is sidewalk art at its best!

Edgar's Cofee Shop at and Amsterdam
Edgar’s Cofee Shop on Amsterdam

13. Edgar’s Cafe. All New Yorkers have their favorite neighborhood coffee shop. This is mine. Edgar’s is named after the poet Edgar Allen Poe because for years it was located on the site where Poe lived for a time, just around the corner from my building.  They had to move because of rising rent. Fortunately Edgar’s is still within easy walking distance.

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

14. Bryant Park. Located smack dab in the middle of the City, it’s everything a city park should be: moveable chairs, tables, lots of green grass, a merry-go-round, food kiosks, a canopy of plane trees for shade, verdant ivy. But I love it most of all for its transformation from a dangerous  place where drug dealers dealt and homeless drug addicts lived, if you could call it living. That was in the seventies when I first became aware of it. Now look at it! Just shows what can be done if there’s a will to do it.

Frank Lloyd Wright Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Frank Lloyd Wright Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

15. The Frank Lloyd Wright Room at the Met. My favorite thing in the Metropolitan Museum is not a painting nor a sculpture but this room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Originally it was the living room of the summer home of Frances Little on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in suburban Minneapolis. The furniture doesn’t look very comfortable—none of Wright’s furniture does—but the room to me is just sublimely beautiful

Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center

16. Lincoln Center. Three subway stops brings me to this 16.3 acre complex– home to the very best in the performing arts. What’s your pleasure? Opera, ballet, theater, orchestral music: it’s all on offer. Lincoln Center also has a sentimental attraction of a sort. In my first visit to New York City in 1964, I watched some of it being built.

The Way to Go—New York City
The Way to Go—New York City

17. Public Transportation 24/7. Don’t laugh. This really is one of the most important benefits New York offers as far as I’m concerned. The busses are slow, the subway is unpleasant. the taxi drivers are terrible, and the car service expensive. But I hate driving and haven’t for many years. So much is available by foot in New York, that it all adds up to a very positive plus.

The Frick Museum Fragonard Room
The Frick Museum Fragonard Room

18. The Frick Museum. An historic house and an art museum all in one. What could be better! The Fragonard Room pictured is delicious. Go here for a virtual tour. I was once offered the opportunity to visit the parts of the house not open to the public. And yes—there really is a bowling alley in the basement.

Welcome Home!
Welcome Home!

19. The Lobby. Instead of a front yard, I have a lobby. Warm in the winter, cool in the summer, it’s a welcoming transition from the street to my front door on the 11th floor. It says, “Welcome Home.”

The Merchant's House Museum on a Winter Day
The Merchant’s House Museum on a Winter Day


19. The Merchant’s House Museum. This is a repeat from last year. I include it again because it is so important to me. This is an 1832 row house preserved as an historic house museum complete with the furniture and personal belongings of the family who lived here for almost 100 years. I’ve spent a lot of time here in the last 19 years working in many capacities, currently as the historian. Right now, the Museum is facing a threat from a developer who plans to build a hotel next door. The demolition of the existing building on that site and construction of such a project poses a  grave danger to the delicate 1832 brick building. At great risk is the beautiful plaster work within. It was restored in 1988 under the direction of Edward Vason Jones, White House architect, by his team of master craftsmen. The amazing plaster ceiling medallions are probably the finest example of this type of Greek Revival interior ornament in the country. We are counting on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to do what they have done so many times before and that is to protect an historically important, irreplaceable New York City treasure. We are keeping our fingers crossed, holding our breath, and praying!

The House , incidentally, has looked like this a lot this winter. If you want to know more about the Merchant’s House, go to the website: http://www.merchantshouse.org.

Books · Central Park · Technology

Why I ‘d Much Rather Read a Tree Book Than an E-Book

Tree book and E-book(s)
Tree book and E-book(s)

I appreciate the digital revolution; I really do. For starters,  Amazon has changed my life because shopping—for everything —is so simple. I don’t tweet, but I do have Facebook friends. My cell phone is so dumb all it knows how to do is to make and receive phone calls; however I do own the latest model of the Kindle e-reader.

But after six months or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that reading a tree book—or a real book,  if you will—offers subtle satisfactions that reading the same book on an e-reader simply does not, and I much prefer the real thing.

My objections to the Kindle stem mainly from the fact that you have to deal with it one page at a time. I hadn’t realized until I got the Kindle how often I fan the pages of a book, looking for information I’ve forgotten or to see what’s coming, or to see if I have time to finish the chapter before I have to struggle with the slotted spoon. I like to feel the weight of the pages on the left increasing as I read. in other words, I like to relate to the whole book at once.

Also, I like to write in my books. I figured out long ago that it’s okay. God doesn’t care. They are, after all, my books. Of course I would never write in someone else’s book or a library book (curses on those who do) but I love to scribble in mine. I like to pick up a book I’ve already read, fan the pages looking for the stars, the underlines, and the marginal notes I’ve made in my own handwriting and read those best parts again.

I like the fact that the real books have different personalities quite apart from their content. Some of them are fat, some thin. They are different colors. Some of them are friendly; some are not. As far as I’m concerned a really friendly book lies flat when it’s open, and has pages with ample margins. If there are notes, they’re in the margin or at the foot of the page, not at the end. If there are illustrations, I like them near the related text, not stuffed in the middle together. If, in addition the book is well written and tells me something I don’t already know, then it’s a good friend indeed. All e-books look more or less the same. That’s boring

I like to know where my books are—and I do. They’re on the bookshelves and I can identify them just by looking at the spines; I don’t want them dancing off into the atmosphere when I’m not looking. Finally, I love bookmarks. I collect them—and like to use them.

To be fair I should say there are advantages to the Kindle that I appreciate: you can make the type bigger, it’s easier to read lying down (something I like to do) because the book literally weighs nothing. All you have to hold is the reader itself. You can read in the dark (good if the person next to you is trying to sleep), there are lots of free books available from various sources, including the library. And if you read on the go—on the bus, in the line at the grocery store, or on an airplane or train, then I suppose an e-book is preferable to a real book. But when all is said and done, for me it’s no contest.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis  Reservoir in Central Park
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

MY LOCATION As I write this, I’m sitting on a bench next to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. When it was built in 1862, it provided water for the city. Today it is maintained as a scenic attraction and wildlife refuge. A 1.58-mile track encircles it, and waterfowl make it their home.

Behind me is an allee of cherry trees, now in bloom. Their beauty is breathtaking. And somewhere there is something fragrant blooming. Herb is here too, reading— on his Kindle.

A perfect day.

The Cherry Trees Behind Me
The Cherry Trees Behind Me and a Runner in Hot Pink Shoes
Central Park

The Forsythia is in Bloom!

My fifth grade teacher was a bitter old woman who didn’t like children—especially me. Now why anyone would not like me at that stage is  a mystery; I was a very compliant child. Nevertheless Miss Braden ruined my ten-year-old life. However, she introduced me to Forsythia, and for that I owe her. I remember clearly the morning she brought some branches to school and put them in a vase.

86th Street Transverse, Central Park
Forsythia, 86th Street Transverse, Central Park, New York City

Since that day so many springs ago, except for the 19 years that I lived in the tropics, I have noticed and loved the blooming of the Forsythia. Nineteen  years, incidentally, is a long time to go without Forsythia.

The first spring after I moved to New York, I was thrilled to discover that the ledges of the 86th Street sunken transverse road through Central Park are lined with Forsythia! As you pass through the Park, for a few lovely days in spring you see burst after burst of glorious gold that tells you the long dark winter is finally over.

For Housman, it was the cherry tree:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come agin,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs is little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

For Whitman, it was the lilac.

When lilacs last in the dooyard bloom’d,

And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,

I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring

Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,

And thought of him I love.

For me it is the Forsythia.images-6

Central Park

A whimsical Victorian fountain in Central Park

Ephemeral New York is another of my favorite blogs, and Central Park, a priceless legacy of the 19th century, is my favorite New York place!

Ephemeral New York

Bethesda Fountain is the one tourists flock to. But just to the west is an ornate beauty dating to 1860, made with frosted glass bowl lamps, gilded black goblets, Minton tiles and topped by a golden spire.

This is Cherry Hill Fountain, in a part of the park overlooking the Lake and near the Ramble ringed by cherry trees.

It’s delicate and pretty, but it also served a purpose, providing “people on horseback or in carriages a place to rest, admire the view of the Lake,and water their animals” in the trough at the base.

Used as a parking lot for many years, it was finally restored in the 1990s. Once again, its gentle waters flow through eight ornate flowers.

It’s one of those hiding-in-plain-sight gems that most people walk right by on their way to some other park attraction.

Horses are no longer allowed to drink from…

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