Posts Tagged 'NYC'

The Current Version of the Yearly Tradition

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Saks 5th Avenue holiday light show

I love New York. Of course by that I mean NYC, and mostly Manhattan. I’m not sure how fond I am of Staten Island. The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn all have stellar qualities but it’s Manhattan that makes my pulse race, my breath quicken. And not from fear, oh you nay sayers you. I love the excitement, the thrill, the sights, the energy. I love it best at holiday time because of the extra dollop of excitement. I have been there in the blazing hot, humid days of summer when the garbage wasn’t being collected and while there is still some energy then, holiday time is better. Even if it’s bitter cold.

My family has a tradition of heading into the city sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. I think it started even before my son went off to college, but it certainly solidified in those years. We’d head in to the city, see a show, check out the tree and plaza at Rockefeller Center, watch the Saks holiday light show, and have a great steak dinner. Yes, it is always dinner at a great steak house. This year we needed to head in during the Thanksgiving weekend because that is when my son was home. To my great disappointment it turned out that Rockefeller tree would not be lit until AFTER he returned. We went in last T-day weekend as well and the tree was definitely already lit. I have the photos to prove it. Ah well, at least the Saks light show would be running.

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James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5

I couldn’t find any matinee that appealed to me. I wanted to do something different this year, still tradition but with a little twist. The gentlemen agreed that a museum would be okay so I set my husband to the task of finding an interesting exhibit. He knocked this one out of the park. We went to Spyscape – an espionage experiential exhibit. It was GREAT! I had no idea what to expect. I will say that you should buy tickets online because there is a surcharge for buying them at the desk. 🙂 You are given a gold bracelet with your own identifying disk. You use your disk to sign in to the various experiences. At the end you get a report on how well you did in all the various skills tests and a ‘placement’ of the role you might play in the spy world. I was sure I’d end up being told I’d be in the home office filing papers, but I did well enough to be an Intelligence Operative: The heart of an intelligence service, involved in an array of operations, from servicing dead drops to setting up safe houses. Who’d have thought it, right? I guess Operatives like to plan and make lists. 🙂 Many of the questions are of a “what would you do?” and “what do you believe?” nature. They assess you on those questions by the answers that scored furthest from the average. This is a bit circular, I think, because their assessment of me is my assessment of me: Team Player, Determined, Empathetic. *smile* I have to say that taking the pattern recognition and logistics questions stressed me out A LOT. I was great at encryption and deception. More risky than I expected. And TERRIBLE at brain power. The test that I thought would be the worst and most stressful was the Special Ops test. That is the one where you are in a room full of laser beams and buttons. You must hit as many buttons as possible without breaking the beams. It helps to be both tall and limber for that exercise. I could not reach the top row of buttons at all but I squatted down and made it under almost every beam, slamming buttons as I went. It was incredibly exhilarating. I understood why so many of the younger visitors were doing that test again and again. 🙂 Overall I still think I’d be a terrible spy and should be home filing papers.

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Blueprints

We also did the special James Bond exhibit – about the making of the latest Daniel Craig James Bond film, Skyfall. My husband insists that the “best” James Bond was George Lazenby’s Bond. He is incredibly disdainful of all other Bonds, although he admits that Sean Connery’s Bond was adequate. *rolls eyes* The Skyfall exhibit was very interesting. I LOVED seeing the car, and all the detailed plans for how they actually built the car so that all of Q’s special gimmicks worked. There are 3 short videos where they explain how they filmed the final climactic scene – from finding the location to building the necessary items to merging 1:3 scale models with the live action. You mean it didn’t all happen live once?

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Champagne bucket was in the later models

Skyscape is definitely worth a visit, although I’m not sure it’s a good match for very young children. The ability to read is a must. Many of the exhibits are texts with photos, telling spy stories. I can also recommend Mastro’s for dinner. My son and I have been dining at Mastro’s in Phoenix my last two visits and have loved it there. When we saw there was one in NYC we decided that would be this year’s steak dinner location. It was wonderful. The food and service are fantastic and we had great leftovers to bring home. Our waiter was a history buff and we had great discussions when he was at the table. 🙂 Our complaints were about the lighting and noise. I’m not sure why restaurants have decided that people want to eat in darkness. Maybe this is an east coast ‘thing’ because I don’t recall this issue in Phoenix. We needed flashlights to view the menus. We weren’t the only ones doing that as I noticed people at nearby tables doing the same. The noise level was also higher than is pleasant. I understand the allure of live music, and piping music all over, but most people are dining out to DINE and CHAT, not listen to music. My opinion is that the background music is always too loud, causing people to talk loudly, and by the end of the meal you are exhausted because you have been yelling to have a simple conversation. (It’s not just Mastro’s – we encounter this at so many restaurants.) I soothed my throat with a yummy profiterole. 🙂

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Saks 5th Avenue before the show

Rockefeller Center is not as grand when the tree is dark, but the Saks light show is still a wonder, no matter how many times you see it. I include a video for those of you who may not make it into the city this year.

A Day at the Museum

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Temple of Dendur

Oh wow, you do NOT want to be wandering around NYC in August when the temps are in the 90s and the real-feel is in the high 90s. But that’s where you could find me yesterday. My cousin was in town for a few days and I went in to the city to meet her. She was traveling with a friend who’d never been to NYC. Normally I’d say let’s cram in everything we can but I knew the heat and humidity would knock us out. We agreed to go to a museum (air-conditioned) and then we’d go stand in the line at the TKTS booth and see what else we’d do. I wasn’t planning to stay in the city for an evening show, but hanging out at Times Square in line can be its own amusement. It’s a great place for people watching. My goal was to see my cousin Robin so I didn’t really mind what we did as long as I was not pounding the pavement all day.
mounted knights in armor

We agreed to meet up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I always say I don’t like museums but I’m realizing that is not true. I do like museums. What I don’t like is having to look at paintings. When my son and I were in Venice in the Doge’s Palace, I finally cracked and told him we had to leave. I simply could not look at one more painting of a duke riding out to greet a pope. As long as we could look at architecture and artifacts I was fine, but the endless paintings broke me. I don’t spend much time staring at artifacts, either, and only read the placards if the item is unusually interesting. I’m sure there are those who would call me ‘heathen’ and they are probably correct. 🙂

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Trumpet Call Diatonic Harmonica in G, catalog #504471, ca 1915

I was able to catch a train around 9:00 am, which got me into the city around 10. I’d normally have walked from my house to the station, about a mile, but I had a late start. I had already decided I should drive because I had no idea how much walking I’d be doing and I figured I might need to conserve all that foot and leg energy for later. My cousin and I texted while I was on the train. They were walking to the museum. *smile* I usually walk about midtown when I’m there. First, it’s very expensive to take a taxi. I have no problem with the subway but it doesn’t always go where I want to go. In fact, walking is often the fastest way to get anywhere, assuming you are not traveling great distances. I have no problem with walking 40 blocks or so as long as I’ve got the correct footwear. I don’t think, however, that they had grasped exactly what it is like to walk over 40 blocks in NYC (I believe they started over on Lex and 49th).

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Nagphani, India Late 19th Century, catalog #500781

Robin and her friend were thinking of having breakfast someplace and then going to the museum. Based on their progress at the point when my train got in, I figured I’d meet them up at the museum. Penn Station is at 33rd and 7th, the museum is at 83rd and 5th. That is about 3.5 miles. I decided to break with family tradition and take a taxi. My mother NEVER took taxis. When she and her friends got up in years, she was always offended when they’d insist on taking a taxi. I don’t think my mother even took the subway much. She WALKED. I could imagine her scorn at my indulgence, but at that point it really seemed the fastest and coolest way to get uptown. Even if I took the subway I’d end up walking across the park to get from the Museum of Natural History to the Met.

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Whistling Jar, Chimu culture, Peru, 1000-1476, catalog #501305

I got in the taxi and asked him to take me to Madison and 82, figuring that Robin would be breakfasting somewhere near the museum and I wouldn’t have to wait for the taxi to make the 2 left turns to get to the museum. That bit about the left turns might sound odd to those of you who have never traveled in the city, but trust me – when the cross town streets get crowded, trying to get around a block can take a significant amount of time. While we were still heading uptown on Madison, Robin told me that they’d gone into the museum. At that point I told the driver to take me there directly.

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THEY call it a Cog rattle; WE call it a grogger. 15/16th century. #503725

There was no line to get in yet so I cruised in and met up with Robin and Kevin. I’d enjoyed getting a half-price rail fare because I’m a member of AARP (thanks to my husband, who signed me up WAY earlier than I could have joined on my own *grin*). There is no AARP discount at the museum nor was there any reciprocity with my membership in the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Full price time. Neither Kevin nor I had had any breakfast at all so we headed straight for the American Wing Cafe for coffee. Ahhhh. I needed that. 🙂
The Astor Court

We decided to wander about instead of taking an introductory tour. The American Cafe is directly behind the Temple of Dendur, which is a “must see” if you are at the museum. We started there. Next we headed to the Arms and Armour exhibit. I’d actually been to both places only 18 months earlier, when my husband and I had been in the city for the day and dinner, but they are both well worth multiple visits. I wanted to show them the Astor Chinese Garden Court. Although we had maps, parts of the museum were under renovation, so we kept getting directions to the elevator to get to the Asian Art exhibits. I kept insisting we could walk, so we ended up wandering through other exhibits as we attempted to get there.

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Neriage marbleized stoneware, Japan

I’d never been to the musical instrument exhibit before (galleries 680-684). Having just toured the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix 2 months earlier, I found the instruments more interesting and intriguing than I might have in the past. There are so many different ways that people make music. The materials and the shapes and the combinations – absolutely fascinating. If you look at the map (the link above) it APPEARS that you can walk from the musical instruments area to the Asian Art wing. Appearances can deceive. I finally gave up and we took the elevator to the Asian Art.

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PixCell (Glass bead) deer, Japan, catalog #76970

We must have gone up only a 1/2 floor. We barely moved, and then the doors on the other side of the elevator opened and we were in Asian Art. As we stepped out we saw/heard a tour in progress. The docent was describing the glass deer (well, that’s MY term for it) by Kohei Nawa. I’d seen this deer last trip as well. It is a taxidermied deer, covered with glass balls of varying sizes. I find it both attractive and a tad repugnant (because it seems disrespectful of the dead deer).

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Koi pond in Astor Court

But at last we found the Astor Court. I LOVE this spot. I know that there are no chairs there/places to sit, because if there WERE, the place would be packed with folks sitting there in serenity. My memory told me that when I was there in January, there had been flowering plants. There were none there at the moment, but when I checked my photos I saw that for once my memory was right on target (unlike my memory of walking to the Astor Court *grin*). We all loved the garden and spent a little time there simply enjoying it, and watching the koi.

FLW fabric boucle damask

FLW fabric boucle damask

We wandered through the Asian Art exhibit. We had one last “planned” stop in the museum – Schumacher’s Taliesin Line of Decorative Fabrics and Wallpapers Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,1955 (gallery 599). We found our way there (by this time I asked for directions every time I saw a museum worker). I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was expecting MORE than what was there. It’s a very, very small room – about the size of my son’s bedroom. Even so, there were FLW patterns, so we had the FLW experience.

flw fabric damask

FLW fabric damask


We made sure to wander through the Gift Shop on our way out, but we all nobly restrained ourselves from buying anything (and we each had things in our hands at one point so you know it was difficult).
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FLW fabric

Next on the agenda was heading back to midtown to wait in the TKTS line so Robin and Kevin could get show tickets. It was 2:30, and it was hot and humid. *smile* We all opted for a taxi back down to Times Square. Ahhhh. Air conditioned. No walking. We got there about 10 minutes before the booth opened. It’s become so efficient and modern since I last stood in the TKTS line. In MY day, sonny, they only took cash at the window. You didn’t know what was available til you got to the counter and could peer behind the agents. Now everything is computerized, there are sign boards out front, they take credit cards. 🙂 Ahhh, technology. While Kevin and Robin waited in line, I sat on the big red bleachers and watched the people. They joined me, waving their prize – tickets to Tootsie!!!
Book Our Shoes Our Selves

I decided that they NEEDED to see Rockefeller Center (I have a sentimental attachment as I used to work at 30 Rock, back in the days when it was the RCA Building). We walked over there and took photos. I had NO IDEA that in the summer they put in a SANDBOX in the middle of the promenade! You know I went straight over and sat down in a chair and wriggled my toes in the sand! From there we headed over to The Playwright, a restaurant on 49th. As it happens, I have fond memories of this restaurant as well, as my son and I had dinner here one day when we were doing a day of TKTS – matinee in the afternoon, show in the evening. 🙂 We hung out drinking and eating and chatting for about 2 hours. Then I headed for the train home and they headed to the theater. All in all, a lovely day in the city, despite the heat and humidity.

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Times Square as seen from the big red bleachers


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