Rainy Day New York: Subway Stops Near Major NYC Attractions

See updated recommendations here.

A rainy day in New York City can pose a few challenges for seeing the city, but many attractions are indoors. The subway, depending upon one's proximity to a station, may be the best and most convenient means of maneuvering New York City in disappointing weather.

Locate a subway stop near a favorite shopping destination, landmark, or a museum, and you are good to go.

Here is a list of recommended subway stops in or near a major NYC attraction:

• Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum 2, 3: Just outside the Brooklyn Museum.

• Bowling Green Station, 4, 5: Near the main steps of the National Museum of the American Indian (the former Custom House).

• W. 4th St., A, B, C, D, E, F, V: There's always a movie. The IFC Center on 6th Avenue shows the best of independent film. 

• W. 14th St. A, C, E. Make a mad dash west to Chelsea Market on 9th Avenue between W. 15th and W. 16th and go on a food spree.

• 34th Street-Herald Square, N, Q, R, W: You can go straight to the Manhattan Mall and shop. JCPenney (901 Avenue of the Americas) is now the anchor of this indoor mall, an unusual feature of Manhattan retail. Macy's, via the subway outdoor exit, is very close.

• 34 Street-Penn Station, 1, 2 , 3, A, C, E: Penn Station isn't beautiful, but you'll at least find shopping and food.

• Brookfield Place (left), near E, N, R: With indoor shops and restaurants, views of the World Trade Center site on the east, and scenes of the Hudson River on the west, the World Financial Center is a good place to wait out a rainy day.

• 42nd Street-Bryant Park, B, D, F, V, 7: Just steps from the famous lions gracing the steps of the New York Public Library. Check out the special exhibits, or bring your laptop to the wi-fi-enabled Edna Barnes Solomon Reading Room. 

• 42nd Street- Port Authority Bus Terminal, A, C, E: Stores, restaurants, and a bowling center with a cocktail lounge. Yes, hipsters, the Port Authority Bus Terminal is your place to be.

• Times Square-42nd Street. The busiest station of all. Artwork by several artists, including Roy Lichtenstein, Jane Dickson, Jacob Lawrence, and others make this subway stop a destination underground. A good place to listen to free live music.

 Grand Central - 42nd St., S, 4, 5, 6, 7: In addition to the amusements of watching people come and go inside a spectacular building, the shopping is convenient. Browse the satellite shop of the New York City Transit Museum, get something to eat in the food mall, or dine at one of the nicer restaurants. If you get really bored, you can take a Metro-North train somewhere, like Beacon (Hudson Line), Croton Falls (Harlem Line), or New Haven (New Haven Line).

• 47- 50 Sts- Rockefeller Center Station, B, D, F, V: Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock, Radio City Music Hall.

• 5th Avenue, E: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on E. 53rd St. is less than block away.

• 57th St. - Seventh Avenue, N, Q, R, and W: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? This way. The stop is just outside the famous concert hall.

• Lexington Avenue-59th St., N, R, W  or 59th St-Lexington Ave Station, 4, 5, 6: Bloomingdale's, the famous New York department store.

• 59th St-Columbus Circle, A, B, C, D, 1: The Museum of Arts & Design (MAD) and the Time-Warner Center.

• 81st Street-Museum of Natural History, B, C: American Museum of Natural History. (above) Walk straight from the subway into one of the greatest natural history museums in the world.

• 110th St. Cathedral Parkway, 1: Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Visit the wonders of one of the largest churches in the world. Explore on your own or on one of the regular tours.

• 157th St., 1: This subway stop was constructed back in the day for its proximity to the historic museum collections in Audubon Terrace.

The MTA's art in the subway program is one of the great pleasures of the metropolis. See this page on their website, MTA - Arts for  Transit / The Official Subway Art and Rail Art Guide. There, you can download a copy of the guide to the artwork in each station and peruse information and beautiful pictures about the artwork and installations.

See the widget "New York Transit Advisories" in the sidebar of this site for status updates on subway service. The MTA website also provides convenient directions with their Trip Planner.

Also, think about getting on a MTA bus and seeing the city that way. Check out New York on one of the buses that runs the length of Manhattan - the M1, M4, M5, for example.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple.

Looking Back on Thanksgiving Week: Jones Street, Papabubble, New Museum, Star Trek Art, and More

Thanksgiving Week began for me on Monday when the sun came out after several days of rainy weather. Recovering from a cold and a sore knee, the result of wearing the wrong pair of glasses, misunderstanding the distance from the street to the sidewalk, and then falling down, I wandered, well, hobbled, northwest on Bleecker Street and, later, the same direction on 4th Street. After the rainy weather, and given my state of mind, I thought the streets looked like they were recovering from a trauma.

I stopped to gaze down Jones Street, wanting to see the street again after mentioning it in an earlier post about Johnny Mercer. He lived along in here in the early 1930s when he was a young, struggling songwriter /actor/Wall Street errand boy. It's an unhurried block of a street, nestled between the far busier Bleecker and W. 4th Streets, and it looks like it can weather good and bad times. I was on one of these walks that have no purpose and no destination, plus I was walking slow, so I could take my time to explore some nooks and crannies. I peaked into the window of The Slaughtered Lamb and noticed a cozy fireplace. As I'm on an unhurried mission to find taverns like these, especially within easy walking distance, I went in for a minute and chatted with a couple of friendly people who work there. They were putting up holiday decorations around the bar, and I promised I would come back. As I left, I noticed across the street the window of Patisserie Claude, one of the finest croissant makers in the city, covered with paper along with a notice that they were closed for renovation. I hope that's truly the case, because I would miss it. (Ed. Note, December 2008): Great news-they're back open).

After staying inside Tuesday to finish a professional project, I was more than ready on Wednesday to get out of the apartment and take on some items of my To-Do list. First on the agenda was a hobble to Papabubble, the new candy venue on Broome Street near Mott. My expectations were more than met, largely because I enjoy seeing candy made like an artful craft, in this case much like glassblowing, and I thought the little candies were delicious. While on Broome, I explored several blocks, enjoying the mix-match of businesses, ethnic restaurants, civic and religious institutions, and so forth. As with the parallel Grand Street, a fun walk would be to stroll Broome from east to west, starting in the Lower East Side and ending in the South Village.

After wandering around Broome, I made it over to the New Museum on the Bowery (near the intersection with Prince St.) to see Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton. (See earlier review of her recent work at Gavin Brown Enterprises.) In a well-designed exhibit, the selection of works from her still-young career adds up to a fuller understanding of her preoccupations with portraiture and celebrity. She displays a virtuosity with line and composition, and all these little works pack a big punch. I sort of wish, however, that one of the on-hand gallery guides did not tell me that she sometimes applies Gesso on her heavily-primed canvases with strokes of a credit card, because I could then not stop thinking about how much money she gets for her artwork.

When I got home, I rested for an hour, and then I walked down to the W. 4th station to ride up to the 81st Street stop, the nearest stop to checking out the inflation of the Macy's parade balloons. I've written about that already and showed you my pictures. I also want to mention that the new Shack Shack on Columbus Ave. and 77th (we all know the one in Madison Square Park) looked mighty festive for the holidays, decked in pretty twinkling green lights.

Finally, the fun day ended with drinks in the downstairs bar of Le Poisson Rouge. I love this new performing arts venue on Bleecker. While sipping our drinks, we enjoyed seeing artist Devorah Sperber's uncanny and smart pieces from her Star Trek series. Here are the familiar images of the Starship Enterprise, Spock and McCoy, Uhura and Sulu, and so forth, but she's created the works out of thousands of chenille stems (pipe cleaners). (Sperber's website here) The knockout piece is one of her "Thread Spool" works. It's of Spock, but he's rendered upside down in a patterned arrangement of thread spools of different colors. You can only understand it's Spock when viewed through the clear acrylic sphere on a metal stand. The work is about perception, pixels and vision and the mechanics of how we see. Like Spock, it's perfectly logical.

Images: Jones Street, window of The Slaughtered Lamb, Papabubble, Broome Street, New Museum. by Walking Of the Big Apple. More images in this set on Flickr WOTBA.

The Surrealistic Spectacle of the Inflatable Shrek, and Other Creatures: Thanksgiving Eve on the Upper West Side (A Slideshow)

Shrek rests. The inflation of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons on the evening before the parade appeals to the surrealist in everyone, and judging by the size of the crowds on hand last night, there's nothing quite like it. Seeing favorite cartoon characters wrapped in their netting while trucks pump tens of thousands of cubic feet of helium into their bodies seems mighty weird. It looked like a fantasy triage unit.

I arrived early in the event, at dusk, and I made my way from the corner of Central Park West and 81st Street west on 81st to Columbus Ave, past the inflating Shrek, Beethoven the dog, Kermit the Frog, Pikachu, and Horton the Elephant, not necessarily in that order. Eventually, I bailed out of the crowd, choosing to see the balloons on 79th St. from a distance. But what fun! (Those of you receiving WOTBA by email may need to visit the main site to see the slideshow.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple. Wednesday, November 26, 2008.

Selected List of Events for NYC Thanksgiving Week and Beyond: Balloon Inflation, Sondheim, Cindy Sherman, Zabar's, and more

Here's my To-Do list (and one Not-To-Do, I'll let you guess) for the upcoming holiday week in the big city. While I eagerly await the feast with friends and family on Thursday, I'm compiling here a list of city entertainments in and around the festive day that others, too, may enjoy.

Balloon Inflation (see pix, posted Thursday morning): Wednesday, November 26, 2008, approximately 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation. Central Park West and Columbus Avenue on 77th and 81st Streets. On the evening before Thanksgiving, many New Yorkers like to go up to the Upper West Side and watch the inflation of the balloons on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History, but then on Thanksgiving morning, these same New Yorkers will try to avoid midtown by any means necessary.

Holiday Market @ Union Square: Union Square Market Hours: Monday - Friday 11 am to 8 pm; Saturdays 10 am to 8 pm; Sundays 11 am to 7 pm; Christmas Eve: Open 10 am – 4 pm. Always fun and crowded for the homemade gifts. That is, homemade by other people to give to your people.

Bryant Park: I need to check out Bryant Park's holiday magic and ice spectacle, especially the Canadian-centered eating establishment, Celsius: A Canadian Lounge.

New York premiere of Stephen Sondheim's new musical, Road Show, at the Public Theater. I'm a Sondheim person and would love to see his new work as soon as possible. Tuesday October 28 - Sunday December 28. Tuesday at 7pm. Consider Rush Tix: " "There will be a limited number of $20 Rush Tix available at the box office for every downtown theater performance on sale to the general public one hour prior to curtain. There is a 2 ticket limit per person. Cash only."

Cindy Sherman. Metro Pictures (519 W 24th St.): November 15-December 23, 2008. According to Metro, "Cindy Sherman will show a series of color photographs that continues her investigation into distorted ideas of beauty, self-image and aging. Typical of Sherman, these works are at once alarming and amusing, distasteful and poignant." You go, girl! Aging and distasteful! We love her. Here's Jerry Saltz's review from New York Magazine. Also, check out this YouTube movie trailer from WOTBA's now-defunct cinema magique.

While in Chelsea, I must check in on the new L'Atelier du chocolat (French website) at 59 W 22nd St (between 5th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas).

Zabar's, the famous Upper West Side food palace, will deliver a turkey to your door via messenger. Turkey, ham, pork, goose or duck for the main course, and for the sides, many, many choices. I want their corn chowder. NOW.

Have I seen the William Eggleston exhibit at the Whitney yet? No. How about the Elizabeth Peyton exhibit at the New Museum? No. OK. I have placed these two on my Must-Do-or-Will-Feel-Guilty list.

Last year, most all of my popular Christmas presents came from the MoMA store. This year, I don't plan to mess with a good thing.

High Concept Candy Store at Papabubble. Barcelona, Tokyo, Amsterdam. Now in an American store near you on Broome near Mott Street. Perfect location. I'm currently hypnotized by the song on their website.

For the Day After:
"Fitness guru" Richard Simmons will begin the recession-era shopping festivities by leading an aerobics session for those waiting outside Macy's Herald Square in New York City on the morning of Black Friday, November 28, 2008 at 5:00 a.m. Have fun for me.

Image: Walter Granville Smith, Two Ladies Ice Skating in Central Park, 1892, watercolor, in the collection of the Federal Reserve Board, Washington D.C. (maybe, given recent trends, where all art is destined.)

Escape from Savannah, 1928: Young John Mercer Moves to New York

During my stroll last week through the historic sections of Savannah, Georgia, a visit that included Flannery O'Connor's childhood home and many moss-covered trees, I meandered over to the Mercer-Williams House. Most know this landmark from The Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil as the house built by General Hugh W. Mercer, the great grandfather of songwriter Johnny Mercer. Neither the General nor Johnny Mercer ever lived there. Jim Williams bought the place in 1969 with the intent to restore it to its former glory, and the house is where the murder depicted in Berendt's book took place. The architect of the original house, a New York native named John S. Norris, was proficient in the styles of the era and designed some of the most important buildings in pre-Civil War Savannah, including this house, the Andrew Low House, and the Unitarian Church. The construction began in 1860 and was completed after the war. Norris returned to NYC at the outbreak of the war.

As described in a couple of Johnny Mercer biographies - Gene Lees' Portrait of Johnny: The Life of John Herndon Mercer (2006), and Philip Furia's Stardust: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer (2003), young John Mercer had been on track to attend college at Princeton, but his father's business misfortunes at the end of the 1920s wouldn't allow for this luxury. Instead, he made his way to New York in 1928 at the age of 19 to pursue a life in the theater. In addition to writing songs, he was an aspiring singer and actor, and he was able to pick up bit parts to pay the rent. He moved around from place to place - from a midtown boardinghouse to crashing with a southern friend in the West Eighties to a hotel popular with vaudevillians to his own place in a third-floor walk-up on Jones Street in Greenwich Village. With experience working for his businessman father, Mercer landed a day job with a Wall Street firm. He wasn't doing that well, and he was homesick, but everyone back in Savannah thought he was becoming a big star. From Lees biography, he remembered, "While the hometown talk was about how well young Mercer is doing on the stage, I was just about to go back on oatmeal." (p. 59)

Mercer was a persistent young man, and he did make successful rounds in the New York theatre world to show people his songs. He met lyricists, showgirls, chorus girls, producers, directors, but he still spent long hours in receptions rooms waiting to hear the fate of his songs. Composer Arthur Schwartz (father of WNYC's Jonathan Schwartz) gave him early guidance with his songs. He also started dating a dancer named Ginger Meehan, a beautiful young woman Lees describes as "vapid" and who would eventually become his wife. When Mercer teamed with Hoagy Carmichael on "Lazy Bones," the song became an instant hit, paving the way for Mercer to join ASCAP and the fellowship of Tin Pan Alley songmen. After establishing his career in New York, he moved to Hollywood in 1935 to take a job with RKO.

Flash forward. At another low point in Mercer's career, the new medium of television and rock and roll of the 1950s threatened his life as a traditional composer. In 1961, when he was asked to team with Henry Mancini to write a theme song for the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's, his thoughts turned back toward his childhood days in Savannah and to the river inlets that connect the Low Country to the sea. The result was one of the most wistful, yearning set of lyrics in modern song - "Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going I'm going your way." And, thus, an older man, living in California, becomes homesick once more, reliving the hopes and dreams of his southern boyhood. With his invocation of "Moon River," Mercer lends his voice to that of two other southerners, Truman Capote and his girl, Holly Golightly, in creating one of the most enduring fictions of New York.

Images of the Mercer-Williams house in Savannah, Georgia; and the moon over the Savannah River, by Walking Off the Big Apple, November 12 & 13, 2008.

Related post: Mapping Holly Golightly: Walking Off Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Flannery O'Connor's Six Months in New York City

Flannery O'Connor lived for six months in New York City in 1949. Before moving to the city, the native of Savannah, Georgia had been staying at Yaddo, the famed artist retreat in Saratoga Springs, New York. She had received the invitation to stay at Yaddo in 1948 following the completion of her degree at the University of Iowa, and she spent a couple of months at Yaddo in the summer of '48, working on her first novel, Wise Blood.

She returned in September, stayed through the holidays, but after a controversy at Yaddo in February of 1949 she cut short her stay. What transpired was that a long-time Yaddo guest, Agnes Smedley, was accused in a NYT article of being a Communist spy, and after some tense conversations with the colony's director, O'Connor and Robert Lowell, the poet and another guest, decided to leave. So, she came to live in New York.

Those of you who, like me, cherish their worn copy of Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971) can pick up what happens next by reading publisher Robert Giroux's Introduction. Giroux writes that he first met O'Connor in February of 1949 when Lowell brought her to his office: "Behind her soft-spoken speech, clear-eyed gaze and shy manner, I sensed a tremendous strength. This was the rarest kind of young writer, one who was prepared to work her utmost and knew exactly what she must do with her talent." (viii. Introduction) He tells how his publishing company came eventually to publish Wise Blood.

While visiting Savannah last week, I walked over from my hotel to Flannery O'Connor's childhood home on E. Charlton Street. Visiting her house, the adjacent square and its moss-filled trees, and the Catholic church and school she attended, I experienced a little of the southern Gothic atmosphere that pervades her stories. Those who have read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will remember Savannah as a hothouse of eccentricity, a place unlike any other, but visiting again made me think that the Gothic age may not last as long as I had previously thought.

While she lived in New York City in 1949, Flannery O'Connor's home was the YWCA at 610 Lexington Avenue. Housed in a solid neo-Roman building near the intersection with 53rd St., the Y residences long provided an inexpensive and safe haven for young women in the city as well as career services and counseling. The YWCA has since moved its headquarters, and the old 1912-era building was torn down at the end of last year.

After her stay in New York, O'Connor moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut where she lived in the garage apartment of Sally and Robert Fitzgerald (well-known for his translations of the Greek classics). A year later, she contracted disseminated lupus, a disease that ran in her family and which brought her father's life to a close when she was 16. She subsequently moved to the family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. She died in 1964 at the age of 39.

Images: Standard public domain picture of Flannery O'Connor; pic of O'Connor's childhood house in Savannah by Walking Off the Big Apple.

Catching Up on New York Events and News

Whenever I leave New York for several days, I feel like there's much catching up to do upon my return home. So much can happen in a few days. When I left the city last Wednesday morning for a trip to Savannah, Georgia, New York was still basking in the yellows of autumn foliage. I did notice the blue holiday snowflake lights appearing in Greenwich Village. While in Georgia, I came down with some kind of bad cold, one that I suspect started during my long brisk walk in Prospect Park but that was given optimal conditions to flourish in the steamy rains of Georgia. Now, I see on returning to the city that many of the leaves have blown off the trees, and it feels like winter is setting in. At any rate, I arrived back in the city yesterday afternoon and have spent much of the day today drinking peppermint tea and reading various metropolitan news sources. Here are some items of note:

Grace Hartigan, 1922-2008. One of my favorite twentieth-century painters passed away on Saturday, November 15. Associated with the New York School, Hartigan could run with the big boys of the Ab-Exers, but she was her own painter. Not completely abstract, she maintained a vigorous (not delicate!) balance between representation and abstraction in her powerfully painted canvases. As a woman, she held strong opinions that she freely shared. She was once the toast of New York, especially in the 1950s and early 1960s, but when she moved to Baltimore, she fell off the NY art world radar. She was a highly respected teacher at the Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting of the Maryland Institute College of Art. I learned of her passing in the Baltimore press, via the "New York arts" news feed on this website, in the middle of the sidebar on the right, and not through the NYT.

Collapse of the Art World Auctions. Apparently, it's all over. It's hard to work up enthusiasm to purchase expensive beautiful works of art in a nervous recessionary climate. See Carol Vogel's story in the NYT.

Gunfire at the Waldorf-Astoria. I was completely shocked to read about the brazen armed robbery at the famed hotel, because I like to walk through the hotel lobby when I'm up in that part of town. This incident sounded like something out of a gangster movie. I'm glad to hear that the retired detective who was shot is doing okay. AP story.

Hotel Deals. I've noticed that many visitors seemed to have disappeared. Last year I was always running into the Euro-spending classes at all hours of the day, and now the cobbled streets of Soho are awesomely clear of traffic. In this sort of international visitor downturn, it's not surprising that the city's hotels are offering all sorts of reasonable rates. If you live here and people still want to crash at your place, tell them to go to the internet travel sites and check out the fabulous hotel deals in the city. (Note: to the two friends staying at my apartment this weekend, I am NOT talking about you.) See Hotel Chatter for all kinds of stories.

NYT article on Palazzo Chupi. Readers of WOTBA know of my healthy obsession with Julian Schnabel's Palazzo Chupi, so I was delighted to read Penelope Green's account of her tour through the pink wonderland.

NYT's Gallery Issue. The Weekend Arts section's "Special Gallery Issue" provides nice overviews of the gallery scene in different parts of town. The section is especially helpful for the downtowners like myself who have much to see in the galleries of the West Village and the Lower East Side.

The Holidays! Bloomingdale's holiday windows! Tony Bennett live! The most powerful convergence possible happens Thursday, November 20, at 4:30 p.m. (link to Bloomingdale's) With a 30% chance of snow, what more could anyone want out of a holiday in New York?

So, I'm caught up. I missed walking in New York and then telling everyone about it. I'm looking forward to shaking off this winter cold as soon as possible and rediscovering the city.

Image above: Line of taxis at stop. The leaves on these trees have mostly fallen now. Somewhere in Greenwich Village.

A Day-long Stroll in New York: From Morningside Park to Battery Park

Visitors to New York or New York residents who are up for some fun exercise may want to consider a day walk that takes in a great swath of Manhattan. I've designed a walk here that begins in the morning hours in Morningside Park and ends in the late afternoon or early evening in Battery Park. As a flâneuse (she who strolls), I'm accustomed to walking at a comfortable pace, with time scheduled for stopping and observing interesting sights along the way.

During the course of my walking routines, I often walk farther than I initially plan. For example, if I'm walking from Washington Square Park to Union Square, I often realize that Madison Square Park is just a few blocks north. And once I'm near Madison Square I know it's just another short distance to Bryant Park. And once I'm near Bryant Park, then I think seeing an exhibition at MoMA on 53rd. You see now how this works. I could very well end up at Columbia University just by hopping from one major New York landmark to the next.

A day walk in Manhattan affords plentiful resting places such as restaurants and cafés. People often ask my advice about where to stop "to powder one's nose," and I mention coffee shops (if you purchase a coffee or other beverage), and the really nice public bathrooms in Bryant Park. At any rate, I've designed this day walk to include a long lunch somewhere south of Central Park. In addition, I recommend a mid-morning break for coffee and another afternoon break for tea. Enlarging the map brings up a list of recommended places. I've designed the walk to proceed from north to south, because, in my experience, walking from uptown to downtown seems psychologically easier than the other way around.

View Larger Map

The walk takes in a phenomenal amount of city attractions. From north to south, the stroll encompasses the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the wild northern areas of Central Park, the Upper West Side, the American Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Center, MAD (Museum of Arts and Design), Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, New York Public Library, Macy's, the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building, Union Square, Washington Square Park, Soho, City Hall, the Woolworth Building, Bowling Green, and Battery Park, among others. Part of the thrill on this walk is to observe how the architecture and streetscapes change along the way.

By the end of the walk in Battery Park, depending on the season, you may be able to time a beautiful sunset over New York Harbor.

Distance: Total: Approximately 8.8 miles (14.17K)

Health considerations: This day-long 9-mile walk would be best suited for those who have recently completed a long day walk, such as 7 to 8 miles. Walking around the perimeter of Central Park, for example, is about 6.1 miles. Every 20 blocks north-south in Manhattan equals about 1 mile. Be sure to carry a bottle of water for hydration. For even my routine walks of 2.5 - 3 miles, I always carry a bottle of water.

The walk is segmented into the following longer and shorter stretches. For a modified walk, consider using a MTA bus for one or more of the segments.

Morningside Park (at 116th Street) to AMNH (81st and Columbus Ave.): 2.2 miles (3.54K)

AMNH (81st and Columbus) to 59th and Columbus Circle: 1.1 miles (1.77K)

59th & Columbus Circle (at 59th, Central Park) to Bryant Park: 1 mile (1.61K)

Bryant Park (at 42nd St.) to Madison Sq. Park: 1.2 miles (1.93K)

Madison Sq. Park to Union Square : .5 miles (.81K)

Union Square to Washington Square Park .5 miles (.81K)

Washington Sq. to Battery Park: 2.5. miles (4.03K)

Try for a reasonable strolling pace of 2.5 miles (4.03K) per hour.

So, according to my calculations for this day walk, I've reached the time allotted as follows - 270 minutes or 4.5 hours (30 minutes per mile x 9) + two 15-20 minute breaks (30 min.) + 1.5 hour lunch + a total of 1.5 hours of stopping time to looking at stuff along the way = 8 hours. Piece of cake.

Cocktails at the Ritz-Carlton on 2 West Street may be suitable for an end-of-day celebration. By all means, if you've been walking all day, you deserve a cab ride home.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple

An Autumn Walk in Prospect Park: A Slideshow and Map

A social engagement took me to the heart of Brooklyn today, and afterward, I decided to take in the autumn vistas of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's masterpiece, Prospect Park. I walked from the southernmost section of the park near the lake and then up and around the eastern sections all the way to Grand Army Plaza, stopping at the Audubon Boathouse for a little break. The distance was a little over two miles. How glorious! Considering the diversity of trees in Prospect Park - White Oaks, Camperdown Elms, While Mulberries, Japanese Red Pines, the Bald Cypress, and so many others, the autumn foliage put on a great show. As with Central Park, Olmsted and Vaux designed the park as a series of vignettes and picturesque vistas. (See the discussion of The Landscape as Painting and the Landscape Photograph, with respect to Central Park). In some sense, the park, with all of its imaginative landscapes, was the 19th century Romantic's version of virtual reality.

View Larger Map

Images of Prospect Park by Walking Off the Big Apple, November 9, 2008. Official website of Prospect Park.

Images of the State at the Asian Contemporary Art Fair

I had some surreal and unsettling moments while attending the Thursday night opening of the Asian Contemporary Art Fair at Pier 52. An artist friend was looking forward to seeing how her work was presented at the fair, and so we arrived fairly early in the evening to get an overview of the exhibition booths. Walking into the vast space of over 90 exhibitors from Asia, the near East, and Middle East, we were immediately greeted by symbols of the state in the form of several soldiers in green uniforms resembling those of the North Korean army. As we made our way past the contemporary art displayed in the booths, the soldiers kept reforming in several positions around the exhibition space. At several times, they convened in a checkpoint in the main gallery, lining up around models standing on platforms. If this wasn't enough to make me reach for another glass of wine, there was also the overload of Pop Mao on exhibit throughout the galleries as well as the many Asian variations on Koons, Richter, and Kiefer. Yet, the presence of non-derivative work of high quality made me wish I knew more about the contemporary art scene in Asia.

The soldiers, it turned out, were part of Beijing-based artist Yibin Tian's All for One and One for All installation, a complex presentation that played upon the psychology of oppression as well as on the visual culture of the totalitarian state. Taking its title from the famous slogan from Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers, the presentation of the soldiers seemed especially appropriate for this pro-capitalist setting, one designed to sell individual works of art.

I had a funny walk home. While my artist friend stayed behind, I wandered into the night and headed south, not knowing exactly how to get back to my apartment in the Village. Walking along the river I bumped into a large contingent of New York policemen. They were directing traffic to Pier 86. I looked over and looming right in front of me, under theatrical spotlights, was the gigantic bow of the USS Intrepid, the aircraft carrier that served an important role in the Pacific Theater in World War II and which has now been restored and, as of this weekend, opened back up for public tours. I asked a group of police officers about the big brass that were arriving for a pre-opening party, and one of them told me that the guests included several dignitaries, including the former police commissioner and "Bill Clinton and his wife." It was the funny way the officer said this phrase, and he was trying to be humorous, that made me think a lot about the nature of internal police forces and external armies and the role of the individual law enforcer and the state. I finally hailed a taxi and had the driver take me to a subway stop, and from the great melting pot of the W. 4th station, I made my way home.

Images: from Yibin Tian's All for One and One for All installation, Asian Contemporary Art Fair. The fair continues through Sunday, November 9, 2008. Official site.

Coping with Anxiety and Crisis: A Selected List of Fine Chocolate Stores in New York

Fears of recession, concerns about the state of the world, worries about job prospects, and anxieties about the future dominate the news headlines these days, but these kinds of stories are perennial, coloring the way we conduct our lives. Fortunately, we now believe that the 400+ ingredients in dark chocolate may alleviate some of the worst symptoms of this kind of external stress. Had a bad day? A little brisk walk to your local chocolate boutique may fix you right up.

It's funny, but studies show that taking a chocolate supplement doesn't work as well for a sense of individual well-being as the act of eating a piece of chocolate. I understand. I think aesthetics matter. Eating beautiful chocolates can make you feel all yummy and special on the inside. My chocolate cravings can even be satisfied by unravelling the classic and minimalist Hershey's bar. Yet, I still prefer a visit to the city's finest purveyors of chocolate. At the following places (links provided), chocolate is considered a fine art. While the state of the economy may not allow a large ticket item at this time, chocolate makes for a nice little investment.

484 Broome St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-6999
A chic chocolate boutique in Soho with an elegant tasting room. Select your choice of chocolates for a box, or find a ready-made selection. The hot cocoa is superlative here.


80 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 334-3284
A specialist in truffles, try whatever is recommended the day of your visit. Their green tea varieties are lovely.

Jacques Torres
350 Hudson St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 414-2462
66 Water Street (DUMBO)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
On some days, only Jacques Torres will do.

132 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 625-2929
Red fire, people. There's nothing quite like a spicy ancho-flavored chocolate bar, unless you go for the red fire chocolate-covered tortilla chips. A perennial favorite.

La Maison du Chocolat
1018 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10021-0113
Phone: (212) 744-7117
On days when the stock market goes up, consider the Madison Avenue branch of the fine French chocolate house.

Scharffen Berger Chocolate CLOSED (see comment section)
473 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024
(212) 362-9734
The Upper West Side favorite. Available at many venues city-wide.

Payard Patisserie & Bistro
1032 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10021
A classic New York setting with a French twist.

Chocolate Bar
127 East 7th Street, between 1st & Ave A
Henri Bendel
712 Fifth Avenue
3rd Floor Atrium
New York, NY 10019
Terrific boutique selection of chocolates. Their spicy brownies changed the way we bake brownies at home.

Max Brenner
141 2nd Ave (corner of 9th st)
New York, NY 10003
841 Broadway (between 13th and 14th Streets)
Beyond belief for chocolate lovers, The Bald Man offers a full range of chocolate products in many forms.

The Chocolate Room
86 5th Avenue
(between Park Pl & Warren St)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 783-2900
Popular with the Park Slop crowd.

Images of MarieBelle and Vosges by Walking Off the Big Apple. See also the post Wee Willie WOTBA's Downtown Chocolate Walk.

The Sounds of the Village on Election Night, and the Raw Percentages from the Five Boroughs

Just after 11 p.m. on Election night, the moment the networks projected Senator Barack Obama to be the President-Elect of the United States of America, a great roar went up in Greenwich Village. Opening the door to the balcony, I could hear the collective shouts of joy and celebration emanating from other balconies, and from terraces, the streets, and from the doors and windows of many nearby bars. The sounds could be mistaken for the collective cries of glee following a major sports game, but many people came out on their balconies and simply clapped their hands together, a rousing but polite response to a great symphony performance -"Finally! Bravo America! Well done!" And then, of course, I could hear many sounds of the President-Elect's name, so perfect for rhythmic chanting, shouted into the night air, at short and farther distances - "Obama! Obama! Obama!" Car horns, Yippees, Yays, and Obamas continued long into the wee hours of the morning.

I doubt if many people in the neighborhood were productive today. I spent most of the day feeling as if the events of the night before weren't quite real, and I've been lingering in a happy but somber mood. Happy in victory, but somber in facing the daunting challenges ahead. I can only face the challenges of work if I've had the benefits of a good night's sleep. Tonight, the preparation begins.

The electoral tallies, percentage-wise, from the five boroughs:

Manhattan (New York): Obama 85%; McCain 14%
Richmond (Staten Island): Obama 47%; McCain 52%
Queens: Obama 74%; McCain 25%
Kings County (Brooklyn): Obama 79%; McCain 20%
Bronx: Obama 88%; 11%

Image of a Greenwich Village balcony by Walking Off the Big Apple.

Election Night Special Events in New York: Salons, Soups, and Sleepovers

After gathering even a short list of Election Night events in New York, I'm wondering why I made plans to stay home.

• New Museum of Contemporary Art (235 Bowery): "On Election Night 2008 the New Museum hosts an evening of tequila, trivia, and live-stream coverage of the exit polls. Artist Eduardo Sarabia’s Salon Aleman project, including his sculpture Babylon Bar, and his limited-edition Tequila Sarabia will be imported to the Museum for a gathering of campaign camaraderie and fun-filled, trivia-distracted anticipation."

• Exit Art (475 Tenth Avenue): This arts venue's Election Night Party from 7PM - Midnight features a $10 Recession Special, three bands and performances by Exiteers and R. Luke DuBois. They are also advertising "POLITICAL MASKS! SCREEN PRINTING! AND SOUP!!"

• Storefront For Art and Architecture (97 Kenmare St): Election Night Sleepover at Storefront "will hold an all-night election vigil in the gallery with a large-screen CNN projection and special blog-reading stations." 6:00pm - 9:00pm

• Southern Hospitality (1460 Second Ave.): Justin Timberlake's BBQ place invites everyone over at 7 p.m. to watch returns with "$2 Donkey & Elephant Shots ALL NIGHT!!"

• Tribeca Grand Hotel (2 Ave of Americas bet. Walker & White): Election Night Gala presented by Stylerepublic.com, Army of Me, and Grand Life. 9:00 pm- 12 Midnight. DJs and drinks.

• HRC (Human Rights Campaign) of Greater New York is hosting an Election Night Watch Party at Therapy (348 W. 52nd St., between 8th and 9th Aves) from 7:30 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.

• Bohemian Hall (2919 24th Ave, Astoria, NY 11102): 6:00 pm Election Day Bash
"Come watch the election results unfold with Bar specials and Free Admission. Ballot bashing begins in the bar promptly at 6:00pm and Comedyland will add some levity to the night with some humour starting in the Beer Cellar Restaurant at 9:00pm."

• Finally, my favorite new local venue, Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker), will show election returns on large screens beginning at 7 p.m. If I was down in the Village, that's the place I'd elect to go. Tee-hee.

Many bars, saloons, and watering holes have Election specials tonight, so the above list constitutes just a fraction of the possibilities.

Wherever you choose to watch returns, here's MSNBC's First Read post that provides an informed guide for what to look for as the night unfolds.

Image of the window of Gray's Papaya on Sixth Avenue by Walking off the Big Apple.

Casting a Vote at the Break of Dawn

I'm usually only one of a handful of people up and about in the early hours of a typical Greenwich Village morning. It's mostly just the few people who have no homes and who are waking up from their places in the park, the early morning types with dogs, and a few police officers strolling down the street. It's a refreshing way to greet the city, walking through the early morning hours without the crush of humanity. Short of people, I tend to focus on the sky and the weather, on the subtle changes of nature. This morning, the first Tuesday in November, I could enjoy the sites of the autumn leaves in Washington Square Park and watch my dogs jump into a pile of leaves, just like small children.

This morning was different, however, and I was not alone. My spouse and I looked forward to casting our votes for President as early as possible, and with the polls opening in New York at 6 a.m., we decided to make our way over to the voting location as close to 6 a.m. as possible. Coming down the elevator in our apartment building, we found ourselves in company with others making their way to the polls, and so we walked over to the building that houses our polling place together.

The line was already out the door. We enjoyed the congenial chat with our neighbors as we waited our turn. A young woman in front of me, I learned, was casting her first vote. Some made funny comments about the way their friends were dressed, as the early hour encouraged a decided informality. We had the privilege of voting on ancient machines behind curtains, pulling a large red handle to the right to start the process of voting, pushing levers down to indicate our choices, and then finally pulling the large handle back to the left. The act of voting on these machines is physical, and even somewhat noisy with the sound of the red handles, so the process feels quite definite but affirming.

Leaving the polling place and making our way back to the apartment to read the paper and drink more coffee, I thought it was great to have company for the first time in my early morning hours, and I felt better in general about all matters of things, great and small, than I had in a long, long time.

Image: IPhone image of Washington Square Park, morning of November 4, 2008 by Walking Off the Big Apple.

Contemporary African Art in Two NYU Galleries

I recommend seeing two exhibitions at NYU galleries, both located on Washington Square East, before they close in early December:

The Poetics of Cloth
African Textiles/Recent Art
Grey Art Gallery
Through December 6, 2008

The Poetics of Cloth: African Textile/Recent Art is a significant exhibition that explores the continuities of the textile tradition in contemporary African art. While the focus is on the medium of cloth, the exhibition nevertheless explores the topic through photography, painting, sculpture, and video as well, showing the continuities of the textile tradition within a larger art conversation. The contemporary African artists represented here show a deep respect for tradition even while departing from it and exploring the dynamics of change on the continent.

Atta Kwami, a Ghana native who grew up the son of a sculptor, painter, and textile designer, creates abstract paintings that could belong to western modern painting but also clearly come out of West African visual culture. Yinka Shonibare, a Nigerian artist born in London and an international art rock star, has a knockout large C-print of an image of a storm-tossed ship sailed with Dutch wax prints that's titled La Méduse, referencing the shipwreck depicted in Géricault's painting. The Dutch wax prints, Dutch and British-produced interpretations of Indonesian batiks, found a large market in West Africa and became associated with African culture. The cultural complexities of colonization implied within this work are immense. In addition to Shonibare's image, many of the works in the exhibit are photographic images of people wearing their choice of clothing. Several of the most stunning artworks in the exhibit are the beautiful, tactile works of cotton or silk themselves, Adinkra cloths and Kente cloths or other types, but even El Anatsui, an artist from Ghana now living in Nigeria, creates contemporary patterned objects out of slats of burned or treated wood. The star work of the exhibition, however, is Rikki Wemega-Kwawu's Kente for the Space Age, 2007, a visually powerful artwork woven of colorful used phone cards and plastic twine.

S&M: Shrines and Masquerades in Cosmopolitan Times
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
80 Washington Square East Galleries
Through December 6, 2008

This exhibition in NYU's 80 Washington Square East Galleries features contemporary work that reinterprets the legacy of African Shrines and Masquerades. The work is sometimes serious, but as is the nature of masquerading, some of it is also mischievous and very funny. In this serious-funny vein, be sure to take in the video by Lyle Ashton Harris, one of the show's curators and a member of the Steinhardt faculty, of himself "Performing MJ." Keeping in the vein of rock stars, I'd also like to recommend Chris Bogia's two separate shrines to Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith. Bogia creates the icons in each shrine by weaving panels that recreate their Blue and Horses albums, respectively. Senga Nengudi's wall sculptures of found objects, nylon hose, wire, and sand are elegantly-made and skillfully composed. The same can be said of Onyedika Chuke's Fur Composition #6 of goat pelt and fabric as well as the exquisite pencil drawing of the pelt that's near it on the wall. Most all of this work adds to the overall theme, and the curators chose well. The exhibition testifies to the rich possibilities of creating meaningful artworks within the known tropes and the practices of the distant past. This exhibition is refreshing in its balance between playfulness and thought-provoking cultural exchange. Anyone who has ever created a shrine to someone or experienced the interior changes when dressed up as someone else will certainly get this exhibit. But they may come away from seeing this work, like I did, with a more profound understanding of the deep need to pay respect to cherished beings and to imagine life in someone else's skin.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple

Chasing the Demons Away in a Village Full of Ghosts - The Village Halloween Parade 2008

This past week seemed busier than usual, with a myriad of social events, job tasks (I have four wonderful part-time writing and editing gigs, counting this one), and household duties - hosting a houseguest, dinner out at Gemma, a night of drinks at the Temple Bar with an old friend from my Austin days, several telephone meetings, a myriad of important emails to attend, a terrific meeting at the Antique Café on 26th with a new colleague, two sick dogs (both of whose ailments would make me sick to even describe, but they required trips to the vet), a visit to two NYU galleries to review for these pages, and all through the week, a practice of tossing clothes into a dark corner where I could ignore them until today. Before, in between, and after these social events, I was, like many others, checking polls and political websites for the latest election news. The election talk and my need for updates made me so anxious that I felt like I was acquiring a late-onset Attentional Deficit Disorder. Though I accomplished some necessary work tasks over the course of the week, and I did manage to sneak in a couple of art reviews on this site, I woke up Friday morning with that guilty feeling of being behind. I hate that. Fortunately, the calendar and a beautiful fall evening conspired for the proper witching event last night to dispel some of my non-electoral demons and to ward off most of the petty gremlins that have tugged at me all week. Walking through a night like last night, with an estimated 60,000 souls marching in the Village Halloween Parade and with 1.8 million others descending on my neighborhood to enjoy it, helped me walk off some anxiety. My spirits were lifted immediately when I heard someone yell, "Hey, Andy Warhol just took our picture!," and I realized that the person in the white wig and glasses and the black jacket that they were talking about was me. This morning, after a night in which I continued to hear the sounds of late-night revelers drift into my sleep, I woke up to an uplifting All Saints' Day with a clearer eye, greeted by two healthy dogs with waggity tails.

Images from October 31, 2008, in and around Greenwich Village, 6th Avenue. from Bleecker Street down to Van Dam Street. Even more images of the day and night on Flickr WOTBA.