Slow down, you move too fast

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From our visit to New York last week… the thermometer in my car was topping 100 degrees on the morning we decided to take a run into Manhattan to visit aunt Joan and spend some time downtown in our new favorite city green area, Battery Park. One of the Midtown Tunnel tubes was closed due to construction, so we changed our route to go in via the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge – better known as the 59th Street Bridge. The traffic, the heat, the New York lifestyle… perhaps Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel knew what they were talking about when they wrote the opening line of The 59th Street Bridge song… “Slow down, you move too fast”.

Speaking of music… I couldn’t get the theme tune from the TV show “Taxi” out of my head as we eventually broke free of the slow-moving traffic and sailed across the 59th Street Bridge. We don’t usually travel into NYC via this bridge, but the spectacular views of the city skyline made it worth the detour. The Saturday morning traffic in Manhattan was its usual energetic self, and as we drove down 7th Avenue toward Chelsea, we cranked all of the windows open and soaked in the city. We parked the car, and after a nice visit with aunt Joan, we hopped on the #1 subway train at 23rd Street going toward Battery Park.

The temperature on the concrete streets of NYC was pretty intense, but if you want to feel seriously oppressive and stifling heat, then take a walk down into a subway station – luckily the trains themselves are air-conditioned. After a short ride and another classic NYC experience for Jack, we were at our destination… the eclectic and very much alive Battery Park. Within minutes these three transplanted Mainers were overheating, though the cool waters of a playground fountain brought a brief and welcome respite.

Lori and I lived in Manhattan for a while when we first got married, so the hustle and bustle of the city lifestyle doesn’t seem so unusual to us. As we mingled with the locals and the many wide-eyed tourists, we all enjoyed great views of the Staten Island Ferry coming and going, and the iconic Statue of Liberty and historic Ellis Island welcoming seafaring visitors to New York Harbor. We both loved living in NYC, and if ever there was a strong enough desire to switch gears in life, this is a place we wouldn’t hesitate to return to.

We relaxed and ate a nice (air-conditioned) lunch at a PJ Clarke’s restaurant in North Cove where a jazz festival was jamming, we stopped by the remarkable Irish Hunger Memorial, and we reflected on the more recent emotional history of this part of New York as we viewed the new World Trade Center being constructed. We stopped by the memorial to the Universal Soldier, and we wandered the often tree-covered sidewalks that look out over the busy Hudson River and across to the now quite impressive New Jersey skyline.

Sort of a side note… Jack has been very interested in cars lately, and as we drive along the highway he identifies and names just about every make and model we see. As we were picking up our car from the parking garage, he became quite excited when he noticed a fancy, sporty car parked beside ours. He immediately recognized it as a Ferrari… as you can imagine, that just made his day! I don’t know why he thought this was an appropriate pose, but he’s 7 years old, and I guess that’s what you do when you see a Ferrari!

The couple of hours we spent exploring and enjoying the area around Battery Park were very well spent, but by early afternoon we were craving a return to home base and the refreshing cool water of Grandpa’s backyard pool. As expected, leaving NYC wasn’t any easier than getting there, and if you have never dealt with LIE traffic you might not understand… but trust me, that pool back home never felt so good.

Irish Hunger Memorial in NYC

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This city never ceases to amaze me. There’s always something new and interesting to see around every corner, and while exploring the lower west side of Manhattan on a recent short visit, we stumbled on the Irish Hunger Memorial for the first time. An oasis of green in a jungle of concrete and steel, this unique memorial in New York City is beautifully presented and a poignant reminder of constant struggles to provide the most basic of human needs.

A description from Wikipedia:

“The Irish Hunger Memorial, designed collaboratively by artist Brian Tolle, landscape architect Gail Wittwer-Laird, and 1100 Architect, is located on a one-half acre site at the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in the Battery Park City neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, and is dedicated to raising awareness of the Great Irish Famine that killed up to a million in Ireland between the years 1845 and 1852. The memorial was dedicated on July 16, 2002. It is a uniquely landscaped plot, which utilizes stones, soil, and native vegetation brought in from the western coast of Ireland. The memorial contains stones from all of the different counties of Ireland. The memorial also incorporates an authentic rebuilt Irish cottage of the 19th century. The cottage at the memorial is from Carradoogan in the parish of Attymass in County Mayo. The cottage belonged to the Slack family but was deserted in the 1960s. The Slack family donated the cottage to the memorial in “memory of all the Slack family members of previous generations who emigrated to America and fared well there.” “

Between 1846 and 1850, potato blight all but wiped out the main source of food for the Irish people and a catastrophic famine ensued. One and a half million Irish people died, and many more fled their homeland just to survive. The quarter of an acre Irish Hunger Memorial garden is a reminder of An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger), and it also recognizes the many parts of the world still affected by hunger today.

A raised overlook provides impressive views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, significant as symbols of the welcome afforded the immigrant Irish people. The outside wall of the memorial is adorned with almost two miles of poetry, statistics and quotes about the impact of the deadly famine.

Somewhat ironically placed deep within the Financial District of the richest city in the world, this site stands as a simple reminder of past and present issues around world hunger, and in a time when some of us have so much, it seems hard to believe that so many people across the globe still go without. Well worth a visit.