A Ninja in New York

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There goes my New York Ninja. Jack adapts to the city easily, and although not on the horizon, Lori and I often talk about how well he would do if we ever decided to live there. Though we were sad to be in the city to pack up Aunt Joan’s apartment after she moved to a Northampton assisted living facility, Lori, Jack and I did enjoy being back in the heart of Chelsea – even if it was just for a long weekend. I’ve always felt that life in the city is dynamic, exciting, and full of energy, and our recent visit, though brief, brought back all sorts of good memories from when Lori and I lived here twenty years ago. Knowing that family ties to the city are becoming more and more tenuous, throughout the weekend we felt a sense of wanting to really absorb as much of this lifestyle as possible. I know we will be able to return to the city whenever we want to, but somehow without the family connection I don’t think it will feel the same. The bond and sense of almost belonging here that we have always enjoyed will be harder to find, so I’m glad we packed so much of the city into one of our “last” visits. New York, New York… so good they named it twice.

Madison Square Park, New York City

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After visiting the top of the Empire State Building, Jack and I slowly meandered about the city as we made our way back downtown toward Aunt Joan’s apartment on 25th Street. Reaching the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street, we were greeted by an oasis in the city surrounded by spectacular architecture and filled with historical and impressive monuments and sculptures. Home to a kiosk housing the renowned Shake Shack restaurant, the lively and beautiful Madison Square Park is a wonderful place that Jack and I wandered into and then stayed a while. Kudos to the Madison Square Park Conservancy for all of the work they do to keep this park so vital and alive.

The bridge to Brooklyn

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Spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, this marvel of engineering provides a connection between two famous New York City boroughs. Partly constructed of giant granite blocks quarried off the Maine coast on the island of Vinalhaven, the 1595.5 foot long national historic landmark was completed in 1883. Orginally known as the “New York and Brooklyn Bridge” and also as the “East River Bridge” – this iconic symbol of the urban landscape was officially named “The Brooklyn Bridge” by the city government in 1915. We of course did the touristy thing, and with mid-November temperatures that soared to almost seventy degrees, we enjoyed the stroll from Manhattan all the way across the bridge to the East River State Park in Brooklyn.

As you can imagine, the views were incredible, as was the food we sampled at Smorgasburg, an amazing outdoor “farmer’s market” for foodies located in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Filled with smells and tastes to die for, there were 50+ vendors selling handmade food with origins from all over the world. As we relaxed under the Brooklyn Bridge (with the view above), we chowed on the best Falafel tacos ever, tasty Texas barbeque brisket sandwiches, the creamiest of New York cheesecake, and a gourmet peanut butter and jelly smore that was ridiculously delicious. Yum, yum…

High above the city streets

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Located on the lower west side of New York City is one of the absolutely coolest public spaces you’re ever going to find. The High Line is a unique park built on an historic but decommissioned freight rail line elevated above the streets on the lower west side of Manhattan. The idea of turning the old train tracks of what was once New York City’s “Life-Line” into a green area and public park was an innovative one, and when we first visited this amazing place a few years ago, we were intrigued by what we saw. Our return visit only reinforced our feelings of admiration for this spectacular preservation project and those who champion its cause.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened June 9, 2009. The second section, from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, opened in spring, 2011.

http://www.thehighline.org

The design and layout of all of the High Line elements – everything from the railings, to the benches, and the wonderful landscaping all mesh together in a very stylish way that effectively celebrates and incorporates both the history and feel of the old train tracks. As we walked from 20th Street to Gansevoort Street near Greenwich Village, it was almost surreal to be wandering along such a beautiful pathway right above the streets of one of the busiest cities in the world. Kudos to the “Friends of The High Line” who fought so hard for the preservation and restoration of what is a wonderful addition to NYC. If you ever get the chance to wander along the High Line, take it… you won’t be disappointed.

When the lights go down in the city

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New York City exudes a different kind of energy at night. It becomes even more exciting, with what might be obvious during the daylight hours seeming much more mysterious as the shadows reach into dark doorways and alleys. A feeling of anticipation for what’s around the next corner, or further down the street, overtakes every other thought, and the artificial light trying to brighten the streets and avenues provides what I think is a more intense glimpse of city life at that moment. When the lights go down in the city… in addition to being a cool Journey song… might just be my favorite time to wander the ever busy sidewalks of New York.

A New York state of mind

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It’s been a while since I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, and on this visit I was determined to return (and bring Jack up there for the first time). When Lori and I lived in the city, it was one of the first landmarks we always brought visiting friends to, though I don’t remember it being so expensive back then. Jack was incredibly excited to ride the elevator which sped like lightning to the 86th floor, and when we stepped out onto the windy and cold observatory deck and saw the views, this wide-eyed eight year old was more than impressed. I could tell that he was intrigued by how high we were, especially since we had been noticing the top of the tower from just about every part of the city we had already visited, and it was cool to see him literally run from the east to west to north and south sides of the observatory in search of a different view. Methinks this is one experience he will remember for a long time. Once again… everything in this post was Instagrammed.

Two Mainers exploring New York City

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New York City is the greatest city on earth. A family obligation recently afforded us the opportunity to spend a couple of nights on the island of Manhattan, and part of my responsibility on this visit – while Lori was working – was to keep the little man entertained. So, what do two Mainers set loose in the big city do? Well, they explore… and as they explore, one of them Instagrams their adventures. In just a couple of days, Jack and I hit up some of the more famous locations… Central Park (and the zoo), Times Square, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue, the Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway and 42nd Street, Greenwich Village… and that’s what I’ll be documenting in the next couple of blog posts. Let’s start with Central Park and the Children’s Zoo where we saw some awesome critters (in and outside the zoo). I know it’s weird, but I can’t shake the spooky feeling I get when looking at the first couple of photographs from this post. Makes me think of The Shining… here’s Jack!

A slice of heaven

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No… this hasn’t turned into a food blog, but I figured I would share some iPhone pics from our recent visit to NYC – I love having the camera with me (Lori’s iPhone) all the time.

There are lots of cities that lay claim to having the best pizza in the US, and needless to say, New York City is definitely one of them. Luckily we get to visit what I consider to be the most incredible city in the world quite often, and every time we do, we like to sample some of the local fare, especially the pizza. John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village has long been a favorite of ours, and judging by the number of “Top 10 Pizza in NY” lists it is on, we aren’t alone in our admiration. I can remember visiting John’s with friends one Saturday night back in 1989 when Lori and I lived and worked in Manhattan, so now every time we return it brings back great memories.

You wouldn’t believe how many pizza joints there are in NYC… it feels like there’s literally one on every block. In my book there’s no such thing as bad pizza, but to survive the competition in New York you’d better be good! Besides, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere… wait, isn’t that a line from a song or something 😉

Skipping Black Friday

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My peeps enjoying NYC the day after Thanksgiving

Lori’s parents live in a quiet and beautiful part of Long Island near stunning beaches and only half an hour from NYC, but they are also next door to one of the largest and busiest shopping areas imaginable. Old Country Road and Roosevelt Field Mall are famous for the opportunity to grab a retail bargain or two, and on the day after Thanksgiving – dubbed Black Friday since this is usually when most retailers start to turn a profit for the year – the crowds were expected to be massive. So what do you do to escape the madness? Why you go to New York City of course!

Central Park, Upper East Side

Our love of NYC is pretty well documented here on the blog, so we don’t ever need an excuse to spend time there. On this particular visit we took the LIRR train in and hopped on the subway to get us to where we wanted to be – the upper West Side and Central Park. We didn’t really have a detailed plan… we just knew that we wanted to forego the traditional visits to either the Met or the MoNH and enjoy the temperatures in the mid 60’s and abundant sunshine… and what better place to do so than Central Park.

“Arguably one of the most famous parks in the world, Central Park is a manmade wonder.  Not only is it the first public park built in America, but it is also one of the most frequently visited, with over 25 million guests per year. Set in the middle of bustling Manhattan, its grounds serve as a safe haven, not only for athletes, daydreamers, musicians, and strollers, but also for teems of migratory birds each year.  One can spend an entire peaceful day roaming its grounds, gazing upon nearly 50 fountains, monuments, and sculptures or admiring its 36 bridges and arches.”(http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/centralpark)

The Conservatory Water in Central Park

While walking across the park it seemed to be somewhat in transition… there were parts of it closed due to damage from a recent snow laden nor’easter that blasted through weighing down trees still heavy with leaves, and in other places it was a typically peaceful late autumn day where you could easily forget that you were in one of the most energetic cities in the world. We spent a little time feeding the ducks at the Conservatory Water, and though low in the sky, the pleasant fall sun was a welcome respite from the 10 inches of snow that had just fallen back home in Maine. The park was it’s usual vibrant self, and after enjoying a wonderful stroll down toward it’s southern edge, we re-joined civilization and the more “normal” throng of people as we navigated the always busy and bustling area around the Plaza Hotel and Fifth Avenue.

A scene reminiscent of what you would find on a more remote glacial slope in Maine

Pounding the pavement in NYC can be both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time, and by the time we dashed onto the return train at Penn Station with just minutes to spare, we were all ready to relax and maybe even take a nap on the ride home. This was of course after some classic NY Pizza from another of our favorite food places… Pizza Villagio on 6th Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets… there’s nothing like NY pizza! In New York City there are so many people crammed into such a small space, but there is also so much to see and do crammed into the same relatively small space… and I think it is fair to say that we all feel right at home there.

Enjoying the Billy Johnson playground at 67th and 5th Avenue

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.

The High Line, New York City

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On our way home from our wild west vacation, we were excited to be able to stop in New York City to visit Lori’s aunt Joan. Joan lives in Chelsea, a really cool part of lower Manhattan. Walk south 20 minutes from Joan’s apartment and you are in Greenwich Village, and the same distance north gets you to the hustle, bustle and energy of mid-town. We had a good visit with aunt Joan, and it was great to see Carlo too.

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Before heading out of the city and up to Northampton for the night to see Lori’s sister on our way back to Maine, we planned a short trip to a new park in NYC. The High Line had just recently opened, and it has a really interesting history…

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park. The project gained the City’s support in 2002. The High Line south of 30th Street was donated to the City by CSX Transportation Inc. in 2005. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created the High Line’s public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, is projected to open in June 2009.

http://www.thehighline.org

The idea of turning old train tracks into a green area and public park intrigued us, and we were amazed with what we saw. The design and layout of all of the High Line elements – everything from the railings, to the benches, and the wonderful landscaping – though not yet complete, all meshed together in a very stylish way that effectively celebrated both the history and feel of the old train tracks.

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As we walked The High Line from 20th Street to Gansevoort Street near Greenwich Village, it was almost surreal to be wandering along such a beautiful pathway right above the streets of one of the busiest cities in the world. Kudos to the “Friends of The High Line” who fought so hard for the preservation and restoration of what is undoubtedly a wonderful addition to NYC. If you ever get the chance to wander along The High Line, take it… you won’t be disappointed.

Our Sunday stroll through (over) the streets of New York City was certainly enhanced by our experience on The High Line, and our brief stopover in the city was rounded out perfectly with a couple of pies from the renowned “John’s Pizza” on Bleecker Street. Ahhhh NYC pizza… nothing compares 🙂