Please Note – I am currently editing the travel journal I started writing in 2007 and posting as I go. I welcome feedback and encourage my readers to post comments.
Next Around the Bend – Iceland
After leaving Caribbean Princess, Huckleberry B and I spent two more delightful days in NYC.
We have already decided that New York rates very high in our list of favourite world cities. I spent half a day in the city in the mid-1980’s when still a teenager. I recall taking the ferry to Staten Island – past the Statue of Liberty – but very little else. Huck B remembers visiting New York in 1981 and staying one night.
Despite taking so long to return, the street scape seems very familiar to us. After enjoying so many television shows and movies set in New York, we half expected George Costanza to walk around the corner with his arm around Charlotte York. Perhaps Rudi Huxtable would be running in the park. Was that Michael Corleone lurking in the shadows? Perhaps it was just Mickey Blue Eyes. Don’t worry Andy Sipowicz is on the case.
There is an energy in New York, unlike any city we have previously visited. You can do anything you want and anything is possible. We both felt inspired by our short visit and are keen to return.
After unpacking at our hotel at Columbus Circle, we had the rest of a lazy Friday afternoon to ourselves. After strolling in beautiful Central Park, we headed down to Times Square and – again on a whim – purchased tickets to the 2pm matinee of Jersey Boys. We had seen the production of this musical in Sydney and enjoyed it. We would have to admit, however, that the NY production was superior. The fact that members of the audience had made the journey from New Jersey – and cheered whenever place names were mentioned in the script and laughed whenever inside ‘Jersey‘ jokes were uttered – added tremendously to the experience.
After Jersey Boys, we headed back to TKTS and purchased tickets for the evening production of Chicago. Another great performance! We have seen this musical three times in Sydney and would have to say that the actress playing Roxie Hart, Bianca Marroquin, was the most engaging and alluring we have seen. We loved her! I did some Internet research and have discovered that Bianca was the first Mexican actress to score a lead role on Broadway. The actress playing Thelma Kelly was, however, a serious disappointment. Whenever she sang, I felt my time was better served focusing on the back-up dancers. Allow me to be parochial for just a moment, and suggest that Australia’s Carolyn O’Conner was born for Thelma’s role and nobody (not even Catherine Zeta-Jones) compares.
A Tour of New York
On Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed the afternoon and evening with our friends, Cathy and Rich. You may recall that they collected us from the airport when we first landed at JFK several weeks ago. It was Cathy who gave me the FDNY cap which caused me to inadvertently accept the thanks of a grateful nation on profoundly false pretenses.
Cath is a happy to tell you (and tell you again) that she’s a proud ‘nu yawker‘. Rich, however, is from Long Island. I infer from Cath’s derision that this is completely different to being a ‘nu yawker‘. I thought Long Island was part of New York, but what do I know!
After a tour of the lower east side in Rich’s car, we parked in the financial district and made a tour of Ground Zero. Needless to say, this was a solemn experience. Cathy grew up in this area and used to walk through the World Trade Centre on her way to work. Today was, however, her first visit to Ground Zero since the Memorial was opened. She said that despite walking that ground thousands of times in her life, it was now unrecognisable to her.
I think the concept of the memorial is very good. Rather than rebuild on the same ground, the footprint of each tower has been converted into a square water fall. Gallons of water – the nemesis of fire and the source of life – cascade down the four walls, gather at the bottom and then descend into a well at the centre. The names of each of the 9/11 victims have been etched into the side of the memorials, including the names of several of Cathy’s friends. A short distance to the north the Freedom Tower soars into the sky.
Cathy was worked in a building in the financial district on that horrible day. We listened silently as she told us of her experience. It was harrowing.
Our mood lifted after leaving Ground Zero. We chatted happily as Rich drove along the west side of Manhattan before parking near Times Square. A quick look at Fifth Avenue and the Rockefeller Centre was followed by a brief introduction to Cath’s son, who has followed Rich’s example by joining the NYPD. Cath is very thankful that he has been posted to Times Square and not the Projects. He certainly looked the part in his NYPD uniform, although we must say he is rather ‘fresh faced’ to say the least.
Then it was dinner at Virgil’s BBQ! More mountains of food, this time various selections of ribs and/or roast chicken with two choices of sides from a list including french fries, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, baked potato etc. They don’t waste time with paper serviettes at Virgil’s. No way! Every diner is given a hand towel with which to wipe their hands, face and any other area which may become immersed in sauce and animal fats.
Doubtless our friends from Texas will be homicidal when they hear we ate Southern BBQ in New York City!
Texans: ‘C’mom y’all. If ya want real Southern BBQ, mosey on down our way.’
Nu Yawkers: ‘Come join us in the City or GET OUT OF THE WAY!’
We had a great time in NYC with Cathy and Rich! We will long remember our time together, provided, of course, we survive the homicidal urges of our Texan friends.
Imagining a Concert in the Park
The next morning, I went for a final stroll in Central Park. Starting at the south end, I wandered over the expanse of the sheep meadow, paused at the Bethesda Fountain, gazed over the Lake, negotiated my way through ‘the Ramble‘ – where squirrels searched for food amongst the overgrown forest – passed the Belvedere Castle and found myself on ‘the Great Lawn’.
This is what I was looking for.
Some research on Wikipedia told me that it was on the Great Lawn that Simon & Garfunkel performed their concert on 19 September 1981, producing my favourite album of all time. I had my iPod with me, so I sat on a park bench and listened to the renditions of ‘Mrs Robinson‘, ‘America‘ and the ‘the Boxer‘ performed on that famous day, over 30 years ago. For me, it was a bit of a homecoming and a perfect way to end my time in New York.
I did, however, stop on my way back to the hotel to visit Strawberry Fields, a section on the western side of Central Park, adjacent to West 72nd Street, dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, who was murdered, in December 1980, only metres away in front of the Dakota Building where he lived with Yoko Ono. A throng of people had gathered around the ‘Imagine‘ mosaic in Strawberry Fields that Sunday morning, many crouching down to have their photo taken as they pointed at the single word, so full of meaning. A busker belted out the wistful tune and the people applauded him when he finished.
Satisfied with my morning walk, I hurried back to out hotel at Columbus Circle, where Huckleberry B was preparing for our journey to Iceland, and a very different view of the world.