Category: New York

Peace Fountain at St. John the Divine, NYC

Peace Fountain at St. John the Divine, NYC

The plaque at the base of the Peace Fountain outside the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine in New York City reads:

Peace Fountain celebrates the triumph of Good over Evil, and sets before us the world’s opposing forces—violence and harmony, light and darkness, life and death—which God reconciles in his peace.When the fountain operates, four courses of water cascade down the freedom pedestal into a maelstrom evoking the primordial chaos of Earth. Foursquare around the base, flames of freedom rise in witness to the future. Ascending from the pool, the freedom pedestal is shaped like the double helix of DNA, the key molecule of life. Atop the pedestal a giant crab reminds us of life’s origins in sea and struggle. Facing West, a somnolent Moon reflects tranquility from a joyous Sun smiling to the East. The swirls encircling the heavenly bodies bespeak the larger movements of the cosmos with which earthly life is continuous.

Nine giraffes—among the most peaceable of animals—nestle and prance about the center. One rests its head on the bosom of the winged Archangel Michael, described in the bible as the leader of the heavenly host against the forces of Evil. St. Michael’s sword is vanquishing his chief opponent, Satan, whose decapitated figure plunges into the depths, his head dangling beneath the crab’s claw. Tucked away next to the Sun, a lion and lamb relax together in the peace of God’s kingdom, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

I’ve admitted it before: I’m an art bigot. I just don’t get modern art, and I didn’t get this statue, either. But it was interesting to look at, and impressive in size. But as for offering commentary and analysis, I’ll leave that to the description quoted above.

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I just kept walking around it because every time I made a circle I saw new things that I had completely missed before. There’s a lot to take in.

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cathedral church of st john the divine peace fountain new york nyc

cathedral church of st john the divine peace fountain new york nyc

The Peace Fountain is located outside the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, at 1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025.  

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, NYC

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, NYC

We did not intend to do a cathedral tour of New York City, but it very nearly ended up that way when, after touring Riverside Church, we headed to our next destination and happened upon the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the Gothic Revival architecture that drew us in, it was the humorous signs warning dog walkers to be courteous:

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We wandered through the adjacent property and admired the statuary, then this caught our eye.  Certainly, it wasn’t done on purpose or by a human hand, but it gave us a chuckle.

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When we made it around to the front entrance of the church we realized just how big the church is.

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That’s only the center section of it!  Some say it is the largest Anglican cathedral in the world, with an interior area of 121,000 square feet.

Those 12 x 18 feet doors are made of bronze and were installed in 1936.  The artist only made three other sets in his lifetime – two in England and one in Boston.  The doors consist of 48 relief panels depicting scenes from the Bible.

At the west end of the nave, installed by stained glass artist Charles Connick and constructed out of 10,000 pieces of glass, is the largest rose window in the U.S.

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Construction on the cathedral began in 1892, the first services were held in 1899, and it was first opened end-to-end in 1941.  After a large fire on December 18, 2001, it closed for repairs and reopened in November 2008. It remains unfinished, with construction and restoration a continuing process. As a result, it is often nicknamed St. John the Unfinished.

The day we visited, there was a funeral taking place, so we were limited in what we could see and photograph. There were many statues and tapestries in small alcoves along the sides of the church, and a large piece of artwork hanging from the ceiling. It seemed equal parts museum and church, which seemed strange to me. However, it is impressive in its size and history, so I recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine is located at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue
at 112th Street, New York, NY 10025.  Telephone 212-316-7540.  The Cathedral is open 7:30 am to 6:00 pm daily. The Visitor Center is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. There is no charge for a self-guided tour, but there are also themed, fee-charging tours available.

M&M’s World, New York

M&M’s World, New York

At 24,000 square feet, New York City’s largest candy store is M&M’s World, located in Times Square. And it is guaranteed to bring out the child in all who visit.

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Visiting the M&Ms World store was a bit of a surprising experience for me. While I would be hard pressed to tell you exactly what I was expecting, I can say for certain that what I saw when I entered the store was not it.

First, the color. That’s the most iconic and fun part of M&M candies, right? So of course the store is just an explosion of colors. Each color character has its own merchandise section. (The OCD in me just loved that neat classification of items by color!)

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The other thing that struck me was how crowded it was. I mean, wall to wall people. I was a bit amazed by that. Particularly when not one, but two different international tourists asked me a question, neither one in English. I always thought of M&Ms as an all-American candy, but clearly they are popular worldwide.

Since the store is three stories high, there were a lot of great opportunities to do an aerial-type shot. This is probably the best one that shows how many people are crammed into that space.

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Of course, in addition to the T-shirts and mugs and candy dispensers, you could buy M&Ms, available in flavors and colors that I didn’t even know existed.

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Note: the above is only a small section of the “Wall of Chocolate.”

I took advantage of the wide selection by getting my daughter a mixture of M&Ms that matched her recently redecorated bedroom. (Of course, they were all eaten before they could even be displayed, so perhaps that wasn’t the wisest purchase.)

The store also has a Personalized Printer, which will allow guests to create customized M&M’s right in the store. Store visitors can select from a variety of images, as well as create customized messages that will be printed on M&M’s in about two minutes.

M&M’s World is a fun stop even if you don’t plan to buy anything, and I recommend dropping in if you’re in Times Square.

M&M’s World New York is located at 1600 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Telephone 212-295-3850. The store is open daily from 9:00 am to midnight.

Along the Way: Riverside Church, New York City

Along the Way: Riverside Church, New York City

We had no intention of visiting Riverside Church in New York. We hadn’t even heard of it before. But when we left the General Grant Memorial, we were drawn by its impressive architecture. Finding the ornate doors open, we wandered inside.

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The church was conceived by industrialist, financier, and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and minister Harry Emerson Fosdick as a large, interdenominational church, open to all who profess faith in Christ. Today, its congregation includes more than forty ethnic groups.

Over the years the church has hosted many notable speakers. Martin Luther King Jr. voiced his opposition to the Vietnam War at Riverside on April 4, 1967. That is also known as his Riverside Church speech. The Rev. Jesse Jackson gave the eulogy at Jackie Robinson’s funeral service in 1972. Former President Bill Clinton spoke at Riverside Church on August 29, 2004. Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan spoke there after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Cesar Chavez, Desmond Tutu, Fidel Castro, Arundhati Roy and Nelson Mandela have all spoken at Riverside Church.

It is stunning, inside and out. It is the tallest church in the United States. The bell tower alone is built on a frame that is 22 stories high.

As soon as you step foot inside the church you forget that you are in New York City because it feels so much more like a centuries-old European cathedral.

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A feeling that is echoed again inside the sanctuary:

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And the stained glass windows are beautiful as well.  Here is a close up that shows Eve, forbidden fruit still in her hand:

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The gardens outside were quite beautiful too.

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We took our time and were able to wander through the church at our leisure. It was a lovely diversion and I’m so glad we decided to stop there! That’s why it’s important to leave a little wiggle room in your sightseeing plans for things that you find along the way.

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The Riverside Church is located at 490 Riverside Drive, New York, New York 10027, one block from the General Grant Memorial.  Telephone 212-870-6700.  Guided tours are available for a fee of $10 per adult (seniors and students, $5).  Call or visit website for more information.

 

Who is Buried in Grant’s Tomb?

Who is Buried in Grant’s Tomb?

The answer, of course, is no one. The body of former US President and Civil War general Ulysses S Grant and that of his wife, Julia, are both interred at Grant’s Tomb (more properly called the General Grant National Memorial), but neither was buried.

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I know. It’s a technicality.

Anyway, when Hubs and I took a trip to New York City, we did so with very limited spending money. We determined we would see as many free attractions as possible. And due to the age-old riddle above, Grant’s Tomb made our short list of places to visit.

I was surprised to see how big it was:

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I had no idea US Grant was such a big deal. The fact that it’s called the General Grant Memorial and not the President Grant Memorial gives some insight into why the citizens of this country thought highly enough of him to create a memorial in his honor. He served as a Union general in the Civil War and definitively made his mark on US history as he led the Union army to victory over the Confederate states. At the time, it was said that his initials (US) stood for Unconditional Surrender.

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Interestingly, as you can see from the photo above, he cared deeply about peace. In fact, he said:

Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.

The tomb was finished a mere twelve years after his death. It is the largest mausoleum in North America.

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I can think of few historical figures who are remembered for equal measures of good and bad as Grant is. The consensus seems to be that he was a brilliant general but a poor President.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Grant implemented Congressional Reconstruction, often at odds with Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson. Twice elected president, Grant led the Republicans in their effort to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery, protect African-American citizenship, and support economic prosperity nationwide. On the other hand, his presidency has often come under criticism for protecting corrupt associates and, in his second term, leading the nation into a severe economic depression.

The Visitors Center at the General Grant Memorial is full of information about Ulysses Grant – his military career, presidency, and his death. I recommend spending some time there if you would like to learn more about this enigmatic man.

The General Grant Memorial is located at 122nd Street and Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10027. Telephone 212-666-1640. The mausoleum and visitor center is open Wednesday through Sunday, with varying hours. See website for full details as it’s a bit confusing.

Top of the Rock Observation Deck, NYC

Top of the Rock Observation Deck, NYC

I think part of the reason that humans have this somewhat crazy desire to fly is because we want to see everything from above. On the ground, we may feel small and insignificant, but from up above, everything shrinks and seems smaller than us. Our perspectives change and we feel bigger, more confident, more god-like.

At least, that’s the only reason I can think of why I parted with $64 so my son and I could go to the top of Rockefeller Center and look at the view.

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I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it (it was), just that it was expensive (it was). The view was nothing short of magnificent and the added bonus was that it was a beautiful day – clear blue sky, sunny, not too hot.

We looked out at Central Park and realized just how big it is. Then we looked out from a different side and saw the Empire State Building.

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It was pretty amazing!

Top of the Rock is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. The entrance is on 50th Street
between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Telephone 212-698-2000. Hours are 8:00 am to midnight daily, making this a great thing to do either before the usual attractions are open or after they are closed.

Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Museum of Modern Art, NYC

So. I will say right up front that I am not a fan of modern art. In fact, I’m not a very artsy person in general. I can appreciate art, but I have a very traditional definition of what constitutes art. Basically, if it’s something that I can recreate with minimal effort, I don’t consider it art because I don’t consider myself an artist.

I will admit it. I am an art bigot.

My son, on the other hand, loves modern art. He spent most of his teenage years doodling the strangest things – people with three eyeballs, an octopus with a clock for its face, people who have robotic claws instead of hands, etc. I don’t get it.

So it was kind of a big deal when I offered to take him to New York City for his birthday and tour the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Because I knew there would be pain for me. Financial and visual.

I was not entirely wrong. Certainly, New York is one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been. And certainly, there was some “art” that made me cringe. For example, Louise Bourgeois’ Fillette. Google it if you dare.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find some things that I genuinely liked. For example, Marcel Odenbach’s You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees:

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You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees plays on a common expression and is a plea to not only see this particular forest as a forest but also take into account its context: the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz–Birkenau, was named after the many birch trees surrounding the complex.

I also thought this chandelier by Ingo Maurer called Porca Miseria was pretty cool.

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It is made of flatware and broken plates, bowls, mugs. I think it would look awesome in an eat-in kitchen.

And in the strange-but-kinda-cute category, we have the Heart to Heart Chain and Billy B Old English Padlock by Matthias Megyeri:

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Plus, I was also impressed with how the museum itself seemed like a work of art at times:

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But, to be fair, there was quite a lot of weirdness. Like this Bubbles Chaise Longue by Frank Gehry.

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(It’s cardboard.) And there was also Dan Flavin’s Monument.

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All in all, it wasn’t a place that I would visit a lot, but I am glad that I went. It did help me broaden my definition of art and I found plenty that was interesting or evocative. If you’re into modern art, you should definitely plan to visit there.

The Museum of Modern Art is located at 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019. Telephone 212-708-9400. Museum hours vary by day. Check their website or call for hours when planning your visit.

Central Park: Urban Oasis

Central Park: Urban Oasis

A few years ago, I took my son on a bus trip to New York City for his birthday. We had one must-see destination, and not a lot of extra cash.

The must-see destination was the Museum of Modern Art, which I will write about in a separate post. The main point is that I did not have a lot of cash to spend on sightseeing. The bus let us off at Central Park, so we decided to do a little exploring before heading to the museum. What we could see of the park at first glance was very pretty, and after all, it was free. That was a magic word in a city so expensive it’s a wonder they don’t charge you to breathe.

The park occupies quite a big space in Manhattan – 843 acres, to be exact. In a city where space is obviously at a premium, it’s a wonder that the park hasn’t been scaled back and encroached upon. But ever since it was established as a park in 1857, it has held on to that mass of land in the middle of the island. And thank goodness!

Take a look at this picture I took of Central Park from the sidewalk.

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You can’t even tell that it’s in the middle of a bustling metropolis. In other locations throughout the park, the city is more visible, providing an interesting contrast between the bucolic and the urban:

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But it’s more than just trees and water. Here are just a few of the things you can see in Central Park:

  • 29 sculptures by noted artists, including Balto and Alice in Wonderland
  • Cleopatra’s Needle, one of three obelisks dating from around 1450 BC that were originally erected at the Temple of Ra in ancient Egypt (the other two are in Paris and London)
  • Strawberry Fields, a section of the park dedicated to the memory of former Beatle John Lennon
  • A carousel with 58 hand carved horses
  • The Central Park Zoo
  • 21 different playgrounds for children
  • Tavern on the Green restaurant
  • 2 ice skating rinks
  • Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre
  • Free music concerts and dramatic presentations
  • Multiple rock outcroppings like the one below:

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The park really is one of the most impressive things you can see in New York City, and that is a very long list! The temptation when visiting NYC is to hit all of the big city sights – Times Square, The Met, Empire State Building, MoMA, Guggenheim, Radio City, etc. – but I really recommend taking some time to visit the park too. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place for a much-needed time out.

Central Park is centrally located in the borough of Manhattan, New York City, NY. Telephone 212.310.6600. You may obtain a map of the park online or at any of their visitor centers.