The Guilty Party

Thursday, July 16, 2009

With a Song In His Heart

With a Song

There were a few Essentials we felt we missed during our first big trip to the Big Apple. We didn't get to The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island or Balto's statue in Central Park. I'm not sure why Balto's statue was important, but my wife said it was, so it was. And speaking of Central Park, we hadn't strolled The Mall, the headwaters of which are also known as Literary Walk, with larger than life representations of Shakespeare, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. The only American in the neighborhood was a fellow by the name of Fitz-Greene Halleck. According to the plaque Halleck was quite the popular and influential literary fellow in his day. But you can't help but wonder if some funds made their way into the Park Commissioner's bank account when the question of whether Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain or Fitz-Greene Halleck should be the choice for Lone Literary American on the Walk. I suppose we shouldn't begrudge him the spot; dollars to donuts it's not easy being the only fellow on the Walk that just about everybody sidles up to and says, "So, just what the heck are you doing here?"

But back to The Missed Essentials. During our last visit, back in '05, the Museum of Modern Art/Manhattan division, commonly known as MoMA, had been going through a major renovation and so if you wanted to visit you had to go to Queens. Well, we used up all of our borough-hopping, long-distance mass transit energy on a trip to the Bronx Zoo and we never made it out east to Queens. So this time we just had to go. Kind of like we had to go see Balto.

Was it worth it? Yeah, pretty much. I've got to admit that a lot of what has passed for art these past fifty or sixty years leaves me scratching my head, rolling my eyes and mumbling, but there was enough stuff there that was engaging, amusing and even thought provoking that I felt our time was pretty well spent. But the one real memory I will carry with me of our visit to MoMA has nothing to do with Pollocks, Warhols, Dalis or even Picassos. What I will remember the most vividly will be a sweet, joyous sound that had me looking around to see just what multi-media installation was using a Bobby McFerrin recording as its soundtrack. What I found instead was a security guard--or whatever title properly belonging to the folks whose dreary task it is to watch over a room full of highly valued art (worthy or not) all shift long--who was, almost without moving his lips, producing beautiful music. In no other way was he drawing attention to himself, and it wasn't even all that easy to tell that the music was coming from him unless you were really paying attention. "Maybe they have it piped into this particular room for some reason" you could easily think to yourself. But it was coming from this man at the right of the photo above, a man whose simple presence was enough to discourage the young woman on the left side of the photo from applying a Sharpie moustache to Roy Lichtenstein's Drowning Girl.

And whose irrepressible song made my day. I should have told him so.

Keep singing, especially when you're in the car. It'll make the other drivers look up from their texting.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

And remember to floss.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Went to New York, Came Back Home

We finally got to Liberty Island
We finally got to Liberty Island

It's been five whole years since the family went to New York City and it was good to go back. This time we covered some of the ground we had missed during our last, and much longer, visit. Finally got to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Ellis Island is most definitely worth the trip, with lots of exhibits that really brought to life the experiences of not only the immigrants but the people who worked there.

flag with immigrant photos at Ellis Island
flag with immigrant photos at Ellis Island

We also made it to the financial district, you know, Wall Street and such. There was street construction going on and a whole lot more in the way of police presence than we saw in other parts of town, and Ground Zero is right there so it's a sobering sort of place, but we saw Federal Hall, which is the location where George Washington took his oath of office as the by-golly First President. And we saw the Wall Street Bull and waited our turn to get pictures taken at his front and rear. And we wandered in and around Trinity Church, a place of peace and contemplation in the middle of the commercial hustle and bustle. Alexander Hamilton is buried there, an amazing man who rose above his birth circumstances to become, in my opinion at least, one of the top five Founding Fathers along with Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. And we almost saw City Hall, but it is so shrouded by trees and protected by fences and so obviously not available to the public that I found that to be the only real let-down.

Fife and drum "trio" in front of Federal Hall
Fife and drum "trio" in front of Federal Hall

But as it is with any journey, or really, any day at home, the proof is always found in the people who share the moments with you. We took this trip in large part because we know it is important to have experiences together as a family. We saw MoMA and kind of liked some of it. We walked around Lady Liberty and couldn't stop taking photos. We walked around Central Park, following the music that never seemed to end, something different around every bend. We ate at establishments as diverse as Big Nick's Pizza Joint (I recommend it), the Boat Basin Cafe (if the food wasn't good, which it is, the view and the wonderful surprise of simply finding it would still put it high on my list) and Cafe One at the American Museum of Natural History (not a great experience). We got lost on the subway, but just once. Ditto for Central Park. There were things I wanted to do that got skipped. Ditto for my wife. Our kids saw fireflies for the very first time in Riverside Park. We saw the bible George Washington put his hand on when he took the oath of office. There were things that were a bit of a letdown and things that took us by surprise in the absolute best ways. It wasn't always smooth and we sometimes got impatient with each other. And it cost more than I care to think about. Enough for a really nice downpayment on a new car my wife very much deserves. But a new car isn't an experience, and a new car doesn't strengthen the bond between a brother and a sister or a parent and a child. A week spent together, really together, can do that. If you let it.

Here are a few more pics.

A group called The Jazz Collective played some great tunes. One little boy seemed particularly appreciative.
A group called The Jazz Collective played some great tunes. One little boy seemed particularly appreciative.
We stayed at the Hotel Belleclaire at 77th and Broadway. I liked the neighborhood.
We stayed at the Hotel Belleclaire at 77th and Broadway. I liked the neighborhood.
You can't go into FAO Schwartz and not play the Big Piano. Or at least so say my wife and son.
You can't go into FAO Schwartz and not play the Big Piano. Or at least so say my wife and son.
The view from Boat Basin Cafe, a place we discovered completely by accident. Great accidents are the best thing about travel. Lousy accidents, of course, suck.
The view from Boat Basin Cafe, a place we discovered completely by accident. Great accidents are the best thing about travel. Lousy accidents, of course, suck.
Right after I snapped a shot of my wife and the kids, a nice young woman offered to take our photo. During our stay we had a chance to do the same for some very nice people.
Right after I snapped a shot of my wife and the kids, a nice young woman offered to take our photo. During our stay we had a chance to do the same for some very nice people.

It is good to explore, it is good to come back home. That may be the place where the best explorations happen, who knows? I feel fortunate to also have the world of stories to explore.

If I might invite you to explore the world of Boomerang, my novel. The opening chapters can be found right here.

Wherever your journeys take you, I wish you well and thank you for making this a stopping point, however brief.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.com. As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.