Friday, December 31, 2010

New York, New York ~ Day 3, July 11

Today I thought I’d jaunt across Central Park and finish the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then come back and do the Natural History Museum. Well, I set off across the park, munching on some rolls I’d bought for breakfast and sipping a tasty, low calorie, caffeinated beverage. I walked for about the time it should take to cross, and I saw buildings up above. I came up out of the park and found myself… on West Central Park Drive. Somehow I’d looped around and ended up about seven blocks south of where I’d started, sweatier and dustier, and ready to just forget the art museum all together. So I went to the Natural Science Museum. It’s on the west side.

And I actually saw ALL of the regular exhibits and two special exhibits!. I didn’t end up reading many plaques or looking at everything in detail, of course, but I did scan a lot, and I looked more intently at things that interested me. I was excited about the Lizards, Snakes Alive exhibit, because I hoped it would be interactive and informative, but it ended up being a zoo reptile house with some pretty poor habitats, so that was disappointing. I felt especially bad for the huge python who had nothing but a ten foot by ten foot concrete floor to curl up on, and seemed to be trying to sleep his way through the entire ordeal. I can’t blame him. I intend to write a disappointed letter. I’m not much of an activist for any cause, but we can and should do better.

Other halls were much more interesting, though the taxidermy animals are always a little sad to see. I enjoyed the halls of indigenous artifacts much more, especially the displays showing art, clothing, and tools of the Tlingit and Haida of Souteast Alaska. After my cruise there, I’ve felt a nostalgia for the huge trees of the temperate rainforest and the bold native iconography of eagles, ravens, bears, beavers, and whales. The halls of fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals and such were fascinating as well. I took photos of a lot of things from reading Jean M. Auel novels. I’ll have a much better frame of reference now for some things I was having trouble picturing from the textual descriptions. Still, it wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the art museum, to be honest.

In spite of my poor feet, I tried again to walk across the park and finish seeing the Met. I stuck to a cross street this time, and it worked. I spent the two and a half hours from arrival to museum closing finishing out my photos of things I saw yesterday and seeing a few more new things. I’m glad I managed it. Then, to get back to my hotel on the West Side… I took a cab. I definitely needed a break. I soaked my feet in hot water and sorted through my photos some. I was debating a quiet dinner close to home, but after a good hour’s rest I felt much better, and decided to go find Café Lalo, recommended by a friend.

After a first glance at the menu, I was disappointed. The food seemed lighter and healthier than the substantial portion of beef I’d be hoping for. That’s how I get when I’m tired. But then I found the rather mouth-watering cheese menu. I ended up with a dinner of toasted bread with herbs, three delicious cheeses, and a tiny cordial-sized serving of cranberry wine. It was the sort of place your expected to take your time, so I read and looked out the window and ate my cheese and drank my wine and had one of the most relaxing and delicious dinners that I’ve ever had this side of the Pond.

I decided I was rested enough to see if Midsummer Night Swing was on at Lincoln Center, but apparently Sunday night is not a dancing night. Still, I got to see Lincoln Center at twilight. One of the halls has paintings on the Mezzanine level by Chagall, the same artist who did the new rotunda mural in the Opera Garnier. It was lovely, and I wished a little that I’d arranged to see a show, but, really, I could sit inside a concert hall for three hours and see one thing, or I could walk around a museum or the city streets and see hundreds of things. I think I spent my time wisely.

After Lincoln Center, I went to Times Square. For the first time I saw the New York I’d anticipated with just a little bit of fear. People, lights, ads, cars, sound everywhere, waves and waves of it all. I had to laugh, there were signs that said “Subway” and I couldn’t see why they needed a sandwich shop on every corner, until I realized they were actually entrances to… the subway! I went by Birdland see if I could have a drink there. But there was a show going on, and I couldn’t go in, though I could hear a little from the vestibule, and it was wonderful. At least I tried, and got a tiny listen.

But mostly today was the day of friendly New Yorkers. I didn’t really expect anyone to be rude, but I didn’t expect so many people to be friendly! One older man I passed on my way to Birdland saw my red hair and said, “You’re just like orphan Annie! Hah! You’re beautiful!” Two people spontaneously complimented my hat, one of them a docent in the art museum who also very patiently gave me directions twice when I got lost trying to exit the museum at closing and ended up back in her hall, and the other a young man at a snack cart near my hotel when I stopped to see if he had any bottled sodas. And in the subway outside Times Square, an older gentleman joked about cooking an egg on the sidewalk down in the stifling tunnels, which started a conversation about Houston where he’d worked once and New Orleans where I have a friend who once did cook an egg on a black car hood.

The subway tunnels were warm, for sure, but about like any of the outdoors back home. I was really fortunate to miss the triple digit heat from last week. The weather has been gorgeous, and I hope it keeps up tomorrow, because I’ll be out wandering in it all day. Better get some rest now!

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