Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We all had our favorite things in New York.  Setting aside the NBA Store as a standard other things can't hope to reach, we have Sarah and Asian art at the Met, Suz and dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History, Kathy watching her nieces, and me . . . looking at water towers.

Yes, pretty much all the world at my feet, and I am smitten by what are essentially large barrels on the tops of buildings.  What is with that?  The humble water tower, like this one on a building directly across from our hotel, is something human in a city that seems to thrive on mechanized.  Its scale is all out of proportion to its usefulness.  All buildings are required to have water towers, in order to maintain water pressure.  Required.  So on top of every building, great or small, hidden or not, there is a water tower.

Some of them, on the newer buildings, are either concealed as part of the architecture, or made to look like squat pieces of machinery, like the innumerable HVAC systems that sprout everywhere.  But many of them are charmingly similar to barrels, great copper-bound wooden tanks, that apparently leak until the wood swells and seals them.  These look like little primitive huts on the tops of great buildings.  They're a small, organic touch in a city of colossae, unlikely African villages sprouting on the roofs, or yurts that have evolved to appreciate urban life. 

When I think of New York, the first thing I remember is not the cabs or the crowds, the press of humanity or the energy, but the water towers, perched on the roofs, benevolent little Buddhas, forgotten, but more necessary than the women in tall boots and the men in overcoats.  The city would not miss one human in ten million, alas, but it would miss water pressure pretty quickly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Favorite Things and Suz's Latent Talents

We have been to the Met, to the observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center, and the Natural History Museum.  We have been to St. Patrick's cathedral.  We have watched people ice skating and looked at the monstrous tree on Rockefeller Plaza.  Know what the girls' favorite thing is?

The NBA Store. 

Yes, the reason Suz looks slightly glassy-eyed is that she has her hand inside Tim Duncan's handprint.  This is the same look we saw when she looked at the dinosaur skeletons, and when she was taking a picture of Sarah with the triceratops.  It's a look that hasn't changed in 24 years, and I hope it never does.  Part of the fun of taking the girls on this kind of adventure is seeing the world through their eyes.  Suz's are wide open.  Sarah's probably would be, but she has a cold, and doesn't like to fly, something that's coloring her experience.

One thing the chicks agree on is that cab rides are fun.  It's like being in a giant pinball game where none of the balls ever quite touch -- they veer off at the last second.  When we got out of the museum yesterday evening, it was closing, getting dark, and chilly.  We could not get a cab for squat, until we flung Suz out into traffic, where she hailed one almost immediately.  My daughter -- cab bait.  Of course, since there were four of us, she had to sit up front with a man who turned out to be Mr. Smelly, but it was (for us in the back) a small price to pay.  Sarah got to enjoy a lot of young men pulling bike taxies, a win all 'round.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Girls' Weekend in NYC

What am I doing in New York on a weekend in November?  Because I couldn't be here on a weekend in August.  Every year my sis and I take a trip together.  We have prowled eastern Pennsylvania in search of gardens; we have been to the beach; we have mucked about in Kentucky horse country and spent a long weekend in a Shaker village. 

What we've never done is New York City, a place Kathy visits routinely for her job, but where I had never been.  What an obvious choice.  Then we decided this would be a fun thing to do with my daughters, and so the plan required really cheap plane tickets, thus, November.

And here we are, although perhaps Sarah wishes she wasn't, insofar as she took one look at the plane and would have backed out on the spot if she could have.  New York, home of more people than the entire state of Virginia, is also home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the big carrot with which we got Sarah up the steps and onto the plane.  (Our pictures will follow just as soon as we get home and have a cable to upload them.)  If there's one thing we all love, it's an art museum, and New York is full of them.

The Met is particularly lovable, because it contains millions of objects, carefully curated, and it's the best bargain in New York, otherwise known as home of the $3 Coke.  Our favorites:  Sarah -- Asian art; Suzanne -- Japanese armor; Kathy -- decorative arts period rooms; Janet -- Impressionists.  But of course, we perhaps, in our six hours there, made it through a third of the collections.  A lifetime might not be enough to sit in front of Renoir's sunflowers, or watch children react to the temple of Dendur, which has it's own plaza and atrium.  We sat there, in the afternoon sunlight, looking at the colorful trees in Central Park, and thinking peaceful thoughts, while a class of what looked like eight-year-olds lined up in front of the huge statues for a group shot.  One of them had his name tag on his forehead.

After we'd museumed as much as we could stand, we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel, and the girls napped like they were eight years old themselves.  At the recommendation of our concierge, we walked to a local restaurant, Luna Piena, for fabulous Italian food, including a fig and prosciutto appetizer that was out of this world.  The blood orange sorbet was fine, too, and so we strolled back through the early evening, tired but content.  A dose of urban life once in a while isn't a bad thing.