Sunday, June 22, 2008

New York City Trip: Apollo Theater, Central Park, St. John Devine, Times Square (Part 4)

Saturday, October 10

Sushi was on the menu early as I found a little sushi bar on 51st street near the subway station. After lunch, I met Patricia who had offered to tour around with me since we hadn’t spent much time together since I had arrived (just a couple hours in the evenings.) She went with me on the "Uptown Loop" of the greyline bus tour.

We traveled from Times Square through the upper west side passing a vast collection of high-priced hotels and residential neighborhoods. While stopped at a streetlight, we saw movie star Kevin Bacon getting into a limousine and we passed by the former residence and deathplace of John Lennon.

The first major site we came to was the Cathedral of St. John the Devine. This structure is the world’s largest neo-Gothic Cathedral. Construction was begun in 1892 and after 107 years, it’s only 2/3 finished. The cathedral is being built using classical methods, not modern technologies which has dramatically drawn out its date of completion. Still, it’s a rather impressive site. From the tourbus, I couldn’t take a full photo of it, because it wouldn’t fit in the frame. However, I didn’t want to get off and take a photo, because on the uptown loop buses only come by once an hour. I didn’t really know what to make of the cathedral and thus have very little reaction to it.

I guess I could say the same thing about Grant’s Tomb. I had always heard that the tomb of Ulysses S. Grant (and his wife) was in New York and thus, wanted to see it. It’s a rather attractive looking tomb, modeled after the Mausoleum Tomb which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The belltower of the Riverside Church is another famous spot in this area, perched just across the street from Grant’s Tomb.

Then it was off to Harlem. As we traveled down a hilly area toward the village of Harlem I was excited to see the legendary Apollo Theater. Many of the neighborhoods in Harlem we drove through looked quaint and happy, but a few were in need of renovation. Most of Harlem reminded me of the areas surrounding where I grew up outside of Washington DC. So naturally I felt very comfortable and at home in Harlem.

The Apollo Theater

"And now from the Village of Harlem and the world famous Apollo Theater where legends are made and dreams are born, it’s Highrock at the Apollo."

- Bring in the Apollo Dancers!!!!
Seeing the Apollo Theater was a special thing for me. The Apollo Theater is of incredible historical significance having birthed or contributed to the careers of countless black artists like Billy Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Aretha Franklin and is credited with making black music (R+B and soul music are my favorite types of music) world famous. However, it is of greater importance to me, because my best friend Shola and I used to stay up late every Saturday evening to watch "Showtime at the Apollo." It used to come on after Saturday Night Live at about 1AM and we would seldom miss an episode of either. That was back in the good ole’ days when Shola and I had tons of spare time and little responsibility. That continuum has shifted dramatically since then and continues its shift moment by moment. Being able to sit right outside of the theater that produced all of those shows made me feel closer to Shola (who now is going to school in England.) However, it was also bittersweet without Shola as if something was missing from the scenario. Indeed, something (or should I say someone) was. Perhaps when Shola comes to visit me this summer, the two of us can return to this site.

A view from Central Park We returned via the upper east side and Patricia and I decided to get off the tourbus and walk through Central Park. It was a Saturday afternoon and there were a lot of joggers and other recreators in the park. Central Park closes to traffic during the day, but is opens to traffic briefly in the morning and afternoon to assist with the rush-hour traffic. Therefore, a very peaceful atmosphere exists in the park.

It’s the contrast that’s so extraordinary; the silence in the midst of the uproar, the simplicity alongside the complexity, the beautiful and humble greens with a backdrop of steely giants. That’s what makes Central Park unique and I enjoyed experiencing it slowly on foot, taking my time to appreciate its beauty.

We headed back to Patricia’s place for a while and I took a nap. Patricia was going out to a party and she left shortly to meet her friends. My plans for the evening involved having dinner with an old friend of mine from Lee University. Her name was Stacie Baker and while we didn’t know each other very closely at Lee, we had interacted a lot through e-mails. She was a little sister for Upsilon Xi and thus, I managed to talk with her frequently.

We had dinner at the Times Square Brewery, a trendy and fun restaurant with a great view of the Times Square neon. We had a wonderful dinner, recalling old friends and remembering old times. Stacie is in New York City attending Parson’s School of Fashion Design. This school has produced such artists as Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, Isaac Mizarhi, and Cynthia Rowley. Someday I think Stacie Baker will be on that elite list as well. She has a wonderful gift for fashion.

Standing in
Times Square After dinner, we walked around Times Square for a while. Once a symbol of the darker side of New York City, Times Square’s renaissance is all but complete. With big-time corporations taking center stage the action appears to be at an all-time high. Even more action is on the way as many of the outlining areas are being remodeled. The overwhelming emphasis of Times Square is on advertisement. Get the message out there, get the corporate name out there, get the logo out there are all emphases of this "Las Vegas" area. But again, the weather was not cooperating. The misty sprinkle that has been prevalent throughout my trip was once again asserting itself.

Afterwards, we decided to head down to the village where we found a nice out-of-the-way café with a great view of the bustling streets and crowds enjoying the Saturday evening action. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the pleasant conversation carrying over from dinner. We stayed there for about two hours.

It was about 1:00 AM when we left the café and I was quite tired and was thinking about calling it a night. However, Stacie had a "you only live once" attitude that night and urged me to go with her on the Staten Island Ferry. I had wanted to go on the Ferry and take a look at the Statue of Liberty. We were having such a good time that it didn’t take much prodding before I agreed. So, we took a taxicab down to Battery Park and awaited the 1:30AM ferry. There were some "interesting" people taking this early morning ferry.

As the ferryboat departed from the dock, I saw a view of the city I had only imagined in my dreams.. There it was, lower Manhattan in all its glory. Millions of beautiful lights all aglow. I tried to take a photo to capture the moment, but it didn’t develop too well. It seems appropriate though, some moments weren’t meant to be captured on film. This was definitely one of them. We rode over to Staten Island past the Statue of Liberty by what is said to be the approximate route immigrants took on their voyage to the states. It was cathartic to consider that my ancestors took this very same trip many decades ago. My family name is one of the many carved on the Ellis Island memorial. My parents saw it when they were up here a couple years ago, but I will probably have to see it some other time.

Once we arrived, we just stayed on the ferry and came back. The view on the way back was equally gorgeous. The route takes about an hour each way and thus we got back to Battery Park around 3:30AM. We said goodbye at this point and each of us went our separate ways (via taxi.) I got back to Patricia’s place around 4:00AM

No comments: