Sunday, June 22, 2008

New York City Trip: Flatiron Building, Times Square (Part 3)

Friday, October 9

I slept in again today and it was a glorious slumber. There’s just something special about awaking in the mid-morning when everyone else is off at work. I had wanted to tour the city when it was sunny and warm outside, but again it was rainy and overcast. However, I had much of my week planned out and so, I had no choice but to use this day for the tour.

I walked down to the Times Square area where the Gray Line sightseeing tours began and hopped on one of their "downtown buses." There were two "loops" offered by this company, an "uptown loop" and a downtown loop." I figured that the downtown loop offered most of the attractions that I just couldn’t leave New York City without seeing, so I chose that loop first.

One of the first stops on the Downtown loop was for Times Square. I had spent much of my brief stint in 1990 in the Times Square area as that seemed to be the target interest level of the group of guys I was with. So, I knew that Time Square by day paled in comparison with Times Square at night. I still found it rather impressive though, a kind of "billboard for the world." The effect was obviously numbed due to the distinct absence of glowing neon. I’m scheduled to meet another friend of mine here for dinner on Saturday evening, so I think I’ll write more impressions of Times Square at that time.

The tourbus continued along past several notable places including the Soup Kitchen of the "Soup Nazi" (from Seinfeld,) and the world famous Macy’s Department Store. It wasn’t long before we came to the towering Empire State Building. As I had stated before, it was a misty, overcast day and thus, the top of the Empire State Building was shrouded in white clouds. Still, the site was impressive. The words, "The Empire State" are printed in bold, gold letters just above the base. For some reason, they draw my full attention. As I gaze at the mighty structure, the words to Sade’s ballad, "Is it a crime?" come to mind,

"My love is wider,
wider than Victoria lake,
My love is taller,
taller than the Empire State."

And as those words echoed in my head, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful representation of that love. And to a certain extent, I felt the melancholy associated with that song. Someday, I hope to experience an earthly love as grand as that structure. Staring up at it’s highest faded tiers, I sense it impossible. And yet, I am hopeful. I look forward to revisiting the Empire State later in my travels.

My next stop was the breathtaking and awesome Flatiron Building. The approach down Fifth Avenue toward Broadway was especially dramatic. Suddenly, there it was, this huge, odd, and very powerful "thing." I must admit that at first I didn’t know quite what to make of it. I mean, what is it? What the heck is it? And I think. . . that’s the point. Oh, I’d seen it before in photographs and the like, but never before had I been confronted with the enigma of this structure face-to-face. It has a regal class that’s striking to say the least, yet it’s design is so exceptionally odd that one has trouble reconciling the two. And similar to the Pantheon in Rome, this massive structure dominates it’s surroundings in a way that lends further credence to its majesty. Personally, the cavalier and non-conformist attitude of the Flatiron Building reminds me to a certain degree of Venice, Italy. I somehow wonder if the architect had the Venetian city in mind when he drew up the plans for it. However, I kinda think it more likely that he had his fifth shot of Brandy in mind.

I came away from the Flatiron Building very, very impressed. It thoroughly captivated my attention and served as a rather tasty and cathartic "dessert" after the main course of the Empire State.

From the Flatiron District, the tourbus worked it’s way down through Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Tribeca. Although each of these subjects should be dealt with separately, they all seemed to blur together for me. Greenwich Village was popularized by artists such as Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, and Winslow Homer. While the village has had a colored and controversial history, I found it’s residential feel quite comfortable.

This comfort continued as I entered the SoHo and Tribeca districts. I actually prefer the more chic and upscale feeling of these districts to the more "party" atmosphere of the village. However, each has something interesting to offer. I could see myself living in SoHo if it were within my means. It seems like it would suit my tastes. I enjoy the neighborhoods here because they’re within striking range of the important sites and fun things to do, yet far enough away to afford one the reward of withdrawal.

As the tour continued, the bus headed for the massive Financial District. This is where the claim that New York City is "like no other city in the world" rings its truest. A tourist trip through the financial district is a chiropracter’s dream. Only portions of Chicago have kept my neck "locked" in an upward position as long as this section of New York City.

While at the southern tip of Manhattan, we passed by Battery Park and I was able to get my first view of the Statue of Liberty. This was a rather emotional moment for me, because it mirrored the memory I had of seeing the Statue of Liberty when I was a child. For a brief moment, I felt like I was five again as my giddy eyes scurried across the horizon to see the French icon.

My next stop was at Wall Street and this was the first stop that I decided to take. Unfortunately, It was about 3PM when I arrived at the Stock Exchange and they were no longer admitting people to the Stock Exchange. If I still want to see it, I guess I’ll have to go by on Monday before I leave. Tourbuses on the downtown loop come by every 20 minutes and I wanted to hit a restroom and stretch my legs a bit. So, I decided to walk around for a while.

Just one block down Wall Street, I found a Starbuck’s Coffeehouse and once again had a large Mocha Frappaccino. I took a break from touring for about 40 minutes and during that time, wrote the following short story/poem in my journal.

After Wall Street, I headed over to the South Street Seaport. This part of the city seemed like a nice area to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. There were lots of little shops in a mall area down by the water, all with a tremendous backdrop of the legendary Brooklyn Bridge.

From the Seaport, I left the downtown area and headed through the lower east side and through the east village up to the United Nation. I got off at the U.N. since it was closest to where I was staying. The UN is a rather interesting building because of its shape and location. It’s shaped like a "thin mint" Girl Scout Cookie and its located in an area that is uncluttered which is rather uncharacteristic for Uptown. It probably has a gorgeous view of both uptown Manhattan as well as the East River and Queens, but I didn’t enter the complex to explore its possibilities.

That evening I went out to eat with five of Patricia’s friends. We ate in the East Village and then found an upscale, yet reasonably priced coffeeshop for desert. They offered hearty slices of gourmet New York style cheesecake that was "to die for" and light, fluffy canolies as well. It was a good evening for the most part and I enjoyed the night life.

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