Past visits to New York City have always included museums and shows, but this weekend we followed a bit of the familiar path and sometimes took the trail less touristy in an attempt to get to know the area better.
Saturday afternoon, following our arrival via a bus from Worcester, Mass., we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, which was a bit veiled in fog, thus softening ordinarily crisp lines.
Begun in 1869 and completed by 1883, the bridge spans the East River and connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Among the throngs of people who walked or rode bicycles across, we all wove strands of thread that fit easily into the web long ago created. Some of us paused suddenly here and there, as the arachnid tried to take hold, while others tried to maneuver along the silken dragline writing messages with their feet much the way Charlotte may have within her web.
And a few got caught up by the constrictors waiting at the center.
At last we emerged on the other side, where our attention was diverted by the architecture and colors.
Often, it was the interaction of today and yesterday that drew our notice, joined together as they were with a global reference.
Eventually, we passed through the doorway of St. Patrick’s Cathedral . . .
where many have gathered for centuries to light candles in memoriam of those who have passed from this layer of life to the next and prayed for the future.
And then we slipped into Central Park, where we were again struck by the architecture, especially as juxtaposed against the artificially landscaped natural world.
As we watched the Mallards and Canada Geese, one of our biggest moments of awe was for a goldfish–the largest we’d ever seen.
Eventually, we boarded a train and found our way back to Brooklyn, where a quiet evening awaited.
Sunday morning found us passing below the Brooklyn Bridge, where we could glimpse the more “modern” Manhattan Bridge in the distance.
Again, the skyline was muffled, but its edges softened.
And once more we looked with wonder at the web construction.
Ever so slowly, we moved away even as a paddlewheeler representing the south made its way north.
Despite our thrill at watching water taxis, tour boats, jet skis, sailboats, powerboats, and even a police boat move up and down the river, the local Cormorants and a Herring Gull took it all in stride.
After all, they had feathers to preen.
And the Canada Geese–a grassy park to foul. The irony was that no dogs were allowed, but the geese made themselves quite at home.
Above the Cormorant/Gull condos, Lower Manhattan gave way to the harbor, and we enjoyed the view from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Our perch included the sight of Lady Liberty as she greeted all.
And another grand lady, the Queen Mary 2. The last time I saw the QM, it was a previous rendition and she’d anchored in New Haven Harbor (Connecticut) in the summer of 1979. My father, sister, and I drove into the city to catch a view and then we followed the route Queen Elizabeth, who had arrived in town for a very brief visit, would take before departing from Tweed New Haven Airport. Crowds lined the route and we practiced our best QE wave. Humoring us, some waved back. We did glimpse the queen as her motorcade eventually drove by and that was enough to fulfill our Anglophile envy.
But, this weekend we were in Brooklyn to admire New Yorkers, (and we knew the queen wasn’t on the boat), so we pulled our point of view back to the area around us, which included a mosaic structure worth noting. Watertower is actually a sculpture created by Brooklyn artist Tom Fruin. He used plexiglass and steel in 2012 to represent one of the icons of our nation–a water tower.
From pier to pier we followed the promenade beside the river, noting natural places and sports fields filled with athletes of many talents as they played games or worked out.
Eventually, we circled back and then climbed up into Brooklyn Heights, enjoying our meander through a beautiful neighborhood.
And my guy, he became a pro at identifying Sycamore trees for so prolific do they grow in that neck of the woods.
And then, and then we encountered a flock of happy pigeons. Yes, we were in New York City and all pigeons are happy there. It has something to do with peanut kiosks perhaps?
There were the typical blue-gray birds with two dark wingbars,
rusty red version,
those spotted or mottled,
and even pale among the gang.
But really, have you ever taken the time to look at those iridescent colors?
Or that sweet face?
At last we left our pigeon admiration behind and continued on, noting another tree not in our familiar category–the Maidenhair or Gingko Tree.
Its fan-shaped leaves showed off the carotenoids that had been hidden all summer by the green pigment. Fall was slowly embracing the city, but it hadn’t arrived in full yet.
As we moved from a more residential to commercial area, we were surprised to find a barber shop open on a Sunday morning. Given that I’d recently written about barber shops for Lake Living, it was fun to peek inside. And note how many men waited. But, in this city where many work late each day, it made sense that they’d make time on a Sunday morning for a hair cut.
Eventually, our wanderings led us to a hardware store. And not just any kind of hardware store . . .
for it was an independently-owned True Value, much like my guy’s.
And since one of our reason’s for visiting the city was to celebrate his 65th birthday, I followed him in.
Lunch found us eating a slice of pizza from a local pizzeria. It was OK; better than what we find in Maine, but not quite what I remember from my childhood in Connecticut. We did eat in the “garden” where figs grew! I wasn’t quite sure how that related to pizza. But . . . we were in New York.
New York . . . a city where graffiti is understood.
Our day ended with dinner at a small neighborhood Italian restaurant, Santa Panza, where we quietly celebrated my guy’s birthday with the most delicious dinner.
As this morning dawned, it was time for us to look out the window of our hotel and say goodbye to the two ladies who’d waved us in and would wave us out. Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn rotated continuously at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street.
According to a Brooklyn Public Library’s website: “Miss Manhattan sits haughtily with her right foot atop a chest of money (or jewels?); in her right hand she holds a winged globe reminiscent of a cross-bearing orb, an ancient symbol of authority; a peacock, flashiness and luxury incarnate, is by her side. (The peacock, in the belief system of the Ancient Greeks, also represented immortality/eternity.) The bows of three ships hint at the status of Manhattan as an important port and an international trade hub. She is all dignity, privilege and hubris.
Miss Brooklyn’s demeanor could not be more different. Her expression is gracious, introspective and calm; she is surrounded by a church spire (Brooklyn to this day counts more houses of worship than any other borough); a lyre and a child with a book (a reference to the borough’s patronage of culture and education). The book on the child’s lap is massive. It must be a Bible, another reference to the borough’s spiritual thrust. Her head is adorned with a laurel wreath. In her hands she holds a tablet with the Dutch inscription “Ein Drach Mackt Maght” (“In Union there is strength”), a hint at the Dutch origins of Brooklyn and at the fairly recent New York City consolidation of 1898.”
The granite maidens originated on the Manhattan Bridge, but these sculptures were installed on a pedestal at their current location about a year ago. For us, they were our home monuments much as Pleasant Mountain serves as our home mountain. Not only did they welcome us and send us on our way, but we knew where we’d lay our heads for the night as we approached.
At last, our brief city adventure came to an end, but we trust we’ll return.
Yo, Brooklyn! Yo Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn. Thanks for the welcome. Until we meet again . . .