Saturday, May 25, 2019

NYC 2019


Though we love Los Angeles, we happily acknowledge that NYC is the center of the known universe and so try to visit whenever we can. Two years ago we took a tour of Manhattan with the South Coast Rep theatrical group and had such a great time that we decided to do it again. We saw three plays—Tootsie, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Kiss Me Kate revival—danced the night away to the big band sounds of Vince Giordano’s Nighhawks at the Iguana Club, and strolled through Central Park as well as the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Other highlights of our week-long trip follow below.

Tootsie—so much fun!

Nighthawks—small dance floor, but we made do!

Central Park's Turtle Pond

The Cloisters

 The Cloisters

Celebrating the art and architecture of medieval Europe, the Cloisters is located on Hudson River Valley parkland north of New York City. Originally assembled by an American sculptor, George Grey Barnard, the collection was eventually purchased by John D. Rockefeller and is now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The building, which looks very much like a medieval monastery, was actually constructed in the 1930s using the walls, columns, altars, etc., of real European churches. As a result, the Cloisters provides a peaceful and rather historically-convincing sanctuary away from city life, well worth the long subway or bus ride outside NYC.

The cloisters, themselves, are four-sided architectural features that include a covered walkway surrounding an open courtyard or garden. Despite an unusually cold winter, the gardens were filled with flowers and other flourishing plants. A beautiful day to refresh one’s soul.

The central Cuxa Cloister

Column detail

Smaller over-grown garden cloister

Langdon Chapel, constructed with 12th-century
limestone blocks and sculptures from a church in France

Lots of statues of the Virgin and baby Jesus

Eery half-statue of a religious leader

Baby Jesus with apple

World-famous 15th-century unicorn tapestry 
donated by John D. Rockefeller

Medieval crypts

View of the Hudson River

Leaving the Cloisters

Play It Loud!


From the Cloisters, our tour guide took us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in mid-town Manhattan. By chance, the Met was featuring "Play It Loud," an exhibit of some 130 roll 'n roll instruments, including guitars, drums, and pianos from performers like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Prince, Elvis, and Brice Springsteen. We spent so much time ogling the instruments that we pretty much missed the rest of the museum!

Saxophone of Louis Jordan, early
R&B performer

Elvis's guitar

Buddy Holly's guitar

Ringo's "kit" and one of George Harrison's many guitars

John Lennon's Rickenbacker guitar

Originally painted in "fireglo sunburst,"
George Harrison changed the color of his
Rickenbacker to match John's

Eric Clapton's famous Stratocaster "Blackie"

Neil Young's Gibson Flying V guitar

Stevie Ray Vaughn

Bruce Springsteen

Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)

Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)


And Prince again

Rick Nielsen's (Cheap Trick) custom five-neck guitar

Paul McCartney's Union Jack bass (r)

The Who's drums

Organ played by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs on "Wooly Bully"

Ray Manzerek's (The Doors) electric organ

John Sebastian's (Lovin' Spoonful) autoharp

Lady Gaga's piano

Tiffany Lamps Gallery

 Gallery entryway

On our own, we decided to visit the New York Historical Society museum on the upper west side. Initially drawn to an exhibit about the history of the Hudson River, we ended up staying for an absolutely amazing permanent display of Tiffany lamps. Located in a darkened room on the fourth floor, the Tiffany Lamps Gallery features some 100 illuminated artifacts in all their majestic glory. We literally gasped when we entered the doorway. Certainly this must be the greatest collection of Tiffany lamps ever assembled!

What we learned was that a woman, named Clara Driscoll, was actually the genius behind many, if not most, of Tiffany's most famous leaded glass lampshades. Furthermore, as head of the Women's Glass Cutting Department, Driscoll was awarded the same pay ($35 a week) as Tiffany's male designers—quite an accomplishment for a woman in the early 20th century. 

We highly recommend seeing this exhibit the next time you're in NYC.

Apple blossoms


More dragonflies



My favorite

And this one, too!


Liberty and Ellis Island

 Standing tall amid grey skies

Our tour guide set aside several hours for our group to visit Ellis Island. But when the ferry stopped at the Statue of Liberty island first, we all hopped off to see the new museum that had opened earlier in the week. The museum was wonderful, reminding us of the history of the statue as well as providing effective displays about liberty and human rights. I fought back tears several times when I thought about how tenuous freedom can be, especially in today's divisive political climate. I openly cried while rereading Emma Lazarus's timely poem, "The New Colossus," which proudly accompanies Lady Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cried she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

What would have happened if my grandparents hadn't been allowed to immigrate to the U.S. nearly 100 years ago?

I grew more hopeful as we walked around the base of Lady Liberty. In her left arm is a tablet of law bearing the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, while the broken chains of tyranny lie at her feet. Perhaps even more meaningful is the torch of truth and justice, which many would say we need now more than ever. I smiled as people from literally all over the world laughed and snapped selfies in front of our most iconic symbol of democracy. 

Next stop: Ellis Island.

Inside the museum: the original torch

Full-sized model of Liberty's face

Replica of the full-sized ear that the statue's sculptor, 
Frederic Bartholdi, kept in his house (!) 
after Lady Liberty left for the U.S. 

Tim comparing shoe sizes with the Lady's full-size model foot

Trick of the camera: looking out at the statue
and flag from inside the museum

Ellis Island, where immigrants were received and processed until 1954

Artsy shot of the Ellis Island staircase


Registration Hall where immigrants' fates were decided:
allowed into the U.S. or sent back to homeland?