Visit with cousin Naomi in Manhattan

Roanoke VA  USA


   The weather wasn’t as bad as predicted.  The rain stopped by 11am so I could go for a walk.  I need at least one walk per day to stay somewhat sane.  The forecast for tomorrow is for the twenties.  But our friend Ed sent us a photo of snow covered Iowa so we can’t complain. 

     This email is the New York half of our visit to Philadelphia/New York. 



   The main reason Harriet and I went north this year was to see our cousin Naomi.  Most of our cousins grew up in New York; Harriet and I were pretty much the only cousins who lived someplace else.  Thanks to Facebook and other “family group websites” Harriet has reconnected us with many of them. 


Harriet, Cousin Naomi and me. 

We posed directly under a light which made the color version less flattering than the B & W.  But I like B&W portraits. 


Audrey, Naomi’s friend, neighbor, and colaborator on social projects stands in front of just a small part of her amazing museum quality glass collection.  Naomi had invited her friend Audrey to join us for lunch because of Audrey’s  interests in artisans and the arts.  After lunch at a nearby restaurant, Audrey graciously showed us her collection.  Amazingly her two cats never bother any of it!

To catch the train and connecting BOLT bus to Manhattan,  Harriet and I were up and checked out of the hotel by 7 am.  We drove to Andrew’s house where we unloaded our luggage and then drove the short distance to the train station.  We would take the train to City Center and then catch the BOLT bus to Manhattan.  The train ride was about 15 minutes; the bus about 2 hours.  Luckily Andrew had already purchased the  ‘A’  BOLT tickets so we could go to the head of the long line waiting to board the bus. 

clip_image003 clip_image004

Book Exchange in the train station waiting area as well as a heater!  We could have used the heaters in the train stations in England!  Maybe they have them, but we were only in the ones that were unheated while we were there.  Andrew did say that not all Philly train stations were so inviting.

clip_image005 clip_image006

In the US we “watch the gap” rather than “mind it” as they do in “British speaking” countries. 

clip_image007 clip_image008

Our first stop was the Jacob Javits  Convention Center to use the “ladies.”   

And I was such a wimp!  I didn’t climb on to the chair which is a first for me.  New York is so theatrical,  I could have passed it off as “performance art.”  Or gotten arrested?   The Javits statue is holding a bag for the convention taking place at the center.  Something about design in the hospitality sector. 

From the Javits Center we caught a taxi to Naomi’s building not far from the East River. 

Manhattan doesn’t feel like London.  Duh!  But why?  I have never lived in NYC or attempted the public transit.  Hong Kong, Singapore, and London seemed less intimidating.  And were in many cases newer and brighter.   The pace of NYC seems faster and more energetic than anywhere else.  Grittier.   I found this NYC/London comparison article and found my same feelings though I’d not thought of the ‘horizontal ‘of London vs the ‘vertical’ of NYC.  I think I prefer horizontal in architecture with maybe a few verical sprinkled in.  Quirky ones like in London. 

    “people are calling the capital {London} a new Manhattan — but is this accurate? How do London and New York compare in their versions of the vertical?

     One man well-placed to answer the question is Rafael Viñoly, architect of not only the Walkie Talkie but also 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan, a residential tower which in 2015 will become New York’s tallest building. How has he found it, having a skyscraper in each camp? ‘Verticality is in Manhattan’s DNA,’ he tells me. ‘Being an island, it was always going to build tall. Whereas London is by tradition a horizontal city. What I’ve been fascinated by is the way its planning process engages much more actively with the idea of urban form.’…

     In New York a building’s design is governed by zoning regulations, which dictate height, shape and so on, producing largely formulaic results. London, on the other hand, encourages the unusual. So for Viñoly ‘The idea was “how can you make a vertical building that’s totally site-specific?” Something that wasn’t just an abstract Platonic form you could land in London or Barcelona or anywhere else.’ Hence the ‘widening out at the top’ concept that has given 20 Fenchurch Street its nickname of Walkie Talkie…

     The man behind the City’s individualistic approach to skyscrapers is its chief planning officer, Peter Rees. ‘Everything is much more standardised in New York,’ he says. ‘Not just the zoning regulations, but even components — they’ll only have three types of door you can use, or two types of urinal or whatever. Over here an architect will design his own.’ Rees also points out that London has been around for 2,000 years. ‘So it has a tradition of throwing different designs together — a Victorian office block next to an Elizabethan hall next to a 20th-century bank next to a Wren church. These new tall buildings are just the next chapter in that story. They fit within it.’ In fact it’s Wren’s most famous church that helped dictate the Cheese-grater’s sloping design: if the sides had been parallel they would have filled too much of the sky behind St Paul’s, as seen from Fleet Street. Even as far away as Richmond Park there is a particular bush which by law has to be kept trimmed to preserve a sightline to the famous dome….

     London’s genuine need for the Cheesegrater and the Walkie Talkie is shown by the fact that they’re both already half-let, even in a time of economic uncertainty. Back in 1931 the Empire State Building wasn’t so lucky, opening just as the Great Depression took hold; for its first few years it was known as the Empty State Building….

     It goes without saying that New York and London are both fantastic places. Fans of one tend to be fans of the other, hence the acronym ‘Nylon’, expressing the idea that the two cities are almost one and the same. Received wisdom has it that London wins on history, Manhattan on energy. But walking around the Square Mile, where hard hats mingle with pinstripes, you can’t help feeling that even the second quality.”  (I think NYC wins on the energy factor for sure!)


Narrow streets and tall buildings made me think NYC “grittier” than London. 

clip_image010 clip_image011

Interesting Snapple ad.  I don’t remember “advertising” being as obvious. 


Wood scaffolding  on the right surrounds  the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree soon to be decorated.

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. | An 85-foot Norway spruce that belonged to a central Pennsylvania family of “Christmas elves” will serve as Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree this year.

Workers cut down the 13-ton tree and a crane hoisted it onto a trailer Nov. 5 for the 155-mile journey to midtown Manhattan. It’ll be illuminated for the first time on Dec. 3 in a ceremony that’s been held since 1933.

The tree was donated by Dan Sigafoos, 38, and Rachel Drosdick-Sigafoos, 29, who live in a century-old farmhouse about three hours west of New York City.

“Once it’s hoisted into place at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the tree will be decorated with more than 45,000 LED lights and a 9½-foot-wide Swarovski star.

     The annual tree-lighting event at Rockefeller Center attracts tens of thousands of people and is watched by millions more on television.

     After Christmas, the tree will return to Pennsylvania and its wood will be used to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, Drosdick-Sigafoos said.”

“The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a world-wide symbol of the holidays in New York City. The 2014 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, December 3 with live performances from 7–9 PM, at Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th and West 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Tens of thousands will crowd the sidewalks for the event and hundreds of millions will watch it live across the globe. The Tree will remain lit and can be viewed until 8pm on January 7th, 2015.”


Murray’s Bagels where we had a small snack before the 3 hour journey home.  We would arrive back at Andrew’s  by 10 PM.  A long but really good day.


The New School just near the Parson’s building where Andrew had taught a seminar class.  So much life and activity going on.


Street food is great for folks who work in the city.  London had lots of storefront food vendors and too few seats in restaurants during busy lunch hour times.  Andrew had to keep reminding us that “in the city” you have to learn to wait. 


New Yorker Hotel and the Empire State Building on our way to catch the BOLT bus for our return to Philadelphia. 

On the bus from Manhattan back to Philadelphia  I sat next to a young woman.  She read her book; I read mine.  Just as we neared Philadelphia we started to talk.  She spoke with an accent so I asked where she was from: perhaps Randal and I had been there.  Iran was her answer.  She didn’t hesitate though I wonder at the reactions she might get at times.  She told me she was working on a PhD in archeology at NYU.  Her husband was working on a Post Doctorate at either Temple or U Penn.  I can’t remember which.  They liked living in Philadelphia though it meant travel to her classes in NY.  She also told me that Iranians feel very favorable towards Americans.  In our travels around the world, we have found most people like Americans and still see it as the place for a better life and study.  We both expressed the wish that we’d started talking earlier in the trip.  Next time.