Friday, 19 October 2012

A Muppet Talks Manhattan

Never trust anyone who tells you skyscrapers can't be beautiful. Like it or not, executed well these are our Parthenon,our Pyramids.Some of these here are over a 100 years old now, the FlatIron building (pic&video) a giant in 1902,now a shrunken aunt in comparison.The Empire State & Chrysler building we all know,but check out The Woolworth or The Ripple  going up now. The Twin Towers are being rebuilt,albeit slightly different,even so it's tremendously sad to stand before them and imagine those terrible moments  
on the day war began.
The buzz of Manhattan is incredible, consumption not required. Just bowl down Madison Avenue or Fifth or Broadway, and soak it up. Head through Wall St and catch the Staten Island ferry which takes you past the Statue of Liberty and costs nothing. Quite a thing to imagine that after days crossing the Atlantic this was an immigrant's first sight to indicate their new life had begun.
Many of the immigrants initially settled around the Lower East Side,so next day I go see Little Italy & Chinatown for a taste of that. I wander up through the more bohemian districts of Greenwich Village & Chelsea to take the High Line,a former freight railway that ran above the streets (you'll know it from countless films).It's now converted into a very pleasant artistic walkway. Central Park is a masterpiece,a park bigger than most city centres: you could lose a few shopping malls in the lake alone! From here I watch a lot of the all day St. Patrick's Day march,nice to see how the various counties of Ireland formed NY brotherhoods.Some went further, like the banners depicting IRA men "Killed on active service 1986"...
Four stops on the subway to my hotel in Queens, to sink a gallon of Guinness in the Irish bars of Sunnyside.No tacky theme pubs here,these are Irish owned concerns and the rebel songs blare forth. I wonder about my English accent,even though my Hibernian blood runs thick enough.I meet a nice Irish/American couple and then stumble out into the New York night,scarcely believing I'm seeing the Empire State building on the way home from the pub!
There's more to Queens than this though,it has the people of the world living on its streets.Block by block, language,faces,food change constantly, but I'm on a Manhattan mission this time and head back to the Museum of New York.It's pretty amazing how they agreed a network street grid which turned some swampland and a few farms into what stands today. A quick scoot off to the New York City Library, it's steps a common meeting place,is free to enter and there's a great exhibition on the life of the poet Shelley.The reading rooms upstairs are something else, carved & painted ceilings fit for a palace.A quick walk across Brooklyn Bridge but no time to explore there,going to save that for next time.