A Manhattan Holiday
September 9th, 2012

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I was walking by Stuyvesant Square, on 15th Street, approaching 2nd Avenue when I passed a big black woman talking on her cell phone. Just then she said, "You don't want me to be loverly -- So why can't I just be honest?"

I strolled along the Promenade in Brooklyn. The whole of the New York Inner Harbor spread before my feet, for the promenade sit up on the Brooklyn Heights. The promenade is the top layer of a curious structure. From Manhattan or the Staten Island Ferry it looks like bookshelves have been build into the heights. Furman Street, a local road is the bottom layer. Above that, the next two shelves are the south bound and north bound lanes of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The fourth, and top, shelf is the Brooklyn Promenade. But since each shelf hangs over three-quarters of the shelf below it, you barely aware of the highways beneath you. If you stand at the promenade's rail and look over you can see part of one lane of traffic. It is full of great trucks hauling tons of stuff, cement mixers grinding gears, semis growling, endless busses and a few cars.

Brooklyn Promenade and
Brooklyn-Queens Expressway
I stepped back a few feet into the serenity of the promenade and continued my stroll past park benches beneath shady old trees and enjoyed the harbor vista.

As I approached the end of the park two women ran up to me, I think maybe a mother and adult daughter. "Excuse me", the daughter asked me in an east European accent, a pained expression on her face. "Do you know how we can get down to the road below?"

I was speechless as I pictured the cement mixer and semi I had just seen driving bumper to bumper at highway speeds.

"We dropped our camera", she explained.

I always want to be helpful, but I was just asked how do you step out onto death alley. I wanted to explain to them what they were asking. `It is not just a road', I thought to my self. `Do you realize that it is the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway?' But in the end I could only mutter something about, "I don't know", and they ran off to look for a way themselves.

I hoped that maybe an odd bounce off the roof of a bus had sent their camera on down to Furman Street, where maybe the memory card might survive. But I shuddered at the vision of these two women, in heels and skirts, climbing fences and dodging trucks.

When wandering in Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood of elegant 19th century homes, I crossed Montague Street. Montague is the shopping street for the neighborhood, so I walked up it until I found a bakery and coffee shop. I stepped into "Le Pain Quotidien" (The Daily Bread) just as it stared to rain, and then pour outside.

With coffee and scone I planted myself at a table in the front window and sipped, nibbled and wrote about falling a camera. Next to me was a large common table with twenty seats and half a dozen people widely spaced around it. A number of them were working on their laptops. But one young woman was writing -- with a pen on paper. In fact she was writing in what appeared to be a journal like one I use to have, two hundred pages bound in soft chocolate brown leather. I find the sight of a young person laboring over cursive to be rarer and intriguing.

The rain abated, I paid my bill, and since I had to pass the author on the way out I asked her what she was writing. She had also noticed that I clutched a pen and so happily told me. She said it was a diary, and that it was a new one, "since I left my previous one on an airplane when flying back from Frankford." I told her that was tragic!

She reassured me that the airline had found it. It had been left in the magazine holder in the back of the seat in front of her. It had been sent to her, and she expected it soon. But she could not wait and had started a new volume.

Later, when I thought of this as a "micro-story", I also thought to myself, "Are all my stories about tragic losses?"

Manhattan Journal
A Manhattan Holiday

Hello People,

So we are trying an experiment this year. We are taking a vacation at home. Or perhaps I should say that we are on "Holiday", because we aren't really vacating our home. We are playing tourist, trying to do those things in New York City which New Yorkers never have time to do. So this report may sound a bit like a travel brochure -- with out the travel.

Sunday - September 2, 2012 - Tugboats and Botanical Garden

Tugboat Race
I think the tugboat race and towline tossing contest was really there to entertain the friends and family of the tugboat crews. Other people have backyard barbecues on Labor Day weekend, ... but if you have a tugboat ...

Tugboats on the Hudson
I arrived at pier 84 just in time to see the end of the race down the Hudson River, with the finish line officiated by a fireboat, and the finished line marked by a fountain of water. Beside the regular crews, the boats were filled with friends and family, so that the "amateur towline", was a way of the tugboat men showing there brothers that it really was hard work. The tugboat were timed as they approached the pier, an amateur would try to toss the towline onto a post on the pier. It is much harder then it sounds.

Amateur Towline Toss
The event ended with the spinach eating contest. I loved watching the young children's division, a lot of 4 to 8 year olds working earnestly on eating their bowl of spinach. And to prove to the judges and time keepers that your bowl was empty -- wear it on your head.

Water Lilie Pond
From Pier 84 to the New York Botanical Gardens is to travel across the world - or at least this city. The tugboats and spinach were goofy and on Manhattan. The Botanical Gardens were sophisticated and in the Bronx. There is a special show at the gardens inspired by Monet's water lilies. Several ponds are filled with exotic water lilies of all imaginable shapes, colors and sizes.

Water Lilie
We also walked through the rose garden. I though to myself that the rose, both thorn and flower, is maybe more a metaphor (a "meme"?) then it is a plant.

Monday - September 3 - Labor Day - Coney Island

Coney Island Beach, etc.
Yes Coney Island is a beach, a boardwalk, Nathan's Hot Dogs (with mustard) and half a dozen amusement parks all crammed together -- way out there at the end of the subway line. But I think one of my favorite things was some Karaoke we heard while walking the boardwalk. The first group up was a bunch of guys singing Kenny Rogers', "The Gambler". I think they would rather have walked away -- or even ran. But I think somebody had dared them to get up and sing. The second group was a bunch of women in their late fifties singing the Beatles' "Eight Days A Week". They were just as bad as the men, but they loved being up there and they sang with heart.

Tuesday - Sept 4 - Brooklyn
Kristina declared that we needed a rest from our vacation. So I went out for a walk ... ending up in Brooklyn ... and encountered the micro-stories listed above.

Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan

Thursday - Sept 6

Lower Manhattan
We took the circle line tour, except without the circle. There is a malfunctioning bridge across the Harlem River, and so we saw lots of the Hudson and East River twice.

We lunched in Bryant Park by the Main Library, then checked out some books.

I had heard that this was start of fashion week (actually it started on Wednesday .. because a week which starts on Sunday is .. unfashionable?), but I didn't know what that would mean until I was returning from my run by the Hudson, hot and streaming sweat. Between the river and our apartment are these big old warehouses, some of which contain galleries and studios. A week ago that block had looked desolate and abandons, but there had been some new paint. However, as I walked home from my run I find myself engulfed by a crowd of "Beautiful People". Black limos, chic clothing, diamonds, hair, champagne and the openings of several galleries - all between me and my shower.

Friday - Sept 7 - Cloisters & Met
We took the A train (subway) north, (if we could only get frequent riders miles on the Metro), to 190th St. -- which means about eight miles and hundreds of stations. Stepping into Fort Tryon Park is again a new side of New York. Peaceful, massive flower beds and a sweeping view of the Hudson down below us and the Palisades across the river. But it is a hot day and it is nice to escape into the cool stone interior of the Cloisters.

Flowers in the Cloisters
Before we arrived Kristina had been delighted to find out that there were tapestries there, even exclaiming, "there is a whole room of just unicorn tapestries." When I told her I vaguely remembered that, she was surprised that I had even heard of this museum. I replied that we Smiths had traveled widely in my youth. Actually the Cloisters are the only thing I remember of that trip to New York City -- perhaps the only place safe for such hayseeds.

A cool Dude
3000 BC
I joined the garden tour. I thought the guide was really good and funny in her own subtle way. She was a elderly woman with a Miss. Marple look about her. She told us that the plants of the main courtyard were NOT medieval, but were still very pretty. She then pointed out the horticultural elements of the tapestries, the unicorn tapestries had plants well done -- the others were not so good. She then took us through the medicinal gardens. All the names were plants I had read about in the "Brother Cadfael" books.

Later we took the M4 bus to the main Metropolitan Museum. The ride was a long one (about an hour) but it took us through parts of Manhattan which I might not have had any other reason to visit.

The Met is full of old favorites which I like to see again and again, but usually there is something I've missed (it is a huge place) in the past, and so the Chinese pavilion was new to me. A restful place after a busy day.

As a bonus, we ended the day with pizza, which we shared with Robin and a friend of his, and they told us of their adventure at the West Indies Festival in Brooklyn - with two million other people.

Sunday - Sept 9

5K race, Randall Island
Icahn Stadium
I ran a 5K race on Randall Island. There were about 170 people in the race, which isn't a lot - because there were two other races in the city at the same time. The race started and finished in Icahn Stadium, and was (by New Hampshire standards) very flat. I ended up 7th overall and 1st in my age group. Yes it is true there were only 7 in my age group, but I also beat all the 40-49 year olds as well (11 of them). 20:21.

In the afternoon we took a walk down by the river and ended our holiday at a pizza place called, "The Perfect Slice" in Greenwich Village. It was not a long trip from there.

On one of the piers in Hudson River Park