Gardens and Glass

If you’re looking for something to plan a short vacation around this year, consider a hop to New York to take in the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. Get tickets to a Broadway show, make reservations for a couple really nice meals out, and spend a couple days at the garden. (I say this because Chihuly glass lit for evening viewing is very nice. And so is Chihuly glass sparkling in the sunlight.)

I snagged this photo from the NYBG website, so © 2017 NYBG.

And you really could do worse than hanging out in a garden, you know? it’s good for the soul. I really like that NYBG’s stated commitments are:

  • Connecting gardning to the arts and humanities
  • Saving the plants of the world
  • Teaching science to city kids
  • Creating a green urban oasis
  • Anchoring the community

Right now, they’re well into unpacking glass and getting it all set up. The exhibit opens on 22 April 2017.

So consider it! This will be a big exhibit this year, and there will be some special glass created just for NYBG. Let me know how it goes. And take photos!

Alexander Hamilton Is Having a Moment

This 1806 portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull (1756–1843) hangs at the Washington University Law School; the image is in the public domain.

This 1806 portrait of Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull (1756–1843) hangs at the Washington University Law School; the image is in the public domain.

In the “About” section of this blog, I note that my family shaped my interests—that my mother was interested in culture and my father in history—and now when I travel (also an interest of my parents) I seek out the cultural and the historical.

I love when these things come together, as they have in the Broadway hit musical Hamilton. It looks fabulous. But, as Time magazine notes in the May 13, 2016, issue (transcribed by me from my subscription copy),

If you didn’t have Hamilton tickets before, good luck getting them now. The 70th Tony Awards nominations were announced May 3, and as expected, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop history juggernaut led the pack of Broadway plays and musicals with 16 nods, besting the record for Tony nominations previously shared by The Producers and Billy Elliot.

Miranda has already won a Pulitzer Prize for his work as creator and star.

I’ll wait for the road show to come to Nashville, I think. But what about all those folks who will be tourists in New York? (The NY Times says the show is sold out through November 2016, but that may have changed now.)

Well, a lot of folks are checking out Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s Founding Fathers, who has lots of personal history in New York.* Like his gravesite in the Trinity Church graveyard in Lower Manhattan. And, according to the Times,

When the curtain falls at the end of Act 2, many audience members aren’t ready to let go. They hunger to know more. Visits to Hamilton’s house at the Grange National Memorial in Harlem went up by 70 percent in 2015; a Hamilton-themed walking tour of Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights began last month. The dueling pistols are on display at the New-York Historical Society.

That’s right. Although he was born on the island of Nevis in the West Indies, Alexander Hamilton was, in the end, a New Yorker. As Curbed: New York points out,

Alexander Hamilton’s story is a classically American one; an immigrant kid who rose from nothing to become one of the most influential figures in Western history, his life reads like the American Dream before America even existed.

It’s also a quintessentially New York story: Hamilton forged his life and fortune in a Manhattan that, even in those early days of the nation’s history, was the place to be for an ambitious scrapper on the rise. “In New York, you can be a new man,” the company sings in Hamilton’s opening number. And many of Hamilton’s former stomping grounds are places you can still visit today.

This article and others list many Hamilton-related places you can visit in NY, such as:

• The graveyard at Trinity Church
• Museum of American Finance (Alexander Hamilton Room)
• Hamilton Grange
• The Fraunces Tavern Museum
• The guns used in the duel with Aaron Burr
• Statue near the Metropolitan Museum of Art
• Statue on the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Hamilton Heights
• Columbia University

Here’s a map of many NYC sites, and here are more online articles you may find interesting:

• All Things Hamilton: Your information portal to Alexander Hamilton
• New-York Historical Society: The Man Who Made Modern America
• Forbes: Hamilton Sparks Interest in Historic Places
• NY Times: Hamilton’s Old Stomping Grounds

There’s a lot to do in New York City, of course. But with or without Broadway tickets (fans should check out this), I think an Alexander Hamilton tour would be very interesting, don’t you?

* Even the island of Nevis offers a couple Hamilton sites.

UPDATE: Here’s a post from a blogger I love, Chuck Wendig, and you might too. He’s hilarious, but if strong language offends you, better take a pass.


I Love New York. Except For This One Guy …

A friend of mine posted this HuffPo article (“New Yorkers Aren’t Rude. You Are.”) on Facebook a few weeks ago, and a conversation sprang up among several of us who have had nothing but wonderful experiences in New York.
Fifth Avenue Snow
(Shared from Flickr, photo by Michael Elliott.)

It’s true! I am not a city sophisticate by any stretch of the imagination. (Although I hasten to add I grew up near San Francisco and spent a lot of time there in my youth; now I live very near Nashville and am in and out of town regularly. Even downtown.) Still, I know I’m out of my element in New York, which is a very big city. Yet the first time I went there (very early ’90s, stayed in Midtown), sort of expecting rude, I had a marvelous experience. For real. This formed my attitude about New York City, and I was anxious to go again. (And did.)

Since then, I’ve visited other large cities—Chicago, Dublin, and Paris, most notably—and also had wonderful experiences. So I was primed to agree with this article … until I read it. Sure, it’s crowded, and sure, tourists do stupid things (like stopping dead in the middle of the sidewalk, rather than moving to the side, as they would if they were driving). The writer of this article says,

For some reason, a huge number of tourists to New York seem to totally forget that when you are a guest somewhere, it behooves YOU to learn the unwritten rules of conduct so that you will not upset the delicate social balance of the place you are visiting. Because New York relies so much on foot traffic, these people often utterly disrupt the flow in the subway or on the street, and then complain that New Yorkers are “rude” when we do not accommodate their interference with our lives. …

And yet, every day I see tourists and just general social malefactors who stop in the middle of sidewalks, who hold up entire subway trains because they try to force the doors open, who block a stairwell or who try to get on a subway car before they let anyone else off.

This is a sense of entitlement that the pace of this city cannot abide. …

Your trip to the bank or to the American Museum of Natural History is not something that should interfere with the professional lives of 1,000 people. So when you hold that subway car, and people curse at you, or when you prevent them from getting off the train and they barrel right into you, there’s a simple lesson: this is your fault ….

Wait—what? When I’m in an elevator and the door opens at my floor and someone jumps into the car before I can exit, I just put my hand across the door to hold it open and then get off. Not everyone was raised the same way. Not everyone is as aware as we might want them to be. And this is not, for God’s sake, a matter of life and death. I’m also not convinced New Yorkers are the delicate hothouse flowers the author would have us think. Sometimes they are just impatient (as we all can be). Sometimes they are … rude.

I learned this in a very personal way. It was about this time of year (January, cold, snow on the ground) about fifteen years ago that I visited New York City for only the second time in my life. Gerry and I were using the subway, and I was apparently walking on the wrong side of a set of stairs going down, and I didn’t know there’s a rule, according to this man, about which side of the stairwell to use.

It was not crowded, not at all. In this particular section of the stairwell, there were three of us, maybe four. The man was coming up the stairs on the same path as I was going down—the left—and when he got to me, he refused to move, even though he was tall and thin and fit and much younger, and didn’t need to hold on to the rail at all.

This man didn’t know, of course, that I am physically weak on my left side and need to hold on to the handrail with my left hand. I always gravitate to the left of the stairs, whether I am going up or down.

So there we were, both stopped, him on the stair below me, glaring at me. And all he wanted to do was teach me a lesson.

“Excuse me,” I said.

“You’re on the wrong side,” he said. Gerry had already moved over for him, but stairs have always been problematic for me. I didn’t want to let go.

And he didn’t budge. So I told him I was a middle-aged lady who needed help and that he was an asshole. Which he was. I had to walk around him. He strutted off, very proud of himself for holding the line for true New Yorkers.

That’s the only negative experience I’ve ever had in New York, but it was a doozie. I’ll never forget it.

Here’s the thing. I did read this whole article (more than once), and I do get it. However, the unwritten rules the author speaks of are concepts the tourist has no way of knowing without a significant amount of time spent in the city. That’s why the residents know them and the nonresidents don’t know them. Dublin City has a lot of people in high-powered jobs too (honestly, the writer gets no sympathy from me on that point; everyone’s time and lives are important) and I have many times, I know, been in the way, much more so than I ever was in NY, and yet I have never had a Dubliner accost me and tell me off.

I agree the writer of this article has a point—and I realize this sounds like I am taking the position that New Yorkers are rude when in fact Gerry and I went on to have a fabulous time on that trip, with wonderful interactions with locals on the subway, on the sidewalk, in restaurants, our hotel—but he’s not making it in a way that makes me sympathetic. I just don’t think you can justify rude. My mother used to say there was no substitute for good manners and no excuse for bad ones.

Still true.


Let the Vacation Commence! Part 1

Wednesday, 17 June
I’ve been getting ready for this trip—I’ve known about it for more than a year; the flights were purchased nine months ago, as were the hotels—for the better part of a year. Granted, it’s been an eventful, fraught year: I got married, went to Phoenix for the Christmas holidays to see my son and a dear friend who was dying of cancer, hosted other friends who passed through Middle Tennessee this spring, helped my son make an important decision, made plans to throw a party in another country … and worked a lot. (I’m self-employed. I work a lot.)

I was really, really looking forward to this trip. (Not least because I’d see my husband for the first time in more than seven months.)

My housesitter—a lovely young man, a friend of friends—drove me to the airport first thing in the morning. We ran a bit early because I’d forgotten commuter traffic is lighter in the summer, but that’s OK. And then he gave me a hug at the airport. Because that’s what you do, right? A hug at the airport. Sweet. 🙂

My first flight—one of those tiny comuter planes—took me to JFK International Airport, over the hills of Virginia and the enormous Chesapeake Bay, and up the coast.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

New York City—I’m still wowed by it.

New York City—I’m still wowed by it.

I had a five-hour layover, so I found a “bistro”—restaurant with tables, as opposed to a fast-food takeaway—and ordered lunch (a very expensive lunch, I might add, and not very good—but is airport food ever good?). The good news is I was in a quiet corner right next to an electrical outlet, so I got out my computer and worked for about three hours. The waitress was a doll (Venus, always smiling and calm, not something you normally see in an airport), so actually this was fortuitous. I always need to take work with me.

But finally, it was time. I was seated next to a married couple from NYC; she was American, he was Irish by birth, now an American citizen. A Dubliner, even! They were on their way to Dublin for a wedding—a wedding on the same day as the wedding I was crossing the ocean for. We laughed thinking how wonderfully coincidental it would be if we were going to the same event, but, alas, we quickly discovered we were not. And then we slept.

On the Sidewalks of New York …

My friend Evelyn is a New Yorker. She wasn’t born there, and she’s retired to a southern clime, but if you know her, you know she lived and worked in the city for decades. She’s a New Yorker.

Naturally it was Evelyn who introduced me to this site: Urban Compass. (You don’t have to sign up. You can click on categories with impunity.) In beta at the moment, it’s a real estate listing service for NYC (although I imagine it will expand to other cities as time goes on). “We’re combining transparent online search with a team of Neighborhood Specialists to make finding a home quick and easy,” the site says.

But what charmed my friend—and me—is this page: the neighborhood guide. It’s filled with photos and up-to-date information about the neighborhoods some of us have only read about. Included thus far:

East Village
Financial District
Greenwich Village
Hell’s Kitchen
Lower East Side
Midtown East
Murray Hill
Upper East Side
Upper West Side
West Village

Still to come: Battery Park City, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Chinatown, Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill, DUMBO, East Harlem, Fashion District, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Greenpoint, Harlem, Little Italy, Meatpacking District, Morningside Heights, NoHo, NoLita, Park Slope, Prospect Park, Theater District, Vinegar Hill, and Williamsburg.

Gosh, the names alone make me want to hop on a plane! But I have books to edit, so instead I’ll do my exploring online. For now.