Ticking off the things I was surprised by over the past few weeks on the road would take quite a while. And even though my flight to get home to Seattle is long enough to justly explain almost any subject, I'm going to keep it relatively simple. There were some things I really did enjoy. In some cases repeatedly. So in no particular order, here's a few things I'd do again if I were heading back to New York City tomorrow.
- Everyone knows of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. But if your ancestors arrived between 1855 and 1890, chances are they came through the Castle Clinton National Monument (or Castle Garden, back in the day) complex in Battery Park. There's a big renovation under way. But combined with an under construction view of the Freedom Tower, it's well worth a trip to the far tip of Downtown. Seeing the crowds of construction workers milling about early in the morning outside the WTC site - smoking, joking, being total doods - was a slice of real street life that I will speak of fondly for some time to come.
- I've got a sentimental connection to Ulysses S. Grant's Tomb in Riverside Park, all the way up to 120th Street on the West Side. If you run through Central Park and want to tack on a few extra miles, head west at the north end (which is basically 110th). I'm a sucker for places in the City where you're not overwhelmed constantly. This is one of those rare places. Early mornings, especially.
- I enjoyed the benefit of catching up with a friend from way back who lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. He showed me all around and back to his place on Broadway - where the Hasidic men act they can't even hear M line train clamoring along on an elevated track all the way to and across the Williamsburg Bridge back into Manhattan. I'd started my day in Brooklyn over in Park Slope. Don't get me wrong - it's awesome over there. Totally different vibe, though. What sounds like a constantly evolving landscape in Williamsburg is fascinating to hear about from someone who lives there, who knows it from seriously deep in the mix. If you go, find Marlow & Sons. Sample at least a dozen oysters. We also had a duck pate` plate that came out looking like a big ol' scoop of ice cream. Mmmm...liver ice cream (drool).
- Back in Manhattan, stop to light a candle in St Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue. Donate a buck or two. Then go use the bathrooms in Trump Tower. Do not spend a dollar on anything Trump-y. But say a prayer in both places. Preferably not the same one.
- The still new-ish High Line Park is simply gorgeous. Basic logistics for those unaware - the elevated rail line used for the manufacturing areas of lower Manhattan was turned into a park starting back in 2002 instead of being torn down. It's totally unique and draws your attention to the art and funky architecture and all sorts of stuff to see in the neighborhood. Which is basically Chelsea - a place so hip you want to pull the whole neighborhood down a dark alley and punch it in the face. But that alley would probably smell like a herb garden and be lit with really intriguing dangling light fixtures, so don't bother. Just walk the High Line, preferably near sundown.
- Even though I didn't need to stay there, I will admit to getting totally sucked into the newly developed little block o' Great Northwestern biznesses (or ones with the vibe we create in our cities out yonder). I'm speaking of the stretch along 30th, between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The Ace Hotel, Stumptown Coffee and The Breslin Cafe - all stylish, friendly and good at what they do. I was one of the innumerable folks waiting in that ridiculous line for Stumptown's coffee bar, I had the most delicious light breakfast one day at Breslin's when I just couldn't take a twenty coffee order deep line, and I repeatedly used the tables in the lobby. What can I say - I was spending a lot of time in the bordering garment district. If you're over there, just go and see what I mean.