Over the weekend of October 8-11, 2015 — our fall break weekend at Texas Wesleyan University — we Fishers made a trip to NYC dedicated primarily to viewing the Gustav Klimt painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I in permanent residence at the Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art up on 5th Ave and 86th St.
A full written report of the weekend follows the pictures below.
The Woman in Gold!
October 21, 2015
My family’s trip to visit The Woman in Gold in NYC over the October 8-11, 2015 weekend, a week and a half ago, turned out to be everything I hoped it would. I am totally thrilled that Marge, Claire, Grace and I got to see “Adele” in person, in her now permanent home at the Neue Galerie in New York City. During the course of the weekend, there were many adventures, as you can imagine. The trip also “took some doing,” as my Mother would say, meaning some serious planning and organizing. Here’s some of the story…
THURSDAY, OCT. 8, 2015
One of the first hurdles we had was managing the air transportation situation: our tickets – cheap?, yes; conveniently scheduled?, not so much – had Marge, Grace and me leaving on Virgin America from Dallas Love Field (DAL, home base of Southwest Airlines) to LaGuardia (LGA), but returning on Spirit Airlines to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport. Luckily, Claire had her “family friend” arrangement with Virgin America, which is located only at DAL, but she left two days earlier than the three of us, to visit a friend in Connecticut, and returned to DAL on the same day (Sunday) that we returned, but obviously not to the same airport (DFW)! So how to manage departures, parking and pickups from two different airports without having extra cars at either place…?
The most efficient solution to all this was for me to take Claire to DAL early (5:00 am) on that Tues., and then return directly to school for my 8:00 am class. When the three of us then left for Love Field (DAL) on Thurs., we parked the car there at the airport so Claire would have it when she returned separately on Sunday. Since the car has keyless entry, I could leave the keys in its center console and she would have them when she arrived. Luck must’ve been with us, too, because her arrival back in Texas on Sunday was scheduled for one hour earlier than ours, so that – if all went according to plan – she could simply get our parked vehicle at Love Field (DAL) and drive over to DFW to get us, with perfect timing! That was the theory – and I’m happy to say it worked out pretty much that way. The one wrinkle was: our return flight on Spirit ended arriving 20 mins early, a good thing, but also meaning no available gate for our aircraft, so we sat on the tarmac for 45 mins, thus making us net 25 mins “late at the gate!” – a bad thing! Claire had to do some serious water treading circling the Terminal E while waiting, but that was really small potatoes for an otherwise flawless connection and pickup arrangement.
Anyway, once on the ground at LGA Thursday evening, we purchased Metro cards there, good for general purpose rides on most public transportation throughout the city – esp. bus and subway. Unlike many urban centers I know, NY doesn’t have a specific three-day Metro card option, the one we would’ve liked, but rather a choice of the either a 7-day card for $31, or a Metro card with any amount “loaded” to it. I didn’t think we’d quite use a week’s worth of rides in 2.5 days, so opted for a $19 reloadable card for each of us. That actually turned out to be almost exactly what we needed, and we didn’t need to add more value to our cards during the rest of the weekend. So from LGA we followed the hotel’s advice and took the M60 bus to Astoria Blvd in Queens, which then connects with the N Line subway, taking us all the way to 28th St. and Broadway in midtown Manhattan.
Our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn Manhattan/Chelsea (Chelsea is a main neighborhood in that part of the city) was located at 121 West 28th St., a block and a half from the N subway stop. So total cost per person from LGA to our hotel? $2.75. Beats the #$%@! out of a taxi ride or shuttle. Yes, we had to pull our own luggage (we’re used to that), there were a few steep iron stairways to climb at the elevated Astoria Blvd subway stop, and one more stairway to negotiate from the subway at 28th St. BUT – those few inconveniences were far offset by the savings AND by (did I mention?) the entertainment we encountered almost immediately on the subway.
For example, within the first few minutes aboard the N Line, three Hispanic young guys let their presence be known, introducing themselves to their audience (us) with rapped lines like “we ain’t terrorists,” and “we ain’t here to rob you” – both reassuring comments, to be sure. They had a pretty entertaining, if also predictable shtick, with boom box blasting a funky backup beat while they took turns using the subway hardware as dance pole, monkey bars and other assorted gym props for their show. It was entertaining, and we all knew what the expected payoff was. But, after all, this was NY, and there was very little attention paid by most riders around us. We were saucer-eyed, of course, Grace even taking a little Snap Chat video (10 secs. ). But all they got from most people after a really quite entertaining and athletic maybe 7-8 minute presentation was a cold shoulder…apparently a few people gave a few dollars (I saw the resulting stash), and they got a hi-five from me.
No sooner were these guys gone than another, completely different, “entertainer” emerged. An older, grizzled Russian (or other Slavic) gentleman in need of a shave now set HIS boom box up and, almost before we could adjust to the cultural difference, began singing what I took to be a Russian folk or patriotic song – very nostalgic-sounding. He was good – perfectly at one with his orchestral accompaniment – but way past any singing prime he may have had. His dilapidated dress, weary demeanor and resigned look made me pity him a little. Happily, after a really haunting, if also clearly well-practiced delivery, he came away with at least a little loot, likely about the same as his predecessors. After those two presentations, we felt duly welcomed to the Big Apple, and exited the N Line at 28th St. With the help and personal company of a friendly New Yorker young lady named “Jessie,” we hit the pavement for the remaining 1.5-block walk to our hotel.
Our room on the 14th floor of the Hilton Garden Inn was perfect – a lovely, quiet, nicely-appointed space with two queen beds [none of this damn “double bed” stuff! there’s just not enough room for 2 adults in a double bed, I’m sorry!]. BTW, you pay more for hotel rooms higher up in this hotel – presumably because there’s less noise. I had opted to pay for a higher up room, and was very glad for it. Not that street noise was completely eliminated on the 14th floor – far from it. But it just had to be better than it would’ve been on lower floors, and ultimately well worth the extra cost, in mid-town Manhattan.
After settling in, we decided on finding a “walkably nearby” restaurant for dinner – which happily turned out to be the Grand Sichuan, a lovely Chinese sit-down place, not expensive, and jam-packed, at 24th St. and 9th Ave. While we waited our 15-20 mins. for a table, I asked several people also waiting whether this was a good restaurant (all indications I saw were that it was). They all agreed wholeheartedly, and that indeed proved to be the case. We had a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable meal there, particularly so after the long push from Fort Worth.
One of the many things we were reminded of about visiting New York, especially from a place like Texas, is how generally cramped and crowded conditions are: streets jammed with cars, sidewalks always full of people, and space for almost any human activity – sleeping, eating, traveling, sitting, even – always at a premium. For us, that fact translated into crowded everything – subway cars, sidewalks, restaurants, the Staten Island Ferry, taxi traffic on 5th Ave, the pedestrian walkway on the Brooklyn Bridge, lines at the Neue Galerie and Guggenheim, etc., etc. It even affected the size of the hallways and rooms at our hotel. There were four of us staying in one room at our hotel, which had one bathroom with one sink, plus a (very nice) shower and bathtub. But the pathways between dresser and beds were annoyingly narrow, making it hard for people wishing to get from bed to bath to pass by the person sitting in the one chair in the room (usually me!) at the small work desk available. Upon entering the room, it was immediately obvious how decidedly small the overall square footage of the room and bathroom actually were. On the airplane coming back home, as we approached DFW, we all noticed the huge stretches of open ground below us! No wonder NY seems so crowded – there are X-million people crammed into a relatively small area, all jockeying for position and advantage, all the time. And believe it or not, I’m not complaining – just noticing differences.
FRIDAY, OCT. 9, 2015
Anyway, the next day, Friday, our first order of business – and of the trip – (after a lovely breakfast in the hotel at which Claire suddenly appeared from Connecticut!) was to head by subway up to 86th and Fifth Avenue to the Neue Galerie, with its prize possession, Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I. In approaching the museum on foot from the E, as we were, I knew we were almost there when I saw hanging outside the building’s W side a sign depicting the painting!
A small museum, certainly by NY standards, the Neue Galerie’s focus is German and Austrian art from the fin-de-siècle (“turn of the century” – i.e., either side of 1900). Housed on two floors only (i.e., the 2nd and 3rd of the building), the second floor is dedicated to art from Vienna circa 1900. This would include such painters as Kokoschka, Schiele, Richard Gerstl and Alfred Kubin, as well as Klimt, decorative artists from the Wiener Werkstätte such as Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser and Dagobert Peche, and architects such as Adolf Loos, Joseph Urban and Otto Wagner. The third floor features German art representing various movements of the early 20th century: the Blaue Reiter and its circle (Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, August Macke, Franz Marc, etc.), the Brücke, the Bauhaus and the Neue Sachlichkeit, among other movements and artists.
According to its website, Neue Galerie New York was conceived by two men who enjoyed a close friendship over a period of nearly thirty years: art dealer and museum exhibition organizer Serge Sabarsky and businessman, philanthropist, and art collector Ronald S. Lauder. (Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder fortune, was depicted in the film Woman in Gold as the purchaser of Adele Bloch-Bauer I [along with four other Klimt paintings and some drawings] from the heir to the Jewish family which rightfully owned them, Maria Altmann – all of which is true.) Sabarsky and Lauder shared a passionate commitment to modern German and Austrian art, and dreamed of opening a museum to showcase the finest examples of this work. After Sabarsky died in 1996, Lauder carried on the vision of creating Neue Galerie New York as a tribute to his friend.
After a considerable wait in line (maybe 30 mins) outside the building – no one was allowed to enter until another person had exited first – and the threat of rain had come and gone several times, we finally were allowed to enter.
We got very lucky with entrance fees, I must say. Regular adult entrance was $20, but seniors (me) and students with ID (Claire and Grace) were ½ price. BUT – since Claire had worked at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as an employee at its Café Modern there, she – and a guest of her choice (Gracie) – were admitted free of charge, as a professional courtesy from the NG! So what would have been a $50 entrance charge was only $20 for the four of us. In fact, I had paid the $50 cash at first, but when the discovery of Claire’s employment history was made known, the very gracious young cashier lady returned $30 to me (for reasons I still don’t understand – should it not have been only $20?), also in cash – something I’ve NEVER had happen to me before at any museum – returning previously paid cash on the spot! I say – the staff’s handling of the entire situation could not have been more gracious or accommodating….
Anyway, once inside, we all headed straight upstairs to the second floor for the long-awaited reunion with “Adele”! Hanging over the large mantelpiece, there she was in all her glory, surrounded by admirers, much as she must’ve been in real life. She was beautiful, stunning, magnificent – and I’m guessing just about as brilliant as the day she was created. I can’t really express to you how wonderful it was to see her – again, it turns out. (I had stated in my preliminary letter to y’all about this venture that I didn’t believe I had seen her before, but almost certainly that isn’t true. I checked my travel records, and I have been to Vienna six previous times before this past summer – in 1982, 1985, 1990 and three separate times in 2005 – always on sightseeing or scholarly excursions of one kind or another, with students, faculty or alumni. Claire, Grace and I had made a separate, special trip to the Belvedere Palace in 2005 while we were on tour with Go Ahead Vacations, in order to see the Klimts then. In fact, I had been to the Belvedere, Adele’s Austrian home for 60+ years, on most of those occasions, and in each case she would have been there, since she left Austria only in 2006. But I didn’t really have her on my radar until I saw Woman in Gold this year and realized the historical importance of that painting to its rightful owners – and now the world.)
The painting in a single moment encapsulates the entire history of its sojourn – and the agony its rightful owners endured before restitution finally came. After it was returned to that rightful owner, Mrs. Maria Altmann, she pretty much immediately turned around and sold the it to the heir to the Estée Lauder fortune, for a cool (reportedly) $135M, the highest amount ever paid for a single painting up to that time.
Here is probably a good place to quote from The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl‘s review of AB-B I, one month after the painting opened to the public at the Neue Galerie in 2006:
Adele, a twenty-five-year-old socialite and patroness in 1907, was probably one of the priapic [continuously sexually aroused] Klimt’s many lovers, though perhaps not for long: the gold- and silver-leafed hieratic portrait is piercingly erotic; its brushy, more Expressionist 1912 sequel (Adele Bloch-Bauer II) is not. Klimt was working in the Indian summer of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the period of Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Qualities”—an efflorescence, soon to be ruined, of pell-mell modernization, careering idealism, incendiary genius (Freud, Mahler, Wittgenstein), and, among the rich and cultivated, zealous decadence. It’s all there in “Adele”: the painting is exquisite and brazen, compelling and brittle, too self-conscious to be experienced as altogether beautiful but transcendent in its cunning way.
The subject is placed off-center, to the right, on a canvas more than four and a half feet square (140 cm X 140 cm). Imperious and smart, making her slightly horse-faced features seem a paradigm of feminine perfection, she wears a shoulder-strap gown with a cloak-like, billowing outer layer and broad gold and silver bracelets and a bejeweled silver choker. A storm of patterns—spirals, targets, nested squares, split ovals, checks, dots, short vertical bars, arrowhead triangles, ankh-like eyes—may represent fabric, furniture, and wallpaper, or they may be sheer invention. Most of the ground (not background, because almost everything in the picture that isn’t flesh snugs up to the picture plane) is mottled gold. Her asymmetrically upswept hair is painted matte black. Her right hand is oddly raised to her shoulder and, wrist bent at a painful-looking right angle, is grasped by her left, as if to restrain it. (On a Viennese note of that epoch, the pencil-outlined fingers faintly suggest claws. One source mentions she may have had a finger deformity she was trying to hide with that position.) Her frontal gaze turns inward, registering sensations that can only be sexual. Her dark-shadowed hazel eyes, under tapering black brows, are wells of seduction; someone could fall into them. Her bee-stung red mouth parts to expose two competent teeth. Blue tints along her collarbones, wrists, and hands hint at subcutaneous veins: erogenous zones. She is a lighthouse, or shadehouse, of desire. The picture is most excitingly viewed, after close inspection, from afar. Patterns shatter into drifting, pure abstraction while the facial expression still reads at full power. The double pleasure dizzies.
Is she worth the money? Not yet. Paintings this special may not come along for sale often, and the hundred and four million dollars spent for a so-so Picasso, “Boy with a Pipe,” two years ago indicated that irrational exuberance could be the booming art market’s new motto. But Lauder’s outlay predicts a level of cost that must either soon become common or be relegated in history as a bid too far. And the identity of the artist gives pause. The price paid is four and a half times the previous high (already a stunner, in 2003) for a Klimt; until a few years ago, the artist ranked as a second-tier modern master both at auction and in the estimation of most art critics and historians. Unlike another painting that was made in 1907, Picasso’s “Demoiselles d’Avignon,” “Adele” was the climax, rather than the big-bang launch, of an era. The design and the architecture of the truncated modern movement in Vienna proved vastly more consequential than the Middle-European style of Klimt and his roguish younger colleague Egon Schiele—a blend of Symbolist portent, Jugendstil chic, and archaic elements (Byzantine opulence in Klimt’s case and neo-Gothic contortion in Schiele’s). Klimt made serious art of frankly decorative aesthetics, in service to a reigning aristocracy of wealth and sensual indulgence, and his greatness is secure partly because no subsequent, first-rate talent or comparable milieu has arisen to rival its terms. Klimt and his world remain marginal to the battered but still persuasive avant-gardist chronicle of Western modern art: roughly, Paris to New York, and Cubism to abstractionism, with special status for futurism, Dada, Russian Suprematism and Constructivism, Dutch de Stijl, and Surrealism. The purchase of “Adele” tests the possibility—ever less to be sneezed at, these days—of rewriting art history with a checkbook. On varying scales, such manipulation has been a regular feature of the art game in the century since the Machiavelli of dealers, Joseph Duveen, in order to boost his trade in Old Masters, was said to have bullied a seller into accepting more payment from him than had been asked. But attempts to make self-fulfilling prophecies of publicized prices have never seemed more a participatory sport than they do today—among collectors, auction houses, and dealers. (Lauder sometimes sells works from his collection at auction.) Money talks, always. Lately, it roars, drowning out other measures of comparative value, among them the humble sentiments of critics, curators, and independent scholars. A rule of gold uniquely befits the art business, whose material goods, by any criterion that is not strictly subjective, are worthless. And no chemical analysis can sort out, in a given sale price, a ratio of considerations that may include honest judgment, heartfelt passion, and competitive exigency. Plainly, a decisive factor for Lauder is his devotion to his institutional scion, the Neue Galerie. However the publicity haloing “Adele” affects the expensiveness and prestige of Austrian modern art, it certainly escalates the prominence of the museum, which, to date, has been less well attended than its consistent excellence deserves. (It is miles above the class of Huntington Hartford’s short-lived Gallery of Modern Art, though that 1964 folly, on Columbus Circle, promoting the supermarket heir’s anti-modernist taste, can’t help but come to mind as a precedent.) I met Lauder by chance at the Neue Galerie, days before the opening, and remarked that, thanks to “Adele,” the intimate place may soon have a crowd-control problem. He replied quickly, “I hope so!” ♦
On close inspection, there were a few things about the painting which hadn’t struck me until then, such as: 1) Adele stands (or sits – it isn’t altogether clear) in front of a chair; the gold colors of the chair and background bleed together so well that it’s difficult to notice the pattern difference until you’re right on top of the work; 2) there are quite a few stylized “A”s and “B”s inserted across the painting, for obvious reasons; and 3) there is, again, a kind of stylized halo behind her head.
Well, from here forward on our journey, it was all downhill – if also a very pleasant and interesting downhill. But the ultimate goal was to see Adele up close and personal and, as of that moment, the task was accomplished. We spent another hour or more examining the remaining contents of the NG, including some very interesting decorative arts pieces (cutlery sets by Josef Hoffman, wine glasses by Otto Prutscher, clocks by Adolf Loos, etc.). Up on the third floor was a special exhibit titled “Berlin Metropolis: 1918-1933,” an exhibition devoted to Berlin during the Weimar era. The show explores the city using a multi-media approach, revealing this complex period through painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, photography, architecture, film, and fashion. Three great German films made during the time showed continuously in the exhibit: Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film “Metropolis;” Walter Ruttmann’s 1927 “Berlin: Symphony of a City” (a film depicting a single day in the life of the city, told completely without narrative, with only a made-to-order symphonic film score playing in the background), and Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece – and first sound film – “M,” with Peter Lorre in his first role. I’ve seen the first two, and ordered the third to be held for me at our public library.
After all this excitement it was time for some lunch in the downstairs Sabarsky Café, which of course had to include some Viennese “Kaffee” and “Apfel Strudel” along with main dishes, such as goulash and salad!
Thus renewed, it was again time to hit the pavement, but not before pictures in front of the “photographable” copy of Adele in the basement. (Naturally, no photography in the museum proper was allowed.) The girls had fun mimicking Adele’s hand position. (As mentioned in the article above, she is thought to have been hiding a disfigured finger…whatever!)
Since at this point we were literally two blocks S of the Guggenheim Museum, also on Fifth Avenue, we thought it would be fun to walk those two blocks N through Central Park and then cross back over the street to the Guggenheim for the remainder of the afternoon – which is what we did.
You’ve probably seen pictures of or been in the Guggenheim yourselves; its architecture is truly unique, and surely the high point of its creator’s – Frank Lloyd Wright’s – last period. I didn’t know this, but their website says that the process of creating and building the museum (d)evolved into a complex struggle, apparently pitting the architect against his clients, city officials, the art world and public opinion. Both Guggenheim and Wright died before the building’s 1959 completion, but the result, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, has a design like none other in the world, and is instantly recognizable for what it is.
Not surprisingly, since the name of Mr. Guggenheim’s first museum was Museum of Non-Objective Painting, its collection focuses on abstract art and the movements leading up to it. That’s useful to know, since it explains the presence of an “impressive” Impressionist collection displayed on the 2nd “floor (patrons follow a continuously ascending [or descending] spiral walkway to get from one level area to another), and even more so the substantial (over 30) collection of Kandinsky canvasses rotating through the 3rd-level exhibition area. So another good hour was taken up checking out the artwork, the interesting “one-person-per” restrooms found on each level, and the gift shop. [BTW, if you do the Guggenheim, be sure to follow their website’s instruction by riding the elevator to the top floor first, and then you can stroll down the ramps with ease, pausing where you like to sample the art. I didn’t see that instruction till I got back to Texas, but I pass it on to you!]
Anyway, since the girls were headed to a special “Broadway”-style production that night – not actually held on, or even “off,” Broadway, but in a converted and renovated 4-story hotel near our residence – called Sleep No More, it was time for them to head that direction. They’ll have to tell you about what they saw in more detail – it was hard even for them after they had seen it, to describe, but Claire had seen the same production four weeks prior on a previous (wedding) trip to Connecticut in September, so had a good idea what she was getting Gracie into.
My understanding from them is that the “plot” of Sleep No More is a very loose adaptation of the Macbeth tale, but presented simultaneously in individual scenes and scenarios by mute actors dressed in 1920’s garb, performing throughout the hotel. “Observers” (there’s no “audience” per se, since there are no seats) wear masks and wander from room to room and floor to floor, at their whim, witnessing whatever scene or activity is being presented in any given location, pretty much in random fashion. Thus, each attendance experience is unique, and repeat attendances vary widely. One friend of Claire’s has seen the show eight times. At $105 per ticket, that adds up to beaucoup bucks. As I said, Claire has seen the show twice, and it was very different the second time because she chose to see different scenes, in a different order, than the first time.
With the girls gone, Marge and I were “free” to take our sweet time getting back to the hotel on 28th St. from the Guggenheim at 88th St. – a six-mile trip. Ominously enough, it had now started to rain a little, but not much. So instead of buying an umbrella, we thought, “Oh, what the heck, let’s just grab a bus here on 5th Ave. One is sure to come by soon and we’ll just ride down to 28th and enjoy the sights along the way.” Bad decision. As soon as we got to the bus stop across the street from the museum, it started to rain harder. We were under some trees, and buses did indeed come and go, but each one either didn’t go our direction, was too full to accept more passengers, or was out of service. By now, there was lightning, deafening thunder, and a deluge of rain! Basically both of us were dressed in street clothes, Marge at least wearing a nice outer jacket. But we got caught in one of those dilemmas where we thought surely a bus would come at any moment, and then being creamed with rain again! Very shortly we were absolutely drenched – to the skin! And still we stood at the bus stop, with the thunder rolling and the lightning flashing, Marge huddling under my arms – DUH! Finally, when no bus EVER came, we shook off our indecision and splashed back across the street to the Guggenheim.
Not wanting to face the big crowd still standing under the museum eave – and now eyeing us with great amusement – we stopped short, at the corner, in a full-blown gale, and thought: “Is there even a chance a taxi might come by and rescue us from this nightmare?” As if an answer to a prayer, in the next moment an extra-large SUV taxi pulled up and opened wide its sliding door. Thank you, Jesus! (I haven’t been so relieved since I finally got the spare tire safely bolted onto our rented vehicle after a flat tire at dusk, on an abandoned dirt road 25 miles from the nearest paved road, with no cell service and not another living soul for miles, near the copper smelting ghost town of Swansea, AZ, in November 2012.) Safely inside the taxi, I just couldn’t stop laughing – at both of us! Talk about a couple of drowned rats! We were soaked to the skin. Shoes, shirts, underwear – all sopping! I can’t remember the last time we were that soaked! Our driver, separated from us by a thin wall of Plexiglas, was very good, friendly, sympathetic…and completely fearless! Of course you would have to be if you’re willing to drive taxi anywhere in Manhattan. That 6-mile drive from 88th to 28th took 35 minutes – and cost us $30! And all while we were soaked to the skin to boot!
When we finally got back to the hotel, a battle ensued as to who got to use the bathtub first (ended up a tie!) and crank the hot water up as high as it would go! Took about 20 mins. to warm completely back up!
SATURDAY, OCT. 10, 2015
Hard to believe that pretty much everything I’ve described so far happened in the 24-hr period from Thurs. night to Friday night! But now it was Saturday and, with our main goal already accomplished, it was time for some standard touristy things in the Big Apple!
One of the messages Expedia had sent me in the weeks and days before we traveled was a set of recommendations from residents and tourists to NYC about FREE things to do there. Of the suggestions offered, I figured we could do the following three in the one day we had: 1) walk the Brooklyn Bridge; 2) ride the Staten Island Ferry back and forth; and 3) pay our respects at Ground Zero. Again, this is exactly what we did.
The day proved to be an ideal one for outdoor activity: crystal clear blue sky, cool temps, low humidity. (Chris said it looked like the kind of day that happened on 9/11 – he was right, even if there was something uneasy about the comparison!). If you do decide to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, be sure to do it by starting from the Brooklyn side! In other words, take the subway over to Brooklyn first, get off there, and walk BACK toward Manhattan. That way you’ll always have the fabulous NY skyline in front of you. A majority of our fellow walkers came at us walking the opposite way, from the NY side. When we finally arrived on the Manhattan side, I understood why: there’s a subway stop in Manhattan called “Brooklyn Bridge,” so I’m guessing that many people just took the underground to that location and started their walk from that point, rather than going to Brooklyn first and coming back.
From there it was a short subway hop to Battery Park area and the Staten Island Ferry, at the S tip of Manhattan. At their new ferry building there was a crowd of at least 500 maybe more, waiting for the next ferry! I thought, “we’ll never be able to get on this ferry, and maybe not even the next one! No way they have enough room for all these people…” When the passenger doors opened, there was a crushing surge to board. As I sprinted by, I asked one of the staff if they had room for all the people trying to get on. He said: “Yeah, there’s enough.” Boy, was he right – there was PLENTY of room, even to spare. Those ferries are BIG!
The ride over and back to Staten Island was totally relaxing and fun, and filled with photo ops. I’ve included a few of the results here.
Our final stop for the day was Ground Zero, also known as the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. It’s approximately 1-mile from the Staten Island ferry terminal, and at this point (ca. 5:30 pm) everyone’s feet had just about had it. But we were determined to see the site, so off we trudged. One surprise bonus along the way was an ancient-looking church with attached graveyard – Trinity Wall Street – the first Anglican church in Manhattan, founded in 1697.
The Ground Zero site itself is moving and awe-inspiring. Where the North and South World Trade Towers once stood, there are now two deep square holes which are the footprints of those structures. Down the four walls of each square runs a steady flow of water, promoting a sense of peace and serenity. At the bottom of each of the memorials is a further, smaller and deeper square hole with no visible bottom. The water from above continues to fall down into that space, echoing the sounds above. Along the rim walls of both sites are the names of the 2,983 victims of 9/11, inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the parapets of the walls of the memorial pools. It is a somber and thought-provoking sight.
A callery pear tree recovered from the rubble at the World Trade Center site in October 2001 was later called the “Survivor Tree.” When the 8-foot tall tree was recovered, it was badly burned and had one living branch, and was not expected to survive. The following spring it showed signs of new growth. Eventually it was nursed back to health and replanted at the memorial in March 2010. As a symbol of hope and rebirth, it now grows in a place of honor at the site.
There is also a fantastic 9/11 museum on the memorial grounds, but it was nearly dark and we didn’t have the will to tackle it at that point. That’ll be for another day.
In the meantime, we enjoyed the subway ride and short walk back to our hotel and eventual preparations for return to Texas the next day. It was a wonderful experience which went by far too quickly, and one we will all cherish for years to come!
(AND IF YOU GOT THIS FAR, CONGRATULATIONS – AND THANK YOU!
HOPE YOU ENJOYED IT!)