Saturday, February 20, 2016

City of Cities

Perfect Start to Brooklyn

I can't tell you how much I've wanted to make City of Cities a post title for New York...

Charlie had a great idea once I was finally ready to go in the late morning of this day, and that was to amble north for just a half block to a bakery to get coffee and a bagel or other breakfast food item, and take it back to the house to eat on the porch. 

I ended up getting a very hearty sausage, egg and cheese biscuit and some strong iced coffee, and to enjoy it while frittering away the late morning on the porch was a pretty sublime way to start the day in Brooklyn. We both grew to love that little bakery over the next three days. Scholars are still debating on whether or not it was called Catskill Bagels Co, Cafe Madeline or whether it's even there anymore at all. If I go back to that neighborhood, I'll be sure to make a thorough investigation into this matter.

Back into The City

I can't begin to tell you how tempting it is to just throw up all 204 pictures from this day with no text and call that a blog post. Manhattan produces such endless imagery, it's hard to condense it into a reasonable number of photos. But I'll try!

Charlie and I boarded the Q train to take the usual 30 minute subway trek to Union Square Park. If you're wondering how we were deciding what to do that day, the answer was that I'd bought a Not For Tourists Guide to the city, and Charlie would ask to look at it and its brilliantly enclosed map of the entire subway system as we were in transit. 

As soon as we popped back out of the ground, I got to work with the camera like a very typical tourist in New York City:

They say that if you can tell who's a native New Yorker and who's a tourist by if you're constantly looking up at the tall buildings or not; if you're staring at street level the whole time, you're a native, you're used to the skyline. I wasn't even pretending to be a native, I was fanboying out about the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, etc.

Like Chicago, New York has a great mix of old, not as old and new in its skyline. Empire State has been around since 1931, and the Flatiron Building is now 113 years old, and allows for some great angles looking down both 5th Ave and Broadway:

Walking around Manhattan is like walking nowhere else in America; the city teems with people. And because it's so dense, there's a new adventure, a new beginning awaiting every block you come to:

We walked by what turned out to be the tallest building in the entire world from 1909 to 1913, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower (already at 700 feet!):

Would you believe that that tower is now just the 49th tallest building in the city?

I like how you have to do your distance math very differently in New York than in other places. In Dallas, you just drive everywhere. In New York, you pick between walking (free) if you have time, subway (cheap with a pass) if you have slightly less time, and cabs (not cheap) if you're in a helluva hurry. Saying all that, I present the classic subway entrance pic:

All those entrance signs show which trains go through that station; this one is near our next point of interest...

Stumptown Outside of Portland!

Having been enthralled with Stumptown from the Portland stop over two weeks earlier, I was bleepedy bleep thrilled to find out they have a Manhattan location! Somehow Charlie convinced me to go to a place north of 29th Street, but once we were done with his side errand, we shot like an arrow toward Stumptown at 29th and Broadway. It didn't disappoint, the iced latte was strong and the attached hotel lobby was a classy affair, a good place to spend some chill time.

I'm really glad Charlie indulged my crippling need for Stumptown, despite having had something from Starbucks by Union Square earlier.

I came to be amused by that particular Starbucks, because it was so packed and loud in there that the baristas could never understand what I said my name was. The first time it happened, I told them my real name, "Matt", and that turned into Mark. So the second time, I just told them "Mike" so that they could actually hear me. Worked like a charm!

Empire State of Building

I've always been slightly in awe of the Empire State Building from afar, and now on our way to Grand Central on 42nd St, I got to experience some of that same feeling from the street below the great structure:

Make you feel like an ant, right? Empire is really close to Stumptown by any measure, see this awesome screenshot from Google Maps:

I really love how they put the building in very overt 3D on the map! Anyhow, here's Charlie who was probably not quite as interested than I was at this juncture:

You should know, as a kid I built the Empire State Building (ESB) as a 3D puzzle, that's part of the nostalgia that I was feeling. Funny thing was that I asked Charlie if I should venture down to take a few pictures of Madison Square Garden (MSG), the "world's most famous arena", and he said it was too ugly to justify the brief walk haha! It's on the same street, 33rd, as the south side of the ESB, so it really wasn't far. And yet, that's why I have no pics of MSG.


Walking down 5th Ave, getting into what is called Midtown Manhattan, we could start to tell by the increasing skyscraper forest that this is the country's largest central business district:

That tower with the pointy roof and spire is west of Grand Central on 42nd, it's called the Bank of America Tower; 1,200 feet tall, about the same age as Trump Tower in Chicago, completed in 2009. 
It's a baby compared to the work of art east on 42nd known as the Chrysler Building:

It's a 1,046 foot tall shining example of Art Deco style architecture, and to me it is the purest representation of the "Gotham" feel of New York City. Next time I'm in NYC, I really will have to dedicate a little time and effort to photograph the Chrysler Building to the lofty degree which it deserves.
I know the ESB is the more famous landmark, and as you'll soon see, its observatory is very crowded, whereas Chrysler doesn't get as much attention even though I think it's easily the better looking building. I liken it to some Star Wars fans whose favorite Star Wars movie may be A New Hope or Return of the Jedi, even though they'll acknowledge that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film, even if it's not their outright favorite.

The Chrysler Building and the ESB arose amidst the ashes of The Great Depression; Grand Central Terminal is even older, with the current version having been completed in 1913, the same year as the first federal income tax. The outer facade seems to have a little architectural similarity with Chrysler and nearby structures:

The train station itself is a huge building, I hope you get the scope of it with the interior pictures. The Metlife building and Grand Central in front of it made an appearance in a deleted scene from The Avengers, just before the 2 minute mark:

Makes me wish I'd gone for that same iconic shot:

Grand Central is sort of a microcosm of Manhattan itself, it makes for those great time lapses of thousands and thousands of people going their disparate ways:

And now you'll get to see a tiny glimpse of why we use the saying "it's like Grand Central in here..." when referring to a busy place; it's clean and ornately sculpted on the inside, and the station wasn't very crowded when we were standing inside it:

We got pics of the iconic clock in the center, the departure boards for Harlem, and even a cheeky sign for the fabled Northwest Passage:

Central Perk

After Grand Central, Charlie had us take an express train on the subway up to Laduree at 70th and Madison, which is conveniently close to Central Park. Since Charlie had been to New York many, many times with his lovely wife Michelle, she had developed a great affinity for the macarons from this place, and thus Charlie paid a pretty penny for a box with a mix of different flavors.

As an aside, I still didn't consider myself very capable at photography yet, but in Midtown the sun and glass towers collaborated to provide a nice reflection photo:

We walked from Laduree into Central Park, which is a must-visit place for any NYC tourist! Amidst the hustle and bustle of the massive metropolis, Central Park provides a calming setting of tranquility and natural feel that you wouldn't expect in its location:

The way the park somehow filters out the blaring city noise, combined with the trails and paths into its woods, almost makes you feel like you're in a real forest! At some spots, the only indication you're in New York City are the tops of the towers peeking out above the canopy:

When Charlie and I sat down in one of the grassy areas with our kip from Laduree, he issued a creative photography challenge: take pictures of the macarons in an artsy way that made them look as tantalizing and appealing as possible. I had to really focus (get it?) to get a good close up, and I'll let you be the judge of the results, first from farther away:

And closer:

I remember specifically that Charlie recommended the macarons as a way to show a girl a good time. "Matt, get you a box of these and a bottle of wine, sit down with a girl at her place and say, 'I'd like to tell you more about my road trip'". He said, "that's pro level stuff, bro!" Words to live by haha.

George Costanza and the Guggenheim

The first museum we saw from the park was the American Museum of Natural History, on the Upper West Side.

Did we go in? Nah! We flipped the script and headed to the Upper East Side, to the Guggenheim (at 89th & 5th:

Now, George Costanza thinks that he was involved in the design of the Guggenheim:

As usual, he's full of it! Along the way across the park, we got some good shots of both Upper West and East Side over the Jackie O Reservoir:

The reservoir is pretty large by itself, it's eleven entire city blocks from north to south!

Somewhere near the Guggenheim, we hopped on a city bus to go south on 5th Avenue, and we wanted to get down to the intersection of 58th and 5th, where the famous Apple Store on 5th Ave is:

As you can see, it's a glass cube, and it's open 24-7, 365 days a year. It was a hopping, happening kind of place, truly packed like a club on the inside:

For unknown reasons, I had been skeptical of the iPad until I got to that store. There I fiddled with one that had Google Maps pulled up, and it had all the tall buildings of Manhattan showing in 3D and easily rotatable, and I thought that was one of the coolest visuals I'd ever seen! Another cool visual was looking straight up through the glass at the 705 foot tall General Motors Building and another tall one across the street:

One thing that confuses me is that this next photo looks like it's the United Nations Headquarters building, but it's something like 17 blocks further south of the Apple store...


The next quest after the Apple store, which turned out to be foreshadowing for later that night, was to meet Charlie's cousin Lauren down at a rustic Italian place called Supper at 2nd and Avenue A.

This is surprisingly timely as I write this - we passed the Trump Tower:

The design of the Trump Tower and its implications on Trump's character are very much open to interpretation. We passed the Chrysler Building again on 42nd St, arguably with more favorable lighting than earlier that day:

We spent a couple of hours lounging and dining at a back corner table at Supper, and we parted ways with Lauren about a block away, at 1st & 1st, which Kramer called "the nexus of the Universe":

At this nexus of the Universe...we lost Charlie's iPhone. In a cab. He left it in the seat as we were being dropped off there earlier, and only realized it right after the cab was too far away to catch. We went down into the subway, and because Maroon 5's "Pay Phone" song was really popular at that time, I had to take a picture of him on a real pay phone pretending to call for help:

We got help from Jeremy letting Charlie call his wife from the house back in Brooklyn, and Michelle did get to use the Find my iPhone feature to locate the lost phone on the Upper East Side. Charlie made contact with the person who had found the phone in the cab, turned out it was a nice lady named Andrea who was charging it at her apartment, and she agreed to meet us in the Financial District the next day to exchange the phone.

All that being settled, after 29 days of taking pictures on only one setting, Charlie showed me how to change the color temperature of my photos, from warmer:

To cooler:

Just as useful was the monochrome feature, also known as black-and-white, old-timey style that I used on slammin' Sammy, Jeremy's cat:

Those turned into artsy, impressionistic monochrome pics of a black-and-white cat!

It had been a great first full day in New York City, but it was time to hit the hay, especially after the long efforts to locate Charlie's phone. Good night from Brooklyn!