Date of Trip: May 2008
After my last super-cheap same-day trip to New York – we live in Miami, Beach, FL – on April 9, my wife said enough was enough. I said fine, the next time I get one of these crazy deals, I’m buying two tickets and we’re both going. Days later, another Spirit Airlines super-sale arrived on line and I bought two same-day tickets, Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) to New York/LaGuardia (LGA), and for Sunday, May 25, and on a holiday weekend yet!
We got to FLL in plenty of time for the 5:10 AM to LGA – the very first flight to anywhere out of Terminal 4. As usual, I carried along food, and brought an empty bottle which I filled with water after going through security. We slept at least part of the way. As always, I had selected seats on the left side behind the wing, and we had that fantastic view of Manhattan, along with bridges, boats, and finally Shea Stadium and the rebuilt Worlds Fair giant sphere.
It’s always a good idea to carry a $10 roll of quarters if you plan to use public transit, and we did, because NYC buses don’t accept dollar bills. The M60 bus came right away, and in 30 minutes we were over the TriBorough Bridge and on Harlem’s 125th street, where we transferred to the ML down Fifth Avenue. First stop was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on Fifth between 82nd and 83d, where you pay by optional-amount donation. It was a beautiful cloudless holiday weekend, and Fith Avenue was crowded with double-decker open-top filled-up tour buses. The sidewalk in front of this museum – a virtual city of every kind of art imaginable – was filled with vendors of everything from snacks to drawings to my favorite – a stand selling original printed scripts of movies and TV shows. I was dismayed to see something I’d never seen before, not just a line, but a line extending down the steps and along the sidewalk. But when the museum opened at 9:30, the line moved faster than any other line I’ve ever seen, and in 10 minutes we were inside.
The first exhibit we went to see was the Superheroes one. It was a totally fun exhibit, featuring fashions inspired by every superhero you’ve ever heard of and some you haven’t, along with original costumes from movies and original artifacts. I enjoyed seeing Christopher Reeve’s original Superman costume from the first movie, and my little Spiderman-obsessed grandson, was thrilled to hear I’d seen the actual costume from the third movie of that series. Large interpretive signs provided “biographies” of all these wonderful characters.
There were two excellent photography exhibits, one focusing on the last four decades, the other featuring classic photos going back to the 1840s. A new kind of interpretive exhibit was “How to read Chinese Paintings” in the Asian second floor galleries. Drawings and prints hung along a corridor included many superb renaissance-era ones. We were overwhelmed by the endless room after room of ancient Greek vases, some of them huge, all of them brilliantly portraying scenes from that era, everything from warriors to young women playing board games. The large renovated Greek-Roman galleries included not only massive items, but cases filled with exquisite jewelry and glass items. A gold bracelet appeared to have been woven from ultra-thin strands of that precious metal.
I always stop to admire the European impressionists, the Van Goghs and the wonderful Rembrandts and Vermeers. Rembrandt’s paintings are shiny and thick and interesting close-up using good reading glasses. Back in 1989 I had seen an exhibit of them in London showing how many had been x-rayed and under-paintings and drawings had been found in them.
I had wanted to show Ellen one ancient Roman “stele” – grave marker – that I always stop to look at. It marked the grave of a young girl, and she is beautifully engraved on its front, wearing a flowing robe and holding her pet bird. Very sweet and very sad.
The new Oceanic galleries feature striking and odd sculptures and other objects, many of cloth and/or wood, and a huge expanse of window overlooking the avenue. Finally, there was the elevator to the roof garden, where three large sculptures of Jeff Koons reposed, one of them looking exactly like a giant balloon animal put together for a group of giant children. The view from there of the park and surrounding buildings is striking.
It’s hard to leave the Met but we finally “escaped” after about four hours, and took a breather sitting in Central Park, watching the endless parade of strollers and cyclists. Then we walked to the Jewish Museum at 92nd and Fifth. That building had once been known as the YM/YWHA, then the 92nd Street Y, and I had actually rented a room in it for two weeks longer ago than I care to mention.
The Jewish Museum featured an extraordinary exhibit of 20th century expressionist art – De Kooning, Pollock, Frankenthaler, Gorky, Johns, Rothko, Steinberg and many others. Not everyone cares for Pollock’s “drip” paintings, but some of his other work was there as well. “I didn’t care for all the art on display – a large canvas consisting of one color with a stripe through it doesn’t inspire me, nor do Rothko’s floating blobs. But much of it was spectacular. The New Yorker had said that Gorky’s “The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb” alone was worth the price of admission. I couldn’t make much sense of it, or even of the title, but it was colorful and very powerful.
One of the most interesting parts of this excellent exhibit was a room filled with original artifacts, photos, letters, catalogs and other things dealing with these artists. There were some amazing feuds going on between some of these people.
Upstairs we found Andy Warhol’s series of 10 portraits of famous Jews. They were actual photographic portraits – Einstein, Meir, and others – but sometimes doubled, and interestingly colored and arranged. The heart of the museum is its amazing collection of Jewish ritual and religious objects, both modern and going back centuries. There are also many objects, tools and even coins going back to ancient times, and many rooms are themed by era. Interactive computer exhibits explore timeless questions having to do with ethics and Jewish responses.
Two oddments about this museum. If you go anywhere above the first floor, there are very few places to sit down. And it was in this museum that I encountered what has got to be the most ridiculous rule I have ever heard of. My wife had taken off her jacket and was carrying it. A guard approached and told her she would have to either wear it, or tie it around her waist. Minutes later, I asked the guard, why such a rule? Well, he said, you know, you might turn around suddenly, and it might hit something – he seemed to stumble at that point. All the exhibits, I might add, were solidly mounted inside cases. That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of, I said. Well, he said, I just enforce it, that’s all.
We took some more time in Central Park. The sun had lowered, and the air was refreshing. Finally, it was time to catch the northbound M1 on Madison Avenue up to 125th Street. Did you ever wonder why so many girls today are named Madison? It’s because of a scene in the movie “Splash,” where Darryl Hannah’s mermaid character encounters that avenue during her first excursion on dry land.
The M60 quickly took us back to LGA, and, as usual, there was no security delay at that hour. Our flight left at 9 PM and we reentered our home just 22 hours after we had left it.
We’re off next month to see the solar eclipse in Siberia, with stops in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tallinn and Helsinki. Watch this space!