Category Archives: my city and neighborhood

It’s gone.

 

It’s gone.

They’re gone.

The past. Our lived history. Past times. The particulars. What made them unique.

This past, our past, dies with people. As they pass away. Dies as well as the people themselves.

An era. A generation. Gone irretrievably.

 

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 
My friend Bill Dalzell.

I think of him often. Of New York as he knew it.

When the City was affordable, actually cheap. When it was hospitable to artists, writers, and editors; to independent types who loved culture, the arts, and the life of the mind and who didn’t want the buttoned down life.

The New York of art film houses, the Automat, McSorley’s Old Ale House, and the Blarney Stones; of the Metropolitan Museum of Art when admission was free; of the New York Public Library when it was open 365 days a year. When the subway fare was a dime, a glass of beer was twenty cents, and flats in the Lower East Side rented in the 30 to 50 dollar a month range.

Dr. Ralph Colp, Jr., my therapist.

He practiced when psychiatrists did talk therapy and were intellectuals rather than pill pushers; when (as was the case with me) they charged 30 dollars for a session scheduled for 50 minutes that usually lasted an hour; when a writer such as Dr. Colp used a Royal manual typewriter; when a Sunday afternoon or holiday recreation for him and many Manhattanites, such as myself, involved seeing a foreign film.

 

 

*****************************************************

 
This melancholy, mournful train of thoughts occurred to me today when for some reason or other I thought of Bill, when something reminded me of him.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 22, 2019

 

 

another Manhattan jaunt

 

 

On Friday, April 12, I walked from one end of Manhattan to the another — from bottom to top — and another five miles back downtown before getting tired and giving up.

The photos below were taken by me during different stages of my walk, beginning in Battery Park in the early morning, continuing to 218 Street at midday, and ending in the Columbia University neighborhood in the early evening.

I would like to make a few points about walking that have occurred to me from time to time, and which seemed to be confirmed by this long walk of between twenty and twenty-five miles.

 
*****************************************************

 

 

First, contrary to what one might expect, walking, counterintuitively, seems to decrease appetite. I had eaten very lightly the day before; I woke up hungry. I walked about three miles before having a light breakfast at around 8:30 a.m., two and a half hours after I had started.

At around five-thirty, I stopped to eat a late afternoon, early evening lunch/dinner. I felt very hungry. But I quickly got filled up and couldn’t finish.

Secondly, walking seems (as I have stated before) to be a perfect form of exercise which does not unduly tax the body while contributing to wellbeing. I have not walked as much as usual lately — this was true in the winter months. Yet, on Sunday, April 7, I walked something like fifteen or sixteen miles, and on April 12, as noted above, I walked another eight miles or so further than on my previous jaunt. I experienced little tiredness at different stages of my walk, did not need to warm up or feel the need to take breaks.

Without being an expert, I would be inclined to say that we are made for walking, evolutionarily speaking. For most of human existence, until recently, people were accustomed to walk constantly, and it is undoubtable that they walked on average a lot more than we do now.

Thirdly, I have noticed that, when I start walking frequently, my “brother body” (a term used by the sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin, apparently adopting the phrase from words of St. Francis) seems to want more and more of the same. I will wake up a day or two later feeling, I want to do that again. Today!

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2019

 

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

Battery Park 6-11 a.m. 4-12-2019

Battery Park, 6:11 a.m.

 

 

New York Harbor 6-39 a.m. 4-12-2019

New York Harbor viewed from Hudson River Park, 6:39 a.m.

 

 

 

Hudson River Park 8-12 a.m. 4-12-2019

Hudson River Park, 8:12 a.m.

 

 

coffee shop.jpg

coffeehouse, Ninth Avenue and 44th Street, 8:51 a.m.

 

 

Broadway and 103rd St 10-55 a.m. 4-12-2019

Broadway and 103rd Street, 10:55 a.m.

 

 

IMG_3667.JPG

Broadway near 155th Street, 11:52 a.m.

 

 

 

Broadway near 195 St 12-48 p.m. 4-12-2019

Broadway near 195th Street, 12:48 p.m.

 

 

 

IMG_3736.JPG

Inwood Hill Park, 2:08 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Inwood Hill Park 2-23 p.m. 4-12-2019.JPG

Inwood Hil Park, 2:23 p.m.

 

 

 

218th Street and Broadway.JPG

218 Street (the last in Manhattan) and Broadway

 

 

 

 

IMG_3815.JPG

Broadway, Inwood, 3:15 p.m.

 

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 
See also my posts:
on walking (and exercise)

https://rogersgleanings.com/2018/02/26/on-walking-and-exercise-2/
Manhattan Island from Bottom to Top; Walking as Exercise

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/07/22/manhattan-island-from-bottom-to-top-walking-as-exercise/

a Sunday jaunt; Hudson Yards and the City

 

 

On Sunday, April 7, I walked from Battery Park in Manhattan to Dyckman Street (200th Street; the last Manhattan street is 218th Street). The walk took me all day. With zigzagging, I probably walked sixteen miles.

I walked uptown from Battery Park along the so-called Hudson River Park until I reached the 30’s, when I decided to take a look at the New Hudson Yards development. Hudson Yards has just opened. It was built over a railroad yard on the Far West Side.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

Hudson Yards has not been getting good press from architectural critics.
from The Washington Post:

“Architecture critics have been almost unanimous in their hatred of New York ’s new Hudson Yards development, a generic pop-up landscape of soulless glass towers and high-end retail built over the wasteland of midtown Manhattan’s west-side rail yard. Longtime New Yorkers, and transplants with taste, are inclined to agree: It’s as ugly as Dubai, it reeks of greed and mammon, and it only exacerbates the worst tendencies of a city that seems hellbent on erasing anything distinctive or humane in its built environment.”

— “The Shed is the only reason to go to Hudson Yards, New York’s most hated new development.”, By Philip Kennicott, Art and architecture critic, The Washington Post, April 3, 2019

from The New York Times:

The first massive tower emerged at the apex of the High Line, looming over it, a shingled, spiky, reflective blue-glass behemoth [The Vessel], shaped by eccentric cuts and angles, as if sheared by a giant Ginsu knife.

The largest mixed-use private real estate venture in American history. …, it is called Hudson Yards. … at jaw-dropping magnitudes you can’t begin to grasp until you are actually standing there, Hudson Yards has sprouted a seven-story, 720,000-square-foot shopping mall. There are also four more supertall skyscrapers as well as a $500 million city-sponsored arts center called the Shed.

… [The Vessel, a climbable 15-story sculpture which stands out as a defining architectural symbol/motif is] a 50-foot-high, $200 million, latticed, waste-basket-shaped stairway to nowhere, sheathed in a gaudy, copper-cladded steel. …

For its advocates, the $25 billion development is a shining new city ex nihilo, a wellspring of future tax revenues and evidence of a miraculous, post-9/11 civic volte-face. …

It is, at heart, a supersized suburban-style office park, with a shopping mall and a quasi-gated condo community targeted at the 0.1 percent.

A relic of dated 2000s thinking, nearly devoid of urban design, it declines to blend into the city grid.

It offers 14 acres of public open space in return for privatizing the last precious undeveloped parcel of significant size in Manhattan. But the open space looks like it may end up being mostly a fancy drive-through drop-off for the shopping mall, a landscaped plaza overshadowed by office towers and, for the coming western yards, a scattering of high-rise apartment buildings around a lawn — in effect, a version of a 1950s towers-in-the-park housing complex, except designed by big-name architects. … the whole site lacks any semblance of human scale. With its focus on the buildings’ shiny envelopes, on the monotony of reflective blue glass and the sheen of polished wood, brass, leather, marble and stone, Hudson Yards glorifies a kind of surface spectacle — as if the peak ambitions of city life were consuming luxury goods and enjoying a smooth, seductive, mindless materialism. …

Over all, Hudson Yards epitomizes a skin-deep view of architecture as luxury branding. Each building exists to act like a logo for itself. The assortment suggests so many crowded perfume bottles vying for attention in a department store window display.

— “Hudson Yards Is Manhattan’s Biggest, Newest, Slickest Gated Community: Is This the Neighborhood New York Deserves?” By Michael Kimmelman, Architecture critic, The New York Times, March 14, 2019

Kimmelman goes on to say, perceptively:

The obvious precedent here is Rockefeller Center, completed during the 1930s, the last comparable development in Midtown Manhattan. … [It was] an object lesson in urban design and a landmark of modern art and architecture, a development ingeniously, democratically woven into the fabric of the street grid.”

At a glance, Rockefeller Center looks unified because of all the masonry construction and Art Deco details. But the real source of its coherence is its plan. … All the parts work in harmony to create a singular place inseparable from the rest of the city.” [Raymond] Hood [Rockefeller Center’s chief architect] grasped the difference between scale and size — how a site with multiple entrances needs to be orchestrated from many angles, how architecture without urban design is just sculpture, how true art enhances the dignity of a place, and how the success of a neighborhood and its retail businesses come down to what’s happening at street level.

Hudson Yards barely acknowledges any of these things.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

The sage observations of one Roger W. Smith (while walking on Sunday):

 

Hudson Yards deserves the criticisms it’s getting. From critics who know a lot more about architecture and cityscapes than I ever will.

Its stores are for rich people and tourists. The new concert hall/arts venue (The Shed) does not look appealing or inviting.

But the place is thronged (was thronged when I went there on Sunday).

With ordinary people. Congregating, milling about. Mingling. Gawking.

Sitting on benches on a spring day.

Because it’s a place to go. In what was a storage yard for railroad cars. The number 7 subway line has been extended to go there. A new urban space has been created ex nihilo.

People like to be in the midst of other people. People hate isolation, hate to be cooped up. (Pity the poor, inhumanely and cruelly treated inmates in our prisons.) This is very true of New Yorkers.

NYC invites its apartment dwellers OUTDOORS. On a beautiful early spring day in April. Streets and thoroughfares for walkers and bicyclists everywhere. People out on Sunday. Congregating in parks seemingly everywhere. Walkers predominating and defining the streetscape (on a lazy non-business day), like you see nowhere else in America.

Many interesting looking people. Snatches of conservation overheard. Attractive young women. Attractive young couples. People sunbathing themselves on the grass. People in crowded bars and cafes, jammed with customers.

Young ladies walking dogs. Parents with kids. A father free from work for the day taking his son or daughter for a walk, presumably heading to the park, or in the park. Mothers with strollers. Kids frolicking and kicking a soccer ball in the park, with the utter abandonment characteristic of kids at a play.

New York is wonderful.

Rockefeller Center is accessible in a way that Hudson Yards isn’t. Michael Kimmelman makes an excellent point. But Hudson Yards is another place to go. New York keeps changing, sometimes not for the better, but it’s hard to destroy its vitality and appeal to common humanity, despite cement and steel.

 

– Roger W. Smith

   April 2019

 
*****************************************************

 

 

photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

IMG_3233.JPG

The Vessel, Hudson Yards; an ugly, monolithic “artwork”

 

 

Hudson Yards 1-53 p.m. 4-7-2019.JPG

Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

Hudson Yards 1-53 p.m. 4-7-2019 (2).jpg

Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

Hudson Yards 1-54 p.m. 4-7-2019.JPG

Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

park at West and West 11th Streets 12-53 p.m. 4-7-2019

Hudson River Park at West and West Eleventh Streets, April 7, 2019

 

 

Rockefeller Center 4-01 p.m.-9-26-2017

Rockefeller Center on a weekday afternoon; September 26, 2017

 

Kirk Douglas on the “glories” of New York

 

 

“I find myself in Albuquerque. No work, no money. …. No Lindy’s. No Madison Square Garden. No Yogi Berra. …

“You know what’s wrong with New Mexico? Too much outdoors. Give me those eight spindly trees in front of Rockefeller Center any day. That’s enough outdoors for me. No subway smelling sweet, sour. … No more beautiful roar from eight million ants fighting, cursing, loving. No shows. No South Pacific No chic little dames across a crowded bar.”

 

— Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas), Ace In the Hole

 

 

*****************************************************

 

Ace in the Hole is a 1951 American film noir starring Kirk Douglas as a hard boiled, cynical reporter who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper. He has come west to New Mexico from New York City, out of money and options. He talks his way into a reporting job with a newspaper in Albuquerque.

Lindy’s was a restaurant chain in New York City famous for its cheesecake.

 
— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2019

pre-spring haiku

 

 

 

all over the place

water running faster than you can walk:

snowmelt

 

 
— Ella Rutledge (posted on her Facebook page, February 2019)

 

 

I wish to thank my friend Ella Rutledge for giving me permission to post her haiku on this site.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 24, 2019

 

 
*****************************************************

 

 
photographs of Central Park taken February 21, 2019 by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

 

IMG_9553

 

 

 

 

3-41 IMG_9555.JPG

 

 

 

 

3-59 IMG_9667.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

4-15 IMG_9822.JPG

 

 

 

 

4-15 IMG_9828.JPG

a surge of positive energy

 

 

 

 

 

Being in New York City — or, more specifically, Manhattan.

Always a surge of positive energy. A sense of exhilaration A lifting of the sprits. It’s hard to be depressed.

How does one account for it?

 

 
*****************************************************

 

 

 

I would say that it’s the following.

The concentration of people. It’s why I love cities.

The concentration of business establishments; of restaurants serving every cuisine imaginable, at a wide range of prices; of coffeehouses everywhere where you can sit musing or chatting for what seems like forever; of places of interest such as libraries, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, museums.

The parks and public gathering spots, such as public sitting areas everywhere on even the most congested avenues.

The wide sidewalks, thronged with people.

The wonderful infusion of people of all races and nationalities. The immigrants. The tourists. What they contribute and share in terms of enthusiasm and amiability.

The incredible variety of languages spoken. Heard all the time, on the street and on the subway. Music to the ears.

The access to water, to the ocean and the Hudson and East Rivers, every which way one turns.

A sense of being impervious to weather. It’s fun to walk the streets on a hot summer day when everyone is without a coat. On a winter’s day when somehow an icy chill doesn’t seem to matter. When it makes your blood tingle, and when walking the streets makes you feel warmer. And when it’s raining, the rain-slicked sidewalks often have a feeling of romantic beauty.

The City. Manhattan. The energy! The fun. The sheer excitement!

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    February 2019; updated March 2019

 

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

 

photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

fifth avenue 3-20 p.m. 8-16-2018

Fifth Avenue, New York Public Library steps; August 16, 2018

 

 

 

Fifth Avenue 5-53 p.m. 8-31-2018.JPG

Fifth Avenue, August 31, 2018

 

 

Fifth Avenue 3-11 p.m. 12-20-2016.JPG

Fifth Avenue, December 20, 2016

 

 

 

Fifth Avenue 4-21 p.m. 3-18-2019.jpg

Fifth Avenue, March 18, 2019

 

 

 

Fifth Avenue 2-41 p.m. 2-15-2019.jpg

Fifth Avenue, February 15, 2019

 

 

Fifth Avenue 5-51 p.m. 3-2-2019.jpg

Fifth Avenue, March 2, 2019

 

 

 

Fifth Avenue 4-23 p.m. 2-6-2019.JPG

Fifth Avenue, February 6, 2019

 

 

 

Fifth Avenue 11-40 a.m. 2-17-2017.JPG

Fifth Avenue, February 17, 2017

 

 

Fifth Avenue 4-27-2017.jpg

Fifth Avenue, April 27, 2017

 

 

 

Fifth Avenue 12-42 p.m. 6-14-2018.JPG

Fifth Avenue, June 14, 2018

 

 

x fifth avenue 5-50 p.m. 9-22-2018

Fifth Avenue, September 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

Sixth Avenue 4-23 a.m. 11-30-2018.jpg

Sixth Avenue, November 30, 2018

 

 

 

Rockefeller Center 4-01 p.m. 9-26-2017.jpg

Rockefeller Center, September 26, 2017

 

 

 

Central Park 5-1-2018.jpg

Central Park, May 1, 2018

 

 

Central Park 12-44 p.m. 8-20-2017.jpg

Central Park, August 20, 2017

 

 

Union Square Park 5-54 p.m. 6-12-2017.jpg

Union Square Park, June 12, 2017

 

 

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

COMMENT

 

email from Mara Williams Oakes

February 20, 2019

Your observations on Manhattan are spot on.

Your phrasing creates a dynamic rhythm structure, complementing the pulse of the City.

New Yorkers

 

 

 

I was on a bus in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago.

My eyes strayed to a seat across from me, and I saw that a young woman was smiling at me.

Beaming.

She had a five or six or year old boy in her lap. It was a bit different than holding a toddler in one’s lap. The boy was restless. But the mother and her son and seemed to be totally in sync.

“Is he going to school. Or he is too young for that?” I asked.

“No, he’s going to school,” she said, still smiling.

Then, I got off the bus. She waved at me and wished me a good day. It was as if we had been glad to meet.

This little encounter — unanticipated, most would say totally inconsequential — set me up for the rest of the day. It was as if somehow I had made her morning pleasurable. She certainly did that for me.

A reason I am writing about this is because this sort of thing happens to me very often in New York. I doubt such encounters would be as likely in the suburbs. (Certainly not if one were driving to work or an appointment.) Rubbing shoulders with others as a matter of course is something I love about living in NYC.

When I first moved to New York as a young man, everyone seemed to in a hurry, and the City seemed cold and impersonal.

It’s exactly the opposite. Many New Yorkers have told me that their experience has been the same.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

In his poem “Mannahatta,” Walt Whitman said something very similar:

 

Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and
steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender,
strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies, …
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the
shops and shows,
A million people–manners free and superb–open voices–
hospitality–the most courageous and friendly young
men,

 

 

Roger W. Smith

December 2018