Tag Archives: Roger W. Smith

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.

 
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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

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Inwood Hill Park, 2:08 p.m.

 

 

 

 

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Inwood Hil Park, 2:23 p.m.

 

 

 

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218 Street (the last in Manhattan) and Broadway

 

 

 

 

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Broadway, Inwood, 3:15 p.m.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.\

 

 

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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

 

 
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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

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

 

 

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Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

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Hudson Yards, April 7, 2019

 

 

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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

 

 

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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

Walt Whitman: simplicity and complexity

 

 

 

“No one makes craft, carefully wrought, seem more casual than Walt Whitman.”

 

— Richard Rhodes, How to Write: Advice and Reflections (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1995), pg. 12

 

 

A former friend of mine, the poet Charles Pierre, made a comment to me — I wish I could remember exactly what he said — to the effect that Walt Whitman is actually very difficult. Difficult for the reader, that is. That he presents a level of difficulty that requires acute understanding of? I think Pierre would have said: an understanding of what Whitman is doing; of his poetic technique, of his originality, poetic genius, and ingenuity. That Whitman, who seems on the surface so simple, is not really simple.

And yet, I find Whitman to be easy to become acquainted with and comprehend without necessarily being (as in the case of myself) expert at poetry. I “got” his poetry almost right away.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   February 2019

“Congress shall make no law …”

 

 

In a story in yesterday’s Washington Post

 

“Supreme Court seems to seek narrow w:ay to uphold cross that memorializes war dead”

By Robert Barnes

The Washington Post

February 27, 2019

 

It is indicated that

 

A majority of the Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed to be searching for a way — a narrow way, most likely — to allow a historic cross commemorating World War I dead to remain where it has stood for nearly 100 years.

Two of the court’s four liberals suggested the unique history of the Peace Cross in the Washington suburb of Bladensburg, Md., may provide a way to accommodate its position on public land in a highway median.

But more than an hour of oral arguments showed the difficulty the court faces when it must decide whether government’s involvement with a religious symbol has an allowable sectarian purpose or is an unconstitutional embrace of religion.

 

And so on.
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This is a contentious issue that has been with us for a long time. But I think it is absurd for jurists and interest groups to be splitting hairs over such questions. It calls for a satirist such as Jonathan Swift to show the absurdity of this kind of public debate.

My former therapist, Dr. Ralph Colp Jr. (not an arrogant or haughty person, it should be noted) once remarked to me, in a completely different context, that human stupidity would always be very much part of humanity, very much with us.

Here’s food for thought.

The Constitution should not be taken literally. The Founders, schooled in Enlightenment thought, were wiser than that: Their intention was to produce a document the underpinning of which was clear, rational thinking.

Some of the “original intent”/strict constructionist types — including supposedly eminent judges and jurists, and legal scholars — are, to put it bluntly, idiots. Who read and interpret the words of the Constitution over literally, without any context or nuance, and without using common sense.

So are the citizens who, in reading the words of the First Amendment, think that it was intended to prohibit public exercise of religion. The Founders would have been horrified to see it interpreted that way.

The freedom of religion clause did not bar exercise of religion, or display of crosses, Christmas trees, or creches, for example, either in public or private. This would have been unthinkable to the Founders.

 

 

 

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In making convoluted, tortuous arguments, the litigators do a great disservice to the public and threaten the common weal. Someone shouldn’t feel anxious about, or have to explain or defend oneself about, erecting or preserving a monument with a cross to honor war dead. To maintain the converse is the worst type of sophistry. And, by the way, it’s also a good example of a form of perverse presentism. Believe, me, when the Bladensburg Peace Cross was erected in 1925, it was done with good intentions. It was meant to show honor and respect. And, the Founding Fathers would be turning in their graves to be told there was something wrong about erecting a monument with a religious symbol on it.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   February 28, 2019

“Kullervo” post updated

 

 
I have updated my post about Sibelius’s great symphonic tone poem Kullervo. The post now contains a complete libretto in Finnish and English.

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/01/22/sibelius-kullervo-and-incidental-music/

 

I attended a performance of Kullervo last night by the Oratorio Society of New York, conducted by Kent Tritle, with the men’s chorus of the Manhattan School of Music, at Carnegie Hall.

It was wonderful — and for me revelatory — to hear Kullervo performed live.

I hope to have more say about Sibelius in another post.

 

 
— Roger W. Smith

   February 26, 2019