alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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Exploring New York

Saturday, our plans included seeing the John Lennon exhibit at the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame Annex, doing sightseeing in the city, and going to a friend's party.

Ziggy in the Morning (Click to enlarge)

Ziggy greets the day
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First, though, we had to run an important errand. At Citi Field the previous night, when she was paying for a Mets shirt, The World Traveler discovered her driver's license was missing. She racked her brain for where it might be, ruling out other purses and bags, or other stores. Finally, in the wee hours as I was drifting off, she explained, "I know where it is."

Seems that she'd left it at the front desk while checking out a gym near her office to determine if she'd like to sign up and use the pool. She called in the morning and confirmed they had her I.D. Massive exhale of relief.

We had to leave early enough to stop there first, grab breakfast and make it to the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame Annex by 11, which was the entrance time for the tickets we'd bought. The tickets made clear that we couldn't be later than 15 minutes or the tickets might not be honored. The timed entrances, I gather, are in order to facilitate crowd control moving through the relatively small museum.

The gym was nice; you could see the pool through a window on the second floor. To me, it looked like a movie set: one of those old-fashioned pools where people do laps.

Since we were nearby, The World Traveler took us to what she called the best bagel place in New York City, Ess-A-Bagel. There was, of course, a line but it moved quickly. I ordered a Whole Wheat Everything bagel with a tofu spread, and I also picked up a banana and an unsweetened green tea.

We walked to nearby Greenacre Park, which is a little green space between buildings with a waterfall, foliage, stonework and tables. I got a photo of the waterfall (shown below). There, we ate our delicious bagels in leisure. That is, until The World Traveler consulted her watch and realized we ought to get going.

Greenacre Park (Click to enlarge)

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The Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame Annex is in Soho, which The World Traveler told us used to be an artsy, bohemian neighborhood but is now known for high-end fashion. The annex is in an unassuming dark stone building, and the only indication of the wonders inside are the banners hung outside announcing the John Lennon exhibit.

Photography was not allowed inside the exhibit, which is not unusual for museum displays featuring copyrighted art that unscrupulous persons could photograph in order to create unauthorized prints. In addition, some of the clothing might fade faster with repeated exposure to flash photography.

As we entered, we waited first in a room lined with what looked like metal bricks, with the names of the Hall of Fame inductees. As short snatches of music played, the blocks would light up for the people who'd had something to do with that song: if they'd played on it, written it, inspired it, or produced it. That was entertaining, because every time a new one started, we looked around to see the names. As the time got closer to them opening the doors, the snatches of music got shorter until it became a cacophony of sound, ending with a very recognizable chord: the last note from "A Day in the Life" from The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper.

Then they opened the gates and seated us in a small viewing room, where we saw a video presentation about the history of rock 'n' roll. It combined both moving images and still shots projected all over the walls, so that it was an immersive experience. Parts of it made us laugh, while others gave us goosebumps.

As we moved into the rest of the exhibits, we were given a radio device with headphones that would pick up music from the exhibits as we moved through. This seems to be an ingenious way of providing music to go with each exhibit while not producing a bunch of cross-bleeding noise. As we moved through the first corridor, we saw tributes to different types of sounds, such as female vocalists, or blues rock. Each section played clips and showed images of that form of music, going from the early days of rock to contemporary artists. It was a nice way of linking current artists, who won't be honored in the Hall of Fame for some time, to the history of rock.

From there, we moved into a larger room containing memorabilia, the first of several. In addition to the music, each item had a card that described what it was and provided information on its importance.

Among the artifacts were: hand-painted boots worn by Johnny Cash; guitars from everyone from John Lennon to Jimi Hendrix; a jacket worn by Prince; a costume from Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour; handwritten lyrics by such people as The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon; a jumpsuit worn by Elvis; various items from the recently-closed punk venue CBGB; promotional flyers for '80s hip-hop bands; a mixer designed by Grandmaster Flash; a convertible owned by Bruce Springsteen when he recorded Born to Run; the big suit that David Byrne worn in Stop Making Sense; a studio piano played by John Lennon while recording "Imagine." Those are all part of the permanent collection there.

One of my favorite parts was an interactive display about historic sites in the history of rock. It was a 3-D plastic model of New York that was about 10-15 feet long, with digital touch screens placed all around the perimeter. You could navigate through the information and read about specific sites, such as recording studios or clubs where great artists got their start. If you pressed a button, a light on the map would show you where the site was located. Many of them were in Lower Manhattan. Some I recognized as places I've visited, such as the Knitting Factory, where I participated in a reading held by the now defunct Poetry New York about 15 years ago.

Finally, we reached the John Lennon exhibit. All the walls were white, and the floor was covered with a white covering. You walked over a sticky surface when you entered that pulled most of the dirt off your shoes. I thought, again, that was ingenious.

The exhibit was fantastic. Considering it was all in one large room, there was a lot going on. There was memorabilia on display, such as his favorite brimmed hat and Army jacket, which he used to wear a lot when he lived in New York City. There were handwritten lyrics and drawings, photos, and letters. In the four corners of the room were benches where you could view videos which were running on a loop. Each viewing station had two videos. They included videos of songs set to home movies from New York, a video for "Imagine," some experimental films, and some concert footage.

On tables in the middle of the room were displays giving insight into his thoughts on his music, politics, and personal life.

At the far end of the room was a display about gun violence, asking people to sign a large piece of paper mounted on the wall, which will be presented to President Barack Obama. We all signed it, of course.

Overall, I thought the John Lennon exhibit was terrific: never-before-seen glimpses of the man and how he thought. Yoko Ono, who oversaw the exhibit, did a terrific job.

Afterwards, we exited through the gift shop. I bought an exhibit T-shirt. It's a fitted T-shirt with a scoop neck, and I love it. The World Traveler tried on a CBGB shirt, but they didn't have the one she liked in her size.

Out front, I had The Gryphon take a picture of The World Traveler and I, flashing peace signs, in front of the exhibit sign.

Rock 'N' Roll (Click to enlarge)

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We were hungry, so we talked about the options and decided to walk a few blocks into Little Italy. Along the way, I spotted a chalk drawing of the word "LOVE" on the sidewalk. It seemed to fit with what we'd just seen, so I took a picture. Peace and nutopia.

Sidewalk Love (Click to enlarge)

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We decided to eat at Lombardi's, which Zagat rates as having the best pizza on the planet. It was also the first pizza parlor in the U.S. Surprisingly, there was only about a 15-minute wait, so we sat on a bench outside until we were called. Actually, I was across the street buying a bottle of water when they called.

We got to walk through the kitchen on our way to the table, so we got to see the scene of the action. Of course, we had to order pizza. The pizza was thin-crust with high-quality toppings, and I loved it. We also shared a salad.

When we were done eating, we didn't have much time left before the party. We had talked about seeing Coney Island, but we would probably have had just enough time to get there and back. Instead, we stopped first at a nearby place called Rice Dreams, which serves all sorts of rice pudding. The World Traveler knows that The Gryphon is a food lover, so she was trying to give us a taste of the best of Manhattan. I have to say, Rice Dreams is worth a visit. We also loved their funny signs, such as this one, which says, "'STRESSED' SPELLED BACKWARDS IS 'DESSERTS'." True!

Rice Dreams Sign (Click to enlarge)

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Then we headed for Harlem, with a goal of checking out the North End of Central Park. Back in December, when we'd visited Central Park, it was the South End, so this was the opposite end.

On the way, we passed through Spanish Harlem and saw some murals painted by the famous muralist De La Vega. They both appeared to be portraits. The first one is of an elderly woman and is labeled, "La Reina Celia." The second is of an elderly man, labeled ""La Calle de Pedro Pietri." Both use strong lines outlines and a cartoon-like style.

De La Vega Mural - La Reina Celia (Click to enlarge)

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De La Vega Mural - Pedro Pietri (Click to enlarge)

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We entered in the Conservatory Garden, a small section that is done up like a Victorian garden. The view inside the gate was breathtaking: a large expanse of neat green, bordered with trimmed hedges, with a fountain and green arbor at the far end.

Cultivated Garden (Click to enlarge)

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The Conservatory Garden happens to be a popular place to take formal photos and to hold weddings. While we walked through the arbor, we saw a bridal couple posing for photos, with their family and wedding party lingering nearby. Nearby, a wedding party went through a rehearsal, the bride all smiles. I got a shot of the bridal couple posing for their photographer. The groom noticed me just before I took this. I wonder if he'll look for it online. If so, here it is!

Bridal Couple in Central Park (Click to enlarge)

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As we walked by the fountain on our way to the rest of the garden, I noticed a rainbow in the spray. I took a photo, and you can see it faintly, near the bottom, just above the person in pink.

Rainbow Fountain (Click to enlarge)

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We strolled through the Conservatory Garden, which was planted with seasonal flowers. Then we headed for the very northeast corner of the park, and the Harlem Meer. Along the shoreline was a sign showing what it looked like before it was restored, and it's a major difference. The buildings, shoreline, and landscaping have been improved. By casually walking by, we spotted some ducks, a fisherman, and two turtles, one of whom I managed to capture briefly on video.

I thought this area would be a nice place to get a photo of The Gryphon and I, so we scouted locations and found a willow tree at the water's edge. We stood on a rock while The World Traveler got a photo.

Alyce and The Gryphon in Central Park (Click to enlarge)

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After Central Park, we did a little more sight-seeing in Harlem. Namely, we stopped at the Apollo Theater. At first, we just stood on the sidewalk, where I took a couple shots of the famous sign.

Apollo Theater (Click to enlarge)

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Then The World Traveler suggested we try going into the lobby, and sure enough, we were allowed to. Just as I was about to get a photo of the lobby, an Apollo employee informed us that certain pictures in there were copyrighted and that, while we could take a picture, someone had to be in them. I guess that way we couldn't make illegal reproductions. She very kindly offered to get a photo of the three of us in front of the mural that shows some of the greats who have performed there.

Inside the Apollo (Click to enlarge)

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Afterwards, she also told us that they give tours of the theater on Wednesday nights before the amateur performance. The World Traveler suggested maybe sometime I come up and do that with her. It's a definite possibility.

We also checked out the school where The World Traveler used to teach, about six years ago. A lot has changed since she taught there: now there are Starbucks and H&M stores, not to mention new construction. She says it almost doesn't look like the place she knew.

By this point, it was close to the time of the party, so we headed over, stopping in a grocery store along the way to buy some beer, some fresh strawberries and some dipping chocolate you were supposed to be able to microwave (however, I would make such a mess of that, leaving it in for one extra minute, that the chocolate was unusable).

When we arrived, the party was in high gear. There was food on the table, and The Godfather was grilling burgers in the kitchen. Half of the guests were hanging out in the apartment, while the other half were on the roof, with our host, Doc the Stampede.

We weren't immediately hungry, since we had eaten not too long ago, so The World Traveler and I got a beer and then, once Doc returned to the apartment for something, followed him up on the roof. There were some great views from there, and there was a warm, light breeze. A lot of people socialized up there and brought their food up, too. Here's a shot of some of them.

Rooftop Socializing (Click to enlarge)

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There were a handful of people I knew, all of them Otakon staffers. Over the course of the party, I talked to new people and made some new acquaintances. No surprise, really, that I would have something in common with them, since Doc had invited them!

At one point, The World Traveler and I walked to the grocery store with another party guest to get more beer. It wasn't much of a drinking party, but he wanted to be sure it was there for the people who might want it (like him). He was an interesting guy, very opinionated. I'm not sure how old he was, but he seemed fairly young. In his 20's, for sure, still in that stage of figuring out what direction he wants to go. Then again, I can say the same thing about a lot of people I know in their 30s and 40s.

Inside, one of the favorite activities, other than eating and conversing, were playing cards, such as blackjack and poker. This was primarily at a special table in the corner. I don't know if it's a permanent fixture of Doc's apartment or if he brought it out just for the party. There were always several people gathered around it. In this shot, Doc is the one placing some chips.

Poker Faces (Click to enlarge)

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Later in the evening, at some guests' request, there was also video gaming. It started out with a zombie shoot-em-up game, which seemed to take a lot of concentration.

Shooting Zombies (Click to enlarge)

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After it got dark, The World Traveler and I went back on the roof, and I tried for some night shots. It took me a while to figure out the proper settings, but when I did I got a great picture where a car's headlights turn into streaks.

Night Street (Click to enlarge)

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Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, there was cake! (And it was not a lie.) Seems that Doc had bought it on a whim because he'd liked the logo on the store window. The first shot is of the logo that inspired his cake purchase. The second is of one of the party guests, camping it up while cutting the cake.

Cake Bag (Click to enlarge)

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Cutting Cake (Click to enlarge)

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We had a great time, and we would have stayed longer, except that The Gryphon was starting to fade. We said our good-byes, and I got a few more shots of the entire room before I left. This one is my favorite, showing the card game in the foreground, and people watching a video in the background.

View of the Room (Click to enlarge)

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As it turned out, I was more tired than I realized. While The World Traveler and I tried to watch the new episode of What Not to Wear, which she'd recorded, I fell asleep before they even finished trashing her wardrobe!

New York is full of great sights, sounds and tastes.

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Tags: art, doc the stampede, food, friends, gryphon, museums, music, new york city, photos, sight-seeing, world traveler

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