Archive for November 2007

Bryant Park Gift Shops

November 30, 2007

When Christmas comes to NYC, there are a number of inescapable direct commercial tie-ins.  There are the Christmas windows in the major department stores and then there are shops opening up in common areas such as Bryant Park and Union Square.

The shops are virtually all small kiosks and are open-air.  The vendors are very specialized and seem to be mom-and-pop type of operations.

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Lots of stuff that looks hand-carved.

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There’s a long line of them that goes from one side of the Library to the other…or almost all the way.

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It actually ends on the south side at a pretty large Christmas tree.

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Not as grand as Rockefeller Center’s, though.  (Note, I didn’t go to the lighting on Wednesday night.  That place is unapproachable by the time I get off work.  It’s much better to watch at home…not that I did, but it’s the only way to see that spectacle.)

The shops are also adjacent to the free ice skating rink (well, you can rent skates for a price but it’s free if you bring your own and are willing to wait to get on the ice).

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But I’ll show that in another post.

-H

NYC’s Least Successful Undercover Police Car

November 29, 2007

But what do I know?  Stealthy NYC cops probably cruise around in this catching perps by the hundreds who have absolutely no idea of the identity of the occupants.  I’m not quite so easily fooled.

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The bumper sticker gives it away.  It’s on every cop car in the city.

-H

A NYC Christmas Window

November 28, 2007

I need a new chair.  Hey, it’s NYC and there are lots of places to buy chairs!  Right?  Well, how come I’m having such a tough time?  Ehhh, it doesn’t matter.

I decided to go down to ABC Furniture at Broadway and 19th Street to see if they had an acceptable chair.  The store is huge (by Manhattan standards) at six floors and is about as eclectic as you could ever hope for.  The store is so eclectic, it’s on two sides of the street!  Rugs on the west side, everything else on the east.  It has a wonderful selection and has the coolest floors around.  Old stuff.  Big herringbone in some areas, creaky old floorboards painted white in others.  It isn’t your standard mall anchor store or your suburban furniture place.  Honest to goodness, the place has character.  It doesn’t, however, have a chair that I like.

Anyway, as I was leaving I started looking at their windows in the front and saw a Christmas window that beats everybody else’s.  I haven’t been by very many so far this year, but they are always similar.  This store has the one I truly love.

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It’s as if they remember what Christmas is really all about.

But you have to remember, this is NYC.  Other windows are more Buddhist and New Age than anything else and there’s an awful lot of Hindu stuff in the store.  But they did have actual Christmas music playing (not “holiday music”, but Christmas music).

-H

A Courier on 42nd Street

November 27, 2007

I don’t know if this guy is a courier or not, but I like to think of him as such.  Without a car in Manhattan, it can be tough to get packages around.  Typically, you hail a cab and hope it can fit in; or wait to get one of the few minivan cabs.  Or pay for separate delivery…at their time, not your’s.

But this guy has an alternative for a bulky package:  skate with it.  I can’t imagine it was very heavy nor breakable, but it was a cool sight to see.  It’s a little hard to grasp from the picture, but the bag was huge and bulky.  It didn’t phase the skater, though.

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-H

Merchant’s House Museum

November 26, 2007

I recently saw a notice that the Merchant’s House Museum was giving a special showing of the servants’ quarters.  Well, that led me to try and figure out what the Merchant’s House Museum was and why would I care about the servants’ quarters.

It’s actually a house of a former NYC resident.  Former, as in the early 1800s.  It was originally built by Joseph Brewster and bought by Seabury Tredwell, a merchant who did import/export around the time of the Erie Canal.  He did very well, and build this house to show how well he did.  His family lived there until 1933 and was then given to the City.

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As houses in America go, it’s not particularly large, but it is good sized for NYC.

It has at least four floors, with the top floor being the servants’ quarters.

When you go in, your receive (for your $8) a notebook with a self-guided tour.  You first go to the basement and look at the living areas down there.  There are some displays of how life was for the era.  The kitchen is very interesting.

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Just past the table you can see a white object.

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Yeah, it’s the family bathtub.  They’d bathe every week or so, whether they needed it or not I imagine.

Pardon the poor quality of the pictures.  They don’t allow flash photography and the lighting is poor so my shutter stayed open forever.

The main floor had the living and dining rooms.  It doesn’t appear to have original furnishings, but ones from the proper era.

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Notice the coffin.  Technically, it’s not the living room:  it’s the parlor.  Deaths were frequent in those days and homes were traditionally part of the funeral process.

The upstairs held the main bedrooms.  I did like the built-ins.

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But the area that really makes the place is the back courtyard.  What I wouldn’t give…

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And a wonderful view of the back of the house.

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The servants’ quarters are currently used for storage, so there’s really nothing to see other than the space itself. 

The house feature that’s interesting is that the money for building the place was spent in making it look good to impress the frequent visitors.  Then, as now, the servants’ quarters weren’t places that the visitors would go so they were the worst looking and maintained.  However, the front of the house was on full display, so the quarter’s external visage was equal with the rest of the house.

Overall, the museum isn’t a don’t-miss kind of display.  But I enjoyed it and found it interesting and my $8 reasonably well-spent.

-H

A Hint of Worse Things to Come?

November 25, 2007

After I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I walked back home.

On Fifth Avenue, just south of Rockefeller Center, I spotted something I’ve heard about from New York’s recent past:  a three card Monte game.

If you aren’t aware of it, three-card monte involves you and the dealer…and the dealer’s friends who pose as other customers.  In my case, they were all playing as if they didn’t know each other and the friends were making the absolute worst choices of the red card.  What terrible luck!  The players didn’t even notice that the red card had a big crease in it!  Easy money?  There was no way I could lose!  Without me saying a word, the dealer looked at me and asked me if I knew which one was the red card.  I pointed.  I WON!

The dealer then tried to press a $100 bill on me…as the real winner of course.  A woman with the original loser told me I “have to take the money.”  I declined and walked off.

I don’t know how they were going to get it back (with the rest of my money) but perhaps I was going to be set up for pick-pocketing or maybe if I were to try to leave there would be some sort of loud objection or something; but I knew that there was no way they were going to let me off with any of their (or my) money in my possession.

I did get away.  And I spotted another game a block further on.

I thought the cops had gotten rid of these crooks.  Maybe it’s indicative of an economic downturn or maybe I’ve just been oblivious to other games (and, no, that ain’t the truth).  But it does worry me.

-H

2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – Part 2

November 24, 2007

Thursday’s parade was very pleasant and for all of the right reasons.

Adults with children are always trying to get them into the right position to view the parade.  As I mentioned earlier, dad-duty involves putting your child on your shoulders for a view, despite what it means to those of you behind.  The picture below is what I call the “wall of dads”.

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But there are easier means of propping up the little ones.  One very popular technique is to bring step-stools and even ladders.  Another is to put the kids on something high.

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You can see from their expressions that they had a good view.  The problem is…well, they are kids and something always happens.

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In the above case, the little one is objecting strongly to the loss of his camera to his dad.  That kid could wail!

But with enough balloons, even the greatest of injustices is assuaged.

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There was only one sort of “celebrity sighting” from my vantage point.  When I first spotted the below float, I thought “These guys must be some sort of music group or boy band.”

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I hadn’t the slightest idea who they might be.  I then googled the parade to see, and all I could find was something about Ground Zero firefighters.  It wasn’t until this morning that I was flipping channels and ran into some info that indicated that this was the new “Menundo”, a re-constituted boy-band from the 1990s.

My next picture was of something quite a bit different.  Whatdoyathink?

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It turns out that this is a bit of real art done by artist Jeff Koons.  Apparently Macy’s is trying to bring in some artistic sentiment alongside the popular entertainment.  This is a highly enlarged, and balloonized, version of his work titled something like “Shiny Rabbit”.

It certainly provoked a lot of conversation amongst us who didn’t know of it beforehand.  It was regarded as something of a Bugs Bunny robot or a robot rabbit for whatever reason anyone would ever want a robot rabbit.

Now compare that with the cultural meaning of the below.

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For me, Mr. Potato Head rules over Shiny Rabbit any day and in every aesthetic sense.  Of course, I’m a bit of a Luddite and metalicized rabbits aren’t my thing.

 [UPDATE on 11/25:  Just to show what I know about modern art, here’s a post about the rabbit.  I think you can get Mr. Potato Head for $10 or so.]

-H