Archive for November 2007

Ankling to the Chelsea Hotel…or is it the Hotel Chelsea? (Part 2)

November 20, 2007

Okay, my previous post was all about the exterior of the famous Chelsea Hotel.  It’s nondescript on the outside but has a wall of plaques that would be the envy of any hotel anywhere.  The hotel is reknowned as a last vestige of the Bohemian movement in NYC.  It sure won’t win any awards for glossiness.

The doorway is ordinary.  Double-wide glass doors.  The lobby is relatively tiny with the desk set in the far back.  I asked if they minded if I took pictures.  The gentleman seemed taken a little aback, but granted it.  I presume he was taken aback by the request for permission.  I don’t think he was surprised that someone would want to take its picture.  It’s…an unusual lobby.

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Yes, a girl in a swing.  But note that it isn’t a red velvet swing.  That’s a story about Madison Square Garden for another time.

The walls are lined with artwork.  The first one, apparently named “Presidents” was one that I found a bit captivating.  I sure don’t know why, though.  It looks like the old Dutch Masters cigar box.

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I’ve no idea whose bust that is, but it looks a bit like Harry Truman.

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This is what you see when you first walk in…other than the woman on a swing.

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You’ll note that I’m not posting any pictures of the lobby itself.  Just the walls.  The furniture, in a word, is non-descript.  Boring.  Pretty comfortable, but not old.  Just some cloth covered seating for maybe 15 or 20.  There were a number of people in the lobby doing work (on laptops) or reading.  I didn’t want to bother them so I did my photography around them.

I didn’t go into any of the rooms, or even go past the desk area, so I don’t know if the rest of the place is swanky or not.  I imagine it’s not.  I think they’re letting the history of the place speak for itself…and the artwork.  I wonder if it ever changes.  I wonder what the criteria for inclusion is.  I can’t imagine taking down the woman in the swing, though.

So, is it the “Chelsea Hotel” or the “Hotel Chelsea”?  The plaques keep saying “Chelsea Hotel”.  The hotel’s website is www.hotelchelsea.com.  I’m all in favor of voting:  when I google “Hotel Chelsea”, I get 383,000 hits.  When I go after “Chelsea Hotel”, it returns 653,000 hits.  The affectation-friendly “Hotel Chelsea” seems the loser.  Even the hotel’s official website gives it both names.

Would the plaques lie to us?

Oh, and the place has an interesting blog:  Living with Legends.

-H

Ankling to the Chelsea Hotel…or is it the Hotel Chelsea? (Part 1)

November 19, 2007

Chelsea is one of those “hot” areas that I really don’t understand.  Everybody always talks about how it is one of those places that you have to see and be seen…but I’m only moderately fond of it (and that’s a bit of an overstatement).  My lack of hipster credentials grows ever more apparent.

But don’t be in doubt, there are some really great places there.  I’ll be writing about some of them over time, but mostly places I already know.  The Chelsea Hotel?  I had heard about it, but hadn’t paid too much attention to it.  On a day off with the weather getting “iffy”, I wanted to go to someplace nearby and decided that I would finally take a look at the place.  The only thing I really knew about it was that’s where Nancy Spungen was killed (apparently by Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols).  I had heard it was connected to the old Bohemianism stuff that evolved into the counterculture of the 60s and all.

Walking up to it…well, it doesn’t exude flashiness or modernness or even seem to stick out in any way.

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But, then…you get to the doorway and the importance of the place becomes evident.

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Sorry about the shaky shot, it happens sometimes.

Okay, that’s one plaque.  That’s not too difficult to get in a town with the history of NYC.  But I counted ten plaques all clustered around the front door.  I’ve put in Wikipedia links on the names for further backgroup, if you wish.  Click on the plaque names to open a jpeg of the plaque.

First, a plaque to Pulitzer Prize winner Virgil Thomson who lived at the hotel for more than 50 years.

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The next is for Arthur Clarke.  I don’t know that he “invented” the communication satellite, but he was apparently just the first to conceptualize and popularize it.  But writing “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Chelsea Hotel is something else.

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A plaque for Shirley Clarke an avant-garde filmmaker from the 50s and 60s.  Apparently some of her films were made in the hotel itself.

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The next plaque gives something of the history of the hotel.  It was designed by Hubert & Prisson, opened in 1884 as a cooperative apartment, and became a hotel in 1905.  It then gives the names of some of its famous residents:  Arthur B. Davies (a famous painter from the early 1900s), James T. Farrell (a writer who did the “Studs Lonigan” series), Robert Flaherty (a documentary filmmaker who did the “Nanook of the North” film in 1922), O. Henry (the short story writer), John Sloan (a painter), Dylan Thomas (poet and writer of “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night“), and Thomas Wolfe (author of “Look Homeward Angel” which has to be one of the most depressing, but great, books I’ve ever read).

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The next plaque is for Brendan Behan, an Irish writer.

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A plaque to Pulitzer Prize winning poet, James Schuyler.

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Another plaque to Thomas Wolfe, a writer whose works I’ve enjoyed.  He died at 38 and it says he lived at the Chelsea Hotel “during the last years of his life”.

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And another to Dylan Thomas.  There’s a weird statement on this one:  “Who Lived and Labored Last Here at the Chelsea Hotel and From Here Sailed Out to Die.”  It’s strange because Wikipedia says that he died after collapsing at the White Horse Tavern in nearby Greenwich Village.  Okay, it’s strange just as a statement, too.

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And, finally, a plaque for playwrite Arthur Miller.

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And those are just the plaques I saw.  I doubt they’re any others on the exterior, but I won’t venture as to what plaques exist on the interior. 

You know, I had expected this post to be very short, but got so involved in the exterior that I’m going to break it into two parts.

-H

Third Avenue at night

November 18, 2007

It’s Autumn and the days are getting shorter.  Oddly enough, the nights are lasting longer.  Whoda thunk?

I don’t often post night pictures if for no other reason than I refuse to fiddle with the camera settings to get the optimal exposures right.  It’s not that my little Sony takes bad pictures, they just aren’t optimal.

On a recent evening, I decided to do some local wanderings and snapped a few pictures.  New York City at night is always cool.

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Moments after I took that picture, I heard a siren.  Hey, it’s NYC and there are always sirens.  The ambulance came by within moments.

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It seems one of those facts-of-life that here I was having a pleasant evening and someone else was having a particularly terrible one.  Just a few feet apart and altogether different perceptions of the world.

-H

Ukranian March – Holomodor

November 17, 2007

My main source of information on upcoming events in NYC has failed me again (http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/index.jsp) .  They got almost every single point wrong.  Okay, they got the day right, and they got the nationality right.

Here’s the announcement:

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I was a bit askance at it from the beginning.  There’s no such thing as an “all day” parade.  But, I figured that if I went out around 11am and walked around the path (5th Avenue above 30th Street and 7th Avenue from 15th Street), I’d find out a little more about it.  No problem.  It was a nice day for walking and I thought I’d just pick up lunch while out and, even if the start were delayed until late, like 2pm, I’d survive.  I suspected it was nothing but a street fair, but that’d be okay if it were oriented toward the Ukraine.

So I went out.  Once I got to Fifth Avenue, I knew it wasn’t a parade.  There was no sign of any of the barriers that get put up the night before any parade.  So, I decided I’d go for that nice long walk though Chelsea and maybe see something a little new.

I followed the path southward and kept seeing…nothing.  I traced the entire route of the “parade”.  And. Saw. Nothing.  By the time I got to 15th Street, I gave up any hope of even a street fair.  So, I resigned myself to just a little wandering and went around and about the area and then decided to wander eastward and go up through the East Side.  Just a nice long pleasant walk in the cool temperature of the day.  Very pleasant, if a bit boring.

And then I reached 3rd Avenue and saw something.

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I couldn’t read the signs, but something told me this was the Ukranian Parade.  I started walking northward and easily outpaced the marchers.  They stretched up a long, long way so I certainly never got to the front of them, but I did find out that it was the Ukranians.

It wasn’t a “parade”.  It was a protest march.

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And they were restricted by the police to one lane of 3rd Avenue.

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They were protesting Joseph Stalin and the enforced collectivization and starvation of the Ukraine during the 1930s.  This was the 75th Anniversery of that event, known formally as the Holomodor.

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The era was in the darkest days of the American Depression (which actually spanned the whole world), but we had it so much easier than the Ukraine.  In that event, as many as 10 million died in the attempt to bring socialism/communism to fruition.  From Wikipedia: children as young as 12 could be executed for gathering corn that was missed during the harvest.  It was that generation’s “killing fields” and there is no excuse for it.

The marchers certainly held no qualms over the blame:  Stalin and the Russians.

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And there were symbolic demonstrations.

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The above was the first in a procession.

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I walked beside and with the procession for about 15 blocks.  I talked with some of the women who were handing out literature on the event.  They hadn’t been aware of the NYC event calendar error.  They said the march had always been planned for 3rd Avenue and that they had started at 11am from 7th Street, not 7th Avenue.

This being New York, they didn’t really understand why I hadn’t checked out the Ukrainian web sites.  Well, I had googled the parade, but it hadn’t turned up anything.  Maybe if I had known it was the 75th Anniversary of the famine and if I had googled a march instead of a parade, I’d have known.  Maybe I should have just dialed 311 for information.  Nah, that’s not the sort of thing I do.

The protest was an attempt to get the US to declare the Holomodor a genocidal event.  It’s not going to happen.  Look at the big international fiasco that happened when Congress wanted to classify the Armenian Genocide by the Turks a genocide and condemn (rightfully) the Turkish refusal to recognize it.

-H

The 14th Street Salvation Army Headquarters

November 16, 2007

Nowadays, Manhattan is wealthy and nicely appointed.  Union Square and 14th Street are nice and fashionable areas for the most part.  But only a few years ago they were horrid areas filled with wasted and wasting people.

But the Salvation Army was there for them.  The Army still has its headquarters on the spot.  It’s about 11 stories high and takes up a big chunk of the block near Fifth Avenue. 

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At the front is a large entryway (not shown above) with a long quote from their founder General William Booth.

“While women weep, as they do now,
  I’ll fight;
While men go to prison, in and out,
In and out, as they do now,
  I’ll fight;
While there is a drunkard left,
While there is a poor lost girl
Upon the streets,
While there remains one dark soul,
Without the light of God,
  I’ll fight —
I’ll fight to the very end!”

Okay, now that I wrote it, I might as well show the picture.

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I’ve seen the place a bunch of times before. I think extremely highly of the Salvation Army and I thank God that there are people there to reach down to areas of humanity that I’d have a tough time dealing with and treat them with compassion and love.

I met a few of the “soldiers” or whatever they call themselves as they were loading into a van.  One of them thought she recognized me.  She said “I know you.”  She looked pretty intently at me, as if she’d worked with me on occasion.  I’ve had some times in my life, but I’ve never had the need of the Salvation Army so I just smiled and said that I didn’t think so.  She then said that she thought I looked like one of her colleagues, but I think she was just embarrassed.

I did tell them that I admired them for their work and their dedication and that people really needed what they did.  I think they appreciated that.

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-H