Running without music and Run to Lose, week of 9.9

My TomTom has been having sporadic GPS issues of late that seem to be getting worse. The battery isn’t lasting as long as it used to either. It owes me nothing, it’s a hand me down that I’ve had for a year and a half, and its previous owner had it about a year. It’s time to start looking for a replacement: happy for any suggestions you have. In the mean time, I’m going to try running without music. One of the features I loved the most about the TomTom was the onboard playlist since I don’t have any music on my phone, nor do I have the data for a streaming service. Alas, TomTom is leaving the GPS watch space so I’m hesitant to invest in a new one. The Garmin with music is just way too expensive for my budget and reviews of the others don’t seem great. Since I don’t relish carrying old iPod for music along with my phone, one step might be to learn to run without music at least outdoors which I can apply to races. Indoor treadmill runs are less of an issue as I can always figure out something there. These are my current thoughts:

  • Garmin: I’m looking heavily at these. They seem to be the gold standard in the running industry for a reason
  • Fitbit with GPS: meh. They’re too big. I don’t wear my running watch daily for this very reason and I like my Alta for steps so don’t particularly feel the need to upgrade
  • Apple Watch: meh. I’m wholly an Apple person, but the first thing I do with fitbit and running watch is to turn off the messaging notifications because they drive me nuts, so I feel the benefits of this are mostly not of interest to me. Even before I was running, the Apple Watch held no interest to me.

The benefit is the TomTom isn’t totally dead and its battery seems to be holding long enough for my fall races, so I should hopefully be able to take advantage of holiday sales.

I finally got Runner’s World’s Run to Lose and taking a lot from it when it comes to fueling for runs and in general. Some of it is nutritional common sense, some isn’t. It’s well written and accessible. I especially like the Kindle edition since I can click through to some of the studies cited. I think I’m finally ready to break this ~ 7 month plateau, especially ahead of the holidays. I also need to figure out my fueling strategy ahead of a humid half marathon in February since gels and necessary water made me queasy last year. I can do 9 miles without fuel and probably won’t use anything for the Bronx 10 Miler, but those extra three need something.

Run to lose, without music? #RunTheYear Click To Tweet

Weekly wrap with Holly and Wendy:

  • Sunday: I was less sore than I expected after Saturday’s long run. It was a cool, damp day and because of that, I didn’t tailgate. My steps suffered as a result, but I was OK with that because not tailgating meant better food choices. Sometimes it’s just impossible to avoid guacamole and the salt of tostitos. Weight Watchers had a tailgate and I was curious, but not enough to get more wet.
  • Monday: my right calf was sore. DOMS or just weirdness? Who knows. With the cool weather I’m back to sleeping in my bed so it’s not the futon related curling up. Oh bodies, you are so weird. I fully expected this to be an issue on the treadmill but it wasn’t because I could not get one! I was at the Times Square location of my gym earlier than normal because I wanted to get home for Monday Night Football, but apparently everyone else had the same idea. Odd too because the city otherwise seemed quite for Rosh Hashanah. So after a short row to warmup, I hit the LateralX for two miles/30M. I love it in a way I don’t care for the typical elliptical and feel it’s the closest to running in terms of getting my heart rate up.
Tribute in Light, 9/11 Memorial South Pool in foreground
  • Tuesday: September 11. I knew that a run today needed to be meaningful. Luckily, the weather held out as meaningful and treadmill don’t go hand in hand to me. For the past few years I’ve gone downtown to see the Tribute in Light and wondered whether it might work to run there from the office. After a short hop to the start of a construction detour that served as a warmup, I ran the rest of the way down to the Winter Garden from where I could cross over to the Memorial. The lights were beautiful in the fog. I contemplated running back to the office but had accidentally run without money and couldn’t refill my water, so hopped on the subway back. Sometimes there’s no right way to mark a day like this, but this felt right. Speaking of water refills, I wish the Lululemon vending machine had been open, although it’s unclear whether they have water to go with Nuun tabs.
  • Wednesday: super busy day, ton of steps between meetings. I was wavering on going to the gym, but decided to try. It was one of those rare exceptions to get going and you’ll be fine-I had nothing in the tank. Partially tired, partially food log related. So I turned it into a stretch and strengthen after bailing on the rower.
quack! Not on the run, later in the day between meetings
  • Thursday: note to self: if you’re going to run in the morning, watch what you eat at night. Pizza does not sit well even ~ 12 hours later. I knew though I couldn’t run after work due to an event so I went with short and sweet vs. not at all. Cool, humid morning. Nice start to the day. While I can’t get it together to be a solid morning runner, I love how it makes me feel the rest of the day, especially if I fuel well after and am not a hangry mess.
yeah that’s how i felt about running Friday night. Manhattan 7M shirt, can you tell I planned to run outdoors originally?
  • Friday: attempt at running without music? FAIL. That was more about bad food choices during the two days and feeling sluggish than the lack of music that stemmed from forgetting watch, headphones and headband. Even with the Yankee game I couldn’t stay on the treadmill or the elliptical bike so I had a very good stretch and plank session and called it a night.
I am grumpy, hear me roar. Actually more sneezy than grumpy. Failed workout, repeat shirt, less laundry. Winning.
well that’s a different kind of trail!


  • Saturday: wanted to run long and really didn’t want to run Central Park as I wanted the riverside breeze. Contemplated going to the west side but didn’t think I had enough time due to my cleaner coming at 5:30 (best. treat. ever). so I decided to check out Randalls Island, which I last explored back when I was doing the #GreatManhattanLoop. It was a run in two and a bit parts: potty break, and needed to find out where the FDR on ramp crossing was with all the construction and a run/walk around the lower part of Randall/Wards Island. It was about 80 and slightly humid but the real culprit was the freshly cut grass. My allergies were in full tilt and the grass didn’t help. Nor did no shade so I ran when I could, walked when I couldn’t and ended up cutting the loop short. There are some great paths to explore on RI maybe  in a couple of weeks. After walking up the bridge I tried to run again but I was feeling shaky so I opted to walk. Calling this a learning lesson, sneeze powered is a fun joke but not actually for runs. Besides food logs, I probably need to look more closely at allergy meds & runs’ timing.
Peanut Butter Warrior
  • Sunday: equal parts recovery / make up & get ahead mileage as this week’s schedule is brutal. Original plan was my typical NFL Sunday recovery, run down the river to the gym and stretch before heading home to be a couch slug. However I found out one of my/my nephew’s favorite vendors (Meece for Mayor!) would be at the Columbus Ave. street fair so I decided to head that way. I took the long way to the Fair and an odd for me route through Central Park to try to avoid both the chess tournament and the 18M race. I felt bad for those runners, this was not long run friendly weather. But I love knowing NYRR does this as if I decide to run NYC next year, organized long runs will be a godsend. The roads were just way too congested and as a side benefit, the paths had way more shade. After sorting out presents, I briefly wandered the rest of the street fair before heading home via the grocery store. And a smoothie stop. While that was 25% wanting to fuel early, it was mostly about having a sparkling clean kitchen and not wanting to mess it up via a smoothie. JustSalad’s Peanut Butter Warrior is one of my favorite commercial smoothies especially as it’s non dairy and I rarely carry Lactaid on the run.

And then I was a slug. That’s what football Sundays are for. I apologize for any heat waves in the NYC area, I took my AC out yesterday.

Bronx 10Mile Training Mileage (since July 31): 97.24 miles

Plan for the Week:

  • Monday: Cross Train or Stretch & Strengthen
  • Tuesday: Run
  • Wednesday: Off, plans before and after work
  • Thursday: return of the office run group, hopefully
  • Friday: run
  • Saturday: TBD
  • Sunday: Bronx Tune Up: I’m feeling ambivalent about the Bronx 10 after the past two Saturdays. Success is likely going to be very weather dependent


Gym Shopping: Redux

It wasn’t exactly my plan for the afternoon but when I found the 2012 chapter of gym shopping last night, I had a feeling that kind of analysis might be in my future. So this afternoon I headed out to explore some of the options I identified and those that came from my Facebook crowdsource. The plus side? No hard sell at any — they know all the membership info is online anyway so there’s no reason to bullshit the “this sale is gone if you walk out the door”

Planet Fitness

  • No brainer pro here is the price. $10 with a year-long commitment or $15 with a month to month. There’s also a pricier plan that allows multiple gyms but there’s only one remotely convenient to me, so that’s a non factor. The facility is huge and there’s an endless number of cardio machines, so wait won’t be an issue.
  • The main con? The location. It’s relatively near work but at three plus avenue blocks in the wrong direction of my apartment, I can see myself blowing it off. It felt like a slog even on the most beautiful of days, and I can’t imagine how it would be in weather. While I’m a pro at skipping the gym, I want to keep running.
  • Result: I walked out thinking I’d crossed it off the list entirely, but by day’s end it was still in the running.


  • This is the closest to my office and more or less on the way to the train. Major pro. It’s a larger than it appears from the street facility and offers classes. Yeah, classes I’ll never take. It’s full service and the locker room even has a nice steam room. Unexpected pro: rowing machines. I’ve missed those since BOOM Fitness and was happy to see them in Iceland.
  • Con: the price. Even on sale it’s more than I want to pay. I know I’m not going to find a deal like the Sheraton, but I really don’t want to pay in the neighborhood of $70 to run.


  • The $25 rate gives you access to multiple Manhattan gyms but since I was wandering across the 50s I tried the one at East 54th Street. Pro: it’s the best located for home and is sort of on my way home so could work. The Bryant Park one isn’t far from work either, might want to check that out before committing if I go this route. The price is good and the location seemed decently equipped
  • Con: it’s really bare bones, I mean no towel service bare bones. My gym bag can fit a towel but all I think of there is needing to buy more & more laundry. Running clothes are already too much laundry.

Net Net? This is going to be a longer process than I thought, where I envisioned a scenario where I already had a new gym.

Already ruled out:

  • Equinox, way too expensive
  • 92Y, Asphalt Green – location not great and pricier than I want (even with 92Y’s Groupon). Plus I’m thinking midtown (east or west) might be better.
  • New York Sports Club UES – dungeon location
  • New York Health & Racquet UES – way too expensive
  • Retro Fitness – not seven days a week

In contention:

  • each of the above really, Crunch a possible leader despite the price. The one near work is a nicer/larger one than the former BOOM up here. Want to go see the Blink at Bryant Park
  • 24 Hour Fitness – feels like it’s worth exploring, although I think it’s too expensive
  • New York Sports Club – 49th & Broadway. Good location near work. Passport gives me access to multiple locations. Really don’t like idea of going further into Times Square on the weekend, although I could just try harder to run outside then. Gym is really to solve the it’s too dark after work problem.

So, more research and over thinking to come. Not all was lost, nearly 23K steps on the day

Review: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

This book took me way too long to move up Mt. TBR and then once I was reading it, way too long to finish. Not because it wasn’t good — but because July is when two of my “must read now” books are published and a few library books hit too.

I don’t recall when I first became aware of this book, but I definitely have been thinking of it over the last few months since the Museum of Chinese in America opened Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy, their exploration of Chinese food in America. They’ll continue to be in parallel with Golden Venture featured in her book as well as their upcoming exhibit.

American Chinese food is, to me, a fascinating concept as it’s neither American nor Chinese – as the author found when she tried to trace General Tso in his home town and found the military hero, not the culinary genius.  This book almost couldn’t have been written without the show and tell of digital photography where she used her camera to show various dishes as she tried to track them across China. This coming from a woman who spoke Mandarin was essential as I don’t think she’d have gotten half the stories she did without that tie.

I loved the two-fold premise of the book, tracking the iconic fortune cookie from its creation in Japan, or maybe Korea, or possibly even California to the winning lottery tickets as well as the author’s own heritage. Her early chapters, and the final wrap including her father, who was “a PhD away from being a delivery man” being admonished not to leave menus when he brought food to a sick friend, reminded me a little of Steven Shaw’s Setting the Table as he was also a fan of Upper West Side Chinese. The book perfectly toed the line between memoirs and food & travel writing and is a fit for fans of both genres.

I especially enjoyed her trip around the world to find the “best” Chinese food. Such a fun part of travel. Although I’m not personally a huge fan of Chinese food, I might have to sample more of it.

2017 Reading Stats:

Confessions of a Designated Fat Taxi Driver?

aka a two-in-one review because I started and finished two books in the last three days

Confessions of a New York Taxi Driver by Eugene Salomon and Jennifer Joyner’s Designated Fat Girl. Two very different subjects but the right level of reading depth I was in the mood for this weekend. I started with Joyner’s on Friday and packed a dead-tree copy of Salomon’s for a walk when I knew my iPad battery wasn’t charged. I finished that this morning and then Joyner’s this afternoon. At the gym, no less.

I enjoyed both equally, but I found that I connected more with Joyner’s book, although my weight struggles luckily never went so far. I’m so glad to see she’s still working at the radio station and it’s nice to put a face to the name after reading about her personal struggles. Unlike many who publish a book about their struggles, Joyner doesn’t appear to blog. I think that’s what made for a more intriguing and cohesive narrative. It wasn’t cobbled together from a series of blog posts. There were a few moments where I was confused as to when a moment was during her weight gain-loss-gain-loss-gain-loss “for good” but overall it was a quality, eye-opening read.

Eugene Salomon, on the other hand both blogs (including on hot-button topics like Uber) and writes for TIME.I hoped his photo blog would have one of the infamous llama, alas no such luck. Converting from a blog wasn’t an issue in this case as the book was mostly an anthology of his stories grouped by themes. It was a very good and quick read and I loved that Salomon put a date in each story to set the context for his story.  Although this was only published in 2013, it’s mostly the story of an NYC long gone. Jackie O being gone for 20+ years though is just sad. As an aside, I got this at the wonderful Tenement Museum Shop-great place to direct deposit your wallet when looking for your next good read.

Oh and both titled counted for the A-Z challenge. 1/6 of the way through the year my totals are:

Review: The Hotel: A Week in the Life of the Plaza

An at one point travel and tourism blog with a look at a hospitality book. What is this world coming to? In truth, this book is equal parts tourism/hospitality and NYC history. The opening of the Plaza in October 1907 at a cost of $12.5m was AN EVENT with the likes of Mark Twain was a spectator. While the idea of hospitality had changed a lot from the hotel’s opening to the writing of this book, it has, it has changed even moreso in the last 25 years. With it, the Plaza has evolved, but this is an interesting look at the hotel that was in the late 80s.

Continue reading “Review: The Hotel: A Week in the Life of the Plaza”

9/11 Remembered

The new museum must help those unborn or unaware on 9/11/01 to understand an awful time. That means telling stories. ” ~ Rick Hampson (with audio)

Reflections of WFC in the South Tower pool
Reflections of WFC in the South Tower pool
Controversial Virgil quote
Controversial Virgil quote
Slurry wall and iconic Last Column with visitors
Slurry wall and iconic Last Column with visitors

The rest of the photos are here.

I argued with myself about attending tonight’s industry preview of the 9/11 Museum, which opens to the public on Wednesday. I nearly didn’t walk through the door and probably would not have if I hadn’t been engaged and talking to a colleague as we approached. But I went, and I’m glad.

As I said briefly on Facebook. I think we have a responsibility to go. I said to a colleague on site, “if it took 13 years to get it right, I’m glad it took 13 years.” This was not something that could be rushed. 9/11 changed the world and the museum needed to reflect that. And I think they beyond nailed it. Perhaps the most poignant thing about today was that the Plaza/Memorial is no longer fenced in. You can cross it to enter the museum, visit the Pools, etc. It is truly public space again.

9/11 is odd to me. I had moved to Osaka three weeks prior and followed 9/11 though a very time shifted and distant lens. I am forever grateful that I wrote that up because my initial reactions to the 9/11 Memorial are lost to time. That’s why I’m writing this now.

While the tridents are meant to be the museum’s icons, it was the Last Column and the controversial Virgil quote that repeatedly hit me today. The museum’s own posts about the Last Column say more than I can about the symbol of our city’s resiliency. The Virgil quote has been an issue for three years but it recently bubbled up again due to the context. I was aware of the controversy and the context, but seeing it in the atrium today was no less powerful. And I wasn’t even aware on site that it was the “guardian” to the museum’s tomb of the unknowns.

I did not read the captions today. I can’t. I wasn’t ready to see 9/11 as a museum. It’s still living history to me. One day I will go back, see the exhibits, and read captions

Today was about stepping foot on a plaza I hadn’t since at least August 2001 that is now hallowed ground.

Crossing Delancey

with photos.

on a day where crossing 1st Ave. due to the marathon was the bigger odyssey. Luckily, the m15 was (sort of) running and I was able to make it down for the Jewish Heritage Festival.Before I made it to the Festival, however, I caught a peek of a broken-down synagogue on what I realized was Norfolk St through the Seward Park playground. With time to kill, I walked down Essex to Delancey and back up Norfolk for a better look. It turns out it was Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, formerly the Norfolk St. Baptist Church/Alanson Methodist Episcopal Church, now a landmark in some serious disrepair. Sad. While it appears it is no longer in immediate danger of being torn down, it appears that another piece of living history is gone.

From there it was a hop-skip to the Conservancy’s visitor center where, by virtue of the numbers, I did Crossing Delancey with Marty of Manhattan Walks, the guide who I loved from the Upper West Side and Jewish Harlem tours. I was pleased to be joined by Jeff Dobbins of Walks of New York, Howard Teich of the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative, among others familiar faces from the Conservancy’s tours.

Because I hadn’t planned to go today or put much thought into the tour I was going to take, I hadn’t done my homework. I was pleased when the first stop was the Stanton Street Shul, one of the LES synagogues by which I am most fascinated. Although its congregation was mostly LES immigrant poor, a ton of love and detail was put into this tenement shul, especially the mazalot. There is an amazing amount of history in this 20′ x 100′ space.  While Eldridge St. remains the crown jewel of synagogue restoration, others like Stanton St., Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and Emory Roth haven’t yet been as lucky. I hope that tide turns soon. Stanton St. is amazing as one of the last remaining tenement synagogues (from a high of 700), all which had an interesting role in NYC history.

After Stanton Street, we headed to Clinton St. and Congregation Chasam Sopher, one of the oldest buildings whose continuous history was as a synagogue. It was originally built in 1853 by Congregation Rodeph Sholem, now located on the Upper West Side. Yes, more congregation musical chairs. Chasam Sopher has an interesting history, both in its continued existence as a free synagogue, but also how it suvived the down turn of the 1970s-80s and is now thriving due to the  influx of young Orthodox families on the Lower East Side.

Although the tour continued down Orchard Street, my final stop was at Angel Orensanz, a cultural center whose work I love. I had no idea that it was (one of) the previous homes of Anche Chesed, nor that it was the oldest surviving building in New York City built specifically as a synagogue, and the first synagogue structure built on the Lower East Side. It is now a venue that is available for rent (especially weddings!) and has been home to some amazing cultural programs. I hope that rental income allows it to thrive because this architecture cannot be lost to history.

I was sad to leave the tour, but it whet my appetite for even more exploration of the Lower East Side, which will hopefully come soon.

#GreatManhattanLoop meets CitiBike and Egg Rolls

come again?Last year when I went to Egg Rolls & Egg Creams I had thoughts of completing some of the Lower East Side section of the Loop. Yeah, it didn’t happen. I did some exploring, but not along the river. In truth, some of the same happened yesterday.It was a beautiful day for the Festival, during which I learned a lot about the synagogue’s history. It really is amazing that it was saved and preserved in such wonderful detail. As a result, it stands out as a relic from another era and time among the 21st century chaos that is Chinatown.After leaving the Festival, I retraced my steps along Eldridge Street toward Houston (destination: Katz and Russ & Daughters) when I happened upon Adath Jeshurun of Jassy aka the Emory Roth synagogue at 58 Rivington Street. It’s apparently now a private house, but whatever it is, it’s in a sad state. It really highlights the value of restoring Eldridge Street, which apparently had pigeons roosting in its balconies at one point. The Lower East Side has some amazing history and I definitely need to explore it more.Katz and Russ & Daughters (best twitter bio ever, btw: After almost 100 years, it was time for a Twitter). I honestly didn’t have a great desire to visit, but it seems like one of those NYC Bucket List things. Walking up Eldridge, you hit Russ & Daughters first as it’s further west. When I first saw the marquee, I had no idea what the appetizer part meant–and I thought it was a secondary location. Nope, it means things that go with bagels. Lots more learnings in the blog, and now I’m hungry. I wish I had been yesterday because I’d probably have gotten lox. From there, it’s on to Katz’ which sits along side Lobster Joint and Cold Stone? There’s something very wrong with that.

Some of the change around the Bowery is a very good thing. Harvey Wang has captured a lot of that in his photos (A World of Change on the Lower East Side) and his writing (1,000 men in flop/lodging houses as of 2001, down from 25-75K men sleeping on the Bowery-wow!) Is all of it good? That’s subject to debate, although Annie Polland made a good point when she said:

“If you went to someone who lived in a tenement 100 years ago and said, ‘We’re preserving this tenement,’ they’d say, ‘What? Are you crazy?’” Ms. Polland said. “They’d rather see their grandchildren or great-grandchildren living in a luxury condo. ”

I think there has to be some middle ground between progress and Katz located in what is beginning to look like a strip mall.


That was the end of my planned exploring for the day, and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go next. I happened upon a Citi Bike stand and thought possibly of biking to the craziness that is Magnolia to find Buckeye Balls, but I’m glad I didn’t as they don’t carry them. Does anyone know a bakery in NYC that has them?

I kept wiggling south and vaguely east-ish (still in search of Buckeye Balls) and hit: Essex Street Market and Economy Candy ( drool!) en route to DessertsNYC, which unfortunately is closed. Note to self: check Yelp before departing on wild goose chases. It was then that I essentially gave up on the buckeye ball quest and was again tempted by the CitiBike stand, this time at E. Broadway & Essex and I decided why not give it a whirl.

After a few false starts (machine not working, no available bikes), I got one at Cherry and Market and was off. With that 10 feet of road between the bike stand and the Greenway, I crossed riding a bike on a NYC street off the “bucket list” (nope, still no formal bucket list although I’m working on one — but this is definitely something that would be on it. I miss commuting by bike like I did in Osaka, but there’s no way I’d do it here.  Unsure of my pace on a road bike, I decided to check the bike in at Battery Park and then plan where I wanted to go. A break for a Diet Coke and A/C was nice and I checked out my next bike at State St. across from the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, another of those downtown sites I want to explore. One day. (NB: the $9.95 day pass doesn’t give you the bike for a day, just for unlimited 30 minute increments within the 24 hour period.)

From there it was back north along the path I’d just traced from Market St. to the Battery and up to E. 35th. I originally planned to swap bikes at Houston, but poor planning/timing led to me sucking up the overtime fee and finishing the ride.  The view heading north into Stuyvesant Cove is among the best in NYC with the water and skyline.

I pulled into the Citi Bike Station at E. 35th and the Ferry Terminal and with that, the Loop is done. I walked south along the East River Promenade to 59th St. and there is no Greenway (PDF) between these two points due to the UN. I’ve walked 1st Ave many times. I’ll do it again if the Greenway is ever completed. But for now, it’s done.

Thoughts on finishing it via bike:

  • the 6.21 mile ride was nothing. If I was ever to do the Manhattan Saunter, I’d do it via bike. But not a timed bike like Citi Bike — 30 minute increments is too short for me.
  • It certainly makes dull points (between the Battery and South Street Seaport) go quickly
  • It’s hard to stop and take photos — certainly nowhere near as easy as on foot. It feels more like a race than a meander, which is what I like about the Loop.

All in all, a gorgeous day for a walk/ride and much better than being in the gym.

Onto the next location/challenge.

Jewish Upper West Side and Riverside Drive

so how, exactly, does a walking tour of the Jewish Upper West side turn into an 8.9 mile walk that includes a long overdue visit to Riverside Church and Grant’s Tomb? Pretty much the same way a “quick walk to Bennett Park” turned into a walk to Inwood Hill Park last Friday. The tourist side of me gets a bee in my bonnet and, I’m there, so why not?

I love long been fascinated and intrigued by the architecture of the Upper West Side. I’m sure a significant portion of my Instagram photos are tagged with either “Looking Up, UpUpUp and/or Archigram”. It’s just so different: historically, culturally and architecturally. So when the Conservancy announced this new tour for 2013, I was instantly excited. This tour was distinct from other Conservancy tours in that we were able to go into one synagogue: the modern Orthodox Jewish Center on W. 86th St. While not as architecturally distinct as the other congregations we saw, it’s interesting to see a multipurpose building really serving the needs of the community. What made the tour also more interesting was that some of the attendees were members of the synagogues we saw so they were able to fill in some of the questions that people asked.

It’s interesting how many buildings built as churches are now synagogues and vice versa and, to me, how many times some congregations moved. I also realized how many times I walked past gorgeous buildings like Shaare Zedek and had no idea the history I was passing by. Most interesting to me was how well the synagogues in the area meld in well with the churches and amazing 20th Century architectural masterpieces like The Cornwall, The Belnord, the Apthorp, etc. I’d really like to do a tour of the “lower” Upper West Side to see Shearith Israel, among others.

Among the non-Jewish sites, I was in awe with The Belnord for its amazing opulence, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, which looks like it belongs in the Mediterranean with its architecture; The Cornwall for its architectural detail and Virginia O’Hanlon’s (Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus) home on W. 95th Street**.  As an aside, why on earth do the Wikipedia pages for The Belnord, Cornwall and Appthorp have such horrendous photos of amazing buildings?

The weather ended up being an order of magnitude better than expected and I began thinking about where I should head when the tour wrapped since the gym wasn’t so interesting anymore. I was originally leaning Marcus Garvey Park, but then the light bulb went on. I was at 95th & Amsterdam. Where have I been talking about since last Memorial Day Weekend? Time to head north along the river.

Until I recently, I had no idea how many monuments and memorials there were along Riverside Drive and in Riverside Park. I’m sure I walked past quite a few without realizing it. Last week, I mentioned the pluses and minuses of traveling with a smart phone and last summer I mentioned how the Great Manhattan Loop does allow me to see NYC as a tourist. So what do I need to do to not miss things I’m seeing along the way? Get a guidebook. Ideally I’d love to find one that focuses on the history, monuments and architecture since that’s what most interests me … but I’d settle for anything with a (location based) index since what I can’t do with the travelogues and social histories is easily find the author’s section on the area I’m walking on a given day. Any suggestions? ***

Missed Eleanor Roosevelt, again. Should figure out a way to have a Roosevelt Day in NYC and do Four Freedoms Park and then head west to her statue. But I did see:

  • Joan of Arc at W. 93rd St. – possibly the first statue made by a woman to be installed in NYC, installed in honor of her 500th birthday. It includes stones from the Tower of Rouen where she was held before her execution and was unveiled by the wife of Thomas Edison who, apparently, doesn’t warrant her own name. Its base includes a small copper box containing a letter from President Woodrow Wilson to George Kunz  one from the vicar of Rheims Cathedral and from the Cardinal of New York and “fairy stones” that symbolized the tears of Saint Joan. Thanks again, Daytonian.
  • Firemen’s Memorial at W. 100th St., which my brain keeps making “FDNY memorial” which makes it really hard to Google. Its history goes back to 1908 and the death of the Deputy Fire Chief. It was opened in 1913 and is now home to a ceremony, held annually in October, marking those who died in the line of duty.
  • a memorial to Louis, or maybe Lajos Kossuth a hero of Hungarian Independence. The statue is well maintained, but I’m not certain why it’s where it is — or in NYC at all. That’s a thought I’d revisit later.

You can’t not look at the architecture when walking up Riverside Drive. From The Colosseum (now owned by Columbia), The Mansion House whose exterior belies its long history, and the Hendrick Hudson which isn’t sure if it’s Spanish or Italian. I really need to take the time to come explore Riverside Drive properly rather than solely as a road to get elsewhere.

Oh yeah, elsewhere, the point of this elongated walk. I honestly feel that one of the down sides of the internet and digital cameras is that you lose the sense of seeing something for the first time. I think back to a family trip upstate when we went to Letchworth State Park. I was in awe of the waterfalls there and asked my parents how I’d know the difference between photos there and of Niagara. I had no idea what Niagara Falls looked like before I went to realize that, while beautiful, Letchworth couldn’t hold a candle.

This was not at all the case with Riverside Church. I’d read about it, knew it was the tallest church in the US but had no idea of its scale until I first saw its base. It’s HUGE. It’s a city block or more. It’s also far more than a church. It’s huge hub of social justice,  its history can be told in many pieces and with many connections to other key players in NYC history (excuse the mid 90s quality digital photos). Its carrillon is among the world’s largest and most storied. It’s amazing… and I didn’t get inside. I actually had no idea it was open to the general public, but wasn’t dressed for it anyway. So, a good excuse to go back.

From the church it was a short hop to Grant’s Tomb aka General Grant’s National Memorial which was all decked out for Memorial Day. “Let Us Have Peace” was resonant in Grant’s time…as well as now. The Tomb has been on my NYC Bucket List for much more than a year, yet I found myself woefully unprepared. To start, I had no idea the tombs or Grant and his wife were “not buried” (yes, that’s the answer to the endless who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb riddle), nor did I realize it was and still is the largest mausoleum in the United States with a significant public art component. While Riverside Drive still retains some elements of old New York, it’s amazing to see how much it has changed since the days it was a stroll through the park. I was disappointed that I wasn’t aware of (and consequently missed) the Tomb of the Amiable Child (Ephemeral New York, Daytonian) So glad the child’s memory lives on.

I needed Dad to see and understand the Tomb properly, but I’m so glad I went. It felt like a pilgrimage. It, sadly, was a quick visit. while the Tomb is beautiful, it doesn’t have a lot of information and I was tired by the end of my walk so I made a quick trip to the gift shop for a souvenir for Dad, and headed home.

** Daytonian in Manhattan is joining Untapped Cities’ New York section, Infrastructure and Curbed’s Camera Obscura as my go-to look stuff up blogs until I actually get a guidebook. Oh and of course sources of additions to my Bucket List because they’re all so well researched and photographed.

*** non guidebooks I’m now curious to read:

Review: Downtown: My Manhattan

I cannot count the number of times I’ve started and stopped reading Pete Hamill’s Downtown: My Manhattan. Not because I didn’t enjoy reading it, but because I never seemed to have the time to commit to it. I can’t even blame it all on library book expiration — at one point I’d mooched two copies off BookMooch and managed to give away/donate both before I read it! I started thinking about it as well as Philip Lopate’s Waterfront during last summer’s Loop, but never got my hands on a copy. Recently I got back into it and decided this was the time. I would re request a copy for the library as often as I needed to. Luckily, it only took one renewal and I absolutely love this book. I find myself wishing for a sequel.

I like Hamill’s idea about owning a city (and its neighborhoods) in different ways.  It’s something I never really thought of, but it’s absolutely true. I argue about the boundaries of the Upper East Side in the same way he does about “Downtown”. Your perception depends on your attitude, your hobbies, your favorites and your age. Hamill is significantly older than I am so his view of his neighborhoods were different to mine even when they overlapped. There’s also the question of timing — this book was published in 2004 which doesn’t seem that long ago, but is significant in the development and change of NYC.

Perhaps the key change was the view of 9/11: in Hamill’s writing, the city was still dealing with the hole in Lower Manhattan. While I was reading, they placed the spire atop the new Freedom Tower. Healed? No. But in a much different place than the early 2000s.

The other issue that time hurt? His bibliography. So many titles I want to read. ** So few available for Kindle and some out of print entirely.

Two lines from the book’s beginning and end tell Hamill – and New York’s — stories in a nutshell:

I live here still. With any luck at all, I will die here. I have the native son’s irrational love of the place. For any native the home place is infused with a mixture of memory, myth, lore, and history, bound together in an erratic, subjective way. That’s as true of the natives of New York as of the natives of Oxford, Mississippi. … ….  The wanderer in Manhattan must go forth with a certain innocence, because New York is best seen with innocent eyes.

New York is the same… and different, depending on the person looking at it. When it’s home, it’s yours. You are possessive. Don’t tell me all of the Upper East Side is rich yuppies — it’s my home. I can see beyond the stereotype for the people who actually live there and call it home. But at the same time, when I explore a new area I see it through wide eyes like I’m traveling for the first time. Many weekends last summer I had a book, a camera and a breakfast bar. NYC was just as easily Australia, Spain or Japan. It wasn’t home, it was a new place to explore. I never planned to move back to NYC – or even stay once I was here for grad school, but I’m still here. Will I die here? I don’t know — I can see the up and down sides of both.

Then, for the first time, I saw them: spires aimed at the sky. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them. All gilded by morning sun. “What is it?†I said in a stupefied way (as my mother told me years later). “Sure, you remember, Peter,” she said. “You’ve seen it before.”  And then she smiled.  “It’s Oz”   … Was at last a kind of grown-up, living in the buildings of Oz itself. Living, that is, in Manhattan.

Nothing can ever compare to the first view of a city — I don’t have that memory of New York – I started coming here when I was too young. I do recall my first trip to the Statue of Liberty — riding in the car with my grandparents and grandpa telling me the name of every bridge. I was amazed that he knew that. For me? That first city view is the one I alluded to in my review of Where God Was Born … Jerusalem. Nothing will top the old city from Mt. Scopus. Something close, but not exactly, is my view of the Colosseum when I walked from the Vatican while in Rome. Magic.

Sentimentality is always about a lie. Nostalgia is about real things gone. Nobody truly mourns a lie. More millions grieved for the world that existed on September 10, knowing it was forever behind us. I believe that New York nostalgia also comes from that extraordinary process that created the modern city: immigration.

This is an interesting contrast. I don’t know that it’s as black and white as Hamill makes it, but I do believe that sentimentality is often tainted by rose colored glasses. But you can be nostalgic for things that your memory made out to be better than they were, so I’m not sure.

They will discover that the easiest way to know this place is to start at the beginning. That is, to go on foot to Downtown. The liquid heart of the city…. Like many New Yorkers, I’m a creature of habit. I usually walk directly to the railing of the Admiral George Dewey Promenade, a name that no New Yorker ever uses, and I face the harbor. …some unplanned way, part of the Battery is now a necropolis. Here we can pause and remember the dead of various wars and other calamities, or we can move past them in an indifferent hurry. … Over the years the landfill even closed the gap with the old red sandstone fortress now called Castle Clinton. This was built in 1811 on a small man-made island a hundred yards off shore...Nobody would. This was a harbor. All harbors were safe. Or so we believed. …

So much of this series of passages resonated with me. Even though I didn’t grow up in NYC, I grew up as a child of the Hudson — or the North River as Hamill likes to call it. The Hudson is the liquid heart, the Harbor even more so. it fed the city and helped it to develop intro the metropolis that it is. But a necropolis? I know, of course, about the Sphere and eternal flame that have served as 9/11 memorials even with the opening of the official 9/11 Memorial, and I know about the Merchant Mariners’ monument,  but I didn’t realize how many other memorials are within the grounds of the Park. I’ve been down there many times and I’m wholly guilty of moving past in an indifferent hurry… I need to take the time to appreciate the Battery and not just for the sunsets and quiet reading place.

The one exception to the erasure of the Dutch town is the small triangular park called the Bowling Green. Nobody bowls there anymore, although the Dutch and English once did. …. Stewart was clearly a mindless fool. The first Marble Palace is still there at Broadway and Chambers Street. It has recently been rehabilitated after years of decay, but there is no sign that tells passersby about Alexander T. Stewart or his extraordinary monument. He is, in fact, largely forgotten by all New Yorkers except students of the city’s history. One reason: He left no heirs. There would be no family foundations to perpetuate his name, no doors erected in his memory to decorate a city church, no college scholarships

I had no idea none why Bowling Green had the name it did. In hindsight, that’s sad. I wonder what Hamill’s thoughts were on the citywide celebrations of Henry Hudson quadricentennial in 2009. Would it seem odd to celebrate a heritage that has been mostly wiped out? And why was it wiped out? Was it only due to no heirs, like Stewart? Is it due to the old adage of the victor’s writing history? I think it’s a little bit of both — and either makes me sad at the history that was lost to history. What else might we have known about this wonderful city?

Even its location speaks to our origins as a city, for Trinity faces Wall Street, creating a symbolic crossroads of God and Mammon. … Today the tombstones and monuments, like so much about Trinity, exist as testimony. They tell us something about mortality and vanity, of course, as all graveyards do, but they also speak to us about history and change in the city of New York. …But with the probable exceptions of Hamilton and Fulton, even those whose names remain legible are now as forgotten as those whose names have been erased. …St. Paul’s Chapel, a branch of Trinity that had opened in 1766 …. But the spare simplicity of St. Paul’s was fitting for a president who represented republican values. It remains the oldest continuously used structure in Manhattan. After September 11, 2001, the chapel served its city with great honor, providing food, drink, and rest to hundreds of rescue workers and hard hats, and its fences were decorated by thousands of spontaneous messages from those who came downtown to find lost relatives, friends, or lovers, or simply to mourn. St. Paul’s has been witness to more history than Trinity itself. …It still asserts a sense of phoenixlike triumph, rebirth, and enduring faith.

So much intertwined history between the churches of Lower Manhattan, including Grace Church on Broadway and E. 12th, which Hamill references later. I don’t think I realized how connected the three are, although they certainly fall under the If These Walls Could Talk umbrella because they have been witness to some amazing history. Oddly enough, that’s something I usually attribute to Europe, not Manhattan. It’s the old cliche. “In England, 100 miles is far. In America, 100 years is old”. But that’s not true of Lower Manhattan. It’s only fitting that St. Paul’s served George Washington, but also the 9/11 rescue workers. Trinity itself was damaged in the attacks, but it – like New Yorkers – shows its resiliency.

Thanks to the desperation of Aaron Burr, he had discovered the true religion of New York: real estate. … The adherents of the secular New York religion founded by John Jacob Astor saw manna falling from the skies. Inevitably, Manhattan went up. First, uptown. Then to the sky. … From roughly 1880, and for another fifty years, there was a vivid architecture of New York grandeur. Some have called it the New York Renaissance. Others define it as part of the City Beautiful movement. The name doesn’t truly matter. But most of the physical New York I love comes from that era. …the Woolworth Building, the Flatiron, the Daily News Building, the Seagram Building, the Chrysler Building. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the New York Public Library, the old Custom House, the New York Stock Exchange, Carnegie Hall, Judson Memorial Church ….at Columbia University, and dozens of others scattered through the city. When I think of New York as a visible city, these are the buildings that dominate all others. …. Sullivan’s maxim was used to justify some of the worst architectural junk in the twentieth-century city. These new blank and faceless examples of the International Style, with its roots in the Bauhaus, made the beaux arts buildings even more valuable presences in the city. They were also crucial to the city’s sense of itself

Some things never change many centuries later. Reminds me of another book on Mt. TBR. When the Astors Owned New York. Sadly, it’s pretty far down Mt. TBR as I own it in dead tree format. On the other hand, that should be a reason to read it sooner — reclaim the space. But I never have occasion, or space, to carry around a dead tree book.  While I’m not hugely into real estate, I loved his description of the city’s architectural evolution. Hamill’s habit of talking about the building(s) and what they are now really helped set the setting to understand NYC in the time he was seeing it.

Each time I came for a visit to Penn Station, there was less of it. I was not alone, gazing at this immense act of municipal vandalism and whispering, You bastards. You stupid goddamned bastards. …basic model was the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, but the designers never lost sight of its function as a railroad terminal. …The vandals had attacked some core image New Yorkers had of their city and themselves. The landmarks movement rose from the rubble. Because I was in Europe at the time of the first assault, I never had a chance to walk through that magnificent waiting room and run my hands over the sensual marble and travertine, and say a proper good-bye.

Penn Station was long gone by the time I was born. As much as I love Grand Central’s beauty, I have a hard time romanticizing Penn, which I hate. But in a way, I’m grateful to its destruction because it created the Landmarks movement which is currently celebrating a “landmark” anniversary with a fabulous exhibit at the Queens Museum. I wonder why the timing was perfect 50 years ago to celebrate the city’s architectural history, and not before. I wonder what else might have been preserved if they acted sooner.

Broadway in my mind is an immense tree, with its roots deep in the soil at the foot of Manhattan, which is why I insist so stubbornly to my friends that the uptown places I cherish on Broadway are actually part of Downtown. But there also exists in me an idea of Broadway. It swells with every variety of urban swagger. You see the swagger in the old downtown financial district, where men in conservative suits and overcoats walk toward offices, or clubs, or lunch at India House in Hanover Square as if certain of their destinies. …Sometimes, New York knocks you down. It also teaches you, by example, how to get up. …Obviously, each of these Broadways is shaped by the neighborhoods through which it passes.Broadway never obeyed the commandments of the grid, and the reason was simple: Broadway was Broadway, and even the planners knew they must not tamper with what it already was.

I have often struggled with this idea of Broadway as a physical place while also being an idea. That doesn’t even take into account Google Maps’ current idiocy of referring to every road called Broadway as Broadway Theatre. Go ahead, test it out, it’s insane programming. But Broadway goes beyond many descriptions and it’s its own thing to different people. There is no right or wrong. Strangely, he never touched on my favorite part of Broadway — the Canyon of Heroes. I love that as a tribute not only to the city’s history, but also a path through the living history, whether it’s Bowling Green, Zuccotti Park, City Hall, Broadway is a path through history in Lower Manhattan. It turns into a path of commerce, but to me, Broadway is NYC’s living history.

For a brief period during its construction, it was known too as Stewart’s Folly, because he chose to build on the east side of Broadway, and right behind his emerging store lay the Five Points. No decent woman, it was said, would risk shopping there, where thieves and pickpockets and other predators could strike swiftly and then vanish into the lawless alleys of the city’s worst slum. At night, it was predicted, armed gangs from the Points would come to loot the place.


After Broadway, a second major street had carved its way into the old empty farmlands of the early nineteenth century and into our present history: the Bowery. ….but in 1849 the well-off citizens who resided near the upper Bowery had the name changed to Third Avenue in an attempt to evade the raffish stain of the true name. …Bowery Theater was built in 1826 on the corner of Canal Street (the present 50 Bowery). It offered three thousand seats and was the first American theater to be fully illuminated by gaslight. After the Civil War, the Bowery went into steady decline and then suffered a fatal blow. As happens frequently in New York, the blow fell in the name of progress. … After the el was taken down in 1955-57, and sunlight returned, and the old bums blinked at the sight of the sky, the Bowery remained squalid.

I knew very little about the Bowery (and nothing of Five Points, sadly) until I took the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy’s Grit, Graft & Grandeur : The Bowery walking tour.  I was fascinated by this tour and wished its three hour run was thirteen or thirty hours.  There is so much fascinating history in this region. It has been and continues to be Broadway’s ugly step child, but in reading this book and taking the tour I realize there’s so much relatively unknown history tied to this street. One of my favorite photos of the Bowery is its old and new: the New Museum and the Bowery Mission. I cannot imagine an El dropping embers onto theatergoing women — I cannot imagine the Bowery as a hub of NYC theater, even though I know it was. Some of Bowery’s Skid Row history is on visible display in 190 Bowery — but it’s old history is gone. Lost to progress as he says.

FROM THE BEGINNING, Fifth Avenue was a very good address, although it seldom had any murders. It did, alas, contain murderers. The social and geographical foundation of what was called “the†Fifth Avenue for most of the nineteenth century was Washington Square. And before its six and a half acres were laid out as the city’s first planned square, it was the potter’s field. But in the center of today’s square at approximately where the fountain was built in the 1960s stood the gallows. …. even in the late 1950s, when I was living in the East Village and spending time around the square, old residents were telling me tales about how on certain foggy nights you could see the dead rising from below the grass and the footpaths. Some wore the yellow shrouds in which they were buried, identifying them as victims of the fever. Some had distended necks. Many were women. I didn’t believe a word of these tales, of course, but knew they must be true.

I knew about the potter’s field — thank you Linda Fairstein’s books — but I had no idea about the Gallows. How did I do grad school at NYU and not know about this. How did the professors not use it as a way to behave. And yes, there are so many tall tales that in some ways, we still know to be absolutely true and false at the same time.

At the same time, I also had no idea of Union Square’s theatrical history even though many of the buildings remain today. I didn’t think about its connection to the Jewish Rialto (again, thank you LESJC!) despite some obvious lines from the Merchant of Venice. As Hamill said, “If to the brownstoners Fourteenth Street was a branch of Fifth Avenue, to the actors, musicians, and writers it was a branch of Broadway.”  As a fan of Off-Broadway, I wondered how/why it developed apart from Broadway (besides the current union issues that make it so today). I’m not surprised that I learned that in this book — or that it grew out of the old Jewish Rialto.

Union Square, after all, was named because of the planned union of Broadway with the Bowery, not as an homage to that union for which so many New Yorkers had died…. The Academy of Music had sealed its own doom as a venue for opera when it refused to sell boxes to the new men of wealth; they responded by building the Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway and Thirty-ninth. Its first season was 1883. Three years later, the Academy was finished as a venue for opera and other upper-class entertainments. The old Academy of Music had been hammered into dust in 1926 to make way for the massive headquarters of Con Edison. Its once-powerful neighbor, Tammany Hall, had vanished too, taking the remains of Tony Pastor’s stage with it. In 1929, the politicians opened their new headquarters on Union Square and East Seventeenth Street, where this last Tammany Hall would remain until 1943 (it’s now a small, elegant Off-Broadway theater and the location of the New York Film School).

Wow. In many ways, Ochs was lucky that this also hasn’t happened to Times Square. It’s amazing how the city has progressed northwest, leaving its history “hammered into dust” and leaving few traces of its roots. Tammany Hall is another one of those figures like Broadway — physical or an entity. Or both.

Were the Occupy Wall Street riots really just the current installation in the cycle that included the Draft Riots and the Tompkins Square riots? Is the Brooklyn Renaissance new, or is it just the next in the cycle of renewals that also included the Bowery, Tompkins Square Park, Times Square and many others?

The seeds of excess and empty theaters led to the sell off that led to the current problem: not enough space on Broadway. It’s a shame the Hudson Theatre is now home to a hotel, and can’t welcome back the Tonight Show’s return to NYC in 2014.

Then the Depression happened, and Forty-second Street began what seemed a terminal decline.

For the Bowery, it was the Civil War. For 42nd Street, or the Deuce, as Hamill likes to call it, it was the Great Depression. What was it for 125th Street? Hamill doesn’t touch on that since he acknowledges he doesn’t know Harlem the way he knows his Manhattan. Disney is the new Hangman? First it came for 42nd Street, and then 125th (at the Apollo). The financial crisis of 2008-09 didn’t claim another neighborhood, but the pattern is there. Has the city learned from it?

Toward the end of the 1970s, every New Yorker, male and female, white, black, and Latino, had learned to live with fear. They grew up in a world of plague, where the combination of drugs, guns, illiteracy, casual violence, and the rise of AIDS was creating a nihilistic hell never imagined by Dante Alighieri. Even priests and cops walked with wary steps. The Deuce was the place in which the hard kids lived most fully during that brief time between a lost childhood and the penitentiary. Very few New Yorkers expected a happy ending to the squalid saga of Forty-second Street, and yet a reasonably happy ending was what we got. Sometimes miracles do happen. In the 1990s, through a combination of planning, will, intelligent politics, and sheer luck, the Deuce was reclaimed.

And now? AIDS is a museum exhibit. That’s not to say that it’s not a part of every day life — but IV drug use is down, casual sex is discouraged, crack “fad” is gone — and 42nd Street is a family destination.

That openness is essential to living here. It is based on choice. You can choose to look at the Vermeers in the Frick or walk around Chinatown. If you live downtown, uptown is also yours, a subway ride away.The wanderer in Manhattan must go forth with a certain innocence, because New York is best seen with innocent eyes.

These “innocent eyes” are off to more reading because I have a new-found love for the city I call home.

Reading List: