We arrived at 2am at Flor’s Upper West Side apartment on the 25th floor. I had a vivid dream of a strange place that was so real, I had to show it to Susan, which also turned out to be a dream.
It was early in the morning, and I got up before Susan and Rachel to greet Flor. Her door was ajar, so I called out to her and entered, noting that it had changed. Instead of opening into her bedroom, that door led to spacious tiled hallway that led up a ramp to a mezzanine level and down to a broad staircase leading below. As I climbed the ramp, it opened up to a spacious bedroom off to my right and a magnificent patio to my left. Flor called to me from outside, so exiting via glass doors onto the patio, I found myself descending through a broad fountain of pure tranquil water flowing away from the building. The water spread out at eye level as a flooded plaza until it opened to a fertile field planted as an orchard of miniature fruit trees. Off the side of the path, Flor stepped onto a depression in a gravelly terrace and slowly sank up to her chin in a spa of warm clay-like beads, claiming it was therapeutic and healing – her own private spa. I found another similar depression nearby and also descended, so enthralled that I was only mildly concerned about how I would get out. When I so desired, I was elevated upward and came out clean and refreshed.
Returning to the apartment, I had to bring Susan out and show her this marvel while Rachel continued to drowse in the present reality. I recall ascending the ramp with Susan and going outside before I awoke to the reality that this too was a dream. When I in truth shared this dream with Susan, Rachel, and Flor, they were astonished and we all had a good laugh.
Wednesday morning dawned very clear, no wind, and sunny. No one got up early as we only got around 4.5 hours of sleep and arose at 6:30am. We visited Flor for a while and presented our Wonderstone gift, discussed our plans, worked at un-installing the frozen Microsoft Office 2013 applications from her computer packed up for the day, and resumed our preparations. Beset with some obscure paranoia that she didn’t want to discuss, Rachel didn’t want to take her camera, fearing it would get lost, damaged, or confiscated, so I snuck it into my day duffel bag. I also packed sun screen, but it was never intense enough to actually wear, as we spent most of the day walking through shady parks and concrete canyons.
Our first stop was the roof, to see the view from the 43rd floor and gaze at the vista and rooftop patios and other architectural curiosities. Down to the street, we were enticed by the first Parisian Baguette bakery a block away and we munched our way along 72nd street towards Central Park. It seemed strange that so many shops were trying to draw customers by advertising “organic”.
Continuing up Central Park West, we missed Strawberry Fields and didn’t enter the park until about 78th Street at the top of The Lake where we entered the Ramble and joined the bird watchers cruising the park for finches, sparrows, cardinals, and orioles. Funny pictures of birders all gazing unitedly upwards at orioles caught my attention more than the elusive birds, and we got better pictures of common cardinals and starlings who were fearless in their approach than any of the more elusive avian passers by.
The cameras came out to document the gothic architecture of the twin towers made famous by Ghostbusters, too far down on the street to appreciate the fanciful designs at the top.
Climbing up and over the Belvedere Castle, the vista of Great Lawn and Delacorte Theatre evidenced the multiple uses of this urban parkland. Following footpaths up and over, around and through, there was a surprising amount of granite hills and riparian hollows as we wound past the Turtle Pond and up towards the Egyptian Obelisk.
Circumnavigating the Obelisk, covered by scaffolding and under renovation, I crossed the parade of bikes and joggers and met Susan and Rachel where their trail crossed through a tunnel towards the back of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Having walked slowly and carefully for 90 minutes with frequent stops, we arrived around 11am, too late for any worthwhile exploration of the museum, so we just walked around it snapping shots of spring blooms, glass pyramids, and peering into the north wing where some Egyptian statuary was visible from outside in the glass conservatory.
Riding the subway to 59th Street and rambling around this neighborhood for an hour, we arrived early at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab and enjoyed their quieter open space with indoor seating. We stopped and Rachel purchased mascara at Duane Reade. We stopped to sit as often as possible, tired from our wending walk along the towers of Park Avenue and saturated with the intensity of close up meandering through the cityscape. Passing by a Green Café at 36 East 58th Street with a long queue out the door before noon, it was funny that this was precisely the 58th and Madison deli that Rachel and I later found at the moment when Carrie called us on the cell phone while standing in the doorway, so we hugged and laughed in astonishment that minds can work so alike, then loaded up with Panini and exotic fruit juices and carried lunch back to Susan who waited in the Sony Atrium. Along the way, we had passed through the candy section of FAO Schwarz famous toy store on a blitzkrieg photo op. We could have spent days shopping and browsing through so many interesting places, but I was sure glad to have a few minutes to just speed down the sidewalk weaving through people traffic searching for food!
Our visit over lunch was lively, as Carrie is such an articulate and interesting person. The technology labs were interesting, but explanations of how to use technology were often lacking, as children are already familiar with play station controls, and we were often puzzled at how to play the games without crashing cars, and how to collaborate on music mixing. During a brief 6 minute movie documenting the filming of freeze-action bunnies, I even got an impromptu nap! But it was all very interesting, and nice to focus on something in front of us, more structured, than all the random impressions of life on the street that inundates the senses and draws my attention to too many directions at once.
Back on the street, we rambled about marveling at glass icons like the Trump Tower, killing time for two hours, happy to avoid some walking and taking a bus down to 42nd Street past the Rockefeller Center to tour the immense silence in the archival New York Public Library, with the Chrysler Building peeking out to the east. Entering the regular branch library, Rachel found a sought after manga in a special reading room and skimmed half of it before I urged her to go, while Susan and Carrie chatted. We stopped in Bryant Park for ice cream, taking in the quiet places where denizens seek solace amidst the frenzied pace. Avoiding predators in this place would be an impossible task if there weren’t peaceful enclaves where one could escape to gather in the safety of friends.
After walking past Times Square’s intensity where wrestling competition stalled throngs of tourists in the middle of the street, Rachel shopped for nail polish in Sephora, another huge beauty supply, and we were so happy to find another little park in the theatre district along 8th Avenue after dinner at the Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns dim sum, buns, and hand-pulled ramen noodle restaurant.
Our final trek covered three blocks to the August Wilson theatre where we had purchased tickets to the Jersey Boys Broadway show. We enjoyed the music, but cringed at the foul language and non-apologetic confessions of petty thievery, mob crime and immorality that accompanied the rise of The Four Seasons. Fortunately, Rachel was so weary, that she napped through the first half of the show, and was not perturbed by the language as much as we were. When did my little girl learn to tolerate such language? I guess she’s gotten used to that use of swearing in vernacular from her exposure to manga novels, but when used with intensity, I still hate it, especially when desensitized as entertainment. The show was fun and very professional, but too crude for my taste, and I will be much more selective the next time we get to view a Broadway show. Getting to sit for two hours after all the walking and zone out to the music was soothing after so much activity on the streets.
Carrie was turned around and sent us in the opposite direction, but we collided with her after realizing our mistake a block later, and headed for Line 1 which was only 3 blocks away and 3 stops from 72nd Street. And so ended a full day of gazing at towers and reflections in New York City.