USA New York & Catskills

August 2016

I tagged on to one of Dave’s work trips to the New York office so we could join the wedding party celebrations of Quique and Siobhaun. We first met Quique in a cafe in Hoi An in Vietnam in 2008 . Years later we remain good friends and have also become friends with his folks George and Brigitte who live in the Catskills, upstate New York. We arrived at JFK, jumped in to the craziest cab ride with a Rasta guy playing loud reggae/hip hop and with his own version of back seat air-con set up for his passengers.  He’d taped a length of silver air ducting from the air-con vents in the front of his car and passed the ducting through the sliding glass windows to the back seat.  Despite jet lag and lack of sleep we chatted for the journey in to the city. This is why I love New York, there’s always something slightly mad and inventive happening in this city and it’s always loud! We headed to Quique’s apartment in Manhattan then drove upstate with Quique, Siobhaun and their friend Billy for the 2 and a half hour drive to his parents place. They were working at their restaurant, The Spy, getting it ready for the following day’s celebrations.NYCCatskillsTheSpyQuiqueweddingparty2SiobhaunAfter a good night’s sleep kicking the jet lag and time difference in to gear we went out for a couple of hours with Quique and Siobhaun to a local farmer’s market for lunch, ran a few errands like picking up the cake then back to get ready for the night’s events. Over to The Spy restaurant with Nick and Tim, also staying overnight at Brigitte and George’s in their guest house. As the night went on more and more folks arrived and we caught up with friends of Quique’s that we’d met before on previous visits to the Catskills. Many of Quique’s fellow marathon running friends were here…this photo is a great shot of the variety of folks at the party. To the left in the blue shirt, Billy (Winter Olympics gold medalist) raises a pint with Nick and Tim, in the foreground in the cowboy hat is a former rodeo rider and in the background is Marshall Chess of Chess Records fame. It was a real cross section of fascinating people.

Photo below left to right: Nick, Billy and Tim.NYCCatskillsTheSpyweddingpartyNickBillyTimWe spent the next day chilling out by the pool at George and Brigitte’s house. Tim and Nick were still around too. Quique ‘helped’ his mum in to the pool.

Later in the afternoon we headed back over to The Spy restaurant to help tidy up, then driving with Quique and Siobhaun back to Manhattan. NYCAug2016RobertoShannonSurprisevisitorsSo we checked in to The Ace around 8pm, logged on to the wi-fi and this photo (above) pops up on my whatsapp. Massive surprise, Roberto and Shannon were in town from Tulum, Mexico! They’d been trying to reach us all weekend to surprise us on their way back from Canada, not knowing that we were in The Catskills. They were leaving early the next day so we got hold of them, got changed and ran downstairs to The Ace bar to meet them there for drinks. HUGE surprise to see these guys, we only had a couple of hours together but so glad we got to catch up and the biggest news of all, Shannon was pregnant! (they now have a gorgeous baby boy called Emilio). Very special friends of ours and a very special surprise.NYCAug2016BowieJulesHeartbreakingly whilst we were still up in The Catskills I received a very sad phone call from our friend Rich that Jules had passed away that day. She had gone in to a hospice the day we flew to New York and my last text to her was about me visiting her there when we got back. The cancer she had been diagnosed with in March had taken her life by August.  Jules and I have been friends for over 25 years…Rich will be lost without her. Jules was a massive David Bowie fan.  As I was walking through Manhattan a couple of days later I saw this framed Bowie photo in a gallery window and it made me think of my old friend Jules. NYCAug2016DanAndreaLezaHighlineDave headed to his office at Sony and I had a great day out meeting up with old friends  Dan and Andrea, who re-routed their flight back home to Massachusetts to be able to spend some time with us in New York. We met up at midday, went for lunch then set off on a long walk; through the streets leading down to The Hudson River, The Freedom Tower rising ahead of us in the distance.  We walked along the Highline for a short part of the walk, with views of The Standard Hotel and the Frank Gehry IAC Building.  We dropped down in to Chelsea market for a wander around the shops and food stalls and then followed the river to the Freedom Tower.

Freedom Tower It’s a beautiful looking building apart from the odd structure on the very top of it which foreshortens the grace of the overall structure.It’s currently the 6th tallest building in the world and the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Centre area which was devastaed after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In 2009 the Port Authority of New York advised that the building would be officially known as One World Trade Centre. The architect is David Childs.  Taller than the Empire State and 94 storeys, its total height is 1,776 feet (541 m); the height in feet is a deliberate reference to the year when the US Declaration of Independence was signed.

The Calatrava designed train station at ground Zero is the most expensive train station in the world. I love his architecture and there’s so much about this building I admire, but it can’t have been worth the incredible cost and I can’t believe that the finished result is the building he truly envisaged. NYCCalatravastationPanoIt looks heavy and stunted….rather than a bird of peace taking off in flight, it resembles a bird that’s had one wing clipped too far. You can read more about it here:  It is however well worth wandering inside to stand and look out across its increible interior. If only it could have housed a concert hall and art gallery… instead of a Westfield shopping mall.

The 9/11 memorial is very moving, engraved with the names of the dead who lost their lives here and featuring a huge well which acts as a run off for a constant flow of water. It’s a massive site and features two of these wells built on the exact footprints of the destroyed Twin Towers.  A  local friend commented that as a memorial he felt it should be more uplifting rather than being so entirely concentrated on death; the dark and deep central well is very much about death and bleakness. It must have been an incredibly difficult and hugely emotional construct and was never going to please everyone in the way it marks the monumental scale of the atrocity that occurred here.

In hindsight I understood my friend’s observations… and find that I agree with them. As devastating as death always is there has to be an enlightened way to recover from it. I don’t know if this allows one to do that. There is no feeling of being able to move forward. It is only about huge sadness and reflection; with no balance to show a path leading from the bleakness of sadness and despair towards hope and peace. I must admit to looking at it whilst there not only as a memorial site but also as an installation. Being a big art fan  it’s impossible to ignore the artistic interpretation of it and I likened it to the way James Turrell uses built structures to focus your attention on something he wants you to observe i.e. a section of sky with passing cloud  It’s an incredibly emotive site and everyone will react to it in different ways. You can read more here and get a better overview of the site and location:
We met up with Dave after work and went for Japanese food. Beautiful evening, really warm and sunny, The Flatiron Building looking magnificent in the evening light.NYCAug2016DanAndreaJapanesedinner
An early morning start the following day walking from Ace Hotel down towards the Flat Iron where I had breakfast at the nearby Le Pain Quotidien. There is a female author next to me in ‘Pain Unpronounceable’ where I’m having a late breakfast; having a meeting with a middle aged fashionable New York PR woman. They are discussing the authors talking points for possible interviews on TV etc. The PR is warning her about ‘extremely mean Vegans’ who she shouldn’t get on the wrong side of but the subject of penis in heterosexual relationships and religion and women choosing career over babies,  have come up too. The PR woman is choking on some chilli but has recovered to discuss the ‘Wheelhouse of her Business’. What the fuck is this book about? If at any point they ask me what I do, I’m definitely lying and saying psychiatrist.NYCFlatiron1
Met up with Lester who showed me the Lichtenstein artwork at 42nd Street.  Never realised before that this was real Lichenstein. Taken from the MTA Arts and Design website:  “Times Square Mural captures the spirit of the subway, its linear movement and dynamic energy. With a nod to both the past and the future- its central image is a futuristic bullet shaped car zipping through an underground station. And not just any station, this is Times Square, in the heart of New York City.  Lichtenstein was born in New York in 1923 and spent his last years here. Times Square Mural reflects his career, with references to, and variations on, his earlier works. Lichtenstein also freely appropriated and incorporated images from the works of other artists and designers in his work. For instance, the hooded figure at the right of the mural is from the old Buck Rogers comic strips and the iconic 42 image is from a series of drawings of the architectural detail of the subway.”.NYCLichensteinSubwayLester
Next stop was the wonderful Anna Wintour curated Manus x Machina Exhibition at The Met  It featured some incredible examples of fashion created by hand in fine detail such as embroidery juxtaposed with fashion created by machines and 3D printer technology. The Issy Miyake dress which begins as a flat folded pleated piece lifts out in to an elegant short dress.  Inventive, creative; an extraordinary exhibition.

Lester showed me some of his personal highlights at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Blue Bed covered in blue silk damask and originally from Hampton Court in England.
The wonderful Ingres painting of the Princesse de Broglie. One of Lester’s favourite paintings.  The detail and colour in the silk gown which reflects the light in the painting gives it a three dimesional quality that glows.NYCTheMetIngres
After our Lester style run around The Met he took me to the Baccarat Hotel New York.  A study in opulence.  Baccarat crystal was founded in France in the small town of Baccarat in Eastern France when King Louis XV permitted the creation of a glassworks in 1764.  When it first began it produced windows, drinking glasses and mirrors until 1816 when they introduced their first crystal oven.  It became famous for its elaborate chandeliers and prefume bottles and opened an American subsidiary in New York in 1948. Bought by Starwood Capital Group in the US in 2005, they announced a luxury hotel chain in 2012. You need deep pockets to stay here but it’s worth breezing in whilst pretending to be a guest to view the huge crystal chandeliers and sculptures. Too bling for my taste but I appreciate the craftsmanship.

A wander around Central Park in glorious sunshine then Lester left me to head back downtown on the M1 bus.

The following day, Dave went to his office and I hit the streets for a 12 mile walk around the city in the sunshine…using a pretty useless map saved to my iphone but it was fun asking directions and making my own way around. My favourite part of Manhattan is the lower east side. The older buildings and tenenments, fire escapes and graffiti still mean that this area has managed to hang on to a lot of its original character.

I visited the Tenement Museum NYC on Orchard Street which is well worth the ticket price for a guided tour and a history of New York’s immigrants who built this remarkable city.  Book in advance because its extremely popular and there are different types of tours that you can join. It’s also worth wandering along Orchard Street which features small boutiques and places to eat. Tenement Museum

Loved walking the city on my own. New York is a walking city and 12 miles later I was knackered! But one last night out with old friends Kat and Jon…a late night visit for cakes at Veniero’s Pastry established in 1894 and with the largest cake menu I’ve ever seen whilst discussing what we will do with the $127 million Lottery jackpot when we win it – hah!

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