Part 2: Spring in Manhattan

The second half of our day took us to the southern part of Manhattan. My mom had wanted to check out the Oculus, the new transport station that was part of the World Trade Center network. The building is out of science fiction – weirdly shaped and white. Inside, there are several floors with high end shops and as far as we could tell, one restaurant/cafe. Very odd. It was a dramatic place architecturally but I’m still confused how you can have a massive transportation depot without food.

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After our tour of the space, we headed to Trinity Church nearby. Inside we found beautiful wooden carved chapel and windows. Outside, we discovered that this was where Alexander and Eliza Hamilton were buried. However, it took some time finding their grave. We learned that there are burial grounds on both sides of church. When we paid our respects to his grave, the lady next to us starting singing the section about Eliza from “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Her grave had pennies all over it as well. Nice touch.

We passed by the Bull of Wall Street and the Little Girl standing him down. There was a line of mostly women waiting to get their photo taken with the Little Girl. I declined getting my photo taken since it was a long line of chaos.

We then went to the National Museum of the American Indian next to Bowling Green Park. The museum is housed in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, which is a pretty astonishing building. Big rotunda with murals. We learned from the guard that Bowling Green Park’s fence went back to colonial times; on the fence, there used to be symbols of the crown that revolutionaries had sawed off! Plus there was an amazing plaque talking about how the rental of the park was only a peppercorn. Back in the day, peppercorn was a big deal.

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I had read about the museum and its current exhibition “Native Fashion Now” in the New York Times a few weeks earlier so I was keen to check it out. They had gone to Native American designers to showcase their work in the show. It was spectacular. For instance, there were these high heeled boots covered in beadwork with hummingbird motif by Jamie Okuma. Another was a kimono that depicted ledger art by Toni Williams. Astonishing. They also had a quiver made in the famous Louis Vuitton fabric. Or a pair of moccasins made from electrical parts. Innovative and astonishing.

The permanent collection had some pretty spectacular objects from a diverse number of groups. There were drums from Mapuche in Chile all the way up to various groups in the Pacific Northwest. They even had a room set aside for Native American Contemporary art where there was a paper jingle dress.

Another special exhibition included pottery from Central America, which was a treat. As I have gotten older, I have grown to love pottery, especially from Latin America. I love all the pots of local animals!

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We then walked from the museum to the Strand, not a small walk. It was delightful wandering around the city. I enjoyed all the street art, as per usual. The Strand was great as always. We met up with a good friend and my parents at a Spanish restaurant in Greenwich Village.

Afterwards, we wandered with our friend to find a speakeasy. There is a trend in bars in NY (and elsewhere) of speakeasies that are accessed in unusual places. The first place we tried involved going through a toy store. Sadly, it was merely a shelf of toys and the bar was extremely crowded and loud.

We then began our trek to find an available place. There was another one that involved going into a phone booth in a hole-in-the-wall hot dog stand. When we got there, there was a line, so it wasn’t truly hidden. When it was our time to get to the front of the line, a man pulled back a wall of the phone booth and I could peer inside. It was a quiet bar with a taxidermied pheasant on the wall. We were informed it was a three hour wait, which wasn’t happening. He ended up handing my friend and I a black business card with a number and the name of the address. Someday we’ll go.

Ultimately we ended up a regular bar, notably only for the strange channel it showed of people embarrassing themselves by doing stupid things. It wasn’t “Funniest Home Videos” but it was an actual channel that bars can request. Strange.

That’s all for now!

NYC Fall 2016: Part 1

Now, I’m going to spend some time talking about our amazing adventures in NYC earlier this Fall. Museums! Food! Star Trek!

We arrived in Friday evening. We stayed in a lovely boutique hotel near Union Square. That meant we had about an hour to get to the Strand before it closed for the evening! There are a lot of great bookstores in NY and the Strand is one of them. I always find some really interesting books there. Last year, I found a book about the history of cooking utensils. This time, I found an unofficial Banksy biography. And their sock selection is amazing. Poe socks, enough said.

Afterwards, we found this restaurant that is best described as small plates Spanish. Not tapas, mind you. I ordered a dish that was effectively scrambled eggs with sea urchin. My husband got a lovely dish of guinea fowl. I had sea urchin for the first time a few months ago. I go back and forth on it. I’ve had one really amazing dish of sea urchin in Chicago. This dish was pretty good but not the best. My husband’s dish was rather tasty.

On our first full day of our trip, my first stop was the Metropolitan Museum. I was very keen to see Manus Ex Machina. I had thought that I was going to miss this exhibition but it was extended. It was amazing. This exhibition looks at how fashion balances machine made with man-made. The first thing you see when you walk in is a wedding gown from 2008(?). It has this amazing white train covered in gold beads. At first, you think it belongs in the baroque period but the explanation notes that the pattern was actually designed by a computer. The exhibition is categorized by different materials like leather,feathers, flowers, metal, etc. In the flower section, they have a remote control dress with wheels. It has these seedlings on it. You have to climb into it to put it on. At an appointed time, you can send the seedlings into the air. Crazy times!

The exhibition was mesmerizing. There were a lot of 3D printed dresses, which is rather awesome. Some seem like they belong in some future era; some don’t look 3D printed. However, my favorite dresses were by Issey Miyake. You can see her genius with shapes in these photos.

This fish scale dress took 1500 hours to make.

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I also loved all the laser cut dresses. This one is covered in seahorses!

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I spent about an hour and a half wandering around this exhibit. Afterwards, I took a little journey through the rest of the museum. Right outside the exhibition space, there was a little exhibit on ceramics from China including vases depicting West Lake, where I was in July! Also, this soup tureen is amazing. I went to say hi to the temple of Dendur, one of my favorite rooms there. I also ventured into the American wing to see my Tiffany glass windows. I had a sandwich at the cafe there. Sadly, I would not recommend it.

I also made a stop on the roof to see the Psycho House, or “Transitional Object (PsychoBarn),” by Cornelia Parker. The front half looks like a creepy house while the backside reveals that it is fake. I loved the contrast with the skyline!

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My next stop was meeting my family at the musical On Your Feet! On Broadway. It’s a bio-musical about Gloria Estefan. I was skeptical at first but I ended up enjoying it. The music is fun; dancing is great. It was a fun time.

We then rushed off to see a museum that I had never been to: Mmuseumm. It’s in a freight elevator in an alleyway. Three people at most can be in the museum at a time. It’s been open in 2012 and attempts to elevate the mundane. Several exhibits were on display including ISIS currency, screenshots of the last text messages they sent a loved one, frosted cookies commemorating events in a year, objects found as people were crossing into America, Iranian fast food knockoffs. We only had about 20 minutes before they closed but it was the right amount of time. It was very charming and a philosophy I adhere to.

We walked home to the hotel from there, taking in the amazing street art in NYC. Dinner was wonderful Italian food with a renderings of a map of Naples in German. An unusual combination!

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What a great first day in NYC!

Part 6: France and England

Now I’m going to talk about the Victorian and Albert Museum. It’s a museum that I’ve gone to occasionally over the years but didn’t make it a point to go. It’s a big of a strange museum with an eclectic collection. But it does have a wonderful collection of non-Western art and some fascinating exhibitions on fashion and design. Now that I’m a little bit more fascinated with design, I found it much more compelling.

We first went to the copies room. It’s a huge room with these plaster casts of famous monuments from all over Europe. There is Michelangelo’s David and the Trajan Column, cut in half because it is too large to fit the height of the room. It has copies of magnificent doors of churches, fountains, and much more. I don’t like it. The room feels so crowded and fake, which it is. I’ll admit that the effect has a certain impressive feel to it since they have brought together all of these disparate monuments. However, I feel that each one loses its significance when jumbled together. I prefer to see these works of art individually and in their original form. I’m a traditionalist, I suppose.

Copies room

Copies room

On the way, we did see a magnificent series of angel statues. Formerly, four statues stood in front of Cardinal Wosley’s palace. However, two statues made their way to the museum but two were lost. Recently, the two lost statues were found in an estate in England; they had been outside for many years. The museum is currently trying to raise the funds to purchase them from the current owners. For now, the four statues are exhibited together. It’s neat to see the difference between the two statues that had been preserved inside and the two that had been subject to the elements. It’s a striking contrast.

I also got a kick out of the fashion galleries. They had a series of displays showing how fashion changed over the decades/centuries from the late Regency era to the present day. You could see the outrageously voluminous costumes slowly transform into flapper outfits (including one inspired by surrealism) to the practical outfits during WWII to the development of punk fashion in the 1980s.

There was also a brilliant exhibition called “Disobedient Objects” that was about objects from recent protests in the past 30 years. I was elated. It didn’t even occur to me that a museum would keep the buttons, the signs, etc from global protests. This is what I love writing about so it was so neat to see such recent objects. For instance, there were these cardboard shields with book titles painted on them that were used in recent protests against budget cuts to libraries and educational programs. There were instructions and an example of gas masks made from liter soda bottles from Turkey in the recent Gezi Park Protests. There were textiles made by women in Columbia detailing their heartbreak from murders and drug smuggling. So many magnificent objects. I was really gratified to see that they had a Guerilla Girls banner.

Guerilla Girls banner

Guerilla Girls banner

That’s all for now! Next, I’ll talk about Hampton Court!

Macy’s Flower Show 2014

Yesterday, I went to the Macy’s Flower show at the Macy’s Flagship in the Loop. Macy’s Flower Show is a wonderful transformation of a NY tradition. I was introduced to the Macy’s Flower show in NY several years ago. It had these amazing windows with entire forests of flowers. There were exquisite dresses made from lilies and orchids displayed in the windows. Inside Macy’s, there were orchids everywhere. There would also be a sculpture made of flowers. It changed every day or every week. Once it was a can of paint and a paint brush all made from bright red flowers. The show was perfect for Springtime and Easter.

So several years ago, when I still worked in the loop, I saw signs for the Macy’s Flower show here in Chicago. I was excited since I really love good window displays. So I went and the windows were really lackluster. The piece inside was forgettable. And there were no orchids. At first, I thought, “Wow, NY really does do it better.”

But then I saw signs about something to do with the flower show on the 9th floor. So I followed. I got up there and it was a strange place. There wasn’t much on the 9th floor but human resources. There are no other departments, lots of unused space. But I dutifully followed the signs and then there was an explosion of color. There is a secret room filled to the brim with flowers. That year, the theme was Brazil. There were orchids everywhere. It was simply incredible. There were little ponds, a trickling fountain. I just wanted to sit there and smell the wonderful plants. I love how it transformed from store windows into NY into this hidden garden in Chicago.

Last year, the theme was India so it was flowers with  bright shiny fabrics, lanterns, and even a statue of an elephant. There were orchids galore. There were some appropriate ambient sounds and several ponds and a fountain. I wanted to sit there and contemplate the world.

This year, the theme was “Secret Garden.” it is a little all over the place with the theme. I think the Secret Garden refers to the location of this garden, so tucked away high in this giant building. You walk in to topiary of a deer and a horse. There is a statue of a woman wearing an incredible ball-gown made of plants. One section is surrealist themed with a piano with plants growing out of it, rainbow roses hanging from the ceiling. There are male mannequin legs sticking out from the ground with flowers growing out of the soles of the feet. There is even a picture composed of flowers depicting Salvador Dali. And there is an upside down tree, roots, dirt and all. Amazing.

Macy's Flower Show 2014: Dress

Macy’s Flower Show 2014: Dress

Macy's Flower Show 2014: Surrealist vista

Macy’s Flower Show 2014: Surrealist vista

There is an Asian inspired area with lanterns. In another area, there are topiary bushes shaped like chess pieces. It has a sort of British feel to it with a Tudor inspired background. There is another area of urban renewal gardening. There are brightly colored tire planters, and a rooftop garden. THere is even a tea party with flowers growing out of the tea cups and tea pots. Even the seats have friendly cacti on them.  Even if the parts of the garden were fairly eclectic, it was wonderful. I am so starved for nature.

Macy's Flower Show 2014: Flower Tea Party

Macy’s Flower Show 2014: Flower Tea Party

So if you have a chance to go, you should. It’s beautiful and relaxing. it was a boon to my day. The Macy’s Flower Show closes on Sunday, April 6th.

That’s all!