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!

The Last Speakeasy

On Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of participating in the Dil Pickle club recreation at the Chicago HIstory Museum’s the Last Speakeasy. The event was wonderful; patrons dressed as flappers, gangsters and society men. There was a live band with dancing, gambling tables, and an open bar, of course. They even staged a little raid. I’m really glad I got to check it out; it was really lovely event.

My friends and I participated in a historical reenactment of the Dil Picke Club, a Pocket Guide to Hell Production. Dil Pickle club was kinda of a salon where people came, spoke and debated anything. It started in 1914 and lasted until the mid-30s. The police closed it because its founder, John Archibald “Jack” Jones, refused to pay the mob protection money. Poets, like Carl Sandburg, would read poetry, hucksters would speak about schemes, Lucy Page Gaston would speak about the evils of cigarette smoking. College professors mingled with hoboes and socialists. The Haymarket widows regularly came and promoted the workingmen’s causes.

I played Nina Van Zandt Spies, a Vasser educated Haymarket widow. The story goes that she fell in love with August Spies, one of the Haymarket heroes, while he was in jail. They met regularly and after the jail tried to institute a rule that only relatives could visit, they decided to marry. The jail wouldn’t let them; August Spies’ attorneys said it would not help his case and Nina Spies’ aunt told her that she’d be disowned. But they went ahead with it ….through a marriage by proxy which was legal at the time. His brother was a stand in at the wedding, and they were wed. They only got to be together without bars between them for about half an hour the day before he was excueted. After his death, she went on with his cause for the workers. Quite the interesting lady.

For the Dil Pickle Club, I spoke about my husband and his cause…until George Weiss, the Yellow Kid, conned me out of money by selling me Captain Streeter’s plots of lands. Good times had by all. Mae West came and reenacted part of her play “Sex” while poets read. it was a wonderful event.

I love these reenactments for several reasons. First, I get to perform which is simply fun. Second, I get to learn about marvelous people like Nina Spies or Big Red Martha (of Bughouse Square fame). Sadly, I never really got a good education about Chicago history so I learn a lot from each of these events. Pocket Guide to Hell pointed out that Chicago has a incredible amount of history for its short time as a city. Yes, absolutely. Finally, we get to bring history alive. I’m a historian by nature and it is really a tremendous thrill to recreate incredible scenes.

Thanks to Pocket Guide to Hell and the Chicago History Museum for giving me this opportunity. You all rock.

Anyway, until the next historical reenactment….AAUW’s Jane Addams Day on December 14th at 2:00pm at Hull House. Be there and celebrate Jane!