Closing up shop
- Wednesday, Aug. 02, 2006

It may be time for a change
- Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Entry in the air
- Friday, April 21, 2006

Still here
- Thursday, April 20, 2006

Music of the moment
- Wednesday, March 1, 2006



101 in 1001
American Road Trip, 1998


Dancing Brave
Fugging It Up
Kitty Sandwich
Mister Zero
Sideways Rain


My crew
Our host

2000-11-17 - 20:10:16

The New York I never knew

So I went into the City today. Growing up in suburban New Jersey with parents who are -- shall we say -- indifferent to New York, my sister and I were not often exposed to anything Manhattan has to offer. So although I am familiar with the city and its environs, I've spent limited time within its borders. Most of my adventures have taken place north of 23rd, west of 5th and south of the 90s (not counting Shea Stadium).

Today I was down in the Financial District, the old part of New York where the narrow streets converge on one another at odd angles and 19th Century landmarks sit next to 20th Century skyscrappers. You could say it's the historical district, the way a tiny town square is designated within a larger township in America's growing suburbs.

I was early for meeting my friend Mia, so after wandering through the streets of the Financial District for half an hour, I found my way to Wall St. and her building. With time to kill, I headed down to Federal Hall, across from the NY Stock Exchange. Federal Hall, built in the early 1800s, sits on the site of the old City Hall, which became the capitol building of the new United States of America where George Washington was inaugurated as the first President.

Not knowing who the 43rd President will be made it a little more poignant being there.

After looking through the exhibits, I met Mia and we headed over to Exchange Place for lunch in a tiny pizza parlor. Cramped into a windowside table, we ate marvelous New York pizza looking out onto Exchange Place as the wind whipped down the canyon created by the buildings. Inside those buildings, money flew around as the world's markets hummed.

Mia went back to work and I went back to Federal Hall. I'd felt I hadn't seen it all, so I took a closer look at the pictures and history written out inside, saw a couple of rooms I'd missed before, and returned to the front steps where I sat down on the top step and looked out at the intersection of Wall and Broad streets.

It's another place where American can be said to have begun. Washington was inaugurated here -- I saw the Bible on which he swore and I sat on the steps, leaning against one of the Doric columns near the feet of a statue of our first President and American hero.

Below, Wall St. bustles and I wonder how many brokers realize they go to work everyday in the heart of American history.

A man at one of the sidewalk vendors across the street looks like someone I know from college. I always get that feeling in the City, like I know so many people, or I've seen them before -- or maybe I'll see them someday?

I don't listen to music in New York -- New York is music. The whir of car and bus motors, the shuffling of pedestrians' feet, the clamor of church bells from nearby Trinity Cathedral, the voices of all the people melded into one immense murmur. This is the New York I love -- old, historical where the narrow streets run anything but parallel and ancient architecture melds with the new.

From Federal Hall I walk down Broad and in a few blocks I see the sign of Fraunces Tavern -- the silhouette of a Washington-like Colonial-era white man of wealth. The old brick building sits at Broad and Pearl, across from modern 20th Century skyscrapers. The place where Washington bade farewell to his soldiers after the Revolutionary War on Dec. 4, 1783.

I turned down Bridge from Broad and reached Whitehall St., turning uptown again and passing the landmark bull at Bowling Green Park -- the oldest city park, established as a cow pasture in the 1600s by the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam. It's still surrounded by the same wrought-iron fence, and that's exactly the kind of stuff I find fascinating about old, historical locations.

I continued up Broadway as the wind whipped down the corridor and entered Trinity Church, in part to escape the wind. Guided by a pamphlet obtained inside, I wandered around the cemetery, gazing upon all the old gravestones. One from 1681 is the oldest carved tombstone in New York City. Others are so worn, no writing is discernable. These markers have stood in place longer than the buildings around them. On the south side, a group of stones is still charred, permanently scarred from the Great Conflagration of 1776, which burned the original Trinity Church. And I passed the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton, killed the day after a duel with Aaron Burr in Hoboken, N.J., on July 11, 1804.

I sat inside the church for a moment, something I do not do often enough, gazing at the stained glass window above the altar and contemplating the establishment of religion. My mother gets on my case for not attending church often enough -- indeed, at all -- but this is how I prefer it. I could've been anywhere at that moment, sitting amidst church silence. The great stone walls of Trinity all but silence the outside bustle of Manhattan.

From Trinity, I went up to St. Paul's Chapel, where Washington went for services after his inauguration, and for years to come. I stole a quick look at the governor's pew, used by George Clinton sat, before I was ushered out because they were closing the church. On the way out, I looked across the sanctuary at Washington's pew, the great seal of the United States mounted on the wall above.

Up at City Hall, another New York landmark I'd never seen but always wondered about, a strand of white paper fell from a tree above, and I realized what all the strips had been in the graveyard: Leftover debris from the ticker-tape parade for the Yankees some weeks ago. Sure enough, looking up I saw more clinging to the trees, caught among the last lingering leaves of fall.

Heading back to the World Trade Center to catch a train back to New Jersey, I stepped into Borders for a moment, knowing it could cost me my departure from Newark, and perhaps make me late for work. But I managed to write down a few titles for the Christmas list, and had a realization with just one look at the coffee shop as I ascended the escalator to find the sports section: There are a lot of beautiful, and no doubt intelligent, women who take breaks and relax with a cup at bookstore coffee counters. If only I drank coffee...

Back out on the street, heading to the PATH trains, I see a banner advertisement in the Borders window in which Kathie Lee Gifford tries to look all Faith Hill sexy. Um, no. Unh-uh. Not going to happen, Kathie Lee. She posed with her hair fussed but done up, in a white dress shirt with a sly smile. I could see the intent, but not the effect. Or something like that.

The crowded NJ Transit train home from Newark became the only damper on an otherwise fabulous day. After standing to Woodbridge -- about 20 minutes of the ride -- I found a seat but was kept awake from a potential nap by two women who, it seemed, had only met on the train, talking loud enough for the entire car to hear their discussion of German vs. Italian operas.

If only the fat one had sung, it would've been over.

Previous page: Trip to the barber
Next page: A soft summer day

� 1998-2004 DC Products. All rights reserved.

Yeah, sorry I have to be all legal on you here, but unless otherwise indicated, all that you read here is mine, mine, mine. But feel free to quote me or make fun of me or borrow what I write and send it out as an e-mail forward to all your friends, family and coworkers. Just don't say it's yours, you know?