And so I end the journey where I began:
Boston, MA New York City. I’m approaching from north of Manhattan, heading across the top and over the Throggs Neck bridge to put me near JFK Airport, where I’ll be flying from in a couple of days. The traffic being funnelled into toll booths and bridges and tunnels is slow and torturous. It can be very boring, but sometimes a driver will end up leaving you with a deep philosophical quandary that you can mull over. I find it particularly appropriate, as I type this on Easter Sunday, to consider the question posed by one driver:
So I ditch the car at the place I’m staying, and hop on the Long Island Rail Road (or LIRR – really draw out the rrrrrrrrrr) to take me into the city. My first destination is another Frank Lloyd Wright building, the Guggenheim:
I don’t think it’d be quite as nice to live in as Fallingwater: although a cool building and conveniently situated for the city, it’d be rammed full of people explaining why a piece of yellow cloth was art. I mean, just a piece of yellow cloth. The kind that would be left over if you were making something actually useful/good with yellow cloth, but had slightly too much. It did have this, which was quite pretty:
Any encounter with art that’s a bit too contemporary requires some recuperation and fortunately right next door is Central Park:
The good weather and the blossom has brought out the crowds (Americans really like Spring, I guess). The mass of people taking advantage of the good weather does lead to a couple of strange mashups, such as the wedding party searching for that perfect under-the-blossom shot, right next to the guys doing promo shots for a football camp:
Elsewhere there’s a wide mix of people and things, such as the free dance class at Bethesda Terrace:
The busker hiding in the shadows of a bridge for innocent victims (one assumes):
And this… leaf. It’s become entangled in a very thin piece of string, and appears at first glance to be hovering quite happily:
Okay, I think I’m ready to handle some more art now. Let’s head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and see how we go:
Sweet Lord, a fine contender for the Ugly Renaissance Babies tumblr and new special guest star in all my nightmares.
Moving quickly away from there we find ourselves in the Sackler Wing, which houses the Temple of Dendur. Built in Egypt during the reign of Augustus, it was relocated from its original location because the construction of a nearby dam would have submerged it. Egypt presented the temple to the US and it eventually ended up being reconstructed in the Met after a suitable area was created for it. Lacking any taste, the Met didn’t even try to slam it into a bizarre, gaudy castle.
As well as the temple, the Sackler Wing contains various Egyptian items such as this statue, who has seen some things:
Look at those eyes. He probably had to watch his fellow statue get decapitated. Or he saw the freakish Christ-child up there. Elsewhere, I’m really enjoying the collections, ranging from the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware:
They hadn’t built the Delaware Memorial Bridge yet.
To a range of musical instruments, to a – I’m going to go with “impressive” – collection of spoons:
Imagine what Sylvester McCoy could do with those.
Elsewhere I’m concerned that we’re veering back towards wanky:
The common complaint about art like that is, “Well, anyone could do it”, to which the standard wanker’s response is “but they didn’t, I did”. The reason I bring this up is because of the following exhibit, for which I’ll only post the info card:
Lazy son of a bitch, at least I put some effort into chaotically photographing 48 states. I mean, the number of times I risked my life by leaving me in charge of my life, all for these pictures…
Okay, that’s made me mad, let me go relax with the oversized Dulux samples up there. Nope, hasn’t helped. Only one thing for it, I need to be some place where there are no wanky people. Time to go to Brooklyn.
I’m taking the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge not only because walking from the Met to the Bridge would make me die a little, but also to see a hidden bit of the city. The 6 train ends at the Brooklyn Bridge station, however, if you stay on as it loops around to start its northbound journey, it will take you through the City Hill station, which has been closed since the end of 1945. Unfortunately with the harsh lights of the subway car, it’s hard to get any useful pictures of it while you’re whipped around, but please take a look at some other photographer’s efforts, like these, to get a sense of what a beautiful station it is. This video also explains its history in brief while allowing me to point out that there’s such an organisation as “Transit Transit News”.
Like a surprising number of places around the world, the Brooklyn Bridge is under an assault of “love locks” – padlocks with your name and the name of your partner-at-the-time etched on. I confess to not fully understanding this, symbolically. Is it saying “my love is like a padlock: the key is easily lost and then the padlock is forever locking up part of my life no matter how much I want to move on”? “My love for you is so valuable I’m going to use a padlock to protect it, much as I used it to protect the contents of my high school locker”? “I have an interested in S&M and I’m implanting the thoughts of locks in your head”?
Whatever the intention, every available space is burdened with these things, even where no available space seems to exist:
Also etched into the wall is a note from “Hannah” who remarks that “This is scary”. I agree, Hannah, it is quite scary how people inscribe the most inane thoughts onto a 130-year-old structure. Put your witless ramblings on a blog, like a normal person.
A little further along the bridge, perched on the streetlights, are little (about two inches tall) sculptures. I’ll give a pass to these because no-one’s put a padlock on them yet:
I mill around in a park beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, admiring the bravery of the few people cooling off by entering the — what I believe is still technically – water of the East River. Being a sunny Sunday, the local cafes are packed with people brunching, but the real hordes are down in a food market called … Smorgasburg. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Kind of wish I’d known that before grabbing a snack there. Still, we wash that taste out of our mouths by wandering across the Manhattan Bridge (a lot less riddled with padlocks, too).
This bridge drops you down into Chinatown, but en route gives you quite a view of the local art:
There’s still time to hit up a few more things: the Tribeca Film Festival is happening at the moment, so I try to grab last minute tickets to a showing. Sadly no go, although while queuing we did get to enjoy some local colour:
So a little dejected, I wander around the streets for a bit, miffed that I won’t be able to squeeze in a little bit more culture before returning home. New York had a plan though, as I found myself, through dumb luck, wandering up to:
Okay, now a quick swing by the majestic Grand Central Station:
On down to Times Square:
Aaaaaaand that’s it.
Next morning I spend a bit of time donating the various things I’d picked up along the trip (sleeping bad, etc.). I found, in the trunk, some jerky that I had bought near the beginning of the trip. Most of it got consumed when I was blizzard’ed in Iowa, but a few plucky scraps remained. I ended up accruing various things I wanted to bring back, including a few gifts and some, er, rock candy crystal meth. I put it in my bag and hope for the best. (Of the two bags I take back with me, I discover a note that lets me know the TSA had raided and pillaged one of them. Not the one with the meth, they were cool with that). I drive to JFK to drop off my car. This is the Florida-plated one that I picked up in Washington. The lady receiving it checked the mileage on the car, then the mileage that she had on a slip of paper from when I had rented the car. She checked it again. She said I should go in and have a word with the woman at the desk, because something was clearly off. In the one month of rental I’d done about 7,400 miles (about double what I’d done in the first two months with my first car). I shrug and say that sounds about right and get on my way.
Thanks for having me, America. Goodbye for now.
(I mean, I think that’s Nova Scotia, but still)
There’s one more post to come: I had wanted to come to America in part because what goes on here has a large impact in the UK/Ireland, culturally, politically, economically. Yet in spite of how familiar it seems, it’s still very much a foreign country. After years of only being able to talk about America in very broad strokes, I wanted to be able to understand it better, to talk about it with a bit more nuance. Instead I can now talk about it with lots of different broad strokes, which is just as good, I guess, and that’s what’s next.
Plus the part everyone’s been waiting for: statistics. And, *and*, maps. Stats and Maps. I assume you’re just as excited as I am.