If any song can capture the beauty of NYC in the fall, it is Louie and Ella’s version of Autumn in New York. From the beginning of the Met Opera season, to the glorious Osage Oranges that drop in Prospect Park, the city glows.
On the last Monday of August, I finally acquired my NYC ID, which provides exclusive benefits to City residents, such as free passage on the the Governors Island Ferry.
The island is a gem that I have praised before, in particular for the NYC Audubon residency, which hosts bird tours on the weekends. Unfortunately, on September 14, the day I visited, activity was a little slow, with mostly robin’s hanging out. But give me Governors Island over Disney World any day for its cornucopia of alternative pleasures. Public art for example: my favorite pieces this visit were a ten foot tall French Bulldog built of disposable plastic bags by Will Kurtz, and Shantell Marten’s decorative painting of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Chapel. One could get lost tracing the deconstructed words and figures in the lines that cover interior and exterior of the church.
In early October my mother came to visit, and we checked out a few of the city’s under-appreciated treasures. On Friday, we walked to the Museum of Chinese in America where I discovered they offered a free one year membership to NYC ID card holders–the second time in two months my effort to obtain the ID paid off. My favorite part of the Maya Lin designed interior is a reconstructed general store that faces Lafayette St. These stores were a center of activity in the small Chinese communities of the early twentieth century.
On Saturday, mom, my brother and I went on the Best of New York Circle Line Cruise. Although super touristy, I highly recommend it, especially over the ubiquitous double deck red buses that fill the streets. The boat rounds Manhattan, providing a geographical understanding of the island one misses when lost in the grid. Sadly, due to high tide on the Harlem River, the boat could not complete the circle and instead had to turn back down the East River at Gracie Mansion. For Mom and I this was fine since this was our second time on the tour and the guide had a different script for the Brooklyn side of the River.
Sunday Morning, we went to my favorite NYC church, First Presbyterian Brooklyn, where my mother’s cousin happened to be a pastor in the 1970s and which now has a fantastic gospel choir. Their rendition of What A Friend We Have in Jesus climbed from one crescendo to the next and lifted the congregation out of their seats.
Sunday afternoon we climbed the large stoop of the Merchant House Museum–the former home of Seabury Treadwell, which has been preserved from the nineteenth century. Similar to the Tenement Museum, stepping through the door is like stepping back in time, except rather than the lives of working class immigrants, we enter the lives of the wealthy, like one might find in an Edith Wharton novel. The museum changes its appearance for each season, and for Halloween the rooms were dressed for a funeral. This is also a popular time for performances and special events at the house, since many believe it is haunted.
Three Sundays later I checked out perhaps the last truly underground performance space in Manhattan. The Downtown Music Gallery is a tiny record store located literally underground in isolated far east Chinatown. There I found about 20 people crowded around record bins watching Kenny Millions playing sax and electric guitar in an adult diaper and David Grollman playing snare drum in a jock strap. Grollman also drew on a range of other sound objects, including a balloon which he blew up and then rubbed against his bare chest.
After this performance, the duet of Sean Ali and Sandy Ewen took the floor. Ali played upright bass, at times with cardboard paper towel rolls stuffed between the strings. Ewen creates sounds on the pickups of an electric guitar that sits on her lap using various pieces of hardware. This was free improv in all its senses: no cover charge and free wine and cookies for all attendees.
This was the first election in New York where they had early voting, so on the Saturday afternoon before election day, I took a quick run to Midwood High School where a sidewalk sticker guided me to the polls. Voting was easy-peasy/ no line–take your time, and the friendly poll workers gave me three stickers for souvenirs!
That Sunday I once again cheered on marathon runners from mile 23, where this year I brought pumpkin bread for my fellow hashers to share. My goal is to single out as many runners with a specific cheer letting them know they have a fan. When I saw a shirt printed with the distinctive shape of my home state I shouted “Go Minnesota!”, to which the guy turned with a smile and thumbs up.
I rarely get to the movies anymore, but Almodóvar’s latest brought me out, and I was not disappointed. Banderas certainly deserves an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a director in too much pain to create. As someone unable to work for a year, I could relate.
With this in mind, I am filled with joy as I walk the streets of this urban wonderland. And soon the city will glow with snow!