We're talking, of course, about New York, New York. It's the town so nice they named it twice. It's where the Bronx is up, and the Battery's down, and people ride in a hole in the ground. And it's where Mamie O'Rourke tripped the light fantastic -- right out on the sidewalk! (We're not sure what that means, but we think it has something to do with dancing.)
Out in America's vast heartland, there are many misguided people who dislike, even loathe, New York City. But there are many others who love New York for its vitality, its diversity, its sophistication, and for the fact that you can buy a 12-ounce can of soda and a hot dog from a sidewalk vendor for under ten dollars. To put it simply, we think New York is the greatest city in the world. And if you don't agree with that statement, then you're wrong!. It's as simple as that!
We're pleased to say that Alexander can be counted among the multitudes who love and appreciate the Big Apple. Whenever he happens to overhear the words "New York City" his eyes light up, and he flashes a wide grin. When his grandmother came visiting from out of state, she wanted to take a trip into Manhattan and Alex was happy to oblige.
On October 2, 1999, when Alex and his little group
arrived in Manhattan, they found a
city in an uproar over a painting of the
Virgin Mary that was splattered with elephant
dung. (We'd say "only in New York" but the
painting was actually by an African artist,
and part of a British collection.)
It was also a city anticipating a Subway Series, which,
alas, did not come to pass.
(Only one of the two New York baseball teams advanced to the
World Series, and, alas again, it was the wrong team.)
The day started with lunch in Greenwich Village, at Silver Spurs on Broadway. (If you go there, try the sweet potato fries.) Alex and his party then walked up to Union Square, where Alex enjoyed watching the squirrels frolic and the pigeons strut. He might have been content to stay in Union Square all day, but he agreed to get on the subway when he was told it would take him to the zoo. Since riding a subway to a zoo in Madrid, Spain, several months earlier, Alex has been convinced that all train rides lead to a zoo. (Alex often speaks of going on the train to the "Other New Zoo" where, he says, the tigers talk and the bats have hands. And no, nobody knows what he's talking about when he says this.)
|Like many cities, New York has a lot of statues. Above left, Alex poses in front of one of several eagles on display in the Central Park Zoo. And at right, Alex and his parents stopped for a brief visit with Patience, one of the two famous lions that guard the entrance to the New York Public Library. Patience, and his partner, Fortitude, have been a part of the New York scene since 1911.|
The subways can, of course, be miserably overcrowded during rush hour. Or unsafe during the wee hours. But, those exceptions aside, the subway system is a great way to travel across the city quickly and relatively inexpensively.
Standing on the subway platform in the busy Union Square Station at 14th Street, Alex was fascinated by the noise and the activity. (If only he had displayed the same tolerance for noise during his visit to Walt Disney World a few months later. But that's another story for another time.) As each train roared into the station, a dark, silent tunnel would suddenly come alive with an explosion of light and sound. The doors of the train would then slam open, and a mob of people would push its way off the train as another mob would push its way on. With each arrival, Alex would happily point and shout, "There's another one!" For the hundreds of thousands of commuters who ride the rails daily, the excitement of the subway has long since been eclipsed by the drudgery of everyday life. But to Alex, a boy on the cusp of his third birthday, the subway platform was a place of magic and wonder.
Finally, it was time to board a train, and head uptown to the Central Park Zoo.
|The Central Park Zoo is much smaller and less ambitious than its big sister to the north, the world-renowned Bronx Zoo. There are no elephants here, no lions, no alligators or giraffes. No talking tigers. And none of the bats have hands. There's really not much more than a couple of polar bears, a room full of penguins, and an occasional monkey or two. But it's only a short stroll away from the teeming sidewalks of midtown Manhattan. So if you're in the big city, and you want to see a couple of polar bears, a room full of penguins, and an occasional monkey or two, the Central Park Zoo is the place to go.|
The Empire State Building has also been featured in many Hollywood movies. It's where Tom Hanks met Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle. And, of course, it's where King Kong, who has also been billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, bid his final farewell to Fay Wray.
Alex rode the high speed elevator to the 86th floor observation deck, where he was as bold and brash as any New Yorker worthy of the name. At one point, when his view of the cityscape was blocked by a group of visitors, Alex shouted at the offending congreation to "Get out of the way!" Such behavior is typically frowned upon, even in New York. Fortunately, though, with the din of the crowd and the roar of the wind, Alex's words went mostly unheard, and nobody took offense.
|Alex is pictured with his father, left, and his mother, right at one of New York City's most popular tourist attractions, the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Alex is clutching an authentic New York City pretzel, purchased from a sidewalk vendor.|