That must be the tour group and sure enough, the skinny young guy in the white track suit, cap and chains turned to us, clipboard in hand, ready to sign Nick in. “The Birthplace of Hip Hop” tour promised a “luxury bus ride” through Harlem and the Bronx to the Graffiti Hall of Fame, the Apollo Theatre and more. We told Nick to have a great time and left for coffee at Eataly.
For breakfast, we strolled, coffee in hand, through the Madison Square food court (which has a better name, I think, but I can’t recall it at the moment). High-end booths featured smoothies, sandwiches, pizza, “Calimexican” and, of course, bagels. Tag chose the paprika-guyere, Jen opted for the something-cheddar, and I decided on the feta-olive. The crisp-soft bread combined with the creamy-salty taste sent me back to bagel heaven. I think if I lived in New York I might just decide the hell with it and let myself get fat on bready delights.
From there, off to St. John the Divine’s Cathedral, a place I stumbled upon during last year’s visit. The Peace Fountain outside displays Michael the Archangel having defeated Satan – you can tell Satan has been defeated by the fact his horned head is hanging off to the side – and cuddling giraffes. All this, on top of a giant crab, representing our origins and connection to the sea, and ringed by grade-school-kid created bronze sculptures, all about the size of coffee mugs, of animals both real and mythical. It is the most wonderful statue in the world, I’m pretty sure.
The Cathedral itself stands 12 stories high and two football fields long with stained glass windows illuminating everything from traditional God worship to a celebration of sports including bowling and tennis. The organ pipes rise from the second balcony with such grandeur that to hear the organ played must alone cause instantaneous conversions. The purpose of a cathedral is to both honor God and inspire those who attend to worship. I think if I lived in New York, I’d be wholly committed to attending any and all services offered at St. John’s.
It’s an inclusive place – in addition to the Chapels of Tongues, designed to embrace various ethnic groups, the place currently has an exhibit of crayon drawings done by child victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last year. The pictures are striking and the interpretive text hits hard. A drawing of a face bleeding red tears was drawn by a young child having recurring nightmares about ghosts after losing so much in the disaster. A drawing of a house being engulfed by a giant wave is self-explanatory, but to read about how the boy kept seeing the image on TV over and over after experiencing it in his own life still triggers an ache of sorrow. A harsh scribble of a gray-brown pile is the result of children trapped in shelters with inadequate facilities, where the need to poop is not easily solved.
After a couple hours of exploring the cathedral, we lit out for the north end of Central Park. Birds flitted, children played, couples picnicked on the green field between pond and stream… the scene could’ve been a painting from a time when all was right with America. Not that such a time has existed, but the tapestry of joyfulness reminded me that despair is a useless emotion and prompted a little more faith that things just might turn out okay.
We met Nick post-tour – smashing success. Raheim of The Furious Five led the tour, did “The Message” live on the bus, they met Doug E. Fresh, etc., etc. We continued the food goodness with sandwiches from the No. 7 Sub Shop. Mine involved roasted broccoli on a toasted bun with some extraordinary aioli – delicious, especially eaten in a park, Flat Iron building prettifying one end of the view and the people-watching engaging in the other.
In the evening we bussed over to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for the Target Free First Saturday event. The description included an interesting selection of art and music offerings, but the promise of exploring a rooftop art exhibit most intrigued us. Of course, free events tend to result in a crowd and this was no different, so getting to the exhibit meant smashing into an elevator after a long wait. But to go on the roof? This was going to be good.
We exited the 5th floor as instructed to find… a roof. Not a staircase leading up to the roof of the museum, but an actual constructed roof, upon which we were invited to climb. After the initial disappointment, we all enjoyed walking, running, posing and otherwise making good use of the peaked and shingled display.
After checking out the Keith Haring exhibit, which included a memorable moment of a mom telling her approximately eight-year-old daughter to, “Slow down and look at the art!” before realizing a few seconds later that the art she was instructing her daughter to look at consisted primarily of cartoon penises engaging in various sex acts, we opted to find a place for dinner.
The first couple blocks outside the museum offered nothing intriguing, but then we came upon Kimchi Tacos, which looked cute and tasty, and where my brother recognized a friend. This friend immediately raved about the place, so we ordered up a variety of kimchi tacos and, oh, wow, what a new and sublime taste experience. Someone needs to do this in Arcata.
Back at the museum we alternated between a band featuring a violin, cello, drums and beatbox vocals –if that’s the right term – and DJ Spooky spinning outside in the parking lot. DJ Spooky’s set served up the beats and inspired some booty-shaking, but no one danced better than a group of kids who had such hot moves that the rest of us stood around amazed, camera and cell phones out to capture the wonder.
New York overflows with wonders, expected and not. I’m grateful to experience this.