What a vibrant city! I’m on the way back to Boulder after three days in Manhattan, and it’s a pleasure to recall the various sights and sounds there. In the early 60’s I was in graduate school in New York New intensely studying mathematics and being somewhat aware of this big city around me and my family (I got married in Germany while living in New York and our oldest son was born in New York University medical center on the east side of Manhattan right by the East River. On our boat trip around southern Manhattan a couple of days ago we could easily recognize the hospital from our vantage point on the comfortable sight-seeing boat. I think this was my first trip to New York that didn’t involve mathematics or any kind of business; just being tourists and helping celebrate our younger son’s 40th birthday.
Just before we were about to get in our taxi to LaGuardia Airport to return to Boulder, we saw a parade being assembled with floats for a Persian holiday (the words Persian and Iranian were interspersed throughout the floats we saw). It was a very peaceful looking group of Persians/Iranians in the most colorful of costumes and with a lot of flags waving. It seemed very festive and also very nonpolitical (except that the Iranian flag and the American flag were both at the head of the procession proudly standing next to each other). This was a vivid contrast to what we saw yesterday walking through Times Square from the pier at the Hudson River and 42nd Street to our room (at a private club) on 37th Street south of Grand Central Station, namely a very loud and boisterous street demonstration (the Germans like to say “Demo”) by a group of supporters of the Palestinian cause denouncing the Israelis (a man chanting into a megaphone with the rhythmic cadence of the crowd’s response). One couldn’t help but feel uneasy as one had the impression that in spite of all of the uniformed police and barricades violence could break out at any moment (in vivid contrast to the sense of peacefulness and joy apparent at the Persian/Iranian parade).
Two or three blocks from Palestinian demonstration we walked into the beautiful oasis called Bryant Park on the west side of the magnificent New York Public Library whose magnificent exterior had recently been refurbished and the stonework glistened with a brilliant white sheen while children were laughing as they sat on the old horses of a miniature carousel in the park. We had seen the garish lighting at night of Times Square twice on the trip when we went to a Broadway theater and to a performance of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center (north of Times Square). The lighting in Times Square is so much more vivid (and very overdone and in poor taste in my view) than I recall it. A “saving grace” is that, thanks to an initiative of Mayor Bloomberg, much of Times Square is a pedestrian zone, but still the noise and bustle of the crowd doesn’t draw one to sit anywhere peacefully as it would at a comparable square in London or Paris.
A most memorable part of our trip was on Thursday when all of us who had come together for the birthday celebration that evening (there were six of us altogether) gathered at Union Square at noon for a walk through lower Manhattan. We walked down 4th Avenue past our apartment building where we had lived some 46+ years ago through Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown (all along Bowery Avenue, an extension of 4th Avenue which is an extension itself of Park Avenue). We visited South Street Seaport, a relatively new tourist destination with shops and old ships where the Fulton Market was and the original seaport of NYC had been. Then we walked over the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge, relatively unchanged since it was opened in the late nineteenth century (it was the first public structure in the world to use steel for its construction and has been a tourist attraction like the Eiffel Tower since it opened). Walking across on the wooden planking of the broad walkway (now half of it a bikeway and looking down through the cracks one can see the waters of the East River)) with the sun going down and the magnificent architecture in all directions and the babble of languages from all over the globe is an exhilarating experience. We found a subway at the end of the bridge in Brooklyn which took our somewhat tired bodies back to Manhattan as the sun was setting.
What a vibrant city!