“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
– Richard Avedon
If my marriage hinged solely on my aptitude as an “Instagram Husband”, I would have become a divorcée long ago. Though I greatly admire the artistry found in photographs, I’ve never been particularly keen to play the architect of their creation or the subject of their inspiration. Much of that can be traced back to my father’s overeagerness with a camera throughout my formidable years.
There’s really no end of things to explore in New York City, but insiders know it takes some digging to uncover what’s hidden beneath the city’s surface. Citywide events like Open House New York and Jane’s Walk make urban exploration attainable to the masses. They feed our never ending curiosity by giving us access to sites and experts that would normally be out of reach.
Are you a fan of Serial? How about Making a Murderer? So are we. It seems all the best crime dramas are products of real life. So let us tell you about one that happened in our very own Flatiron district: the sensational murder of acclaimed American architect, Stanford White, by the wealthy Pittsburgh railroad heir, Harry Kendall Thaw. All you have to do is step back in time to a little over a century ago. 1906, to be exact.
True story: a few years ago on a late December evening, we arrived in Grand Central after visiting with some friends in Connecticut. We needed to pick up desserts for a friend’s party and Bouchon Bakery was a favorite, so we thought we’d make a quick run to Rockefeller Center. Well, we collided with the holiday-loving mob, and it took us an hour to navigate the tiny Plaza. So now, like all other New Yorkers (well, except Mary Lane at New York Cliche), we avoid Rockefeller Center in December.
Unless it’s late in the season and/or it’s late at night, and it looks like this.
But, now that the holiday madness has subsided, Rockefeller Center is actually a great place to visit. Come for the skating rink, the television show tapings or Top of the Rock. But stay for the history, design and amazing art.
If you were introduced to twenty people but you could only identify them using their social security numbers, how many would you be able to pick out of a crowd the next day? If you’re like me, probably zero. That’s kind of what it’s like to have prosopagnosia, or face blindness. Facial features become a mess of details that you just can’t remember. That’s pretty fascinating, right? And you know what’s even more fascinating? Chuck Close, the renowned portrait artist, suffers from it.
Even without the prosopagnosia, Close’s path as an artist has not been an easy one. He battled dyslexia and neuromuscular weakness as a child, then suffered a spinal artery collapse at 48 that left him paralyzed from the neck down. But consistent resistance builds the right kind of muscles — perhaps the only positive outcome of such a hard life — so rehabilitation and sheer will helped him regain enough movement in his arms to allow him to make art again. Even if he still has to use both hands to hold a brush.
Whether you’re noshing on leftovers, watching Christmas Vacation again, or shopping the after-Christmas sales, we thought we’d help you eke out another ounce of holiday cheer with some pictures from the holiday window displays around New York City. The amount of creative work that goes into the windows is always inspiring. Making the pilgrimage has become one of our treasured holiday traditions, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here.
Every neighborhood in New York has a story, but only a neighborhood within a neighborhood has secrets. Unfortunately, the prerequisite for discovering these secrets is usually the possession of an address within its boundaries, with time and growing familiarity eventually earning the distinction of being accepted within the community as a “local”.
And that’s exactly where Local Expeditions comes into play. Billed as the “anti-tour” and offering “unique 2-3 hour excursions designed by locals for a true New York experience”, the previously mentioned prerequisites are graciously waived. We spied a new tour available on the website billed as the “Cabrini Heights/Fort Washington” tour, and we got slightly nostalgic for a previous visit during which we stayed with my cousin in Washington Heights. It was a whirlwind trip that didn’t permit us much time to explore the area and we hadn’t been back since, so we signed up.
Commendably, the business model for Local Expeditions incorporates a 5% charitable donation, as well as a generous wage for the guide, giving back to the community and supporting the wider New York economy. In the interest of full disclosure, at $40 per person, the cost of the tour is still on the higher end of the market, even factoring the 5% donation in. Most tours average $20 per person, while tours from established names like the Municipal Art Society and Untapped Cities run at $30 per person.
New York City can really get its holiday game on. We are home to the 80-foot tree at Rockefeller Center as well as the world’s largest menorah. And for those of us who pray to the Gods of Retail, we have the holiday display windows. It’s seasonal art at its best, and often involves collaborations with designers from far and wide. For a greatest-hits walking tour that most everyone should be able to manage (or tolerate, depending on who you’re with), we recommend the following route: