Lately I’ve found myself traveling a lot again—in the past month I’ve taken not one, but two short sweet vacations to my favorite spots to get away—Walt Disney World in Orlando and the Big Apple, New York City. It wasn’t planned that we’d get two short vacations in two weeks, it just sort of happened that way. Regardless, I’ll take it!
I also recently discovered Instagram, the billion-dollar photo app whose primary purpose seems to be memorializing yourself and what you eat; however, I prefer to use it for documenting fun details and items that catch my eye on vacations, road trips, or sometimes just a normal day. I’m no real photographer by any means, just capturing those things out there in the world that I notice and want to remember.
So since I’ve been too busy traveling to do much in Peoria lately, I thought I might give a trip report on our whirlwind excursion to Blogmaster Wombacher’s old stomping grounds of NYC, as seen through the eye of my Instagram account.
It’s pretty heavy on art and theatre. You’ve been warned…
Our original plan for the first day was a trek to Coney Island because I’ve never been and I’m obsessed with The Warriors. I was disappointed once we realized it would eat up too much of our limited time (we were only in the city for 3 days and had a pretty long “to do” list) but we found a great alternative…
While on our first vacation of the month (Disney World) we visited several attractions originally designed and built by Uncle Walt for several pavilions at the 1964 World’s Fair—the Carousel of Progress (originally seen in the GE Pavilion) and yes—It’s a Small World—originally sponsored by Pepsi for UNICEF. Cue the music. They got me thinking again about this mythical Fair I never saw but had always found fascinating, plus it was (almost to the day) the 50th anniversary of the ’64 Fair.
So our first stop of the trip is a jaunt on the #7 train out to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park where you can still find plenty of Fair relics half a century later. This park was built over the Corona Ash Dump, aka the “Valley of Ashes” in The Great Gatsby, which were cleared away in the 1930’s for the 1939 World’s Fair. You have probably seen the Unisphere (pictured here) plenty of times in the past, which stood as the symbol of the Fair’s theme "Peace Through Understanding" and dedicated to "Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe".
I absolutely had to see up close what remains of the New York State Pavilion, now sitting in ruins and whose future fate remains to be seen-preservation or demolition? Only time will tell, but I wanted to finally see it for myself, just in case. Nearby some skateboarders were doing their thing. Can’t imagine what having a structure like this as your standard backdrop must be like. Check out pictures of how this thing used to look sometime…
You can also visit the Queens Museum of Art here, housed inside a building re-purposed from the 1939 World’s Fair. We saw a Warhol exhibit, an installation about prisons, the famous huge scale model of New York, and loads of World’s Fair artifacts and tchotchkes.
While I was getting an up close look at the original model for the ’64 World’s Fair, an older couple came up to look alongside me. After striking up a conversation with them, I learned they were there celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first date, which took place at the 1964 World’s Fair. Hearing them recollect the experience and getting to meet them on such a special milestone was an added bonus. Unfortunately, I did not get their names, and photos weren’t allowed in that part of the museum, so no pictures.
Freedom of the Human Spirit stands in front of the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center after being renovated and moved from its original ’64 Fair location at the Court of States in 1996.
Here I am sitting on a slab at what remains of the Westinghouse Pavilion from 1964, which sponsored time capsules at both the 1939 and 1964 Fairs that are interred here below me. The 1939 capsule contains (amongst other things) a slide rule, an asbestos tile (!), tooth powder, bifocals, and messages to the future from Albert Einstein and others. The 1964 edition includes filtered cigarettes, a “Hard Days Night” record, freeze-dried foods and a rechargeable flashlight.
These time capsules are not to be opened for 5,000 years so hey, we’ve only got 4,950 more to go…
The Rocket Thrower, is a 43-foot high bronze sculpture designed by Donald De Lue for the ’64 Fair, keeping with the Fair’s theme of “man conquering space”. Reviews at the time were mixed, but 50 years and several refurbishments later (the most recent being in the Fall of 2013), it still stands steadfastly where it always has.
Time to get moving. There are other great relics and works of art throughout the park—I honestly could have spent the entire trip hunting, but alas, we’ve got other places to go!
After a short train ride and a slice of pizza in Tribeca, we have made our way to Ground Zero. The new museum sits waiting to open to the public, which we miss by a mere few days. Still, we are able to admire all the work that’s been done around the place, which was a giant crater in the ground surrounded by chain-link when I last saw this spot back in August, 2004.
There is a small park now located at the new 7 WTC building where West Broadway and Greenwich St. converge. Located in the center of its fountain is this quirky sculpture of a red balloon flower, entitled (no surprise) “Balloon Flower (Red)”, part of a series of colorful balloon-like sculptures by artist Jeff Koons.
And here we are at what is now America’s tallest building—1WTC, aka “Freedom Tower”. It’s a bit hard to fit all of its 1,776 feet into the shot, but hey, we managed.
After leaving the World Trade Center area, we stop off for a relatively quick dinner and drinks at a great spot in Hell’s Kitchen, the Mercury Bar, before heading to the first show of the trip...
We were lucky to score same day rush tickets (only 30 bucks each!) for Newsies, a stage adaptation of a Disney flop from the early 90’s that I watched quite often in my youth. From my far aisle, partially obstructed seat, we saw an outstanding show from top to bottom (well, almost the top—the sets were pretty tall).
Here’s Times Square around midnight, snapped on the way back to our hotel. The amount of digital signage added to the area in recent years substantially intensifies the brightness, energy and sensory overload. It’s wild to see, like something out of a sci-fi movie. The future is here, folks.
Lady Liberty, there in the lower left corner, was on stilts. Dozens of bootleg superheroes, Mickeys and Elmos also litter the area seeking tips for copyright-infringing pictures. No Naked Cow-folk in sight.
So who is the “we” and “us” I keep referring to on the trip? Readers from my past writings may remember my better half Jenny, who poses here near Rockefeller Center...the best travel companion a guy could have, and one who indulges me when I want to check out weird, random, off the beaten path things like closed World’s Fairs.
In New York, everyone gets facelifts...even Prometheus.
Saturday morning, we meet up with my sister Molly and her boyfriend Kennan (they live in Jersey) in Chelsea for brunch, before heading to the next show of the trip...
Cabaret, which starred Academy Award nominee/Heather Ledger’s baby mama Michelle Williams and Tony winner Alan Cumming, best known these days as the guy who introduces episodes of “Sher-lick” (Sherlock) on Masterpiece Mystery. (Shameless plug: I’ll be directing this show next February in Peoria. Save the date!)
Back in the late 90s, the space that once housed Studio 54 was converted into a Broadway theatre, which happens to be where Cabaret is playing today and given the building’s history could not make a better venue for this show set in a seedy, pre-Nazi Berlin nightclub. (I swear, between the World’s Fair and Studio 54, I need to get better about being on time for things).
This is a pic of the chandeliers hanging in the Studio 54 lobby, which also features a substantial slope that I suspect tripped up many drugged out disco queens in its heyday...on the day I was there however, a Dorothy Zbornak-like matron took a spill on it right near the souvenir stand we were standing at. She rallied quickly though. God bless the matinee crowds.
This place is great. Leopard print carpet, signature cocktails for sale, and an incredible show. It was followed by a Q&A session with some cast members, in which I found most of the questions asked of them to be quite tedious and inane. (Whoever said “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” was wrong).
After Cabaret was dinner at Azalea on 51st, then killing time before the next show, which did not begin until 10:00pm and was our principal “raison d’etre” for this trip in the first place.
Hedwick and the Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick Harris. I performed this show in Peoria a little over a year ago, and just a few weeks after we closed, the announcement of this first major Broadway production of the cult hit was announced for 2014...so of course I wasn’t going to miss it.
Sunday morning is spent eating may too many desserts and pastries from Bouchon bakery located right by 30 Rock.
Figuring I should probably walk off all that food, I stop to get fired while en route to Central Park for a Sunday morning stroll.
A huge crowd had formed to watch a very elaborate and entertaining gymnastics act by an ensemble of a dozen or so guys right by Bethesda Fountain, one of my favorite spots. I can’t walk through Central Park without thinking of all the movies I’ve seen shot around its many landmarks. The first time I visited this spot about ten years ago, Howard Stern jogged by.
Strolling through the park I stop to pet the Ugly Duckling at the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, who kids today would probably know best as “that guy who wrote Frozen”.
Our last stop on the way out of Central Park is at Strawberry Fields. Quite a few folks were lined up to snatch selfies with the Imagine mosaic, and I managed to snap this in-between people running up for their own shots. (Maybe “shot” isn’t an appropriate word to use for a John Lennon tribute?)
Speaking of which, here’s the Dakota...
A stroll past Lincoln Center on a Sunday afternoon in May can make anyone feel artsy-fartsy and hoi-polloi. I spun around like Bill Murray in that scene from Ghostbusters—briefly. Then Jenny said to knock it off.
Another jumbo slice of pizza for lunch (we eat a lot of pizza), then the last show of our trip—The Bridges of Madison County. Another excellent production, made it even better by the fact we saw it for free thanks to an old Peoria theatre connection! Bridges had only two weeks left in its run when we saw it, closing much earlier than expected (just like the film industry’s box office, there are hits and misses sometimes, and the right ones aren’t always the hits, and vice versa). A great score, excellent performances and a very simple production design (especially for Broadway) made for a captivating afternoon of theatre.
Soon after the show ends, we lug our bags to the train to Jersey for the night before heading back to Peoria.
And well...I guess that’s about it! Thanks for joining/indulging me on this tour. If you care to keep up with any further adventures on Instagram, you can find me under the handle chipstagram81...just don’t expect a lot of selfies or foodporn.
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