Sunday, November 14, 2010

Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge on Saturday

Okay, I lied on the phone this morning when talking to Leena, I really did have a light headache.  But as almost all migraine sufferers do in the early stages, attempt denial, which almost never, ever works...  And it got worse and worse all day...

After she and I got off the phone I got dressed and headed out, carrying my camera with the 50mm f/1.4 prime lens I bought last month, and no other (mainly because I'm totally uncomfortable swapping lenses and juggling expensive gear in crowded places where it'd be easy for someone to snatch a part while I'm focused on the delicate work).

I walked up to 59th Street to catch the N train, instead of the R that goes by my apartment, since the N is an express to Manhattan and a lot faster.  There was a bit of a wait for some reason, and two R trains stopped and left before the first N, although the N I did get probably passed them both long before we got to where I wanted to go.

I got out at 14th Street - Union Square in Manhattan so I could get some smaller stuff at Best Buy, a trackball, a couple of games, CDs and DVDs.  Outside Best Buy I crammed them in my backpack and then got on the subway again, intending to head to the Museum of Modern Art (the MoMA). I got off the subway again at 49th Street, near the upper end of Times Square, where it was super crowded.

From there I walked to the MoMA on 53rd Street, which wasn't too far, but all the sidewalks were pretty crowded with people.  Inside the MoMA's lobby it was jam packed with people, even more than the sidewalks and I didn't feel like getting through it all.  It wasn't obvious, either where to check my bag and stuff, so I left.  I'll go back again.

From there I figured I might as well walk the Queensboro Bridge, which wasn't too far, on 59th Street and a few blocks east.  I wended my way up and east, staying in the shade where I could because by then the sun was really heating things up out there, and with all the glass in buildings reflecting it, hurting my eyes and headache.  I was getting hungry and thirsty, and read lots of menus in the front of restaurants (all Indian ones had $20 and up dishes!) but with the headache my stomach was a bit upset, too...

As I got closer to 59th I could see signs directing drivers to the Queensboro Bridge, so I knew I was getting closer, but it wasn't obvious how to get onto the pedestrian walkway (except for jumping a 100 feet into the air, but I can't do that when I have a headache (okay, I can't do that except when I'm daydreaming...)).  Under the bridge there a giant inflatable building, like the kids' jumping things, but huge.  That turned out to be a tennis club!

Also along the river, alongside the bridge was a small park, the East River Pavillion, so I wandered down there and took some photos.  Overhead was a cable car, sky tramway going across the river to Roosevelt Island, which the bridge passes over, but does not have an exit, on its way to Queens.

It was a good walk, though I was definitely getting hungrier and thirstier all the way.  I had to take off my light sweater because it was just getting way too hot out for it, even though it's mid-November.  One disappointing aspect of the bridge is that someone would have to be eight or nine feet tall to take photos unobstructed by the fence along the walkway.  So all my photos have the fence in them.

On the Queens side the Queensboro Plaza neighborhood didn't look very nice, and I wasn't sure how to walk down to the Gantry Plaza Park that I wanted to see, or if it would be safe walking through the intervening neighborhoods...  I didn't see any place near there that I wanted to eat in, either, so I got on the subway and took the 7 towards Manhattan...

The 7 went pretty close to the Gantry Plaza Park, but I was thinking more of lunch than the park by then.  The ride on the 7 was cool, it was above ground for much of the distance I took it, so I got to see a bit of Queens from there, before it went underground near the river.

I got off it at Grand Central Terminal.  In there I found the Dining Concourse and had a good burger and fries at Junior's.  I also got an ice cream soda, which was delicious.  But I couldn't finish the ice cream soda or the fries, it was just too filling.  As I was getting near the end of my lunch a group of four slightly older women took the table next to me, all talking with extreme southern accents and struggling to decide just what sandwiches to get for their lunch.  They kept debating about reubens or ham and other stuff and I thought about interjecting, "can't go wrong with a reuben" (which of course, would work better spoken than written…)

I took a couple of Excedrin with lunch, too, hoping they'd help my headache.  Grand Central Terminal also has nice public restrooms.  It's a great station, a throwback to when train travel was a luxurious thing.

I got out of there on 42nd Street and figured I'd just walk a bit, in the Queens direction.  By then it was early evening, the sun still shining, but noticeably less bright than earlier.  I ended up near the U.N. Plaza (in the classic movie, Heavy Metal, one of the characters, Harry Canyon, narrating a sequence says "The U.N. Building. What a joke! They turned it into low rent housing. It's a dump.").  I walked around there a bit, but with all the fences and security it was hard to photograph the art well, though there were some interesting buildings near there.

A block away a respectable looking fellow was sitting on the sidewalk, having a smoke, and saw me with my camera and said "take my picture" so I did.  We talked about photography for a couple of minutes, with him suggesting I look up some French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, I think, who always shot from the hip and used Leica cameras, and I was on my way again...

I worked my way back to 42nd Street and then up again towards Grand Central Terminal, taking a bunch of photos of the street and the Chrysler Building as I went and it was getting darker...

One of the coolest things to see along 42nd Street was the Ford Foundation's building, with a huge garden visible in its atrium.  Unfortunately it's only open on weekdays, so there wasn't any possibility of going in to look closer.

The train station provided another good place to refresh myself again and then out again.

This time I made my way along 42nd Street, stopping in Bryant Park to look at the ice skaters for a few minutes, then Times Square to try some night photography with the 50mm lens.  It was jam packed there, of course.  Even after dark the signs with temperatures still reported it in the mid-60's (nearly 20 for those who use centigrade).

And after doing some photography and walking around the outside of it for a bit, I took the subway back to Brooklyn, with my headache undiminished and my stomach slightly upset.

The N train was again slow coming, with a couple of R trains stopping and leaving the station before a single N came.  Normally the it's the opposite, with the N coming once or twice before a single R.  But it was worth the way, since the N is so much faster.  It felt like a long ride, too, coming from deep in Manhattan most of way down in Brooklyn...  And I couldn't get a seat so stood the whole way, although that may have kept me from falling asleep and missing my stop...  My plan was to come home and sleep right away.

Back at the apartment, I fired up the computers and then by the time I had a quick shower my headache was gone.  I guess that's just what I needed...

So, that's how my day went...


  1. Oh yeah, I'm having a lot of fun. After ten years outside the U.S. I've returned to my home country again. But to a city I've mainly just read about in books or seen in movies. My parents used to take me into the New York City on day trips when I was a little kid, but it's altogether different to explore it on my own now.