Notes from New York

After the SLA Conference I took a train to New York where I spent a busy but good couple of days. I had visited in 1997 and been longing to go back ever since, just never had the days free and money at the same time. I present below a selection of mostly connected but appreciably random thoughts on the short trip.
I stayed at Pod Hotel – a step up from a hostel but the most affordable I could find (that didn’t have dreadful Tripadvisor ratings). The room was tiny, but decently designed to be tiny.

If you know what a train geek I am you won’t be surprised to know that even catching a fairly run-of-the-mill commuter train was a great start to the trip for me. Actually, even negotiating my way out of JFK and to Penn Station on arrival on 11 June was a welcome adventure (you taxi types miss out on so much).

On Thursday evening..
On the train from Philadelphia to New York, the announcer told people in the quiet car to keep their conversations to a ‘library whisper.’ I like that although I suspect most NXEA idiots have never been in a library and so would not know what that meant.

I found it an fairly urban and depressing train ride in terms of scenery; many abandoned or dilapidated buildings. You would never guess this was proud America.

A very kind man in a wine shop opened bottle for me saving me from the kind of trauma I had in Rome, which involved a pair of tweezers, a tiny knife blade and a lot of determination.

On Friday…
I visited the NYPL for a ‘backstage’ tour before it was open to the general public. It’s always fun going through doors marked ‘staff only.’ I saw the ornate stacks and the Reading Room with no staff or patrons present. Wonderful.

I had lunch at the Bryant Park Grill with Ned, and Chris and partners/ baby. I had thought this would be briefish but it rained in buckets so we ended up in inside drinking wine. Rather fun. From there, once I had dried out, I went to the Morgan Library – it was interesting, but possibly less so given the extra rose wine that had been consumed.

Also went to Ground Zero. The visitor centre was awful but St Paul’s chapel nearby where the 9/11 rescue workers were looked after was not. I was there in time to join in their prayers of peace. Which was fine, made me cry, and not just for enforced peace giving… Only I could go to a chapel and end up doing the thing that is my bugbear! Seriously, though, the care of the workers struck me as being exactly what the church should be about, and when my perception of the US church is not great, that was worth a lot.

On Saturday…
I ran in Central Park, which was much fun. I wasn’t really sure where I was going so I just followed other people and took interesting detours. Must have done a wiggly route as I ended up at 88th and 5th which meant I had 31 blocks south left… So ran down 5th along the side of the park past the museums. Overshot my hotel by a block but discovered a nearby Starbucks which was very handy for breakfast.

Suffered mild confusion because the F train was running but on the A train track so needed to do a bit of a faff change to get where I wanted to be. I thought London’s tube works were bad enough and I have a good mental map of that system. I pondered during my run that if my sense of direction was as good as my sense of time, I could be a formidable force in the world. But I am forever turning exactly the wrong way.

The MTA Transit museum was fun, I geeked out over old subway stock and temporarily learned some stuff about the subway which I’ve not retained except NY commuters pay $9m a day in fares. Thought momentarily about walking to the Tenement Museum over Brooklyn Bridge but it was too hot.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum was the place that was recommended me the most, and was $20 well spent.

I watched Coppelia at the Metropolitan Opera House. Having left myself lots of time in case of long lines to collect tickets, or getting lost, I had a fair bit of time to spare. So I sat on the balcony of with a glass of wine, listening to a violinist, watching the Lincoln Center fountain and people milling about. The fountain was quite frankly showing off with all sorts of watery effects – I imagine if you redesigned a fireworks display in water this is the kind of effect you would aim for. A wonderful interlude on what had been a hot and busy day.

On Sunday…
I went to church in Greenwich village… this was OK, but I cried a bit during the service and was somewhat embarrassed by missing a cue to stand up…

I walked part of the High Line, a wonderful new park, and enjoyed the views across the city.

And then… I left for the airport.

I had a great time, and although I had one or two moments I didn’t feel alone. Cities are great places for being on your own, because so many other people are. Sitting in Starbucks & using their free wifi is an established past time in the way it’s not in Colchester. Having lived in London for six years, New York felt much smaller than it did when I’d travelled there from Nottingham. I still love the place, though, and would jump at the next chance for a visit.


  1. It’s taken quite a long time to get published, I could have sent it as several postcards by carrier pigeon!

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