Thursday, August 9, 2007

New York City- Center of the Universe

"The skyline of New York is a monument of a splendor that no pyramids or palaces will ever equal or approach." -Ayn Rand

New York City and I have this odd relationship in that I always feel like I'm ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room: it's huge, right there, yet I have only actually gone over to check it out three brief times in my life. One of these times happened recently, my brother had an internship there this summer so my family went to help him move out and hang out a bit, and I was rather sad that I've hardly ever been there to be honest. Perhaps New York City is better described as a really sweet elephant in the room who you'd really like to hang out with, but you've spent too much time crossing oceans to faraway jungles so you could see those elephants instead. I guess this gives me something to do once I'm older and no longer willing to go on safari, but I'll hold that thought for now.

This was the view from the hotel room we were staying in. (As an aside that has nothing to do with anything, I really love how you can see exactly how the sunlight was reflecting off the red building!) One thing that people don't understand who have never been to NYC is how, well, prevalent the skyscrapers are, more so than any other city in the world. The entire island of Manhattan is essentially a network of artificial canyons, where the bare minimum "ground height" of the canyon system is a good, constant fifteen stories above you. It's incredible, and puts the quotation at the beginning of this post into context when you see it.

Anyway, this time around I had about 24 hours of time in the City, so we headed over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a brief attempt to absorb something out of the 2 million pieces there. To say the Met is overwhelming when you first visit is a complete understatement, of course, but the curator giving a guided tour mentioned at some point that he'd been there 30 years and still found things he'd never seen before, so I felt better... Then after a brief dinner we went and saw Wicked, which was incredibly wonderful and you need to go see it whenever you're in town or if it comes to your town. No exceptions!
Then, because it was Saturday night, we were in the largest city in America, and because it was my brother's last night with his NYC friends, we went out to have some fun. Yay! We started out at Columbia University where the everyone was staying in the dorms while doing various summer internships (the above picture is from a statue at Columbia that moves when enough people push it), and took the subway down to West 79th or so because, for those of you who don't know, there is a large concentration of bars frequented by the young crowd in that area. It was fun, and surprisingly not that expensive compared to how much everything usually costs in New York City.

And a bit earlier than we'd wanted to the next morning, we packed up and headed out of the town to see this place-
The house is known as Kykuit, and was the estate of John D. Rockefeller. It was built in 1913 and was the home of three generations of Rockefellers, until it was finally donated to the National Historic Trust and opened to the public. It is an (understandably) pretty swanky place- I wasn't allowed to take pictures on the inside, but here's a side view so you get a grasp of the dimensions-
Some of my favorite features about this place, in a complete "if I was the richest person on Earth I would so have that in my house too" sort of way, was how there was a wide hallway in the basement specially made so the young Rockefeller boys had a place to ride their bikes up and down on rainy days, and a private art gallery. I was also rather fond of the mansion further down the hill which had a bowling alley, stables, and several swimming pools- known as "The Children's House," it was apparently built entirely for the Rockefeller teenagers. The family still keeps that one, which I find mildly amusing but understandable: if you had a choice between the nice house and the fun house, which one would you choose? Yep, that's what I thought too.

One thing I sort of didn't like about the tour (beyond the fact that we had dreary weather, and it started to thunderstorm partway through) was how while our tour guide was a kindly lady I kept discovering that she didn't know arguably important things like where the Rockefellers are buried. (Answer: less than a mile from where I type this, in Lake View Cemetery.) The clincher, though, was when she mentioned how one of the Rockefeller sons disappeared in Africa under mysterious circumstances a few decades ago, and she said that the official line given to tour guides was that he was lost in New Guinea.

"But New Guinea is several thousand miles away from Africa, near Indonesia," I said.

"Oh! Do you know a lot about the Rockefellers?" was her standard answer whenever us people on the tour displayed knowledge.

"No," I replied, "I just know where New Guinea is!" Arguably a slightly cheeky answer, but there's a mild difference between not knowing if Rockefeller Junior's wife went to college and not knowing major landmasses in the world. That or maybe I'm a geek who happened to not sleep too much the night before because she was too busy roaming through New York City with a gaggle of internship students.

So that was the end of my brief stint in New York City. I really, really liked it though, so perhaps I'll make a point of showing up there sooner instead of later. I ought to you know, as it's impolite to ignore someone when they're in the same room as you.