Monday, May 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES: More Walking in L.A...Fountains and more.

Please join me for another edition of Walking in L.A...

Let's start off with this military flyover as we exit the train at Union Station.  That building is the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District.

Here's a closer look.

Walking up Main Street from the station, we go past the United States District Courthouse, solidly built in 1937 as a WPA project during the Great Depression.

Turning up Temple, we come to this little art installation/fountain in from of the Hall of Records.  It's one of my favorite fountains.  It's hard to see, but that represents a map of the southern half of California and all the sources of Los Angeles' water.  A trickle runs down each river and aqueduct ending up in the pond at the bottom that represents the city.

Moving up the street we come to the Music Center, home of the the Ahmanson Theater and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  This ever-changing fountain cools visitors off in its plaza.

Around the corner on First Street, next to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse is this nice little fountain.

Don't you want to just jump in?  Go ahead, I don't think anyone would mind...

Across the street is this temporary pond, where the state government building used to be.  Now, it's a giant hole in the ground, owned by the federal government which plans to build a new courthouse there someday.  For the time being, it collects rainwater and runoff.

We'll finish up this walk by going south on Olive to Pershing Square where you can get this great view of Bunker Hill's skyscrapers.  You'll need to go on Wednesdays, though, if you want to go to this nice little farmer's market.

Copyright 2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 2, 2011

CLASSIC TRIP - New York 1999, Part 1

UPDATE: 5-2-11, I had other plans for articles this week, but they'll keep.  It seems like a good week to celebrate the great city of New York instead.

Let's go back to 1999 to our first trip to the Big Apple.  Standard disclaimer, prices, events, and other items are accurate for 1999-things have changed...

In our travels around the country, one place intimidated me...New York. I heard all the horror stories about the crime, the filth, rude people, crowds, traffic, etc. My old boss (from Brooklyn) told me about how he got a flat tire and while he was changing it, someone started to steal the rear tire. You see movies like Taxi Driver and Mean Streets and have to wonder.

My son, on the other hand, had no such emotional baggage. He always wanted to see this city. He wanted to go up to the top of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and perhaps most of all to ride the Cyclone in Coney Island.

A couple of years ago, we decided to take a fall trip to the northeast corner of the country to see the fall colors. Since New York was only a few hours to the south, we decided to spend a couple of days there just to see what it was like, give Tim his time there, and continue on our way.

The short story? My illusions of the city were shattered. None of my preconceptions held any water at all. We loved it and made it a point to come back in the spring for a longer trip. Now the long story...

Our flight into Manchester, New Hampshire arrived two hours late. A rather long drive finally deposits us at the Susse Grand Chalet in Stamford, Connecticut at four o’clock in the morning. Dead tired, we happily climb into bed.

(to see what I think of Susse Chalet, my review is at )
We wake up in time to catch an 11:00 Metro North train into Grand Central Station. 35 minutes later, we exit into Grand Central’s beautiful lobby. Being our first time in New York, we can’t help ourselves and quicky run out the door for our first glimpse of Manhattan’s famous skyline. A sense of vertigo envelops us...we have no idea where we are...and we see the familiar sight of the Chrysler building and the Met Life building.

It’s time to head back in to continue on our way to Brooklyn and Coney Island. We set ourselves up for quite a challenge. The MTA’s web site says that 33 of the city’s subway stations are accessible. Armed with our $4 fun passes (a one day pass that gives you unlimited rides on the city’s buses and subways), we feel that nothing can stand in our way.

Plotting this out on the excellent, free subway map we got at the information booth, we see that the B line (which goes to Coney Island) stops at the Lexington Ave. station near Central Park and also has an access symbol on it. The 4�5�6 lines go from Grand Central to the Lexington Ave. station. It’s decided to take the 4 up to Lexington and then switch over to the B.

Two things come up wrong with this plan. First is almost immediate and has to do with looking at our map a little closer. Although the Lexington Ave. station is accessible for the B line, the 4�5�6 line part of the station isn’t. Whoops. We cheat a little and take the escalator up to the B line station.

Once on the B train, problem number two crops up, although compared to the first problem is relatively minor. The B train turns out to be a local, stopping at every station along the way. It will take forever to reach Coney Island. On the other hand, we occasionally see a D train, the Coney Island express, stopping across the platform from us. Quickly, we decide to transfer at the West 4th Street station and continue on.
Eventually, we get to Coney after a scenic ride through Brooklyn (the D line goes elevated here). Brooklyn looks a lot like East L.A. The Coney Island station was built in 1919 and is certainly showing its age. It’s dark, dank, even a bit scary looking inside. But it has that very welcome elevator.

We emerge onto the corner of Stillwell and Surf, directly across from our lunch destination, Nathan’s. Nathan’s has been here for eons selling their world famous hot dogs. We grab a few and are not disappointed. They are very tasty. This Nathan’s is also very popular for its seafood. Some of the locals there swore by the fried clams. This bit of legendary New York cuisine sets us back only $10 for the three of us.
Unfortunately, Coney Island’s famous amusement parks are closed for the season. Tim & I were hoping for a ride on Cyclone, revered as one of the world’s top coasters. No ride today, only pictures.
Time to take the D back to Manhattan to the Herald Square station, which is accessible (but the elevators are very hard to find and no one there seems to know where they are). A short walk over to Grand Central and we hop back on the 4 train southbound to the Brooklyn Bridge. This time access works as planned and the elevator deposits us directly across from the walkway over the bridge. Here we get an unforgettable walk with great views over this old, historic span.

The bridge is clothed in deepening darkness. It’s to return to Grand Central and catch a Connecticut bound train home.

Scroll down below for Part 2...
Copyright 1999 - Darryl Musick

CLASSIC TRIP - New York 1999, Part 2

Back in 1999, we visited New York for the first time.  The first day, we took the subway to Coney Island.  Now, we head back to see some sights in Manhattan.  Back in the WayBack Machine we go...

Today is our Manhattan day. Maybe we shoulda done it yesterday too, but we just had to see Coney Island.

We retrace our steps to the Brooklyn Bridge station and start walking towards the Battery. It’s Columbus Day and we stumble onto a sidewalk festival around Bowling Green Park. The three of us eat a lot of strange and colorful food and wash it down with some beer and soda.
Arriving at Battery Park, we head over to the water to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s amazingly small. Much smaller than we were prepared for, but still, it’s one of those things you want to see. It reminds me of how everybody has to see Hollywood when they get to my hometown, only to be amazed at how dirty, depressing, and disgusting it is. At least the statue is just small...none of the other bad things can be said of it.

The wait for the ferry is several hours. We already know that the statue itself is not accessible, so we content ourselves by gazing at it from the shore. We do want to get a closer look, however, and NYC’s public transit system again comes to the rescue.

The big yellow boats of the Staten Island Ferry will take you right by Liberty Island on a scenic, free, and accessible cruise over the bay. Even close up, the statue still looks small. The view of Manhattan from the fantail is what postcards are made of though.
Back at the Battery, we walk a few blocks up to the World Trade Center. New York’s tallest buildings are actually a big complex of buildings atop a mall and a sprawling subway station. I am shocked and deeply saddened, today, that a few lunatics could erase it off of the landscape.

The map here shows several lines are accessible. The station master told us only the E line was. Lacking any other obvious signs of access, we boarded the E line to Penn Station, which our map said was accessible.

Penn Station, at least on the E line, turned out to have elevator. Doing it over, we would take the E a little bit farther to the Port Authority station where there is an elevator. We work Tim up the stairs in relays with him and his chair and proceed down 34th Street to our next destination, the Empire State Building.

Along the way, hungry for lunch, we decide to try some New York pizza. We find a little hole-in-the-wall called Spinelli’s and have a few slices. Yes, New York pizza is delicious and, yes, you need to fold it to eat it right.

We find the usual handicapped entrance to the Empire State Building on 34th is closed but a maintenance worker quickly directs us around the corner to the entrance on 5th Ave. Although not signed as such, an accessible entrance does indeed reside there between two revolving doors.

A guard directs us to an elevator to go to the basement where the ticket counter is. Like Disneyland, you skip the line here if you are disabled and go right up to the counter to purchase tickets for the observation deck. Adults are $6, kids $3, and handicapped are comped.

Next, an ear popping ride up to the 80th floor followed by a another quick ride to the 86th floor deck. An additional elevator goes up to the 102nd floor but was closed this day. The deck we were on is the one you see in “Sleepless in Seattle”.
The view from here is amazing. On a clear day, as ours was, 50 mile views are possible. Even a jaded kid like Tim was impressed by it. After the obligatory visit to the gift shop for miniature versions of the building, we head uptown (by foot) towards Central Park.

Along the way, we swung through Rockefeller Center to see the ice rink and the Today set and then up 5th Avenue by Tiffany’s to the park.

We just did a quick loop through the southern end by Tavern on the Green and Wollman Rink to see what it was like. As it was getting dark, we headed south to Times Square.
Here the lights knock our socks off and the energy of the place seeps in. The the vibrancy of New York is on full display. We also find the only clean public restrooms we saw in the city at the Times Square Starbucks.

We’re only there for the facilities and end up having some drinks, music, and a marvelous time at the accessible Times Square Brewery.

At the end of the evening, it’s a short walk east to Grand Central Station for our train home.

Back in 2011 - This was, of course, only our first trip to New York.  After having had a taste, we'd return again and again.  Those reports will be coming up on future episodes.