Last Bite of the Big Apple

Has it been a week already?

The last seven days have been packed full of new experiences.  Not only did I get to see the sights of New York and experience one of the most iconic locations on the planet, but I met Sam’s family and spent plenty of time getting to know them.  I was fed well and have been crazy spoiled up here.  Tomorrow, I get on a plane and return to the regular world.  But first, I had one more day up here, and I spent it in the city.

This time, Sam’s mom joined us as we trekked to several locations throughout the city.  We had lunch first thing:  we went back to Schnipper’s. Even though Sam and I ate there on Monday, it is one of their favorite places thanks to their delicious Sloppy Joe’s.  I didn’t mind another burger, for sure.  After refueling, we hopped on the subway and headed for Roosevelt Island.  Sam had shown me an article that had a few lesser-visited locations in the five boroughs and our first stop came from that list.  On Roosevelt Island, there is an old, abandoned smallpox hospital.  How could I resist?

It originally opened in 1856 and was open for one hundred years.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the early 70s, but has remained ruined.  Although there is a restoration project underway, the fenced off building is very skeletal.  There is scaffolding everywhere to stabilize the structure, since parts of it are so worn away it would have collapsed otherwise.  In fact, after doing some research, I discovered part of it HAD collapsed in 2008.  As it is, there are many angles and broken shards of the building that make for interesting photos.  Roosevelt Island itself was pretty deserted, too.  The three of us walked the southern half of the island, looking at the ruins and city across the river.  I was particularly enamored with the 59th Street Bridge overhead.  It carries two levels of traffic and is over half a mile long.  Even though there was snow on the ground and it was below freezing, the warm sun and lack of wind made the entire experience on the island very enjoyable.

Our next stop was uptown on the western edge of Central Park.  When we surfaced, the first thing we saw were dozens of kids in the park with sleds, enjoying the snowfall with more glee than I can accurately capture with words.  They were everywhere, slipping and sliding on even the smallest hills.  I was invigorating to watch.  Our destination, just a few blocks away, was a place full of opposing emotion.  The Dakota is an apartment building on 72nd Street that was home to John Lennon and Yoko Ono and is the place he was murdered in 1980.  It’s a beautiful building and has a style that is completely different from its surroundings.  Even though I associate this residence with a dark event, it’s been around for about 130 years and is a real gem of architecture in the area.  Just inside Central Park near the Dakota is a small area called ‘Strawberry Fields’ with a tribute to the late Beatle.  It was nice to take a moment and reflect.

The sun was already starting to set behind the tall buildings as we descended into the Subway once more.  The last place I wanted to hit while the sun was up was the Brooklyn Bridge.  We arrived at the perfect time and the entire East River was bathed in warm light.  An American flag waved proudly from the bridge as I snapped photos below.  To the south, Lady Liberty held her torch.  I could see the new Trade Center across the water.  It was a lovely spot that served as my last wide vision of the city.  On our way back to the subway, I even hopped up to the main deck of the bridge to get a shot.  We didn’t have the time (or energy, for that matter) to walk across the bridge, but I made a note that I would definitely have to do that when the weather was warmer.

By the time we arrived at our actual final stop of the day, it was full-on night.  The slushy streets were turning more treacherous and the unfamiliar streets felt a little more menacing in the East Village.  After all, I was the one leading this party today.  While I was sure my companions would tell me if I was wandering into a questionable part of town, I still kept my head on a swivel.  As with the rest of my time here, I had no problems and arrived at my destination unimpeded.  McSorley’s Old Ale House is the oldest Irish pub in the city, being in constant service since the 1850s.  Back when New York City was his home, Woody Guthrie spent a lot of time singing and drinking there.  They only serve two kinds of beer:  dark and light versions of their house ale.  I ordered a dark beer (served in a pair of smaller mugs) and drank in the ale along with my surroundings.  An ancient refrigerator, beer taps that had to be at least 50 years old, and countless pictures and articles on the walls.  Behind me, I felt heat from the old stove that I recognized from a TIME Life photo of Woody Guthrie and his guitar.  Sam took my picture next to it, too, and I left the pub a happy man.

Another long day; another good day.  I loved seeing more of the city and spending it with wonderful people.  The entire last week has far exceeded my expectations.  I will sleep tonight with a happy ache in my feet and my heart.

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