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Eclectic Thoughts from a Homeschool Mom » 2009 » July

Bodies Exhibit, Museum of Modern Art, & Central Park

July 9th, 2009

What a day! Whew! My hips & knee joints are telling me that I put in another long day of walking and sightseeing. Let’s see:

My first excursion this morning was to the Bodies Exhibit. This exhibit is amazing. I have to say that it takes a few moments to get over the “creep factor” as the exhibit is full of real, once breathing, humans. They have come up with a process to preserve tissue which makes it possible for us to look “under the skin” for science.

I have to say that I got goose-bumps on my arm into the 2nd room (the exhibit is broken up into subjects by rooms & there are about 12 or so rooms). The 2nd room gave me a look at the first full cadaver specimen. I noticed that this man had eyelashes, and for some reason it struck me that: “Wow! That was once a guy walking around just like me.”

The highlights of the exhibit for me were the Arteries/Veins room that showed to incredible detail how complex our circulatory system is. The intestines, lungs, and heart specimens that showed diseases was fascinating (and really gross with the lung, breast, and penis cancer). Lastly, the fetus room was sad. This room showed the developing stages of a fetus, a baby with Spina Bifida, and conjoined twins. This room was sad as it was filled with children that will never play on a slide, eat an ice cream cone, or say they love their parents.

I walked away from this exhibit in awe. I have to say that I also walked away from it thinking that our Creator had some serious design ideas when he made us. There is just too much beauty in the body to think that we crawled out of a pond by chance. Sorry, but that is just how I feel. (No pictures to post for this as the museum strictly prohibits them.)

img_1901After the exhibit, I met up with my husband for lunch. We walked to the site of the World Trade Center. There are high covered fences around the entire site. There are a few holes in the tarps to see in, but it is mostly covered. Honestly, I found this depressing for a different reason then you might think. If the Empire State Building can be built in 14 months around the DEPRESSION, why has it been over 8 yrs. and we img_19001have hardly started on rebuilding the Twin Towers? Aren’t we kind of letting the bad guys get a small victory by not rebuilding right away? I believe that we should build them just as before. That would send a message to the world. “You can try to beat us up, but we will come back stronger then ever.”

After I sent my husband back to work, I took 2 subways to the Museum of Modern Art up town. Let me just give my personal opinion here. To me, most modern art is nonsensical and childish. Case in point, Pollack. Yes, I know he was famous. Yes, I know he was a troubled artist and a “genius” in his own time. Have you really looked at most of his famous works? It is paint dribbles on canvas.

I walked around the Museum of Modern Art for approximately 3 hours. I saw a piece that was comprised of purple string and 4 tacks making a giant rhombus on the wall & floor. I saw a pile of bricks. I saw a huge white painted canvas. I saw profanity and nudity in a kaleidoscope of colors. I saw countless painting of brush strokes slashing paint across an empty canvas. I saw a sculpture of a img_1925woman’s head & shoulders with a loaf of bread for a hat and cobs of corn for hair. THIS IS ART?! Did these artists really think these pieces through? I felt that 5 out of the 6 floors of the building were a waste. Some were disgusting. Some were just plain ridiculous. I suppose I should recognize that these artists were successful at something. They have their work in a museum for thousands to see. Someone img_1914must like their work. I wouldn’t make a very good modern art curator, would I?

Thankfully, I found one floor that made my trip to MoMA a join. This was the floor that had Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Mondrian, Klee, Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo, Rousseau, and more that I love. The highlight of my visit was to see Starry Night in person. This is one of my favorite pieces. Seeing this amazing img_1934work made up for all of the “paint splatter” that many other artists had to offer.

After the museum, I walked 28 blocks back to our hotel and met up with my husband. We rode to Central Park and walked around for 2 miles. Even at 8pm, the park was very full. There was a concert going on, wedding photos being taken, families riding on the water in row boats, folks riding bikes/rollerblades/skateboards, and people just enjoying the atmosphere. It was quite a relaxing walk.

Tomorrow is our last day here. I plan on just walking around for hours until my husband gets done with work around 3pm. Our flight home is at 5pm. My img_1958husband heads for Dallas next week, and my son & I head to Kansas for 10 days. Man! This is a crazy summer for us.

Until tomorrow night….

Times Square at Night

July 8th, 2009

Dick Clark & the New Year’s Ball drop are what I think about when Iimg_1888 hear “Times Square”. However, it is really more than that. Times Square is an extremely busy intersection of streets. Streets filled with Broadway theatres playing productions like: Mary Poppins, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, Little Mermaid, Wicked, and Lion King.

Times Square is also full of trendy shops & boutiques. It is where everyone from the city goes to be seen. The day time is crazy in the Square. At night, it becomes luminescent with millions of neon and bulb lights. Even the McDonald’s is lit up (just like in Las Vegas) to attract customers.

Tonight my husband and I walked up Times Square and back. The sidewalks were jam-packed. It is quite a site!


Empire State Building, Madame Tussaud’s, & the American Museum of Natural History

July 8th, 2009

Oh yeah! Can you say: “Tired tooties”? That would be my feet after 6.88 miles of just walking from one NYC attraction to another. I had to have walked at least 10 miles with everything I saw. However, it was a great day (thus far). Let’s see…

img_1812I started the morning heading to The Empire State Building (E.S.B.). Our Hampton Inn hotel is right down the way from the Flatiron Building. Walking to the E.S.B. didn’t take much time at all. As I said earlier, I have the New York Pass. For those that want to save A BUNCH on NYC attractions, you have to buy this little card. It saved me quite a bit.

I took the “NYC Sky Tours” ride in the E.S.B. I am going to act like Siskel & Ebert here: SAVE YOURSELF $ AND FORGET THIS RIDE. This is just like a Walt Disney World “Star Tours” ride. Seriously. It sucks. The amazing thing, they rip you off…I mean…they charge you $36 to ride it. This is one of the biggest rip-offs (besides having your wallet stolen) in NYC. If it wasn’t already included with my pass, I would have been extremely irate at the stupidity of the ride. Actually, I am laughing and I didn’t have to chuck out $36. img_1810

After the ride, I went up to the top of E.S.B. I didn’t have a pass to the very top level, but I was okay with that. I loved the view from the observation platform (I think it was 84th?). Memories of An Affair To Remember and Sleepless in Seattle came back to me. The view of NYC is absolutely breathtaking. I was so blessed to have a clear, warm day to experience the view. The platform allows you to see 360 degrees as it goes all around img_1816the building. The world looks so small from up there. The city below almost looks like a model from that height. The cars & people look like ants.

Did I mention before how many different languages I am hearing here? French, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Australian…it is a virtual cornucopia of dialects and languages. Manhattan feels like you took people  from every corner of the world and threw them into a couple mile radius. Now I understand the term: “Melting Pot”.

From the E.S.B., I headed to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. If you know me, img_1827you know that I LOVE movies. I am not the type to be star-struck, but I do love the cinema. I thought that the wax museum would be entertaining. Do you remember that Twilight Zone where the wax characters come to life in the museum? After walking around the place, you almost feel like some of these things could blink and move. Seriously creepy! One thing that I did notice is that img_1835celebrities are tiny people. Not just by height, but by waist/hip size. Do they make a plaster cast of the real folks for these things? If so, there are some seriously skinny actresses out there (i.e. Angelina Jolie, J.Lo, Julia Roberts, etc.) img_1846

I left the wax museum right at noon. That is 3 sites down in just 3 hours. Not a bad morning. I needed to get from 42nd to 77th street. My trusty Google Maps (Have I mentioned how much this thing has saved my bacon? I would be in outer Mongolia without it) said that I had to catch a sub and make a connection. As it was a beautiful day, I decided to walk to the Museum of Natural History instead of ride. What?! There’s only about 12 blocks to the mile. It wasn’t that far..geez…

I have to say that the American Museum of Natural History (M.N.H.) doesn’t look like they show it in Night at the Museum. Well, there are amazing exhibits, img_1877and such. However, the T-Rex in the movie isn’t at the front door. Nope. He is on the 4th floor.

Honestly, I wish I had planned to spend the entire day (or had more time to) in the M.N.H. This is an amazing place. There is SO MUCH to see: Animals, Dinosaurs, People, Gems, Minerals, Space, Ocean, Plants, Insects, etc. You really could spend the entire day there and never see it all. There were quite a few children’s groups in the museum today. It made me wish that my son were with me. I know he would’ve loved the ocean, space, and gem/mineral exhibits. You really need to go with someone and take a leisurely walk through the place. It is like walking through an encyclopedia. There is so much information there that it just hurts your brain and eyes.

I started to get really tired (who would’ve thought after all that walking) around 3:30 so I headed for the subway. The attendant at the station told me to take the “B” train. After looking quickly in my guide book, I thought it would take me close to our hotel. Umm…no. I realized that I needed to jump off past my stop and walked the 1.5 miles back to our hotel.

I am now sitting in our hotel waiting for my husband to get ready so we can have dinner and walk around Times Square. I haven’t seen it at night before, and am looking forward to the brilliant light show. I’ll make sure to tell you all about it later. Until then……

Art Museums, Parks, & Getting Lost in a BIG City

July 7th, 2009

My plan for today was to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. I asked my husband to give me the directions to the subway station and tell me what trains I needed to take. How could I get turned around 3 times?! Well, I did. However, I finally made it to the Met around 9:30am.

00099My first impression of the Met is that it is gorgeous. Huge columns and steps tell right up front that this place means business. I used my New York Pass and got right in (adult admission is $20). I headed up the grand staircase to the Renaissance/European area. This is by far my favorite time in history for art. The voluptuous figures. The cheribs and depictions of Christ. The love and care each artist took to create the masterpieces. All of them spectacular in their own way. I found myself close to tears within the first 30 minutes of walking around. I was surrounded by such beauty. 0010300112

00109From this area I walked around through: drawings, the sculpture garden, Medieval, Egyptian, and finally to Modern Art. The first piece I saw in the Modern Art area was a HUGE aquarium with a dead great white shark in it. Yup, a shark. In a museum. In water. Dead. I would post the picture here, but I was not allowed to take one.

I have to say that most modern art does nothing for me. Although Jackson Pollack is famous for his art, I can’t say that I care for dribbling on a canvas. I just can’t. I also can’t see how a rainbow of single colors painted on canvas and put down a line is difficult to make. I just don’t. Throwing down some paint and calling it art is open to discussion. Call me old fashioned. I like to see an artist really think through and solve the problem before them (on canvas, paper, wood, etc.). Quite a bit of modern art just doesn’t seem to be trying. That’s just my opinion.

After the Met, I walked down to the Guggenheim. This is one of my favorite buildings. Frank Lloyd Wright had such vision. I have to say that I was a bit 00120disappointed by the Guggenheim though. I thought that I would see quite a bit of art diversity. I was mistaken. At least 3/5 of the museum was filled with Frank Lloyd Wright architectural drafts, models, etc. Not to say that I don’t think he was an AMAZING architect/artist/visionary. I was just a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more art from other artists.

The Guggenheim did have a Kandinsky exhibit as well as several pieces from Cezanne, Chagall, Degas, Manet, Renoir, and Picasso. Sadly, there were only 2-3 pieces from each artist. I did see one that I enjoyed called “The Football Players” by Rousseau.

The other downside to the Guggenheim is that they prohibit any photography. Not even with your flash turned off. That was disappointing. I would have liked to take a few photographs of my favorites.

As both the Met & Guggenheim hug Central Park, I headed up just two short paths to take a picture of the reservoir. I knew that if I went further into the park, I would become hopelessly lost. I headed right back to the subway station many blocks away.

I did get a bit lost coming back to our hotel after getting off of the subway. Why can’t I have a better sense of direction? If we could ask for something special to be added to our character/personality, I would ask for better direction.

I finally made it back to our hotel around 5pm. My husband and I headed out for a quick dinner and a bit of window shopping. It was nice to call it an early evening. My feet are SO TIRED!

Tomorrow I plan on having a busy sightseeing day with: The Empire State Building, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History. Whew! Thank goodness I packed my walking shoes and Ibuprofen!

Day 2 with Lady Liberty & Ellis Island

July 7th, 2009

00074Today started off by going riding the subway to the Financial District with my husband. I dropped him off at the office, and headed to Battery Park. I bought a day trip to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

The ferry ride to Liberty Island was a quick one. This was fortunate for me as it was standing room only. It was so crowded that I couldn’t make my way up to the top of the ferry to see the island as we approached. I had to wrestle my way over to a window so I could take a picture of Lady Liberty on approach. With the early morning sun on her, she was stunning. You just get goose-bumps looking at her. No wonder people all around the U.S. look to her with pride.

00056I thought that once you got off of the ferry, you could go right up to the base of Lady Liberty. That wasn’t quite true. My wait was 1.5 hours from the time I got into line, until I walked up the first of 150+ steps to the observation tower of the statue.

Even with the long wait, the view of the NYC skyline was amazing. I took lots of pictures wherever I went, and headed for the gift shop. Our family has a tradition of buying a magnet when we go on vacation. I bought a Statue of Liberty magnet and a bunch of postcards to send to family. I sat down and wrote out 8 postcards and mailed them from the gift shop.

00053I hopped onto the ferry again to go over to Ellis Island. Seeing the same site that millions of immigrants saw was thrilling. The Ellis Island of today is a tribute to the millions of immigrants that came to this country to start fresh. There are computers to investigate your family history. There are ship registries, countless photographs, statistics about how our country is broken down (by heritage, sex, age, etc.). There was also a Broadway type show depicting the sentiments of early immigrants. After looking around for a few hours, I went outside for some fresh air. The view of the NYC skyline from Ellis Island is breathtaking. I highly recommend it to any photographer.00062

After a ferry and subway ride back to our hotel, I met up with my husband. We dropped off our packs and headed out for dinner and an evening of site seeing. First, we headed towards Times Square to pick up my New York Pass (for around $100, you get 3 days of free admissions to pretty much every famous NYC attraction). We then had dinner at our favorite Japanese fast food joint – Yoshinoya.

00081My husband has been to NYC before, so he wanted to show me some of the more famous things in the immediate area. I saw: The famous Ball from Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, Radio City Musical Hall, Rockafeller Center, and NBC Studios. On our way back to our subway station, we looked up at the Empire State Building.

It is surreal to actually see these famous places. As a girl from Southern California, I wasn’t really exposed to much of the world at a young age. I have seen these places in movies or on television. It is really crazy to see them in real life. Kind of makes me want an old hardsided suitcase so I can plaster it with stickers from my various travel destinations. I don’t know what the rest of this week will hold for me, but I know that NYC has been amazing. I won’t forget it.

My 1st day in NYC

July 5th, 2009

Although I was born in Long Beach, CA, I consider myself a bit of a country girl. Sure, Austin is a big place with lots of people. However, all you have to do is drive an hour and you are in the country enjoying a quieter pace.

I lucked out with our schedule this week and am now typing from Manhattan in New York City. Our son had a Boy Scout summer camp to attend this week. My husband had to teach in NYC. It was a perfect opportunity to tag along and see a new city and state.

I wasn’t looking forward to the 4+ hours of flying time. I hate to fly. Yeah, yeah, I know about the “it is safer than driving” schpeal. Does it matter to me? Nope. Not a bit. I still hate the turbulence, the closed in quarters, and the lack of peanuts and movies. However, it beats walking or swimming to your vacation destination. Right? Our flight wasn’t bad (by my husband’s standards). We had a few bumps here and there, but thankfully it was mostly uneventful.

The first misconception I had of NYC was the cabs. They aren’t yellow any longer. They are more of a Cheez Whiz/Goldfish Cracker color. They are also expensive. The ride from the airport to our hotel @ 24th & 6th was $41.50. Not cheap. Again, beats walking or swimming to our hotel.

As our hotel room wasn’t ready (we lucked out thanks to my husband’s Admiral Club account and got a flight 2 hours earlier..Woohoo!), we checked in our luggage and decided to go site seeing.

Our first stop was for lunch. We went to this tiny little italian pizza place called Maffei’s. Wowwie! Their slices (you just call them “slices”, not “slices of pizza” I was told) are HUGE! We split a two slices of Margharita & Buffalo Chicken pizza. Sitting here 4+ hours later, and I am still not hungry for dinner.

After lunch, we started walking. We walked right past the Flatiron Building (one of my favorites) until my husband told me to turn around and see it from the point of the triangle. Wow! It is more beautiful up close. Just amazing!

The things I have noticed in my few hours are this:

1) The architecture is gorgeous. Sure, the behemoth skyscrapers aren’t much to look at (unless you like lots of glass). I mean the older buildings…those are breathtaking. The scroll work, gargoyles, and gingerbread trim are amazing. I’m far from an architect major, but even I know that these older buildings are something to be treasured.

2) The smells are “interesting”. There is the exhaust smells from all the cabs & buses. There is the sweet/sour odor of stale garbage. There is the ever present cornucopia of ethnic foods wafting from the food carts and restaurants. There is the smell of thousands of passing pedestrians on their way to hundreds of destinations.

3) It is crowded beyond words. I know that Mexico City or even Tokyo probably has more bodies moving around. However, it almost causes controlled paranoia when you are mashed into bodies at every corner waiting for the light to change. This country girl likes a little (ok, a lot) more elbow room.

4) The people are fascinating to just watch. Some of the clothing that these people are wearing! Have you ever seen more hideous, HUMONGOUS, gawdy purses? What is with the gold gladiator sandals, ladies? Oh! I see that NYC guys don’t know how to pull up their pants/shorts either. How many NYC guys did I see with their shorts belted around their mid-thighs & wearing extra long shirts to cover their boxers? Just one word fellas: belt.

5) The noise is deafening. That sounds weird, but it is true. Deafening from the taxi horns, the light beeps, the chatter from millions of people, the subway rumbles, and the street vendors peddling their wares. It makes me wonder if big city people ever crave for a tropical island of peace and quiet. Do they ever just wish they could turn the sound off?

6) There is so much here that I am familiar with, and didn’t even know it. I saw the flying saucer construction from Men in Black. I saw the building where the zombie dogs come out to attack Will Smith in I Am Legend. I saw the guy that plays Professor Flitwick (you might also remember him as the actor that played Willow) in a huge camera store called B&H today. Pretty cool. I was looking for Kong when I walked by the Empire State Building. He was probably on his lunch break.

I am looking forward to walking around in Times Square this evening with my husband. If we don’t go tonight, we will need to this week sometime. I am looking forward to seeing all of the lights at night.

This is going to be an interesting, and over-stimulating, week for me. I will try to post pictures later on. My week will be planned with lots of art museums (shooting for the Guggenheim, Met, and Natural History), as well as the touristy stuff like Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and Empire State Building. Hopefully, my Metro card to the subway and my trusty Google Maps will keep me out of trouble. Thank goodness for good walking shoes! 😀