(continued from Part I)
The next morning it was rise, shine and repeat. We walked to the train station and hopped aboard, back to Grand Central Terminal.
We excited the terminal heading north this time. I typically prefer the funkier avenues for my rambles, but Lori likes to window shop on 5th and you know what they say about happy wives. We stopped in at Sak’s Fifth Avenue as I wanted to try on some sport coats. Unsurprisingly, the cheapest jackets I tried on still cost more than most cars that I’ve purchased, so I had to take a pass. Luckily, further up 5th at Trump Tower, I got a steal on a Trump National golf shirt (made in Pakistan) for $495. Speaking of commerce, as we approached The Park, we passed the Apple Store at 59th. The line for the new iPhone 14 stretched for an entire block. Okay nerds.
Frederick Law Olmsted is the greatest landscape architect of all time and Central Park is his masterpiece. I’ve been there a hundred times and still find new things to explore each time. We started with a much-needed rest on the Duck Pond. I needed rest because I had severe Shopper’s Disease from the 5th Avenue excursion. For you ladies out there, Shopper’s Disease is something a man gets when he is forced to shop for any length of time longer than it takes to type in a search term on Amazon. Symptoms include: extreme fatigue and mild irritation.
So, I had to sit on my bench for a bit to recover. While doing this, we noticed a new commercial innovation which is high-end catered picnics courtesy of companies like Perfect Picnic Company "Serving NYC, the Hamptons, & Provincetown, MA." Fancy people were sitting on their blankets, probably for a bridal shower or something, looking a little hot, uncomfortable (no seat backs), and bored. Why would you cater a picnic? It's ham sandwiches and lemonade. And what would Holden Caulfield think of all this?
But the picnics did raise the topic of food again. The nut crusade from the previous day was reignited. Central Park is ideal hunting ground for nuts as there are dozens of food carts clustered around the southeast corner of the park across from the Plaza Hotel. Incredibly though, no nuts. What has happened to this city?
On the move again, we ambled along The Mall which is lovely in so many respects. Statues of literary titans such as Robert Burns and William (Bill) Shakespeare line the first part of the promenade. Halfway up, the first statue added in 50 years is the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument featuring Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It is also the first statue in all of Central Park to depict real women (and the irony of that is likely not lost on anyone). The Mall is also magnificent as the refuge of one of the few remaining stands of American Elm trees left in America. They line the path and provide it with a fitting majesty. Every town in American once had similar Elms beautifying their main street as they provided a welcome combination of summer shade and cathedral like stateliness. Then came Dutch Elm disease and the majority of them died out over the span of a few decades. With considerable effort, they have managed to save the trees in Central Park. Be sure to appreciate them as you pass beneath, you are among a tiny band of survivors.
At the end of The Mall, down the stairs, and past the much-appreciated public restrooms, is Bethesda Terrace. Inside the acoustically welcoming pavilion you will usually find classically trained guitarists or violinists busking for appreciative listeners. They used to do a good business selling CDs, but nobody buys CDs anymore. So that sort of sucks for them. The plaza is always teeming with people on a weekend. Today was a massive chess event with hundreds of chess sets set up for people to enjoy. Lori beat me in just six moves. Queen's gambit I think.
As you gaze toward the lake with its row boats full of young lovers, you are treated to Bethesda Fountain. The neoclassical statue is called The Angel of the Waters. It was designed by Emma Stebbins and commemorates the arrival of fresh water to the city via the Croton Aqueduct in 1873 which we learned in yesterday's post terminated where the Public Library sits now. Notably, the Aqueduct began right where we are camping in Crotonville, NY at the huge reservoir built there. There are so many reasons that New York is the cultural, artistic and financial capital it is. One of them is the Erie Canal which moved shipping of goods away from the St. Lawrence and down to New York. Another is fresh water. By the late 19th century, the city had outgrown it's existing supply. The aqueducts built to bring water from upstate New York was a huge new catalyst for growth. Allegedly, the excellent quality of this water, and its use as a baking ingredient, is the reason that New York bagels and pizza are so celebrated. You be the judge.
From Bethesda Fountain we crossed The Lake via the beautiful Bow Bridge and wandered into The Ramble. This is my abosolute favorite part of the park. Olmsted created a wooded oasis in the middle of New York City that makes you feel like you’re tramping around in a fairy tale forest. Despite many a wander there over the years, I'm never not a tiny bit lost as I lazily follow paths through the trees and around little bays on the lake.
We walked down the west side of the park past The Dakota, Strawberry Fields, and the Bridal path. At Columbus Circle we again scoured the wheeled merchants for nuts and again came up empty, pretty much concluding that the Halal mafia had just pushed the Nuts guys out of the city, mob style.
Speaking of mobs, we veered over to 9th Avenue and descended into Hell's Kitchen where a slice of pizza (great crust, thank you Catskills water) slaked our hunger. Hell's Kitchen is no longer the haunt of Irish and Italian mobsters that it once was, but it's still got an eclectic vibe and lots of good restaurants and bars.
None is finer than Rudy's at 44th which boasts pitchers of beer for roughly what a pint will cost you in most nearby places, extremely loud music, standing room only crowds, and vinyl sided booths which have more duct tape on them than actual vinyl. Rudy's is a dive in the best sense of the word. They even give you free hot dogs with your beer. We spent a few hours in there with friends before heading eastward back to Grand Central.
A block from the Terminal, nearly at the end of our long two-day ramble, on a nondescript, nearly pedestrian-free corner, there it was: a bonafide Nuts 4 Nuts cart! We literally couldn't believe it. Lori squealed with delight. We had walked from one end of the city to the other, marching through one tourist hub after another, and nada nuts. Now, here he is, apparently the last Nuts 4 Nuts vendor in New York City on a side street that sees fewer pedestrians than a country road.
"What are you doing here my friend? I'm a food marketing consultant, let's talk business strategy. Location, location, location!... Wait, never mind, here's a twenty dollar bill just give me a fistful of nuts my good man!"
We bought 4 bags. They were delicious. We kind of made ourselves sick on the train, but what are going to do?
And thus ended another lovely ramble in The Big Apple.