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Waterfight NYC

The Battle Rages On

Charlie's Angels

Waterfight NYC is quite possibly one of the last real flash mobs in New York City. Largely organized only through social media, particularly Facebook, this event has no named organizer that identifies himself at the scene or on the website. No permission from Central Park is requested or given and most participants are well behaved. Other than one errant accident with a water balloon one year, there has never been any reported arguments or injuries on the battle field that is the Great Lawn. This year(2016) the battlefield is moved to Sheep’s Meadow. Participants just see each other and the event starts organically. The best thing is that it truly is all ages, all cultures and such a diverse background of type of people, old, young, in wheelchairs, in headscarves or with shower capped covered good hair, it’s great to see such a variety of people enjoy pretend warfare. Its uniqueness has brought some unwanted attention last year (2015) when the Facebook event drew a large number of predicted participants, about 64K. The authorities at the Central Park Conservancy threatened to shut the event down and they did try. Most everyone showed up late and missed the park police and just carried on. And carry on they did! My best guess is that there was at least 5,000 people at one time on the field and many more came and went as the afternoon wore on. It takes place again Saturday on July 30, 2016. Hopefully the powers that be of Central Park will go on largely ignoring the event or only half-heartedly trying to stop it. The uniqueness and quality of this event will not be the same if it had to change or stop completely to accommodate its popularity and remain a safe event for families as well as friends. P.S. Water balloons are no longer allowed. Event info below:

https://www.facebook.com/WaterfightNyc/#

Protection

All Kinds

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World Trade Observatory

Park View

This is my review of Opening Day for the public at One World Trade Observatory. There were some Opening Day problems as expected but I am happy to report it was mostly enjoyable. I was going to avoid Opening Day but a friend suggested I join her so I did. I won’t give up too many surprises here that the media probably already has given away. This will be straight to the point. Was there a wait? Yes. Despite my 12:45PM timed ticket. I did not get in the building until 1:15PM and even then there was another 15 to 20 minute wait for the X-ray/bag check area. This may not seem that long but I lucked out. They were calling some timed tickets because they were at least an hour behind on the schedule. If they had room you could go in and queue for the bag check line. If not, you were put on a standby line and wait for the next round which could be short or long. Expect about an hour standing in lines. This could effectively be shortened as solutions are figured out or attendance drops. There were some overly happy security check workers but this was not so bad except they treat you like you have never been to an airport before. We know what will make the alarm go off, dude. Still, it’s probably worth mentioning to have a bag big enough for all your electronic and metal things and bag them when you are on the line outside. Thankfully, there are 5 designated elevators which run less than a minute up to the Observatory exit. They only hold 15 to 20 people maximum but they are pretty efficient. There is food served up at the Observatory but it is cafeteria style so don’t expect too much class and style at the moment. The Observatory itself was top notch. Not much wait to get a spot by the window of your favorite degree of view of the 360 degree view. My only real criticism is the souvenirs. You guys had 5 or so years to come up with some really good collectibles and your best shirts are of the lousy “All I got was this lousy T-shirt” type of thing. The caps and shirts all had some basic font and color that said World One Observatory and did not even include the cool Star Trek-like logo in the design. The postcards being sold were not even taken from the Observatory. They were stock photos from some renowned photographer but I didn’t know him and anyway they looked a lot like tourist photos except maybe shot from a helicopter. I liked the pins and metal collectibles, though. I couldn’t stay until sunset as I wanted as I had made other plans for the gorgeous spring day, but I can see myself coming back here for repeat visits especially during foggy or rainy weather and fall in love with New York City all over again.

P.S. The toilets worked and no lines ensued for men or women for the restrooms. Also, bring a dark back pack or jacket or dark extra shirt when going on a bright sunny day. The glare from the silvery seats next to the glass give an awful glare. Shadows move enough eventually to cut the glare but why wait? Use the dark fabric to cover the surface below the window and get rid of the glare.

P.P.S. Cellular phone signals are spotty up there and terrible inside on the way up. Who knew?

Brooklyn View

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International Pillow Fight Day in NYC

Gentle Breeze
Going on in its tenth year in New York City, International Pillow Fight Day tends to take place on the first Saturday of April. Largely unorganized except for a location and start time and some clean up provided by the organizers Newmindspace, Pillow Fight Day has become a popular flash mob activity around the world, lately more accurately called a social mob activity. After record breaking attendance in the past few years, the old location at Union Square Park was moved to Washington Square Park in 2012 to handle more participants. I am still surprised to hear when people pass by and don’t know what is going on. In 2013, it stretched into the news a bit when Alec Baldwin fought a Twitter war against what he considered a terrible clean up job by Newmindspace. The rules below are simple but no one follows them. Some cities have tried to discourage the activity due to the gigantic mess that it leaves. This year permits were not given in Paris and Los Angeles seems to not be doing it again this year (2015). Newmindspace discourages the use of feather pillows but to promote the event, they usually feature photos of feathers flying. This is somewhat hypocritical but it is a fun event. If cleanup is such a problem, there should be a designated feather pillow section to allow for easy cleanup.

Rules: Please follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and fun pillow fight for everybody!
+ Soft, feather-free pillows only! (Everyone breaks this rule, I suspect even some of the organizers)
+ Swing lightly, many people will be swinging at once.
+ Do not swing at people without pillows or with cameras.
+ Remove glasses beforehand!
+ Deposit pillows in donation boxes or take them with you.
+ Pajamas welcome.

My personal tips:
+ Bring two pillows, one for offense, one for defense, unless you are some kinda ninja pillow fighter and can do both.
+ Wear a helmet or some headgear, it’s only pillows but they still hurt, I speak from experience.
+ Bring a tripod or something if you are taking photos to get some good shots above people’s heads or find a good high ground like a park bench or tree.
+ Prepare for war—bring water, conserve energy when you can. It is a battle to the death, last person standing or until it gets dark and everyone goes home.

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Roadside Attraction by Third Rail Projects

IMG_7305_2
Telling stories through dance has always been a strength of Third Rail Projects. Roadside Attraction as part of the River to River Festival this year is no exception. Playing on the plaza of Brookfield Properties in Battery Park City next to the Winter Garden, you are transported to another place and time with the spare and effective use of props. A picnic table, a tent and pop-up camper provide the minimal set design and provide a surprising number of possibilities for the new and signature moves by the dance group most known for the immersive theater Then She Fell based on Alice’s adventures in Wonderland by the work of Lewis Carroll.
The story starts off as the beginning of a summer camping trip with Mom, Dad, two daughters and the boyfriend of one of the daughters. A spirit character joins in as a narrator of sorts but also as the embodiment of the mother character’s inner emotions. I will try not to give anything away here, but Roadside Attraction hits the right feel for summer like a beach read. Your emotions follow the story of Americana circa the 1970s through approximated period era clothing and from the era objects with the promise of a summer adventure to melancholy in familial strife and ultimately, a redemption. It was nice to start the summer off with a work that is much more than a dance performance and so much more like the best of what Third Rail does, a story that will live in your head long after the Last Dance has been performed.
DSC07934

Future performances of Roadside Attraction may be few and far between. A similar but ultimately different piece, Grand Paradise is currently playing in Brooklyn, but please check out all the current work by this fantabulous group at their website: http://thirdrailprojects.com/

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The Jefferson Market Library

Jefferson Market Library Clocktower At Night
The Jefferson Library Spider
Certain buildings in New York have an interesting exterior that belie an even more interesting interior and history. The Jefferson Market Library is one such building. Located in the heart of Greenwich Village on 6th Avenue and West 10th Street, the first thing you notice is the old firetower lookout. Once, the tallest structure in Manhattan, a firewatcher on the balcony could see most of New York City and alert the volunteer firefighters with the bell inside the tower. The bell still rings today after being restored in the late twentieth century. Eventually, a courthouse was erected around the tower and with it, holding cells and a prison. The courthouse has hosted many important cases including the ruling on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in which factory workers, many of whom were young women, perished in a fire. They were locked in and could not escape. Eventually, the prison and courthouse became a women’s only prison and passed judgement on only cases involving women. A zoning change moving court buildings downtown finally put a decline in the use of the building and it became a home to rats and pigeons after seeing very little use. It was condemned and almost destroyed until the community rallied to save it to be converted to a library. The library is a great mixed use space with an area for lectures, concerts and even movies. The book selections looks forward to the next generation with comics and the latest graphic novels as well as classics. The library is even on facebook and twitter @jmarketlibrary. I learned these facts during a night time tour of the library and the tower. The library manager Frank gave an engaging talk and made me fall in love with the library as much as he clearly did. The library is open to tours annually usually through the OHNY program in the fall, but even on a regular day you can feel the history and magic in this space including the giant spider that now lives in the tower.

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Grand Central Terminal Turns 100 Years Old

Grand Central 100 Years
On February 1, 2013, Grand Central Terminal officially becomes 100 years old. An architectural landmark and beautiful space, it still surprises me with little secrets to this day. Mistakenly, a lot of people call it Grand Central Station but it is officially named Grand Central Terminal or Grand Central for short. Like most great buildings, it has become more than just a functioning train terminal station. Now a, uh, Grand destination, it houses more specialty shops and a venue area for exhibits and events. There is practically something going on of interest almost every month if not every day there from seasonal holiday happenings to art exhibits at Vanderbilt Hall to major and independent movie and television productions filming inside. The centennial celebrations look to bring more interesting events this coming year. The 2013 Squash World Championship looks to be held here this year. A special exhibit on the Centennial starts in February and many more events yet to come. Last year I was shown the speakeasy bar hidden within its numerous caverns and this year I discovered the Station Master’s Office which I had never seen before. My favorite secret to share is the whispering gallery and even Apple now has a store inside. I am looking forward to learning more about it in the months to come. Keep an eye on my Pick of the Week page for event listings or follow my twitter. Also check out their page: http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/events Partying starts on February 1, 2013!

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More Than Words Can Say

I meant to write something about disaster preparedness and how New York City survives and continues recovery from Hurricane Sandy but I don’t think all the facts have made themselves known just yet. In the meantime I will let the photos speak for themselves. For more photos click on the photos to my flickr.
Diminishing Perspective
Destruction
Burn Damage

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The Persistence of Timed Tickets

The 2012 Summer season for art in New York has been filled with art exhibits that utilize one of the most infuriating methods of experiencing art, that of the timed ticket. To climb Tomás Saraceno on the Roof: Cloud City at the Met, you need a timed ticket. Trying to discover Discovering Columbus by Tatzu Nishi at Columbus Circle? Timed ticket. Trying to catch Fireflies on the Water by Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney? Timed ticket. The main reason for using the timed ticket system is that the art is usually in a space with limited capacity. Cloud City can only accommodate a finite amount of people in its structure as does Discovering Columbus, which a sign on the wall says only 50 people at a time. Fireflies on the Wall, as per the artist’s instructions, only allows one person at a time inside to experience it as intended.
The experience of the timed ticket varies by the art but there is one common thread for all. The timed ticket system is not perfect and could use some tweaking. I will try to describe each of my experiences with all three works mentioned above.

Cloud City
Tomás Saraceno on the Roof: Cloud City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was meant to be climbed. You are allowed to be up on the roof to see it, but to access it, a timed ticket is needed in a separate line in the lobby of the stairs access to the roof. The timed ticket is of no extra charge but as only a limited amount of visitors are allowed on Cloud City, the reserved time quickly runs out within the first hour or hours that the museum opens. Also, experiencing Cloud City is dependent on the weather. So, if the weather is bad or turns bad, the roof is closed to visitors. Cloud City can accommodate quite a few visitors, though and has been around since Spring so it allows for more time to actually enjoy and experience it. Even if you don’t get a timed ticket being next to it still allows for an experience. The ticketing system is not felt too badly here as long as you have time to pick up a ticket and come back. You should probably schedule your entire day around it. You need to leave things in a locker and are not allowed to bring anything with you. No cameras, but people have taken photos up there. The dress code is strict on footwear. Women have worn dresses but it’s a peep show, so you know.

Inside Discovering Columbus
Discovering Columbus by Tatzu Nishi is unfortunately not something you can experience by just standing next to it. The piece is enclosed is a structure three stories above the ground. Tatzu Nishi is an artist whose works are usually covering sculptures around the world and placing them in a decorated room. Some are livable spaces. To even discover Discovering Columbus, you need to walk up six flights of stairs and enter through a balcony greeting area and into Christopher’s living room complete with swanky sofas, decor and a big flat screen TV.. Tickets are recommended to be reserved online or at the Time Warner Visitor Center across the street. It the beginning, the tickets were going fast and the online system could not keep up and made it seem tickets were still available for a given day and time and it was not. The tickets are free but you do need to print them and usually the easily available spots are during working hours during the day. The online ticketing is the only problem as far as I am concerned. It may take a few tries before you find a time slot that is good for you. As long as you show up for your time slot, you are allowed 30 minutes inside. Sometimes on a busy day, the staff recommends you shorten it. I feel 20 minutes is adequate to experience it. The only other criticism has been the timing. The work opened in the summer and closes mid-November. On Columbus Day, the iconic statue was not visible to his worshippers.

Spotty
Fireflies on the Water by Yayoi Kusama has been the most exasperating and thrilling experience in this season of timed tickets and what has mainly inspired me to write this post to begin with. The Whitney Museum website causes problems before you get there when it states passes to the room installation are only available in person. What they don’t tell you is that if you order your ticket online, you get to cut ahead of other people in the general admission line and get on a shorter line usually reserved for members and corporate partners. I probably should have done that, but then I won’t have a story to tell you. I was cheering on a friend at a local running race near the museum and when that ended I proceeded to the museum where there was what looked like a short line. It had only reached the edge of one corner with maybe 50 or 60 people ahead. The museum had not even opened yet. There was another line on the other side that was much shorter. This was a line for members but also corporate sponsors, media guests and will call ticket holders(the people who ordered online and picking up their tickets). The museum was using the Kusama installation to promote membership. Members get to skip waiting and go directly in to see Fireflies on the Water at the start of every hour. This meant that no tickets can be sold in that time slot. I ended up doing the math roughly in my head and since they do not count the time to enter and exit while in the exhibit, this means less than 300 non-membership visitors probably experience the room in any given day. I was just at that numbered area where I may or may not get tickets. That first day, I was two spaces behind being able to get tickets and left empty handed. I was in the area again the next day and this time was even further from the front of the line, but thankfully the members’ line was even shorter. It was a Sunday. I was biting my nails in anticipation and taking deep breaths. The awful reality though is that I think people have been cutting in line by brazenly walking in and the security had not been stopping them. I know this for a fact because before I was allowed to go through the door I had to wait behind the velvet rope line and a man claiming to work for the city which allowed him membership status got in ahead of me on the pretense of asking the staff a question. He seemed lost and couldn’t find the right person to talk to and went on the ticket line instead. After I was let in the door, I made sure he was behind me because I was almost sure I wasn’t going to get a ticket anyway. I would be no loss if he didn’t get one either as everyone else including me will just go see the Kusama retrospective on the other floor of the museum and not make the waiting in line a total loss. By the way, tickets are included in admission, but you need one to see the installation and not everyone will get one, just to clarify. I was still hopeful as the line neared the ticket sellers and they hadn’t announced anything yet. As soon as I got my ticket, they announced no more tickets. I got the last one! In your face, city guy! I left him and his wife and toddler daughter with frowns on their faces. He snuck his wife and kid in later in the line. What a jerk! My ticket was for the last block of time in the day but it didn’t matter. I win! There was this woman behind me who was cursing the whole time in the line. She clearly had gotten on the line as a whim and had not scheduled for it. She kept arguing with her husband loudly on the phone that she will be late to their breakfast and then in a separate call said she will meet him elsewhere when it was clear she wasn’t making the breakfast time. She also made sure city guy was behind her. She was pretty much exploding when she was told there were no more tickets. She made waiting so stressful even after I told her in the beginning about my closer spot in line the previous day and how I didn’t get tickets. When I came back later in the afternoon, the lady manning the timer and the line for Fireflies on the Water was so nice and remembered me from the day before. I was wearing the same yellow jacket. She said she appreciated my patience. She was cute, too. I told her my story of the guy cutting in line and how her words made me feel really good about trying and then getting the last ticket. Best day ever!

I wrote this post in hopes of maybe coming to a realization that maybe there was a better way to distribute timed tickets or maybe to acquire them but there really isn’t. The limitations of the art and the cultural institution offering them can’t be controlled due to many factors including safety and people trying to get one over on their fellow human beings. In the end, my best advice is go early, bring something to read and wait patiently. If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. I think the timed ticket idea is here to stay and there will be many more such events coming your way. It also feels terrific when the nice staff acknowledges you. I just wrote that for the museum administrator who was nice to me and hope this gets back to her somehow. If you are the reader and still reading this overly long post, I appreciate YOU, too 😉

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Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon Park

The Jousting Tournament
Surreal Medieval Scene
I first visited the Medieval Festival in Fort Tryon Park when I was a teenager with my family and I have been enamored with it since. Where else can you indulge in a bit of fantasy of being a knight, a princess, a queen, a king or a simple peasant? Actually, I think they call it LARPing these days, Live Action Role Playing, but I am getting away from the point. It may not be the most accurate Renfair in the land, but in the middle of Manhattan and for free, it may be one of the best. There are performances throughout including acrobats, storytellers, singers, dancers, magicians, musicians and a jousting tournament. Performances are usually repeated twice during this one day affair, so if you miss the first one make sure you catch the next one. The jousting is very popular and usually gets very crowded and it can get difficult to see what goes on. Various medieval festival foods can be purchased such as turkey legs and the glorious liquid elixir derived from honey, mead, is also available. Other dry goods such as bows and arrows, swords, clothing and costume jewelry are also sold by merchants. For myself, no visit is complete without a trip to the Cloisters Museum. Legend has it that Rockefeller brought pieces of several monasteries from Europe to New York and assembled them into what is now the museum. It houses a great collection of medieval artifacts and admission is merely suggested. As a city owned museum, one can pay as they wish. I always have a great time here and I hope you do as well.

This year’s Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon already took place on September 30, 2012. See you next year!
http://www.whidc.org/festival/home.html

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Is New York Fashion Week Still Fashionable?

Greeting The Crowd
I See Beautiful
With the economy in a constant downward spiral or simply flat-lined, is anyone really worrying about how fashionable they look anymore? The surprising answer is yes. Fashion is still a multibillion-dollar industry in NYC. The recent economic downturn has made fashion companies cope just like all the other industries have by cutting down on staff, trimming expenses and coming up with creative ways to market products. The most recent Fashion Week this past February seemed pretty dull at Lincoln Center with most of the action happening away from the actual venue. Top fashion designers were holding shows in rented venues or their own showrooms and retail locations instead of the white tents. The high price tag and lack of innovation the popular designers often come with has inspired some backlash from up and coming designers from the outer boroughs to stage their own anti-Fashion Week fashion shows that just happen to also take place during Fashion Week or the few days after it. The big names fight back by putting on even bigger shows as evidenced by the now annual Fashion Night Out which takes place every September. Companies often partner with musicians, celebrities and artists to entice the consumer and build a new loyal following. Tommy Hilfiger, for example, has his own shops as well as a market partner in Macy’s to target all the income groups he can. He has staged free concerts with musicians such as Joss Stone and Train with Macy’s at Herald Square in the past few years and has had exclusive parties in his own boutiques. Other fashionistas make appearances in retail shops during Fashion Week to promote perfumes and celebrity designed products to add to the circus atmosphere. What does this all mean to the average New Yorker? For me personally, I am not much for designer brands and high price tags, but I do fall for the idea of renewing myself through fashion by adding a new color or sense of maturity in my wardrobe when I see it somewhere (I am big on consuming news media). I also feel the subliminal effects of Fashion Week of colors and designs and mix and match outfits that stay in my head for months until the next Fashion Week. I am not about to spend $2000 on shoes or a shirt but my $50 or $100 spent do add to the billions of dollars that the fashion industry makes by enveloping me in fabric to make me feel more confident or stand out as a person. There is also an environmental movement that has grown out of fashion where people re-use old clothes by buying exclusively second-hand in thrift shops. That can get expensive too as some of those clothes need more care and some places sell at a premium for some hard to find items. In the end, fashion is now more than just one of life’s basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. It is now also a social, political and existential idea. The arguments and discussions are still young and they will still be going on for years to come. Fashion Week is September 6 through the 13th this autumn with Fashion Night Out on September 6 and be honest, does this blog post make me look fat?