— Part 1
What a day! My mind has melted and my body is aching.
We woke up this morning and went down to the cafe in the basement for our continental breakfast/
The Larchmont is no Motel 6. It's definitely New York.
You come through the front door then unlock the door into the hall. You can either take the stair which is on the left or go down the hall to the elevator. We are on the third floor so we take the elevator. This is not an ordinary elevator. It has an outer gray door with a door knob. The door has a circular window with wired glass. After you push the button to call the elevator, you watch the circular glass window in the door to see a similar one in the real elevator door to appear and slide to the right. Then you can open the first elevator door and enter the elevator.
None of the rooms have bathrooms. The hotel is divided into a west and east side. Each side, on each floor, has two bathrooms, with a shower and a toilet. There is also a kitchen with a stove and refrigerator. The rooms are small and the place is clean. The price was very reasonable -- $112 double occupancy on the weekend and $99 double occupancy during the week. Great prices for Manhattan.
To get to the cafe in the basement you have to go to the lobby and let them know you want to got to the cafe and the send a man to take you down. He has the magic basement key.
We get coffee, juice, and a pastry. We sat down and ate. It can be real hard, in New York, to listen in on conversations. The couple behind Madelane were speaking French. There was a women, alone, on my right. A couple came in and I thought “Now there is an American couple.” The got their breakfast, sat down with the woman on my right, and started speaking German. Oh, well. That's one of the things I love about New York. Wherever you go there are different languages and accents floating through the air.
After we ate we went out onto the street. The sun was out but it was definitely cooler. We headed back down to the 1 & 9 subway (I really love these subways.) They film crew was still at work.
Down into the subway and we were soon heading uptown for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I needed to get film and wanted to stop off at B & H Photo and then meet up with Madelane at the Cathedral. I got off at the 34th Street Station and Madelane continued Uptown to the Cathedral on 110th.
The 34th Street station is the one we started out on yesterday afternoon. This time I walked up to the light and came out from under Macy's. I looked down the street and there was the Empire State Building. I headed to B & H, about three blocks away.
Blocks are a little different in New York then blocks in the West, or probably anywhere. Blocks heading north and south are relatively short. Going east and west they are *long*.
There is a certain irony in that I didn't get any pictures of the most amazing photography store I have ever seen — by several magnitudes. I have been buying film and photography gear through B & H's website for some time. There store is amazing and they have *everything*.
There is a mandatory bag check-in as you come through the front door. I exchanged my bag for a numbered receipt and then I just wandered around the store. I found the lighting section. I bought my Lowel Tota-light, that I used on Griff's pictures, from B & H. They had every Lowel light product on display. But they also had the other lighting manufacturers and all their products on display, too. And every other film camera — point and shoot, digital, medium format, and large format cameras. If you are an amateur or professional photographer, they have what need, not to mention what you want.
I needed film and I finally found the film department. I waited in line, briefly, until one of the film salesmen was free. There were five or six. (90% of the salesmen were Hasidic Jews – black pants, white shirts, yarmulkes and ringlets.) I needed 35mm and 120 roll film. They have any film you might want with some very good prices.
I told the salesman what I wanted and he pulled it off the shelf but he didn't give it to me. He handed me a receipt and put the film in a green tote box that hooked onto a chain that snaked slowly around the ceiling of the store like some sort of miniature ariel Disney ride. It's destination was unknown.
After I finished looking around, I checked out. There were six or seven at the checkout station. I paid my money to one of them and was given a pick up notice which I took to the adjacent pick up station where a man removed a little plastic bag from the wall and handed it to me. It even had my film in it. From there it was around the corner to pick up my bag and out the door. Amazing.
Then it was back to the 34th Street 1 & 9 subway heading Uptown.
As the train was heading Uptown there was an announcement about track work. I wanted to get off at 110th but the stops between 96th and 137th were closed. I wasn't quite sure just what the announcer was saying so I got off at 96th. As I got off I realized I could have gone to 137th and then headed back Downtown to 110th. I decided to walk to the Cathedral. I came out of the subway at Broadway and 96th into a street market.
The side of Broadway heading Uptown was closed and vendors had their booths set up selling food, T-shirts rugs, furniture, CDs, and just about anything. There were two fried chicken stands set up opposite each other. Each was calling out insults about their competitor. “Get your real chicken here!”
I pick up a Mozzarepa, which I had never heard of before. They were two flat patties made with ground sweet corn meal fried with mozzarella cheese in between. Pretty good.
The street market ran all the way to 110th Street where I took a right and a long block later I was at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Episcopal cathedral.
There is a family connection with this cathedral. My grandfather's father-in-law was Bishop William Manning. He was the Bishop of New York state, during the 30s and 40s, and his home church was the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
For years I heard stories of Uncle William, as my mother always referred to him, and now I was at his church.
I went inside and the 11:00 o'clock service was still going on. I found a seat in back and watched. The cathedral is 601 feet long so the service was a long way from me. The altar section was Romanesque while the nave was Gothic Revival. There were no transepts. The left transept was partially complete but had burned in 2001 and was walled off. The right transept hadn't been started. The Cathedral is a work in progress. They are currently building the right bell tower.
It was very dark. The altars were lit and there were the stained glass windows but the windows added little to the overall illumination. I took pictures from the pews in the rear.
When the service was over I hooked up with Madelane. We went around the corner of the cathedral and found the Bishop's house. It's now called Cathedral House and is no longer the Bishop's residence. My mom has memories of many nights in this building.
Madelane and I went on a tour of the Cathedral. My mom had told us that Uncle William had been cremated (he died in 1949) and we should try to find the drawer that held his ashes. His ashes weren't in a drawer. They were now in a sarcophagus with his likeness carved on top life size. It turned out that, according to our tour guide, Uncle William was quite the legend in New York. What I found interesting was his interest in civil rights and his efforts to include the poor as well as the rich. Uncle William raised the money to build the nave, which was open in 1941.
The tour guide pointed out that Bishop Manning was in the lyrics of a Cole Porter song. Your the top, from 1934. [From the third verse: You're a Nathan Panning, You're Bishop Manning.]
The stained glass windows were amazing. They were huge and detailed. I wish I had a cherry picker to lift me up so I could get some good pictures of them. So little film, so little time. Uncle William's resting place was under the American History window that had scenes from, you guessed it!, American history. There was even a small corner of the window with the sinking of the Titanic. It turns out that one of the early big donors to the building of the Cathedral was John Astor, who went down on the Titanic. J.P. Morgan, another Robber Baron, was also to have been on the Titanic's maiden voyage but became ill. He later became a large donor to the building fund of the Cathedral. Probably sort of a thank you note.
There was just so much about the history of this huge cathedral that it would take a book to cover just a part of it. I had assumed that, since it was built during the 20th century, the Cathedral would use some modern construction techniques. Not a chance. It was built the old fashioned way – piling one block of stone on top of the other. This meant that there was a lot of stone carving that needed to be done and a program was set up to train stone carvers. One of the early stone carvers was Gutzon Borglum who went on to carve Mt. Rushmore. Borglum carved a series of angels around one of the chapels surrounding the altars (all the chapels are amazing!). They caused some controversy at the time since he didn't use boys for models, the conventional practice, but young girls. Each of the angels has an instrument covering those anatomical differences that separate them from young boys.
There was a lot more history in the tour but I will leave it at this. I highly recommend taking this tour.
By the time we left the Cathedral my head was spinning, like the Gary Larson cartoon student: My head is full and I want to go home!