Chapter Three: 9/11 Museum, Woolworth Tour & MaiTaiTom’s Misguided Subway Odyssey

P1040486Chapter Three: 9/11 Museum, Woolworth Tour & MaiTaiTom’s Misguided Subway Odyssey

Day Three – 9/11 Revisited, Sobering Reminders, Washington Prayed Here, Five & Dime, Tallest Building In NYC (once upon a time), Bob The Tour Master, What’s That Aroma, Cash Only, I Think You Go Uptown, Manhattan Borough’s First Landmark, Lafayette We Are Here, The 10-Minute Subway Ride That Took 90 Minutes, The Out-Of-Towners, Soaked (and Nearly Divorced), Help I Need Somebody, Napoleon Complex and I Hope I’m That Energetic At 79

Up again early for sweets and coffee at our hotel, and then jumped on the L train for the less than 10-minute trip to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

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We had reserved a 9 a.m. entrance (the earliest) online a couple of months before we left for NYC (9 a.m. tickets are a great way to beat the crowds).

P1040462The first thing we noticed was the flag flying at half-staff in honor of those killed in Paris the previous week. We also noticed a heavy security force.  There were lots of cops and lots of big guns.

IMG_1884After passing through security and purchasing our $7 audio guides, we made our way through the museum. To say it was a sobering experience would be to put it mildly.  How sobering…Tracy went through a half-pack of tissues (by the way there are tissues available at the museum…and they were being used).

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One of the first things we saw from above was “The Last Column,” which was removed from Ground Zero on May 30, 2002.  Many recovery workers, first responders, volunteers and victim’s relatives signed the column and added messages and photos to it.

P1010454There was also a segment of “The Slurry Wall,” that prevented river water from seeping or flooding into the site when it was constructed.

P1040482We traveled down an escalator adjacent to a set of stone stairs. Those were the Vesey Street Stairs. The “Survivors Staircase” (as it is called) served as a means for escape for hundreds of evacuees from World Trade Center, the nine-story building next to the 110-story Twin Towers.

P1040468Next we walked by the restored Honda motorcycle of firefighter Gerard Baptiste, who was killed in the North Tower.  His station mates restored the motorcycle after his death. It’s now known as The Dream Bike.

P1040472The American flag that flew at the World trade Center was painstakingly stitched back together.

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We walked through a room that contained photos of all who were killed that day.  In a later room, many personal stories were shared in a video about many who had perished.

P1040469We came upon a mural with a quote by Virgil, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”  Spencer Finch was the only artist who was commissioned to create a new artwork for the institution. According to the NY Times, the mural called Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning “was inspired by the memorably clear, intensely blue sky of that fateful morning.”

P1040479Then there was the burned out fire truck of New York Fire Department Ladder Company 3.  Eleven members of that company died when the North Tower collapsed.  A left-behind helmet from one of the firefighters was a poignant reminder.

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We entered the museum portion where photography was not allowed. We watched the “Recovery At Ground Zero” video. It was all very moving. In total, we spent a little more than two hours inside before heading out to the twin reflecting pools that is a tribute of remembrance and honor to the people killed at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania,and at the Pentagon…as well as the six people killed in the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993.

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The names of each person killed in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels around the Memorial pools.

Moving on, we paid a visit to St. Paul’s Chapel (an Episcopal chapel located at 209 Broadway), so I could catch a glimpse of George Washington’s pew (there’s never enough “George” on the NYC trips).  St Paul’s also played an integral part in hosting weary recovery workers after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

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First we wandered through the outside graves and came to a bell. The Bell of Hope was donated to New York City by the Mayor of London on September 11, 2002, to mark the one year anniversary of the attacks on The World Trade Center Complex. It has rung on the anniversary every year since then. It has also been sounded for the bombings in London and Madrid.

3Inside…

P1040492…we walked over to the replica of “George Washington’s Pew,” the one he used to pray after taking his oath as president at Federal Hall on Wall Street.

P1040503Across the chapel from Washington’s pew is the “Governor’s Pew.”  Governor George Clinton, the first Governor of the State of New York, used when he visited St. Paul’s.

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Sadly, we could not find Pepé Le Pew.

pepe_le_pew_wallpaper_by_e_122_psiBefore exiting, we paid our respects to David McKean who had passed away “in the midst of his usefulness” in 1795.

P1040498We scooted down the street (we don’t scoot as fast as we used to) arriving at the Woolworth Building about 11:50 for our noon tour ($30). A gentleman by the name of Bob met us, and he said there were four people on this tour and since we were all there (obviously he doesn’t know me), we started early. Bob, as it turned out, was a wealth of information, and our “hour tour” actually lasted closer to 90 minutes.  Bob was originally hired by the Woolworth family for its 100th anniversary tours of the building a couple of years ago, and he did such a good job management asked him to continue.

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Woolworth founder Frank Woolworth (above left) hired “Starchitect” Cass Gilbert (above right) to design his dream building. Gilbert also designed the Minnesota State Capitol building, the Detroit Public Library and the United States Supreme Court building.

4a24480aThe original 25-story plan eventually turned out to be 54 stories, which made it the tallest building in the world until 1930. The Woolworth Building is considered to be one of the first “modern” skyscrapers.

P1040506Bob told us the exterior is covered with two million ceramic tiles. Woolworth paid $13.5 million (in cash) to build his dream.

The interior is a hodgepodge of designs inspired by his European travels.  The Romanesque entry ceiling is covered in 1.5 million hand-made glass squares.

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The elevator doors were made by Tiffany (the elevators here were the fastest in the world until the Chrysler Building was constructed). The medieval grill work on the mailboxes was cool, too.

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This incredibly gorgeous stained glass ceiling features important dates from Woolworth’s history.

P1040516Since the original building was not fireproof, the salamanders and phoenixes on the ceiling are symbols to protect against fire.

There are some comical and whimsical touches that abound in the ceiling.

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The corbels (12 in all) are actual craftsmen and people who worked on the construction, including Woolworth and Gilbert. Woolworth is shown with bulging muscles in his arms to hoist his nickels and dimes (as you may recall, Woolworth was started as a “5 and Dime Store”…the last store closed in 1997).  Cass Gilbert only turned down two of Woolworth’s requests. Woolworth wanted a statue of himself in the niche at the end of the hallway and also a light in the Observation Tower that was “brighter than Lady Liberty.” Both requests were vetoed by Gilbert.

When the Woolworth Building opened in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson flipped a switch in the White House, which lit up the building.  As Bob said, the opening “was attended by 900 of Woolworth’s closest friends.”

P1040507By the way, our guide’s name is Bob Gelber (Bob@WalkinNY.com) and he will do personal tours.  He comes highly recommended from Tracy and me, and we’ll definitely be in touch the next time we visit NYC.

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After the tour we grabbed a quick bite round the corner at Aroma Espresso Bar (100 Church Street). They have a good selection of soups and sandwiches (the Turkey with Turkey Bacon hit the spot). As you can see, they can be split as the sandwiches are huge.

P1040536Now it was time for, “MaiTaiTom’s Subway Odyssey,” a new show that Tracy became very tired of by the end of the day.  Our destination was to be the Merchant’ House Museum.  We (ok, that would “I”) made a mistake right away plopping down on the wrong train that we had been told by a transit worker was the “right” train.

Then we got off the first train, and the nice gentleman traveling with us on the next leg was 100% sure of the next direction we should go upon exiting, which, of course, turned out to be the wrong direction. Everyone’s intentions were good, but it seems that even locals can get a bit confused on this “Uptown,” “Downtown” thing. On the bright side, our Subway Pass was paying rich dividends…thanks to my stupidity we were now getting more than our money’s worth.

When we realized we were going the wrong way (again) we headed across the street, but once more our card didn’t work (we’d have to wait another 18-minutes). Fortunately the MTA guy realized our plight (Tracy used the old “we’re stupid tourists” line) and he let us through the gate. Finally we reached NoHo…where it promptly started to rain.

5When we entered the Merchant’s House, they requested cash…something of which we had none left…damn martinis!). After wandering aimlessly in the rain in search of cash, we finally found an ATM so we could enter the home ($13 a ticket), built in 1832 (and is a National Historic Landmark, a New York City Landmark and is listed on the National register of Historic Places). It is, according to their literature, the “only historic house museum in the Greenwich Village/Soho/NoHo neighborhoods.”

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First we strolled through the garden (the rain had stopped briefly).

P1040540Inside, almost everything, including the furniture, is original.

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The family lived here for 100 years until 1933 (when the last surviving child, Gertrude, passed away) and it was turned into a museum in 1935.

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It is a self-guided tour (you’re given a notebook to follow along).   Warning: The stairs are pretty steep, but luckily I didn’t fall.

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All in all, it was moderately interesting (this home also needs some renovation), and although recommended by many, I truthfully would not go out of my way to go here.

8We started walking through the vibrant NoHo neighborhood (I’d like to come back here) and stopped at the Grand Cafe Lafayette for a happy hour cocktail. If only the day could have stopped there, because this was the last time either of us was “happy” for the next couple of hours.

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Gazing at my handy-dandy subway app and perusing the map, it was a short 10-15 subway ride back to our stop. WrongWayMaiTai first put us on a train heading to, well I didn’t have a clue where the hell we were headed. I had escaped it for two days, but I finally received “The Look” from Tracy. That’s never good.

Then it was one misadventure after another, exiting one subway train for another, until after a half hour or so, we finally just decided to exit the damn subway to get our bearing. I don’t know which station we exited, but of course I picked the one that had nearly 15,000 stairs. “The Look” quickly transformed into “The Glare.”

Exiting, we suddenly became Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in The Out-Of-Towners as the skies opened up and Niagara Falls began raining down on NYC.

Out-of-Towners-Dennis-Lemmon-1970-Automat (1)Have you ever tried to catch a cab in the rain in NYC?  Well, we walked…and we walked..and we walked. And we got soaked…and soaked…and soaked. “Hey at least we don’t have to shower for dinner,” I quipped trying to make light of our predicament. Lesson: Never “quip” to an angry spouse.

Looking at Tracy, 21-years of marriage flashed before my eyes. All I could think was, “I hope I get the tabby cat, the flat screen and the stereo in the settlement.”

MoesterGiving up on finding a cab and not wanting to catch the subway for fear we’d wind up in Brooklyn, Tracy and I trudged through puddles the size of Lake Superior, all the while attempting to avoid being blinded by giant umbrellas wielded by fast walking New Yorkers. The rain pounded harder and harder as we walked.

Nearly two hours after leaving the Lafayette, we were back in the lobby at the Chelsea Pines Inn. I only wish I had taken a photo of the guy behind the desk when we walked in. His facial expression was priceless. So was Tracy’s, but I’m glad I didn’t take that photo.

We asked whether he could call a cab to pick us up for dinner. He said that might be difficult given the inclement weather, but that our restaurant was an “easy” subway ride away. Hearing that, I quickly made my way up the stairs before Tracy stabbed me to death with the umbrella.

After cleaning up and putting on dry clothes, Tracy and I walked back downstairs where we were told there was not a taxi available. One of the guys behind the desk, sensing Tracy was ready to kill me, said, “Hey, I’m going that way. I’ll walk you to the right subway entrance.”  Marriage (and perhaps my life) saved!!

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Dinner would be at Chez Napoleón (365 West 50th), and since I had nearly met my Waterloo earlier in the day, this seemed like a good choice. The restaurant had a très French feel, and we were seated (photos above from their website).

10Our server turned out to be quite a hoot. She was an “older” French lady. At first she didn’t say much, but as the evening progressed we spent quite a lot of time talking with her about our adventures in France, but also about her life.  The 79-years-young Jeanine has been working at Chez Napoleón for 42 years. She is from Montpellier, and when I told her we would visit her city in 2016, she beamed. She moved to the United States in 1952. When I asked her why she’s still doing this at 79, she answered, “I love my job, so why quit?” She moved around the restaurant like the Energizer Bunny.

IMG_3693My before dinner drink was a Napoleón Complex (I kid you not), a martini with Mandarin Napoleón, a liquor I had never heard of before.  The ice cube in my cocktail was large enough to sink the Titanic!  Tracy had a Lemon Twister (with a secret ingredient), but it tasted much like our Tomtini at Gotham Bar & Grill (only much less expensive).

The food here was great.

9I started with Escargots de Bourgogne (swimming in Garlic Butter…hell, Tracy wasn’t going to kiss me tonight anyway), and as always I ate them at a snail’s pace.

Tracy started with a cucumber salad topped with the house vinaigrette, which is available for sale if you’d like to take some back home.

My Beef Bourguinon was delicious, while Tracy enjoyed a Cassoulet.

11Our love affair with desserts on fire continued.

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Tracy had the Cerises Jubilée (flambéed cherries over vanilla ice cream)…

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…while I opted for the Crepes au Grand Marnier. It was a memorable dinner ($180 total).

12At the end of the evening Jeanine gave Tracy and I a long hug goodbye and thanked us for the conversation. It made me want to fly to Paris right away (especially since I can figure out their metro system).

Amazingly, even after a cocktail and wine, we were able to navigate with no problem (yes, it was a straight shot, but with our track record…) the way back home.

P1010507Our clothes from that afternoon were drying in the bathroom as we jumped into bed around 11 p.m.

Tomorrow would be our last full day in NYC and would start with one of the most beautiful walks we have taken in a long, long time.

Then we’d see a famous painting (Tracy has an interesting back-story on that piece of art), the shortest cab ride I’ve ever taken, a cathedral we thought we’d seen on our last visit…but didn’t, a winter festival in a famed park and a return to a couple of Chelsea favorites.

Oh, my subway misadventures would also become a distant memory!

Next: Day Four – Where’s Cary Grant, Autumn In Central Park, What’s Neue, Copped Klimt, Get Me Off This Taxi, Window Shopping, You Mean This Is St. Patricks, We Don’t Make It To Toledo, The Dessert Drink To End All Dessert Drinks, Christmas Shopping In The Park, Getting High and How Do These Kids Afford This Place

 

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