Chapter Three – Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

P1010153Chapter Three – Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

Day Three – Assault On Battery, Statue Of Limitations, Crowning Achievement, The Agony Of Da Feet, They’re Coming To America, Hamilton’s Buried Here, Changing The Course Of History, Up Against The Wall Street, Living The High Line and Going Green

I awoke early with sore feet, sore legs and a slight hangover, not exactly the perfect trifecta for climbing the Statue of Liberty. Tracy was just wondering why I had scheduled a wake-up call so early on vacation.

If I have a personality disorder…let me start over.  One of my biggest personality disorders is something I call, “I hate to be late syndrome.”  My therapist might say I cope with this affliction by “grossly overcompensating.”  Today would be no different.

P1000467I had politely asked Kim, Mary and Tracy to be ready by 7:15 so we could be at Battery Park early for our 9 o’clock cruise to the Statue of Liberty.  They’ve seen me beg and grovel before (it ain’t pretty), so they immediately said “yes” when asked. It beat my other plan, which was just to camp out in the park overnight. I thought we could be the “Alternative Occupy Wall Street,” but the group eschewed that idea immediately.

Even the good folks at the Chelsea Pines were not awake this early for coffee, and Charlie, who was outside our door when we exited, took one look at us, shook his head and curled up as if to say, “It’s only about a seven-minute subway ride. What’s your hurry old man?”

I had been told to get to Battery Park about an hour before the boat departed, so getting their 75 minutes before we departed could be seen as overkill. The park was virtually empty upon our entrance.

At 7:45 a.m., about the only living things in Battery Park were a couple of wayward squirrels, a disheveled guy who looked like he had taken a wrong turn to the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the four of us. It took all of Tracy’s willpower not to give me “the look,” however that did not preclude Kim and Mary from the same thing.  At least it was a beautiful morning, and Lady Liberty’s torch was beckoning us from afar.

P1010114I had reserved these tickets months ago, and we strolled around Battery Park for what seemed to the group an eternity and caught a glimpse of The Immigrants, a statue by sculptor Luis Sanguino,

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Then we walked over to Clinton Castle (Bill and Hillary were nowhere to be found) where we exchanged the confirmation email for our SOL tickets that would allow us to go to the crown.

P1000549We got in line and went through the first of a couple of tight security checkpoints.

P1000471Then it was time to get on board.

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After a short boat ride, with New York’s skyline glistening in the background…

P1010121…the boat docked at Liberty Island.

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The Statue of Liberty, which was originally called Liberty Enlightening the World, was a gift from France to the United States.  It was originally planned to debut in 1876.  This was the year the United States celebrated its 100th birthday.

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Funding and (shock) political problems delayed the opening.  Ten years later, on October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland unveiled the statue.  There were 300 boats in the harbor.  More than  a million people lined the streets of New York to witness a parade, which turned out to be Manhattan’s first ticker tape parade.

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We had paid an additional eight bucks apiece for audio guides to the SOL and Ellis Island, so we picked them up, walked to a building where we received our “Crown wristbands” and were told that we could not take anything up to the crown except a camera.  No bags, no purses and no cell phones.

P1010149There is a place to stash your gear/purses/phones in lockers, and the system works by fingerprint identity.  Knowing that Tracy had never pulled off a bank heist, we put her in charge.

The “Crown People,” as the four of us now called ourselves, were put in a “special” line and soon we started ascending the 350 or so stairs to the top.  I did not have a clue if I could make it, and paramedics throughout the city were alerted.

We made it to the pedestal (where the non-crown people have to stop), and after a brief respite we began the steep (and very narrow), spiral climb to the crown.  Kim was able to capture the inside of the Statue of Liberty through some nice photos.

P1000489They only let in about 10-15 people every fifteen minutes to climb to the crown.  We were in the first group of the day.

P1000514 - Version 2As we neared the crown (or at least I hoped we were near), the Statue of Liberty poem by Emma Lazarus began taking on new meaning. I was not so much yearning to breath free as I was just yearning to breath at all. I was tired and feeling poor and really hoped not to become a huddled mass or some wretched refuse clogging up the minuscule stairwell.  Where were those lower Conquering Limbs when I needed them?

P1000510 When I heard the friendly voice of a park ranger, I knew we had made it to the top. Truthfully, it’s cramped at the top (maybe room for three or four people to look out) and the view isn’t all that terrific through the windows.  However, for me it was a satisfying feeling of accomplishment, especially considering a year ago I was unable to walk, had a feeding tube down my throat and made Calista Flockhart look overweight.

P1000511There were a few unique views of the statue views from our vantage point, however, and our park ranger gave us some interesting facts such as the SOL has an exterior copper covering that is less than the thickness of two pennies.  I thought abut giving him my “two cents worth,” but decided otherwise.   He also told us that Gustav Eiffel designed the interior structural elements a few years before he designed he famous tower that bears his name.

P1000525Then came the phrase I didn’t want to hear. “What goes up, must go down.” Luckily, for me anyway, down was easier than going up, although by now my feet were really sore.

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We stopped at a couple of outside spots for photos, and we made a quick tour of the museum, where you can see the original torch.

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And we certainly could not leave until we saw the life-size replica of the Statue Of Liberty’s foot…

P1010147 …and we got some fun facts about the statue…

P1000539…but now it was back on Statue Cruises for the short hop over to Ellis Island…

P1010139…where we would look for our relatives later (by computer, of course).

P1010137Upon arriving, we picked up a new set of audio guides and we were off seeing how immigrants were treated upon their arrival in their new country.

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The big hall where all the immigrants passed through was quite large…

P1000554…and included an interesting light fixture.

P1010158The tales told from the immigrants’ perspective could be uplifting as well as heartbreaking…

P1010161  …although these guys looked a little sketchy,

P1010163After touring the different rooms, we came out at a place where you can research when different family members made their voyage (or voyages) to America.  My Norwegian grandfather seemed to make a few crossings in the early 20th century.  I hoped I wouldn’t learn that he was actually a Lutefisk, Reindeer or Smoked Salmon smuggler.

P1010164Back on the boat, it was goodbye Ellis Island and hello again to Battery Park.

P1010168We spent about 3½ hours touring the SOL and Ellis Island, which we thought was enough, but you certainly could spend more time if you wanted.  I’m an audio guide guy, but I thought the SOL part of the audio guide was virtually worthless (the park rangers tell you a lot more interesting tidbits, plus you can ask questions). The Ellis Island audio guides were better, but personally I don’t think the guides were worth the eight bucks.

P1010174 Walking through Battery Park, we saw The Sphere, which for three years stood in the middle of the World Trade Centers.  It was damaged on 9/11 and placed here “as an icon of hope and the indestructible spirit of this country.”   There is also an eternal flame at this spot.

P1000578As we headed up toward Wall Street and the Trinity Church area, we realized we had only consumed a couple of sweet rolls that Kim and Mary bought during the longer-than-needed “Tom Lull Time” before we headed over to the Statue of Liberty.

P1010177We stopped by Bowling Green, which I thought was in Ohio.  As it turns out, this Bowling Green is the oldest park in New York City and home to the famous Charging Bull sculpture , a symbol of financial optimism, which sadly I never have.   Bowling Green also serves as the starting point for the City’s ticker-tape parades. It was originally home to a cattle market (so I guess the bull makes sense if not cents), but  became a park in 1733.  It is a favorite lunchtime spot for Financial District employees.

P1000582We took a quick look at the Merrill Lynch Bull (there is now a protective barrier that I assume was put up to protect it from protesters…or ticked off investors).

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Then we walked past the graveyard at Trinity Church, saw Alexander Hamilton’s tomb and walked a couple of blocks to George’s New York, located at the corner of Greenwich and Rector Streets.

outsideGeorge’s (photo from their website) had to be torn down after the 9/11 attacks, but they rebuilt, and it was packed this Wednesday about 1:30.  It was the best of both worlds as Kim and Mary had breakfast, Tracy and I had lunch while my feet were able to get some very necessary rest.

P1000591Back on our feet, the crew toured Trinity Church…

P1010187…and took photos of heads inserted into a large ten-dollar bill (stupid tourists), taking the place of the aforementioned Mr. Hamilton’s visage.

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Fortunately, no one challenged us to a duel, and we were off on our next quest.  I’m sure our first Secretary of the Treasury would be proud to know that people take great pleasure in sticking their heads in a cardboard cut-out at the very church where he worshiped.

P1010194Before leaving the graveyard we bade farewell to Robert Fulton, and then it was full steam ahead for our group.

P1010196We passed by the New York Stock Exchange, where my retirement savings used to hang out…

P1010197…and then walked by Federal Hall and its large statue of George Washington in front, the site of his first inauguration

P1000602 That was fitting because we were on our way to a place where Washington actually changed the course of United States and world history.  On the way, we passed a famed steakhouse (if only I still had those retirement savings, I could afford this place).

P1010202At 54 Pearl Street stands Fraunces Tavern.  At this spot, on December 4, 1783, General Washington, who at this point in his life could have formed a military regime or whatever the hell he wanted, said farewell to his Continental Army officers in the Long Room of Fraunces Tavern.

P1000604Upon hearing that Washington was going to retire as commander of the Continental Forces, King George III supposedly said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”  When Washington told his men he was retiring there was hardly a dry eye in the room. Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge wrote, “Such a scene of sorrow and weeping I had never before witnessed and fondly hope I may never be called to witness again.” Thankfully, he never lived to witness Jim Brown’s death near the end of The Dirty Dozen.

jimbrown2The museum at Fraunces Tavern is located above the restaurant and bar, in operation since 1762.  Entrance to the museum is seven bucks, and with that you get to see a recreation of the Long Room plus a number of paintings and documents in various rooms.  Kim is a big Washington fan, so he and I took the tour while Mary and Tracy made history downstairs with a beer and a Manhattan.

P1010205I cannot tell a lie, I did not see the sign that said “no photography” and took a photo of the replica of the Long Room. Hopefully I won’t be cursed with wooden teeth (yes, I know he didn’t really have wooden teeth…they were actually carved from hippopotamus ivory and gold).

Back outside, we pondered our next move on this beautiful New York City day.

P1010203Since none of us were entirely crippled by this point, we hopped on a subway to our next point of interest, St. Paul’s Episcopal Chapel at 209 Broadway.  St. Paul’s is the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan, constructed in 1766.

P1000611St. Paul’s also has a graveyard in front that we walked through before reaching the entrance.  The oldest grave dates from 1704.

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Keeping with the George Washington theme of the past couple of hours, this is the church where he worshiped (you can see his pew) after his inauguration.  It also was a place where 9/11 responders received care (podiatrists used Washington’s pew to help treat workers’ feet).  Inside was a large banner sent from Oklahoma City telling rescuers to “…keep your spirits up.”

P1010214Suddenly outside, there was spirit of another type.  Drums were banging.  Horns were blowing.  People were yelling.   Occupy Wall Street was now occupying the street behind St. Paul’s.  Wave after wave of protesters were singing songs and carrying signs, mostly saying “hooray for our side.”

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“There’s something happening here,” I said. “What it is ain’t exactly clear.”  Fortunately, there wasn’t a “man with a gun over there.”   Then a chorus of, “This is not a Photo Op,” came from the crowd. The dozens of people taking pictures disagreed.

P1010220After St. Paul’s, we stopped by the 9/11 Memorial Visitor Center (90 West Street/corner of Albany). We had not gotten advanced tickets to visit the recently opened 9/11 Memorial, so we checked to see if you could get “Day Of” passes. They said we could, but it would be best to get here before 8 a.m. to pick up tickets for the same day.

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After my early wake up fiasco of this morning, this decision would be ultimately be made by the rest of the group. We decided to take it on a day-by-day basis, depending on how we felt each morning.

P1000634Speaking of how we felt, the consensus answer at this moment of the day was “pooped,” so it was back on the subway to the Chelsea Pines.  As you can see by my subway expression, “pooped” was the key word.  Those near death experiences can take a lot out of you…even a year later!

P1000632We told Daniel at Chelsea Pines about our itinerary so far on this day, and once again he just shook his head in disbelief.  We almost didn’t have the heart to tell him that we were just back for a few moments to shower, and then it was off to the High Line and the Chelsea Market, but we were glad we did.

“At Chelsea Market, check out The Green Table. We really like that restaurant.”  We made a mental note of it. He added, “Don’t forget, tomorrow is the Chelsea Pines’ 25th Anniversary Party. There will be free wine and cheese.”  Well, the last time I turned down free wine was when I was 13, so we told him we’d be there.

P1010227A quick shower and three-minute power nap, and it was back to checking out more of the nearby ‘hood.’  We were on the move again, this time down to the High-Line.

P1000637Built in the 1930s, for years the High Line was where trains would move freight until 1980.

P1000651In the late 90s, in a move to keep the High Line from being demolished, a movement started to preserve this elevated area as a public park.

P1010233In 2006, groundbreaking began and the first section was opened in 2009.  The second part opened this summer. The High Line is open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., and it was amazing to see a place that was not even in use just two short years ago now full of New Yorkers who have obviously embraced this project.

P1010229When we arrived a little past six, the High Line was hopping with people strolling, enjoying the sunset or even doing a little aerobic exercise.

P1010228Like an idiot, I tried to join in a “High Line; High Stepping” workout,” momentarily forgetting my body was under siege from all the walking earlier in the day.

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Tracy had me stop before I pulled a groin in full view of a number of shocked (and chuckling) New Yorkers.

P1010244We walked along the High Line for about an hour enjoying the lights flickering on in skyscrapers throughout the city.  It was very cool.

P1010245We dragged our weary bodies down the stairs, and made a beeline for our next and (thankfully) final stop of the evening, the Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave. between 15th and 16th Streets).

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The market was already getting ready for Halloween.

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Inside Chelsea Market, one business caught our eye immediately.  Amy’s Bread was obviously making dough by making dough. I knew there would be a croissant in my future there later in the week.

P1010271Then we saw The Green Table, the restaurant Daniel at Chelsea Pines had recommended. We lucked out and got the last available table about 7:30.

P1010270This turned out to be a really good dinner with a diverse menu.

P1010257Tracy started with a bowl of the vegan White Bean Soup ($7) that was really quite good.

P1010266Kim and I each got a seriously delicious Corn On The Cob grilled with cilantro-aleppo butter and lime ($4). I have got to try this at home, although at the time I thought “Aleppo” was one of the Marx Brothers.

P1010260Kim also ordered a Mac & Cheese appetizer for the table ($10).  It was made with goat cheese, Colby, cheddar & Parmesan, organic pasta and herbed breadcrumbs. My arteries hardened just while looking at the ingredients.

P1000679For her entree, Mary had the Shellfish Pasta, a house made squid ink black linguini, gulf shrimp, scallops, calamari, basil and tomatoes ($24).

P1000682Kim opted for the organic chicken breast roasted with braised local greens, buttered spätzle and thyme jus ($19).

P1000684Following her soup, Tracy went with another starter dish. She tried the Roasted Baby Beets with fennel, ricotta salata and fines herbs ($11).

P1010261She had me taste it (beets are not my favorite), and I had to admit it was delicious.  It would not be my last beet awakening this week.

P1010264Finally, I tried the Beef Bourguignon Pot Pie with red wine braised local beef topped with a flaky pâté brisée crust ($20). It also was really good, but was a little too hot to enjoy for a while after it came out.

P1010269A bottle of Les Baux de Provence (where the four of us are scheduled to be next fall) Mas de Gourgonnier 2009 ($30) and a half bottle of a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2008 ($18) complemented the meal perfectly. As you can see, we are equal opportunity country of origin wine drinkers.

Near the end of dinner, an alert came over (what else) our iPhones that Apple’s Steve Jobs had passed away.  I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted us to hear about it any other way. By the next day, the window at the Apple Store in Chelsea (and everywhere else) was filled with notes of condolences.

P1010250We limped the short distance back to the hotel after becoming quite full at The Green Table and completing another full day of activities. There would be no respite for any of us tomorrow, because our first appointment was walking over to Brooklyn. As we petted the ever-amorous Charlie before we turned in, Tracy asked, “Do you think you can make it?”

“Well,” I replied, “I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Next: Day Four – Bridge Work, No Time For Pizza, But We Don’t Want The Irish, Pastabilities, Old St. Pat’s, What The Hell Did He Say, Anniversary Party, Looking For Art In All The Wrong Places, Mary To The Rescue, C’est Trés Bon, Subway Pole Dancing and Ménage à Trois

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