Back in the day, New York had lots of El trains. That’s not Spanish for train, but shorthand for ‘elevated.’ Think of the famous car chase in ‘The French Connection’ where Gene Hackman swerved back and forth under the El. In Manhattan, almost all the El tracks have been removed. Except the High Line, that is, which runs between Greenwich Village and 30th Street. About two kilometers of rusty track has been lying there waiting for someone to fix it up. And presto, someone just has, turning it into a garden walkway that runs through the new Standard Hotel – the way it once used to run through apartment buildings – with lots of wooden benches, sunbeds, a little amphitheater where you can picnic and watch the traffic pass below, great views of the Hudson River, and flowerbeds and grasses that intentionally look wild rather than tended. Entrances are at Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District and on 16th Street.
Archives for August 2009
African Skies over Manhattan
Few things surprise me in N.Y. Maybe the guy in the subway last week who, unlike the normal beggars, claimed to have been tortured by the CIA. But last night a thunderstorm hit upper Manhattan that devastated half of Central Park. Dozens, maybe scores, of trees six- and seven-stories high were lying across the road. Cyclists and runners on their morning ritual were standing next to these 100-year-old giants just gaping. This isn’t the kind of thing that happens in New York. New York is orderly (except for the odd shooting, robbery, mugging and siren every five minutes). Roads were closed off, park employees were scrambling to cut up the trees and clean up the branches. I thought of Africa, then, and how this kind of thing happens all the time. Nice to see Mother Nature hasn’t forgotten Manhattan.
Lights, Camera, Apartheid, Blockbuster!
Who ever thought they’d see the words ‘apartheid,’ ‘sci-fi,’ and ‘blockbuster’ in the same planetary orbit, let alone the same sentence? Well, along comes ‘District 9’ – you already see the allegory, right? – a HUGE movie opening this weekend in America that was shot in South Africa, directed by an expat (Neill Blomkamp, aged 27, who lives in New Zealand), stars an unknown South African (Sharlto Copley), was produced by ‘Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson and is about a group of extraterrestrials that look like giant insects whose spaceship gets stranded above Joburg in the ’80s. They are put into a kind of township for the next 20 years, kept apart from the rest of the population, and everyone despises them. Then, of course, something goes wrong, and our hero discovers a nasty experiment that’s being carried out on the ETs. The YouTube video has already been watched by half a million, and the reviews have been incendiary. Move over, Gavin Hood, there’s a new kid on the block!
Summer in the City
Spring is the best time in New York, but summer is great because the pool in Central Park opens. It’s a skating rink in winter, 65 metres across, but July it open for laps in the morning and at night. And it’s free! Summer is free time in New York. Couple years ago, there was only Bryant Park, which has a free movie once a week. Now there are countless venues for flicks, on the river, under the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s even a couple on rooftops. Then there are free dances to watch or to join (swing at Lincoln Center), concerts at Summerstage, opera in Central Park. Don’t be fooled into thinking New York has to cost lots of money. Rent a bike — it’s probably cheapest from the guys hanging out at Columbus Circle — and circumnavigate the island, which, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, is getting greener and more bike lanes. Kayak on the Hudson, also free. Museums aren’t free, but check the fineprint at the bottom of the sign. If it says ‘Suggested entrance,’ it means you can pay anything. Even a dime! Remember that when you go to the Metropolitan. I will update free things in the city as they come up, and maybe I will add a couple cheap hotels. Yes, they do exist!
An Afrikaner Takes New York
You’d think anyone with the name Swanepoel would change it as soon as he left South Africa. Plenty of Poggenpoels and Vandeventers did. But not Albertus Q. Swanepoel. And there, a few weeks ago, his name was on a major billboard in Manhattan — Albertus Swanepoel, designer of the new hat collection at the Gap. The handsome, soft-spoken, Pretoria-born Swanepoel, who has been in America for almost twenty years, has steadily been getting rave write-ups for his fabulous hats in Vogue and the New York Times, working with top fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and Carolina Herrera, and his namesake label sells in Barneys and Paul Smith, to name a few. At the moment he is in talks with Club Monaco and Stetson to bring out a range of headgear. Even if you don’t wear a hat, check out one of the funkiest websites around.
Documentary as Thriller?
Yes, sounds odd, doesn’t it. Well, that’s how they are promoting ‘The Cove.’ And that’s what the rave reviews are calling it. It’s kind of a doccie mixed with ‘The Bourne Identity.’ It’s brilliant, has you at the edge of your seat the whole 90 minutes, and you just have to check out the trailer at The Cove to see what I’m talking about. For the faint of heart (or those of you who love animals), beware — this is about how one town in Japan, Taiji, treats dolphins. After herding them into the aforementioned cove in the most chilling, horrifying manner, those that they don’t sell off to aquariums around the world (and to swim-with-dolphin programs — yes, this is how they trap those seemingly happy dolphins you might have swum with!), they slaughter. One heroic man tries to save them. It’s a movie that you should see, although most people will head to ‘Transformers 2’ instead. But if I’ve made one of you go check it out, I’ve done something. Save the Dolphins.