Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Whirling by Wintry New York

JT Gonzales - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – It was near freezing, the wind was blowing harshly, and frigid rain drops were pelting. But who cared!  Manhattan’s vibrant scene was calling our names outside, and there was no way the weather could stop us.

This was New York – glamorous scene of many movies as well as numerous television shows.  Brilliant lights, ginormous city.  How could we stay in?  So off we braved the weather of New York in November.

There are innumerable things to do during the fall season, chill or no chill, and so there is no need to fear that boredom will strike.  First off, one can hit the museums.  This is a major art capital, after all, despite what Art Basel has done to promote Miami or even Basel itself.  The Met Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, and many more galleries and venues provide world-class exhibits and performances that enrich the mind and nourish the artistic soul.

On this trip, we spent one chilly day within the warm confines of the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA, as it is fondly called.  After forking over the obligatory US$25 for adults (students and seniors pay considerably less), my sister and I walked in a trance around well-known works of art.  There was “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh; there was “The Dancing Demoiselles” by Matisse; and there was a roomful of “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet.  We were like kids in a candy store as our eyes savored the spectacular canvasses that MoMa has on offer.

We were in luck as well, as a special exhibition of sculptures by the Spanish giant Pablo Picasso had been gathered from all over the world and brought together in a single space.  That exhibit was where the crowd of tourists was stampeding off to like a pack of camera-toting hyenas, and so for crowd control measures, the museum had to institute a timed entry system. Visitors were given specific time slots for entry into the floor where the Picasso treasures awaited, but this shouldn’t be a big deal.  Since the museum is huge, there is plenty to see for the visitor whilst waiting for the assigned time slot.

Be prepared to be awed, as the curated pieces are awesome. Arranged in accordance with the different phases of Picasso’s artistic career, the sculptures show the immense imagination of this magnificent artist. Imagine using a Beetle Volkswagen toy car as the head of a monkey, or a bicycle seat and its handles to depict a steer. Fusions of male and female organs in the guise of human busts, a specialty of Picasso, are also on display.

Finally, don’t miss the outdoor garden in MoMA, where sculptural works by other artists, both avant garde and otherwise, provide plenty of Instagram-worthy shots.

Speaking of sculptures, downtown by the Meat Packing District, at the newly launched Whitney museum, one can find larger than life pieces by celebrated artiste Frank Stella. The carefully constructed industrial pieces are intimidating and quite grand, and the afternoon I had set aside for the Whitney saw me bumping into Bacolod artist Charlie Co and his gracious wife Ann Legaspi-Co as they too imbibed the Stella pieces on display.  Also available, this autumn in the Whitney is a retrospective of Archie Motley, an African American “jazz age modernist,” whose travels to Paris and Mexico give an international flavor to his discourse on race relations. (Prepare US$22 for this museum).

Had enough of museums? Well, in the evenings, Broadway beckons! Take in a musicale like “Chicago,” “Kinky Boots” (with musical scoring by Cindy Lauper) or “Wicked.”  Our choice for this trip, however, was the “Book of Mormon,” which is a hilarious and very irreverent take on the Church of the Latter Day Saints.  Poking fun on Mormons (naturally), Africans, Jews and everyone else, prepare to die laughing at this Tony Award winning production.

If musicales aren’t your thing, there are plays that showcase serious acting chops by the best of American thespians.  I would recommend, with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever, the newly staged “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time,” the Tony winner for Best Play this year.  And deserving of the win it is, with its deeply moving story of a child’s quest to find not only the mystery surrounding his neighbor’s dog, but his own limits.

This play won Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design, so come prepared to be astounded by technical wizardry combined with human imagination.  Also, be prepared to spill a tear or two, or maybe buckets of them. Bring a handkerchief for those moments when you cannot let your companion see how much of a softie you are.

If celebrities turn you on, then this Broadway season promises plenty of star power.  Bruce Willis is appearing in “Misery,” James Earl Jones is in critically acclaimed “The Gin Game,” and Al Pacino is in another show.  Jennifer Hudson is doing “The Color Purple,” and “The Wiz” is being headlined by (drumroll please) – Queen Latifah, Ne-yo, Mary J. Blige and Amber Riley (of “Glee” fame)! It would be absolutely wizardry if you could score tickets to this show!

Of course, Broadway is expensive, so if you want to give your wallets a rest from this dollar devouring city, then I would suggest Central Park, where one can wander around orange and yellow foliage while breathing in fresh air, or the High Line, one of Manhattan’s newest attractions.  Both of these are completely fee-free, and the only cost might be achy feet and massive thirst afterwards.

The High Line is an old elevated train tracks that someone had the bright idea of converting into a garden.  And so, for 22 astounding blocks, one can wander around in complete freedom from pesky cars or bicycles, enjoying flower beds, sculptural pieces, and views of the city from never- before available angles.  One can even peer into homes and offices as Manhattanites conduct their daily lives, or lounge on wooden benches or even daybeds as the tourists go by.

The best time to come to the High Line, of course, is spring when the flowers are in full bloom and the verdant richness of this sanctuary is revealed in full splendor, but fall isn’t too bad.  Stark tree branches amidst the crisp fall air have their own beauty as well.

Of course, Central Park is a staple for tourists, so if it’s not too unseasonable outside, bundle up and take long meandering walks through meadows and pathways.  (There’s a zoo as well, where polar bears and piranhas await, but for this treat, one has to shell out more than a couple of bucks.  The zoo does have to pay for central heating, you know).

New Yorkers love parades, and Veterans Day just saw thousands of vets being feted in Fifth Avenue.  Gay Pride had its own summer run but after summer, the highlight is, of course, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Expect an afternoon-full of wonder-dispensing floats as corporate sponsors try to outdo each other in gimmickry and innovative ideas.

New York is the home of the United Nations, so perhaps a visit to their headquarters might interest the more bookish tourist.  Check out the General Assembly room where Barack Obama speaks to the world community, or the Security Council meeting hall, where the safety of the world lies in balance.  On one might even come face-to-face with celebrities like Angelina Jolie or Daniel Craig, who have come to address the august body just recently on issues of international importance.

All this wandering around will drain copious amounts of energy, so stock up on calories prior to venturing out.  My favorite breakfast joint has always been Le Pain Quotidien, which serve the most scrumptious of croissants and the most buttery of brioches.  The past couple of years has seen an explosion of branches for this Parisian staple, and every few blocks of Gotham will yield a branch of Le Pain for the hungry traveler.  Nothing like soft-boiled eggs, apricot jam, and pain de chocolat to fortify the traveler. Oh, and a cappuccino or two.

Once you have expended enough calories, then I suggest you swing by one of the many bakeries and cafes that dot the city.  Magnolia cupcakes are divine, and perhaps, grab a bagel from a deli to complete the Manhattan experience.  A stop by spectacularly historic Grand Central terminal could also be a (free) photo-op worthy experience. There is a dining concourse at the basement as well as a market by the ground floor where absolutely scrumptious food on-the-go can be experienced.

One last tip for the tourist – if you dread the subway or having to compete for cabs a la Sarah Jessica Parker in “Sex and the City,” Uber is here!  This app can transport you worry-free around where you need to go; or if not this, a couple of competing taxi apps (Way2Ride and Gett) have also been developed.  (To compete with Uber, the taxi apps boast of not having any surge pricing.)  Whatever the choice you make, the hazards of getting lost in the subway system or being trampled upon by grumpy New Yorkers are now eliminated.

So bundle up and get going outside. Those nor’eastern winds mustn’t be allowed to interfere with your fabulous winter vacation!













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