New York City Public Library

One of my friends, Beth MacLane, who has given us a ton of local NYC ideas in the past – whether it’s been places to eat, things to do or places to go – has always been on point.  So when she said she always tries to stop in at the New York City Public Library whenever she’s in town, I knew we probably needed to check it out.  She said it’s so peaceful and something you can’t experience anywhere else.

The initial doubts were there for me…I mean, the library?  Really?  A “must go to” spot?  I had been to the Costa Mesa, CA branch and trust me; you wouldn’t want to experience that one. I’m kinda kidding.  Anyway, we had a Saturday free (rare for both Tara and I) so we decided to take full advantage of it and make our way to midtown and check out the main branch.

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A few fun facts:
*It opened in 1895
*It’s the 2nd largest library in the US (3rd in the world) behind only the Library of Congress
*It houses 53 million items (45 million research items and 8 million branch items)
*While this is the main branch, there are 87 branches in all
*It’s independently managed as a non-profit corporation with both private and public financing

This place is massive – 3 levels to be exact.  When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the ceiling and architecture.  It’s pretty incredible.  It reminds me of my trip to Europe and just feeling like you’re back in time with some of the structures.  The first level has mainly exhibit items about the library history.
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The 2nd level has a few reading rooms and a few exhibit literature items like this first edition Reader’s Digest.  The reading rooms are decorated with amazing paintings.

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The 3rd level houses all the books and more reading rooms.  I was surprised that they had all the tables updated with power supplies as well as laptops for check-out (as long as used in the library).  Technically, you weren’t supposed to take pictures in these rooms but you know…I went stealth / ninja mode and took some images…all in the name of blogging.
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We wanted to get a library card but you had to have certain documentation showing that you lived there.  Tara had that documentation on her so she got a card. I, of course, did not and will have to wait to get mine the next time we go back. Tara actually got the card, in part, because she wanted to check-out a book that she’d had her eye on but didn’t want to pay $12 to buy it on Amazon.  Come to find out, this is 1 of 4 NON-LENDING branches where you can check it out but you have to read it in the library.

Later, we found out that if you have a kindle, you can get it electronically and check it out that way for 30 days.  To give you an idea of how many people use this library, all electronic copies of the book she wanted were checked out and she was in the “600 range” of people on the waiting list.

All in all, it’s a great visit!  I can see why Beth goes there often.  Oh and once again, it’s free!

Manhattanhenge

New York City has some pretty magical things that happen on any given day. But there are two times a year when The City really shows off!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Manhattanhenge.

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It occurs when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan street grid, creating the most spectacular glow of light across the buildings, illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street.

For the best views, it’s recommended to go as far east as possible on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets. These streets have the clearest view across the avenues to New Jersey. This year, it happened on May 28th and July 13th.

So, on May 28th, close to sunset, Brian and I trucked east on 14th Street to position ourselves for the best possible view. We get to 2nd Avenue and there’s some trees really shading and blocking the view.

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At the last minute, we decide to take a gamble and try 23rd Street. Now, we’re running. It only happens twice a year and we are going to be out of town for the second one! We are hoofing it! Me, with my huge camera in one hand, phone and keys in the other, dodging everything from taxis to tourists; it’s really a sight to see.

We make it to 23rd and the view is SO MUCH better! I’m so glad we made the move. I’m also stoked to see we are not the only crazy people holding up traffic to take pictures in the middle of the street!

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Pretty amazing.

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Next year, I would love to go further uptown. The light bouncing off the high rises would really be beautiful.

Important to note: If the weather doesn’t cooperate (i.e. overcast or rainy), you won’t be able to see anything but clouds.  Such was the case for July 13th.  Our friends were in town staying at our place  while we were both gone.  Brian and I told them they HAD to make it down there and see it.  It had been overcast all day and this is the picture they sent us.  So sad.
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HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Tara and I lead what our church calls a “community group” (other churches call it a connect group, small group, life group, etc.).  Our particular group is for married couples. As we were going into the Summer season, we changed the format from the Spring semester to a more social and less study feel, taking advantage of all the things NY has to offer in the Summer.

We designated one night for going to the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which is absolutely free!
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It runs from the middle of June through the middle of August and they show some classic films.  Each week it’s a different film and you can see all the options on their website.  We picked “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” because it’s a classic and frankly seemed easier to follow then most of the others.

Here’s how it works.  The green lawn is closed to the public all day until 5PM.  Unlike Shakespeare in the Park, there are NO tickets needed.  Instead, you line up on the gravel surrounding the lawn at 4PM.  Then at 5, they open the lawn and it’s a free for all to make your claim to the best view of the big screen.  People bring blankets and chairs to mark their territory.

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Once again, because of my flexible work schedule, I was designated as our group representative to grab our seats.  Surprisingly enough, with my one blanket, I got us perfect seats.  All that half marathon training paid off in the mad dash.  So cool having the cityscape as your backdrop behind the screen.

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Tara HBO Film Festival spot

The only problem is that you then have to WAIT until 8:30PMish for the sun to go down and the film to begin.  People bring books, mess around on their phones, eat dinner, etc. until the film starts.  In our case, Tara met me there after she got off work and we watched flying cameras and played a few rounds of thumb war (which I dominated..duh).

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Our group mates made their way to finding us before the film started and everything worked out perfectly.  Here are a couple tips:

#1: Try to secure a space as close to the middle of the lawn as possible.  For one, all the speakers are located in the middle so if you’re on the sides, you catch the echo and it’s hard to hear clearly.  Also, if anybody leaves, you’re less likely to have people walk over you being in the middle.  If you’re on the edges, you’re subjected to it all movie long (much like having an aisle seat on a plane).

#2: Bring 2 blankets if securing for a large group.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve brought a second one.  They don’t allow “sheets” so don’t bring those.

#3: Bring an umbrella!  Summer showers in NY are subject to happen at any time and there is no covering on the lawn.  In fact, a slight drizzle DID come down for about 2-3 minutes before the movie started. The nice thing is it cleared out a few folks who did not bring umbrellas, which allowed us to spread out a bit.

#4: You can bring your own food and drink but they do inspect bags again, so don’t bring professional cameras.  There are a couple food places outside of the park that are good and relatively cheap.

#5: Use the restrooms before the film.  It is pitch black once the films start and trying to make your way to a restroom at that point is tough.

They showed a preview and an old school Bugs Bunny cartoon before the film started.

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I forgot how good the original Willy Wonka is.  Gene Wilder is the man!  So glad we picked that one.
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We caught this on the perfect night.  The humidity was extremely low, because of the rain, the temperature actually dropped a bit and we actually had a slight breeze.  All in all, this was a total win!  Highly recommend this in your NYC summer plans!

Shakespeare In The Park

Since it’s been forever and a day since we last blogged, it’s time to take my friend, Lisa, up on her blog challenge and give it a shot of a full week of blogging to get some 2013 posting momentum started (better late than never).  So why so long between posts?  It’s a sad excuse but we’ve been extremely busy.  I’ve been gigging a lot recently (most of which has been out of town) and Tara has been working a ton holding things steady in NY while I’ve been on the road.

For this week of posting, I thought we’d highlight some NYC bucket list items we’ve checked off our list over the summer.  We’ve tried to make a point of doing a lot of local things this year and surprisingly enough, we’ve made a ton happen.  Living in this City sure does have its advantages and the summer gives you so many things to do.

Shakespeare in the Park was something my wife read about in an e-mail from the skint last year. So when we recently watched a DVR’d episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jessie Tyler Ferguson was a guest and he was plugging his involvement with Shakespeare in the Park and Tara remembered reading about it.

So what exactly is it? Throughout the summer, the public theatre sponsors free showings of various Shakespeare pieces with a few Holywood headliners lending their talents to them.  This has been happening for the last 60 years.  The first play (of 6) this summer was The Comedy of Errors and it starred Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Hamish Linklater. We talked our friends, Cameron and Leslee, into going with us.

This is how it works with tickets.  Every show day, they release tickets at noon at the ticket booth in Central Park.  They only allow 2 tickets per person and seating preferences is a crapshoot…first come, first serve.  With my more flexible work schedule, I got there at 11AM and held a spot for us then Cameron came down and met me at noon and we scored 4 tickets.  The line moved quickly and wasn’t too bad at all.
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You return at 8PM when the amphitheater opens and you can bring your own food/drink or buy it there.  With Leslee, we knew she would have plenty of snacks so we took care of bringing the coffee mugs 😉

The amphitheater was very intimate and there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.  The set design was incredible, the lighting/production was top notch, the central park backdrop was surreal and the weather was phenomenal.
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I think our only regret was not having read up on the play ahead of time…talking in old English and in this particular play, some of the actors playing multiple roles, made it tough to follow initially.  Don’t even try to bring professional cameras in there as they don’t allow any photos to be taken and they were stopping people at the door.  Of course, being the sneaky photographer I am, I took a few stealth photos.

Added bonus was that one of our friends from Liberty Church, Adrienne Weidert, was dancing in the show.  Dancing in a Shakespeare play?  Yes!  They used it in such a creative way.
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If you get a chance to come to the City in the summer and you appreciate Shakespeare (or just enjoy live theatre in general), put this on your to do list. It is such a great experience.  And the price (free) makes it all the more worth it!
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