Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Grand Tour

Tuesday (6/16).  Our New York friend, LGL, arranged for a tour guide friend of his, Mike, to give us a walking tour of the Market District.  I'd hoped that Mark would be able to join us, but he was recovering from his red-eye flight and really needed to sleep.  So The Child and I took the bus into The City.

We started out with a quick lunch at Grand Central Station, or as it's properly called, Grand Central Terminal.  The Child and Mike hit it off right away; Mike teaches history at a prep school and The Child has managed to store and recall enough pieces of New York and Revolutionary War information that he could probably pass the New York City tour guide exam.

Mike pointed out how the terminal had three "gates" -- the windows -- like other historical cities.  Also, the constellations on the ceiling are reversed.  Somebody thought quick and said, "That's the way God would see it."  He pointed out line 24 to Chicago, where the elite of the Gilded Age would have taken the train following the waterways.  

We went outside and saw Hermes, Hercules and Minerva over the entrance of the building.  Mike pointed out how we had exited under a bridge and how cars were driving over it for folks to disembark.

Then it was off to Bowling Green via the subway.  Mike showed us a monument depicting the Dutch buying the Island of Manhattan from the Indians.  Apparently, this is what Ronald Hutton would call a bold fact, a mythic story that's taken on the veneer of actuality.  Supposedly, an old chronicler made some stories up because "the Dutch didn't keep any records."  According to Mike, records of New Amsterdam are around, but they've been overlooked in the historical record because they're written in Old Dutch.

There used to be a statue of King George III in Bowling Green; after the Declaration of Independence was read nearby on July 9, 1776, some excited patriots knocked over the statue and melted down the lead foundation to use as cannon balls.   Now it's a fenced in garden with a fountain.  

Near by was The National Museum of the American Indian (previously known as the Alexander U.S. Custom House).  There are four seated statues on the front of the building.  The sculptor is Daniel Chester French -- the same person who carved Lincoln's statue at the Lincoln Memorial.  (Oh! And researching him just now, I've discovered he also did "Death Staying the Hand of the Artist").    The four statues we saw represent, from left to right, Asia, (North) America, Europe, and Africa.  

Mike had us look behind the statues so we could see the hidden tiger, totem pole, boat anchor and Bedouin behind the four seated figures.

We wound about the Financial District along Barge and Pearl Streets,and through Stone and Milł Streets.  Stone street was the oldest street with flagstone (not cobblestone).  What I hadn't realized was how much of the area was under water during the early days of the city.  Barge street was a watercourse with a barge.  Bridge Street was over a Bridge.  Pearl Street was named after the opalescence caused by the rising and falling water.  

Mill street is one of the shortest streets in the town.  It's the site where the Torah was first unrolled in North America.  The story was that a Jewish group deported from Brazil wanted to settle in New Amsterdam, but Peter Stuyvesant, the governor, didn't want them; there was enough diversity already, thank you. Then someone took Stuyvesant aside and reminded him that the bankers funding the Dutch West Indies Company might not appreciate it when they heard that the Jewish folks had been kicked out. 

We continued on to Federal Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was read by George Washington to the troops on July 9, 1776; where the first House and Senate were, and later where Washington was first inaugurated.   Farther along, we came to Trinity Church (where Saint Peter sits with crossed legs), and then to St Paul's Chapel.  

I should add that all through the tour Mike was asking The Child all sorts of semi-obscure historical questions, and The Child was able answer them (thanks, Bowery Boys).  I should also add that by now it was something like four PM and The Child wasn't tired of walking around in the afternoon heat (although he was getting pretty thirsty).  More monuments: Hamilton's grave, Fulton's monument, 

We looked into Tweed Courthouse (no pictures, sir!) and The Child wanted to see Five Points and the African Cemetery.

Even more than politicians, the thing that got Mike riled up the most was how the African American burial grounds were "forgotten" about until someone wanted to build a skyscraper over them and then they were "rediscovered."  The graveyard got a memorial, many of the bodies were exhumed and stored at the Twin Towers and then lost in the 9/11 attack... and not one African slave is mentioned along the pools in the 9/11 memorial pools.  

By then it was almost five PM and I said I was tired, even if The Child wasn't.  We took the 1 Subway back to Columbus Circle and proceeded to get drenched.

We met up with LGL at his apartment and went out for a meal of Italian spaghetti and meatballs at his favorite little Italian restaurant.  LGL got only a little drenched when a tarp above the atrium where we were dining shook out its collection of rainwater.  But the tiramisu was good.

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