When you’re visiting New York City and your friend sends you a text message that says, “Meet me at 23rd Street and 8th Avenue right now, if you’re game—I’ll show you the coolest place in the city,” the answer should always be a resounding yes. I texted back, “I’m in!” and walked the few blocks to the nearest subway station and headed down to the Chelsea neighborhood to meet her.
I wasn’t at all prepared for what she showed me. It was a former elevated railroad called the Highline. Built in the 1930′s, it had long since outlived its usefulness as trucks replaced trains as the prevalent form of freight transportation. As recently as a few short years ago, it was still a dilapidated eyesore that many people hoped would be demolished, but it was also a pipe dream for people who wanted to see it repaired and possibly used as a public space of some sort. Luckily, the latter idea won, and today the Highline is an elevated park that is now regarded as many peoples’ favorite place in all of New York City.
It’s designed with sustainable, native plants, and birds even have nests in the bushes and trees that line the edges of the busy pathway. Rents in buildings near the park have increased significantly. It’s a very romantic place, and there are lots of couples walking hand in hand and admiring the views of the city while remaining safely above the whirling traffic below. My friend, who has lived in NYC for two or three years now, was made aware of the park when she went on a first date with a guy who took her there. It was about this point that she had to bid me adieu, since she had an appointment to keep, but she told me where to go to see the best stretches of the park. It’s much more than just a walkway, and there are a number of wide areas to sit, or to watch people, or to look at the city, or even to busk on the cello.
This guy was playing Bach’s sixth Cello Suite, which is extraordinarily difficult. The Cello Suites get progressively more advanced as they go along, so the First (which is one of the most famous in all of classical music) is in the repertoire of almost every cellist, but the mark of a true professional is their ability to play the Suites in their entirety. This guy was definitely at the professional level, since not only was he playing the sixth Suite, he was playing it flawlessly. I had wandered in near the beginning of it, and sat across from him as unobtrusively as possible while I watched the remainder of his performance. When he finished playing for his audience of one, I said, “Bravo,” and walked over to patronize the arts by leaving a couple of bills in his cello case. He began to play another piece that I didn’t recognize, and I decided to continue walking and exploring some more.
A bit further along, I saw a small group of people doing what appeared to be acting. I love the Theatah, as those of you who have spent any kind of time on this blog already know, and I used to be a member (and eventually the leader) of a play-reading group, so I sauntered over to give them a listen. They were rehearsing Shakespeare—his style is unmistakable—and while I love his works, there are only a few that I’m familiar enough with to recognize by tuning in at a random moment. Luckily, this happened to be one of them, and I believe they were rehearsing a scene from the Scottish Play.
I stayed long enough to figure out which play they were performing, then clicked this picture and continued on my way, since even though they were rehearsing in a public place, it didn’t seem like they wanted to be closely watched. Plus, I wanted to explore more of the walkway and it was beginning to get dark outside. I came to a section that was closed off and in the process of being pressure-cleaned, possibly so that a movie scene could be filmed there.
From there I took the detour path, which led to a cute little restaurant area. I would have loved to stop and enjoy some food and wine—I’ll have to save that for my next trip!—but I was on a mission to get off the platform and explore more of the Chelsea neighborhood. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a harmonica, followed by a horrific metallic crash. I headed over to investigate.
It was indeed a harmonica player, and he looked as if he was looking for a specific place to sit. He was blowing on the harmonica and throwing metal chairs around. Hoo-ga hoo-ga hoo-ga hoo-ga CRASH—hoo-ga hoo-ga hoo-ga hoo-ga CRASH. The guy sitting there next to him, in the foreground of the picture, never so much as batted an eye.
I took a whole bunch more pictures after that, but the vast majority of them were too blurry to be worth sharing. Here’s ONE good one of a nearby building. . .
. . .and I even took a picture on the way down, but it’s extremely blurry. I’m only sharing it because I couldn’t find another picture of the yellowish-green elevator doors, and I wanted them to be represented too, so here you go.
This is only the second installment of the myriad of pictures and stories to come from my time in New York and Massachusetts. To be continued. . .