Nov 20, 2007

Another Visit to the Big Apple...

This past weekend I took the train into New York City to visit my friend Roland Racko once more. I had decided it would be nice to attend a church with a robust music program that would contribute to the liturgy. A brief internet search led me to St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street. The parish dates back to 1823. The gothic church, completed in 1913, is the fourth structure to house the congregation and it is magnificent. The music program is best described in the words of the church’s Website:
The Saint Thomas Choir is considered by many to be the outstanding choral ensemble of the Anglican musical tradition in the United States. This choir of men and boys sings at the principal worship services of the church and also offers a full concert series each year. The men of the choir are professional singers; the boys attend the Saint Thomas Choir School. In recent years the Choir has sung in England, Ireland, Canada, Washington, D.C., and Florida and has produced a number of recordings.

I was not disappointed. It was one of those goosebump experiences to be remembered forever. I couldn’t help but reflect on my years as an altar boy.

After the Mass, Roland and I walked over to the Museum of Modern Art which is very close to the church (as in adjacent to it). We had lunch in one of the fine Cafes in the museum and then enjoyed a brief period with Claude Monet (Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond. c. 1920). We had to reluctantly leave the MoMA because I had bought tickets to an afternoon presentation at the Hayden Planetarium, which is some 25 blocks away.

We caught a cab and a few minutes later I caught my first glimpse of the “new” Hayden Planetarium. Although it was opened to the public in February, 2000, this was the first time I had seen the amazing building, described by one writer as a “Cosmic Cathedral.”

The building is a glass cube enclosing a silver sphere 95 feet in diameter. Within the sphere are two theaters, one above the other. We got to see (and feel) them both. We first went up to the Space Show for which I had gotten tickets. It was about 40 minutes long but went by in what seemed like a much shorter time. Narrated by Robert Redford, the show focused on the role of collisions in the formation of everything in the universe – everything from subatomic collisions that drive the sun’s heat to meteorite and comet collisions that have changed the nature of the earth and caused our moon to form, to massive cosmic collision between and among galaxies. The graphics were remarkable. The sound system was every bit as impressive.

When you leave the theater, you find yourself on a floor that surrounds the sphere. The Hayden Website describes it best:
The Scales of the Universe, a 400-foot-long walkway that hugs the glass curtain wall along the second level of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, illustrates the vast range of size in the universe — from the enormous expanse of our observable universe to the smallest subatomic particles — by using the 87-foot Hayden Sphere as a basis for comparison.
The Scales of the Universe exhibit introduces visitors to the relative sizes of galaxies, stars, planets, and atoms through text panels, interactive terminals, and models. Enormous, realistically rendered planets, stars, and galaxies — including a 9-foot model of Jupiter and Saturn with 17-foot rings — are suspended from the ceiling of the building, soaring over visitors' heads.

At the end of this experience we entered another theater (the lower half of the giant sphere) where we saw a wonderful presentation describing the “Big Bang.” After leaving that theater we descended a long spiral ramp that had displays tracing the time from the Big Bang to the present. Then we began to examine several displays that linked the geology of the earth with cosmic events.

I was reminded by one of the displays that when I was about ten years old, I had come to the museum of natural history with my parents and I remembered vividly touching a giant meteorite. I told Roland I wanted to revisit it. After several misdirections from security guards and other officials, we found ourselves in the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites, and there it was, the Cape York meteorite that I had seen fifty-some years ago. I touched it again, all 34 tons of it, just for good measure. It fell to earth some 10,000 years ago, was used by the Inuit native Americans for centuries as a source of iron, and was brought from Greenland by the explorer Robert Peary in the 1890's.

After Roland and I left the museum, we proceeded by subway to 14th street and walked over to Union Square West and the Blue Water Grill. New York Magazine, in reviewing this restaurant, said it this way,
“In a converted bank on Union Square, this space, formerly a restaurant called Metropolis, 315 seats strong, still offers jazz downstairs. In the dining room, it's no-nonsense fish, always impeccable. At the bar, it's cruising and hooking-up galore.”

We didn’t cruise or hook-up, but we sure did enjoy some marvelous seafood.

I returned to Grand Central as Roland headed to his home on tenth street. I took the Metro North back to Stratford, the close of a memorable day.

No comments: