Friday, June 22, 2012

June Trip: Lower East Side, and Points More Easterly

I didn't want to regiment my time in NYC, I mean, where do you start and where do you end? But there were two things I had to do.

The first was to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art's refurbished Islamic wing. I have a thing for Persian miniatures, and all things of a Persian esthetic. It was splendid, truly beautifully arranged. Carpets, paintings, calligraphy, armour, and the exquisite miniatures, each placed low on the wall, with a stool before it, so you could just sit and soak each one in. I didn't visit any other galleries in this visit.

The second venue I wanted to visit was the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This is all part of my interest in my past, and that of my Italian grandfather, who emigrated through Ellis Island in 1920. He later returned to Rome to meet and marry my nonna, and to raise his family. I was always puzzled as a child as to why he spoke English with a New York accent!

What struck me was how little seems to have changed. In fact, it was this lack of change that helped the museum come to be. The upper floors of many tenements were locked up and left intact, as landlords, in the face of improved living condition laws, and unwilling to improve their properties, simply locked up what couldn't be improved upon, and rented out only lower floors to shop-keepers. The tour I went on, which lasted about an hour, told the story of a Jewish family in the 1860s, and an Italian family in the 1930s. These were actual families who lived in the recreated apartments we visited. It was haunting and remarkable.

While wondering around taking these pictures, I inadvertently wondered into this sweet spot. Nice... real nice.

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