My continuing quest to see everything in New York City

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Lexington Avenue

As I've mentioned, I'm not big on pictures here for a lot of reasons, but if I've got a good one sometimes I'll throw it in. Here, you can see almost the entire route of this post, straight down Lexington from Hunter College to Gramercy Park.

I've done this walk a million times after getting out of class. Lex on the Upper East Side is pretty nondescript - townhouses on the side streets, the Armory, and assorted stores and restaurants. One you get south of 60th street it becomes a little more noteworthy - Bloomingdales, the Bloomberg Building (where I thought I has a hookup to go on the roof a few years ago), the Citigroup Center with St. Peter's Church under the corner and the metal detectors they put you through just to go in the shopping concourse. A bit further and you're past 42nd street, which holds the last big landmarks of the walk in the Chrysler Buildings and Grand Central Terminal, and into Murray Hill.

The these two landmarks also hold two of last few places interesting places I really want to visit that I haven't yet: FDR's old secret platform in the Grand Central Yards underneath the Waldorf-Astoria, and the Chrysler Buildings Eagles. FDR's secret platform is mostly just a matter of me being lazy - it's easy enough to get to. The eagles will probably be a little tougher. I've been up to the old Cloud Club in the Chrysler Building on the 67th floor, but never out on the 61st floor balconies. If anyone's reading this from the law firm up there, hook me up, won't you? And avert your eyes when I climb out onto the gargoyles. You gotta do what you gotta do. I promise I won't pull a Thor Axel Kapphjell

On 38th I pass the Cuban Mission to the UN - a police booth is on the corner. The corner is named "Esquina Brothers to the Rescue" - an anti-Castro emigrant group. It seems a little childish. I wonder if there's a proposal in the works now to rename the corner of 35th and 1st (where the Chinese Consulate is) the Dalai Lama corner.

I keep heading on down to the Indian restaurants in the lower 30s (no favorite, although in general a better place to go than East 6th street), and then through the nondescript 20s until I get to Gramercy Park, where I recently spent a morning pedaling around Ed Begley Jr. in a Pedicab - well, actually pedaling around the cameraman for the piece. Ed was nice enough, but didn't tip.

There's a guy sitting in there smoking a cigar, obviously enjoying being somewhere the common folks don't get to go. One night a few years ago I got frustrated with this kind of stuff, as I often do, and jumped the fence just to say I've been in there (the same night as this adventure). My other plan was always to stay at the Gramercy Hotel where you get the key, measure it, and cut another one later. But the recent remake of the shabby old place into a chichi boutique hotel (try reading this description without throwing up. And notice times the owner throws his name in there in a desperate attempt to try and make himself a celebrity) - has put that idea out of my current price range, as is buying one of the townhouses or becoming a member of the two private clubs. It also used to be open one day out of the year in May, but that's shelved as well. Rumor has it Christmas Eve it's still open for a couple hours.

Still, it's a lovely area, former home to Edwin Booth (a 19th century actor memoralized by a statue in Gramercy Park, and the guy who's brother shot Abe Lincoln), Washington Irving, Humphrey Bogart, John Barrymore, and John F. Kennedy. And the fence to the park is easy enough to jump, even if there's not really that much to see inside. As with most exclusive things, it's really only noteworthy for being exclusive.

Neighborhoods: Upper East Side, Midtown, Midtown East, Murray Hill, Kips Bay, Turtle Bay, Gramercy Park. Tracts Walked: M50, M68, M72, M80, M92, M100, M112.03, M114.02, M120