Central Park

So apparently, there’s a giant rectangle of nature plopped right in the middle of New York city, surrounded by soaring skyscrapers. I love that juxtaposition. Did I just make up that word? Juxtaposition?

Mother nature was here first. Mother nature will swallow man made creations and it’s always a battle between nature and “the machines” throughout human history.

That’s what I think is so cool about Central Park. It’s art. It’s architecture both natural and man’s nature juxtaposed next to each other and it’s both jarring and spectacular.

Did I seriously make up that word? Juxtaposed?

So that’s my endorsement of Central Park. A fantastic urban vs. nature art installation.

Oh, and the rats aren’t actually that bad. (to kiss)

Manhattan Skyline

The Manhattan Skyline is a city built upward toward the sky and is large on that scale, and yet when you zoom out and look at the Manhattan, it’s actually quite small in length.

I’m sorry I always talk about the size of things. I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.

The best view of the skyline is from high up like from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum building observation deck. It’s totally worth the money because you truly get to see the entire city with a 360 degree view and why would you not want that?

One of the most recognized examples of Art Deco and Modern architecture, it’s like stepping back in time to its heyday of industrialization.

Here’s why that’s cool: it’s a representation of a point in history that is preserved in the form of a city. I just blew my own hair back! I mean, modern architecture is what birthed the skyscraper! How exciting to be standing right in front of that like a big, beautiful mother goddess willow tree!

Art Deco is my favorite style of architecture. I like the smooth, rounded corners contrasting sharp, glowing angles. Great examples of this include the Chrysler building, the London Underground, and Russian architecture from the Soviet era that depicts communism and the worker’s revolution. Whatever that is, I don’t know what it’s called.

So yes, go for the experience of the architecture itself. Travel back in time. Learn what Art Deco and Modern architecture looks like. Decide what it makes you feel like. Do a little dance. Tickle a little dog’s belly. I don’t know.

Broadway Theater

The first time I went to New York I was 15 years old on a choir trip to sing in Carnegie Hall. When we weren’t rehearsing, we got to run around the city (with an adult chaperon, of course).

My dad joined me on the trip (ugh! Dad!!!) and he was my chaperon. Which was probably a big mistake because as soon as the clock struck midnight he’d escape out of the hotel in the night to check out the club scene, which he said sucked by the way. When I asked him what made him think the clubs sucked, he said, “nobody talks to each other and nobody’s friendly and everyone’s wearing black.”

So that’s my dad’s critical review of the New York city club scene, for what it’s worth, coming from some strange man child. Why would you want that?

One of the nights my dad didn’t sneak out to go club hopping, we went to go see RENT at the Broadway Theater and it. was. surreal.

First of all, Times Square is tiny.

I know I said I was sorry but there’s a size theme here and I have to stick with it for the sake of this art piece I’m writing right now. This blog post.

Times Square is huge in the movies and in photographs like the one above, but just like I said in my post What Happens in Oregon Stays in Oregon, it’s all camera tricks and photographs don’t convey what you experience in person.

RENT is a rock musical about New York’s East Village during its Golden Age of Bohemian Alphabet City and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Probably a place you don’t want to bring your baby because of the strong subject matter but I don’t know, maybe you have a really cool baby?

I grew up watching community theater productions as a kid and full grown adult with my dad (the same dad I keep talking about) and I remember thinking the plays were so moving and really good, so I squealed at seeing a real, live Broadway production.

What I saw on Broadway was so polished and professional. The performers are experts and some of the most talented people in the world.

I like to think about it like the Olympic games. The quality performers that are on the Olympic level in their field are in New York. They might not be doing a sport (what’s this “sport”?), but they are Team USA in performing arts and it’s fucking gymnastics.

This experience of seeing Broadway in all its glory is what really got me into musicals and opened my mind to musicals actually being really cool and not this dorky, embarrassing passion I hide from people I want to appear to cool to (everyone).

Seeing RENT exposed me to a new genre of music, it exposed me to different music and I enjoyed it. It was an experience that impacted me and was lasting. I still listen to HAIR, Company, Gypsy, Grease, I could go on and on forever.

Just don’t play me any of that The Music Man shit. I can’t stand it. *plays a really fucking long note on the worst horn in the world* Hey look at me! I’m playing The Music Man soundtrack for you!

Grand Central Terminal

Can I just say Grand Central Station is like a golden palace had a baby with the year 1900?

High ceilings. Fast paced life. People like ants in a farm.

There’s a strange sense of American patriotism and nostalgia I got from being at Grand Central. I think it’s because it is, like the previous sites on the itinerary, a snapshot in time of America in its best years. I couldn’t help but wonder…

Are our best years behind us?

I’m not so sure because there’s a feeling at this Terminal that I get reminding me of a sort of “American exceptionalism”. This kind of arrogance people have of the “specialness” of their own cultures, but especially in Americans such as myself.

How could such a spectacular feat as this beautiful work of art, a train station, something normally thought of as an ugly underground concrete box, be so well designed? It shows a level of privilege and opulence to be able to make a beautiful subway station.

It reminds me that we may be becoming a dinosaur on the world stage perhaps, but special people move to the U.S. We still attract some of the top talent in the world and they innovate and make awesome things like Grand Central.

So if you go to New York, you gotta take the subway. It’s the law.

Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s not the law.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

MOMA is the #1 museum in the world.

It lives up to its reputation. I think I am impressed by scale and this museum has so many exhibits, I’d need to spend a week there exploring before I’d even scratch the surface.

To put into perspective the size of this museum, know that it is the largest museum in the United States and one of the largest in the world.

Oh, and it contains 2 million works.

Just the sheer number of works in MOMA’s collection furthers my belief that New York still has a cultural pulse. Everything that New York touches screams entertainment. It’s only fitting that the Met is so colossal.

It was founded in 1870 by businessmen and financiers, as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day, who wanted to open a museum to bring art and art education to the American people.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum

The September 11 Memorial & Museum has taken a national tragedy and managed to walk a very fine line gracefully on how to portray the event without being exploitative or just another tourist attraction. It is tastefully done.

The memorial is outside, two giant square holes in the ground where the World Trade Center towers used to be.Water floods and falls into the center of the memorial, while wrapped around it is the names of those people who died on that day.

I remember being there with my boyfriend and he requested a moment to himself to just stand there looking at the water and think.

I asked him later why he did that and he said it was because he felt strangely patriotic for someone who never identified much as a patriot. He said he was sad and I was surprised because I was sad too.

That’s how good it was to be there. It was emotionally moving. And that is how you know a work is great.

There are two parts though, the memorial and the museum. At the museum you go to the underground level first and it shows you displays showing the history of the building including what happened to the World Trade Center towers when they were attacked.

And yet, they didn’t make the towers defined solely by the event. The multimedia showcased the towers’ history past and present.

After a tour, you take an elevator and as the elevator moves, it shows you on the walls what it looked like at that level in history you were on in the elevator starting from when dinosaurs roamed the earth to the present.

It was my favorite part of the tour.

Then we got to the top of the building and there was floor to ceiling glass and a 360 degree panoramic view of the city and New Jersey.

Statue of Liberty

I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time on a cruise boat at night. I remember my dad was dancing with my teacher so I went outside and I stopped at the boat railing and looked up to see the lady herself.

It made me think. A good sign of good art.

For one, how interesting the statue started as a beacon of light to immigrants seeking freedom and now over time we are watching a new generation of immigrants come here and we don’t have as many freedoms to offer them as we used to.

I read one time that Teddy Roosevelt swam naked in the Hudson river in New York and made love to a woman in the woods.

So don’t tell me the same freedoms exist in America that have always been there.

These days, when I swim naked in the Hudson and make love to the woods, it’s “ma’am please put your hands behind your back,” or “you have the right to remain silent.”

That’s the thing about the Statute of Liberty, it is so embedded in our psyche and the global consciousness in general. America is synonymous with freedom as a result of a legacy that is in the past and some say declining but I think it just declines in some places and succeeds in other places.

For example, we’re #1 in manufacturing output, a big indicator of a strong economy but… also we’re #1 in guns owned per 100 residents. So if you do find a job, it’ll be a good manufacturing job, but… also we might shoot you…


St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Manhattan)


Some say, St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland with a flute. I’m here to say: It’s true. So I can see why they built a giant cathedral for him. I didn’t have the heart to tell everyone, let’s just say, he’s not around to enjoy it.

St. Patrick’s is a Neo-Gothic style Roman Catholic cathedral church. For those of you who don’t know, “Neo-Gothic” is the poor man’s Gothic style. I know a lot about architecture. For one, I’ve built a lot of things. Recently? A birdhouse. I mean, I realized later I forgot to nail the floor on it but also it was getting late and I was pretty tired.

St. Patrick’s is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and a parish church. Geez, what makes him so special?

Considered one of the most visible symbols of Roman Catholicism in the United States, it’s a popular attraction for those interested in that sort of thing. For those of you unfamiliar with Roman Catholicism, I’ll give a good description for you.

Let’s see, once upon a time there was a man with long hair and a robe who taught on a hill somewhere, long ago, in ancient times. He taught about love. He was pretty big on that. He got killed by a really, really mean guy and died. Then 3 days later, he punched through a mountain and strolled out of his tomb and went to go see everyone again. They were all like, “Uhhh… Jesus?” (His name was Jesus). He was like, “Yes, it is me. Jesus. I’ve come to tell you I’m alive from being dead.” Then he died again.

Signing off,

Shannon O’Brien