Monday, June 3, 2013

Last Days In NYC, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir was AWESOME!

Leaving New York Harbor, it's about a 35-mile run to Half Moon Bay Marina.  The Hudson River is beautiful, reminding us of our home port on the Tennessee River.  Others we are traveling with that have seen the Tennessee River agree.  We saw a couple of nice sailboats.  That's the George Washington Bridge in the background of the first one.

This is no big deal, but it was interesting to me (and obviously it doesn't take much) to see water tanks on top of lots of the buildings.  Keep in mind that just because we have left NYC, there are towns and apartments for all of those people for many, many miles up the river. 

One of those towns is Yonkers - I always thought Yonkers was a small neighborhood of NYC.

You see all sizes and types of watercraft on the Hudson, from ships to jet skis/PWCs.

A significant change up the Hudson is the terrain - large rock cliffs and hill country. Note the huge rock fall in the first picture and the white cross at the foot of the hills in the third. 

Speaking of the word "huge" above - Rhonda recently used the word "huger" in describing something larger or bigger than something else.  Granted, it is a legitimate word but has anyone reading this ever said that something is "huger"?????  So, now one of my favorite words is "huger" and I use it every chance I get - lots of opportunities in NYC since most everything there is "huger" than other places.

This is "Sing-Sing" prison sitting on the banks of the Hudson - huger than most prisons I've seen and a nice setting for those "cells with a view." 

Half Moon Bay Marina is very nice.  Nice condo setting in a protected area, including a breakwater around 3/4 of the docks.

Here's Help Me Rhonda among all the other boats.

And never-tiring, are-you-ready-to-go-again, bionic woman Rhonda took off to check out the area.  Saw her first groundhog and lots of flowers that were different than she is accustomed to seeing.

The sunsets are pretty nice here in the river and hills setting.

This one seemed huger than most.

The next morning we rode our bikes about 20 minutes to the train station for a 50-minute ride into NYC again - our targets for the day are the Empire State Building and Central Park.  The train runs right along the banks of the Hudson so it was nice to see from land all that we had seen the previous day by water.  The train dead-ends into Grand Central Station - another first for us.  We are continually amazed at the beautiful architecture used in the buildings of this great city.  Not sure what the "100" in the windows is for.

We struck up a conversation with a nice young lady on the train ride in, and she told us to be sure to look up at the ceiling to try to find the "dirty" tile.  She said her grandmother showed it to the grandkids early in their lives, and it was always exciting to try to find the "dirty" tile any time they went through Grand Central Station. The story: Before Grand Central was dramatically restored in the 1990's, the entire constellation ceiling was the color of the dirty tile. It was left as a reminder of the bad old days. The black patch is not decades of dirt but was the result of decades of smoking in the terminal. That's old nicotine and tobacco residue that has been preserved. We found the tile - kind of impossible to miss!

We decided a big meal was in order with lots of walking and standing ahead of us for the day.  Rhonda says construction workers are the best to ask for good-to-eat spots, so she found one and he directed us to Central Cafe.  Perfect - anything you could possibly want, weighed as a plate and billed by the pound!  After I took this picture, they told us we couldn't take pictures of the food!  Not sure why but it was too late, damage done.

First stop, the Empire State Building.

I won't go into all of the details but this is an engineering and construction marvel, costing $9.20/foot and completed ahead of schedule - imagine that.  It takes a while to get to the top with all the lines and elevators. We probably took 50 pictures but here are just a few.  First, the entrance and ceiling.

I always thought King Kong was just a movie character but he was there live among us creating quite a commotion! The lady in line was definitely startled when he came up behind her.

Views from up top.

That's Central Park behind GE.

We figured all of the waiting was behind us now, and we'd just catch an elevator down and be on our way to Central Park.  Not so - more lines and more waiting but we eventually were on our way for about a 20-block walk.  Central Park is pretty cool also and we only saw about a third of it.  It's not just woods and trails but an interesting combination of attractions from special areas for chess and checker tables to baseball and soccer fields to amusement parks/ride to lakes and ponds, open meadows for whatever you want to do from sunbathing to letting kids run, a literary walk with street performers and statues of writers, lots of bridges and other statues.  This thing is huge and we only scratched the surface. 

Caught a wedding in progress.

I guess a section called "Strawberry Fields" in tribute to John Lennon was the most interesting.

There was an "assortment" of folks and characters there.  Many appeared to be totally strung out on drugs of some sort, a guy singing something that was kind of sad and pitiful, and lots of people like us just watching the characters.  I couldn't help but overhear this first meeting of a couple - seriously.  The woman was sitting on the bench by herself, the guy walked up, and they did the "are you ....?" thing, a couple of kisses on the cheek, they completed their opening lines and off they went for an afternoon stroll and maybe a lifetime together!

And one of the extremes - no idea what's going on here.

We must have walked 50 miles on marble floors, dirt, rock, and pavement that day with the temperature in the 90's, and we still had about 20 blocks to get back to Grand Central Station, another 50-minute ride home, and the bike ride from the train station to the marina.  I think even Rhonda was tired at the end of the day.  We decided to take the day off from sightseeing the next day and get some necessities done - like cleaning, BIG groceries, and planning for the days ahead.  But we had one more day in NYC to go, one that I have been looking forward to for a long long time.  I have a fair amount of history in music (keyboard and percussion) beginning in the third grade and have served as pianist and part-time music director in many churches until about 5 years ago.  One of my all-time favorite singing groups is The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (BTC).  So we hopped on the train and subway again Sunday morning for Brooklyn Tabernacle to attend their noon service.  They have 3 services each Sunday and a special treat for this particular Sunday was a two-hour concert by BTC from 3-5 PM.  I believe this was just one of those special blessings God gave me for this day, knowing how much it would mean to me. 

Knowing it would be a long day, we had a big breakfast at The New Apollo Restaurant around the corner.  It was outstanding with a really cool ceiling.

Brooklyn Tabernacle is quite an interesting story.  You should google it and read the amazing history and testimony of this church.  They pack their services with overflows into the street.  When we first walked up, I was surprised to see such a modest entrance.  I thought to myself  "How can this be Brooklyn Tabernacle" from what I had read and heard?

Once inside, those questions were answered.  The lady who sat beside us filled us in on the history of the building. Thomas Lamb designed the Loew's Metropolitan Theater which opened in 1918. At that time, it was the largest theater in the U.S. It served as a vaudeville theater for years (the Three Stooges performed there). Later it was converted into a multiplex movie theater and eventually fell into disrepair. The church bought the property and restored it to its original grandeur.

The pics below are just the balcony view!  We had front-row seats in the balcony, and during the singing the whole place rocks with the enthusiasm of all those present.  If you've ever been a pedestrian on a large bridge when a huge truck passes by and you can feel the bridge move - that was Brooklyn Tabernacle. 

Understandably so, they did not allow pictures or videos during their worship time and concert so I was unable to get a live picture of the choir. However, I was able to copy one from their website to give you an idea.  It's a 280-member choir of not-professionally-trained singers, other than the training within the church choir program, but you would never know it.  The upbeat music rocks with energy and complex rhythms, lots of key changes.  The slower songs have some of the nicest solo voices you can imagine and some of the most complex and interesting chord changes and combinations I've ever heard.  The pastor's wife directs the choir.  Combine all of the above with an acoustically-perfect venue and it's just fantastic.

I will simply say that it was probably the greatest single part of our trip thus far for me and I was tremendously blessed - will never forget it.  God is good.

We concluded our visits to NYC with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It's pretty cool in that they have a wooden walkway for pedestrians and bike riders above the vehicle lanes and you can see all parts of NYC from the bridge.  There was lots of maintenance in progress with lots of protective tarps and walls, but this will give you an idea of the bridge and the views.

So, The Big Apple was a blast, we learned a lot and saw about all these old, tired bodies can handle in a few days.  We had a beautiful sunset, one of those huger ones, when we returned to the marina, a fitting end to our visit here.

Heading up the Hudson River tomorrow for the Erie Canal.

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