Category Archives: History

NYC in 12 hrs

New York City

New York City (Photo credit: kaysha)

If you only have half a day in the City of Empire, here is what you need to do.

I’m meeting a client for a writing project in New York next week, taking the train in from Philly, and there is no way in Tartarus I’m going to waste a trip to The City. I’ve got shore leave for 12 hours. What am I going to do?

So I started thinking — what if this was my first time, or my only time, or a stopover on a world tour? What must be done if I wanted to introduce myself to NYC?

The following is a NY lifetime packed into one single trip around the face of a clock.

Old New York was once Nieuw Amsterdam, according to They Might Be Giants. It still is, if you recognize contemporary Amsterdam as the European headquarters of finance, art and sin. Investigating these three spheres of knowledge will suffice as a time map of your day in the Big Apple.


12 noon – Take a taxi to Wall Street and get a pic with the obligatory bull. Grab some grub at The Spotted Pig in the West Village with investor and frequent luncher Jay-Z. Don’t complain if you have to share a table with Luke Wilson, Courtney Love or Jude Law when it gets busy. Take a Styrofoam to-go cup and head to 47th St and 6th Ave for an afternoon of prospecting. Between the diamond exchanges and gold merchants, one patient soul found $800 of discarded wealth on the sidewalk. Will your friends laugh at you for spending your precious time in the Empire City looking for garbage? Sure. Will they shut up when you drop the benjamins? Likely.


4 pm  – Art is what defines us as distinct from animals. Ants build cities, otters use tools, birds have language but only humans spend every waking moment swimming in symbols. Leave the Met, the MoMA, the Whitney and the Guggenheim for a time when you can spend a few days to gaze in wide wonder. Today, you will need to become the artist. On your smart phone, learn street photography from Yomatic, then take the Landmarks Photo Tour from Citifari. Starting at the world-famous Camera Superstore of B&H, you can pick up what you need there or rent a DSLR with a SD memory card from Citifari. You will trek across Manhattan, learning about f-stops, apertures, and deep focus as you capture lightning in a bottle, or at least some share-worthy uploads for Instagram. The tour culminates at the cinematic UN building on 1st Ave and 42nd St. It is time to put away your art and welcome the night.


8 pm – Rick Blaine once told Major Strasser that there are certain sections of New York he would advise him not to try to invade. I believe he was referring to the South Bronx, Brooklyn Heights, and the murder capital of Brownsville. Actually Midtown, with all its gawking tourists, rates dead last on the safety list, so travel by yellow cab and don’t carry purses or bags if you can avoid it. Eat dessert for dinner at ChickaLicious then hide out at someplace like Le Scandal Cabaret for a night of torch singing fan dancers, contortionist fire eaters, neon sword swallowers, animal-riding belly dancers and performance art that you won’t be able to unsee.

At midnight, your glass slippers fall off and your carriage turns into a pumpkin. Time to catch your plane, train or hotel bed. If not, you’ll regret it; maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. As you return to your regularly scheduled boredom, take a moment to thank the Sumerians for their base 12 numeric system, giving us our hours, months and the zodiac.

Right now, as I sit here wondering whether the Babylonian Great Intercalation syncs up with the Mayan End of Days, I can hear the whistle of the tonight’s last train to NYC. The whistle is saying that I will never be able to see it all and that is OK. After all, isn’t my bucket list is half full?


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Sources of Early Akkadian Literature

I know what you’re thinking.  You’ve just gotten here and I’m ushering you off to another site.  No need to feel put out, wonky, or unchuffed.

Settle in for a languorous blimp ride over the seas of  time and synapse clusters. After you’ve all had some coffee and/or whisky, I’d like to direct our passengers’ attentions to Early Akkadian Literature, just ahead.

They say that those unable to understand the past are condemned to repeat it, but like psychological truth, the opposite is also the case. Enkidu cannot save you.

That is all. Please carry on.

Via Scoop.itVorager


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The Detourists

Rock River at Grand Detour, Illinois.

Image via Wikipedia

We came to Davenport, across the Mississisppi from Rock Island, down from Grand Detour. The village is named because of an odd turn in the Rock River. Grand Detour is the site where John Deere invented the first successful steel plow. Many of the village’s founders came from Vermont, and in the sunset of the 1800’s, artists were rumored to live here.  They said that Orson Welles spent several summers here as a boy at a family hotel.

What they called the Grand Detour was honestly only a blip.  A common oxbow on the Rock River, looking from above for all the world on the plain like the manifestation of the alluvial hiccup.

We came from Chicago along the riparian margins.  We sluiced ourselves from the world.  Turbidity like smoke in the air. The hyporheic zone is a region beneath and lateral to a stream bed, where there is mixing of shallow groundwater and surface water. The flow dynamics and behavior in this zone (termed hyporheic flow) is needful for handshakes between the surface water and groundwater, as well as fish spawning and other unspoken things.

We came from St. Anthony where The Falls no longer fall, now called St. Paul, now called Minneapolis.  We came from a place where a city swallowed a forgotten city, named for a sickly hermit drowned forgotten and was too soon made the saint of lost things.

They say he died of too much water.  They called it dropsy then, an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin.  Perhaps he never recovered from his shipwreck.  Maybe working as a cook put too much salt in his kidneys. Nobody knows. He drowned inside his own skin.

The Falls were born 10,000 years ago, rivaling her Oriental twin Nigara with a sheer drop of 50 yards, turbid as smoke in the air, with a storming roar roiling miles across the open plains, terrifying the short-faced bears and sabretooth tigers.  The Falls were monstrous then — tearing off, spewing out monumental chunks of limestone as it chewed through North America at blinding 4 feet per year.

Only 150 years ago, a capitalist won his first claim on the land by the falls, a lumberjack with his sawmill and his dam plans.  Within six years, when the Excursionists straggled by to see them, The Falls were gone.

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Filed under Fiction, History