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30 Rock in Lego

Started: 2013-06-20 21:08:33

Submitted: 2013-06-20 22:56:13

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator visits the High Line and loses his camera on the Top of the Rock

After breakfast on Memorial Day in Manhattan, Bethany, Josh, Calvin, and I took a taxi down to the Village Formerly Known as Greenwich, narrowly avoiding a collision with a bicyclist while crossing Sixth Ave. (I was sitting in the back seat with Calvin and did not see who had the right-of-way, but it was clear that both the cab and the bike were trying to be in the same place at the same time. The cab stopped without hitting the bike, but its rider ended up on the ground anyway. Both drivers exchanged shouts and we were on our way.)

We ended up at Roasting Plant, a coffee shop Bethany recommended because of their fantastic pneumatic-driven contraptions for delivering specific coffee beans from storage to the grinder for instant service. One review on Yelp! said:

If Willy Wonka made passionate love to Starbucks, the result would be something like this.

I carefully perused the large selection of coffee beans, and when the barista tapped my selection into the computer I could hear an air-propelled portion of beans rattling through the pipes over my head and into the grinder and then into the coffee maker. A few seconds later I had my cup of freshly-brewed coffee. The whole thing was part steampunk and part sci-fi and great fun.

Our next stop was the High Line, a recently-refurbished steel viaduct that used to take trains along the industrial western edge of Manhattan. After sitting derelict for about thirty years it was only recently reopened as a long and skinny park elevated above ground level. (My brother Willy writes about the park in Wasting Well on the High Line.) We started at the southern end and headed north, among the throngs of people on the bright and sunny holiday weekend. Bethany carried Calvin in the Beco carrier and especially enjoyed the construction sites we passed. I appreciated the adaptive reuse of an earlier structure and the opportunity to get up close and personal with rail infrastructure.

Josh, Bethany, and Calvin on the High Line
Josh, Bethany, and Calvin on the High Line
Construction near the High Line
Construction near the High Line

The High Line stopped immediately south of the Hudson Yards redevelopment project. We walked to brunch at the midtown apartment of a friend of Bethany and Josh, who had, that very morning, returned from a four-week-long trek across Madagascar. (Bethany told me that brunch, in the city, could be served all day long on weekends.) He showed pictures and video from his trip and showed off his battered feet, looking a little worse for wear after four weeks in boots hiking up and down untracked grasslands.

After brunch, we headed a few blocks east to Madison Square, where Calvin was not especially enthralled by the playground since it lacked sand. He wanted me to follow him around everywhere, while I wanted to sit and watch him play for a while. He quickly grew tired of the playground, so we sat on the grass in the park, amidst the rest of the people enjoying their holiday weekend, and ate a snack.

Flatiron Building
Flatiron Building

We walked past the Flatiron Building and caught an uptown N/R train for two stops, then transferred to an uptown B/D/F/M train two more stops to Rockefeller Center. Bethany and I got tickets for the Top of the Rock, and Josh headed off on his own. Before heading up to the observation deck, we went out onto the plaza so I could get a proper view of Rockefeller Center. As we exited 30 Rock I turned to gaze at the fantastically overwrought art deco frieze above the entrance ("Wisdom and Knowledge shall be the stability of thy times") and my eyes were drawn skyward as the theme music to 30 Rock played in my mind. We walked around the sunken plaza and I saw Prometheus, with a strategically-placed scrap of gilded cloth, right where I expected him. ("Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.") I tried to explain the legend to Calvin, but I'm not sure what he made of "stealing fire from the gods".

Prometheus at Rockefeller Center
Prometheus at Rockefeller Center

We headed to the Lego Store in an adjacent building and I let Calvin buy whatever he wanted with his own allowance. He had six dollars, so he bought a small Lego helicopter. The store was not especially large (being located in prime retail real estate in Midtown Manhattan) but I did appreciate seeing the massed Legos and the special Lego Architecture sets. (I barely restrained myself from buying the Empire State Building set.) I was quite impressed by the massive Lego model of Rockefeller Center itself.

Calvin looks at the Lego model of Rockefeller Center
Calvin looks at the Lego model of Rockefeller Center

We looked around the corner at Atlas, invoked more classical references that Calvin didn't fully understand, and headed back to the entrance to the observation deck. Once we made it through the queue and the security check and the introductory videos, we were ushered into the elevator. As soon as the door closed, the lights in the cab went out and I could look straight up through the transparent ceiling, sixty-eight stories to the top of the elevator shaft, lit every couple of stories by blue running lights in the corners.

The lights came on at the Top of the Rock and we stepped out sixty-eight floors above Midtown. The first level of the observation deck was indoors, so we looked around a little before heading up one floor to the open-air section. Here two-meter-tall sections of plexiglass were bolted to the floor providing an almost-unimpeded view of all of Manhattan. (The view was so good that I gave the plexiglass a respectful distance, preferring to peer delicately over the edge from two meters away.)

Calvin and Aunt Bethany look at Central Park from the Top of the Rock
Calvin and Aunt Bethany look at Central Park from the Top of the Rock

Eighty years after it was built, 30 Rock is still the tenth-tallest occupied building in New York City, though Wikipedia lists three topped-out buildings under various stages of construction that will eventually push it down to thirteenth. The wrap-around observation decks provided a commanding view of the massive green expanse of Central Park to the north, midtown on all sides, and downtown far to the south. I saw Citigroup Center to the north-east and pointed out to Calvin that it had a tuned mass damper, just like the one we saw in Taipei 101, and he wanted to go visit it. The only flaw in the glorious view was an ugly building interposing itself between us and the Chrysler Building.

The Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, and the Bank of America Building from the Top of the Rock
The Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, and the Bank of America Building from the Top of the Rock
Central Park from the Top of the Rock
Central Park from the Top of the Rock

Calvin was not especially interested in getting his picture taken from the top, even when I pointed out the buildings he'd seen from elsewhere in the city. (He was interested in the crane at the top of One57, which we'd seen the previous day from Central Park; Bethany mentioned that the crane had collapsed during Hurricane Sandy. Calvin knew just enough about Hurricane Sandy to be dangerous and spent some of the weekend asking Bethany about the storm.)

Jaeger, Calvin, and the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock
Jaeger, Calvin, and the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock

We climbed one more flight of stairs to the final viewing deck on the seventieth floor, then went down to visit the restroom (an important thing with a preschooler) before heading back down the elevator to the ground level.

Jaeger, Calvin, and the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock
Jaeger, Calvin, and the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock

We took a taxi back to Bethany's apartment, and stopped by Whole Foods on the way (braving the epic dinner-time queues) before eating supper in the apartment.

After I managed to get Calvin to go to bed, I tried to back up my photos from my camera but discovered, to my horror, that I did not in fact have my camera. I reviewed the events of the day and realized that I had left it hanging on the coat rack in the toilet stall on the sixty-seventh floor of 30 Rock; I took it off to help Calvin and forgot to pick it up. I called the Top of the Rock; the observation deck itself was still open but no one was answering the phones. I figured that, by that point, my camera was either safe in the possession of the building's lost-and-found, or it was gone. I'd have to wait until morning to find out.

For more photos, see Photos on 2013-05-27.
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