What a week it has been. I feel like it simply rolled over me. It’s late in the semester, and every little thing just feels five times as important. And because I have had the awesome foresight to make everything due at the point of the semester when I am most tired, well, things really are piling up.
I was, however, able to take a few days off and mosey up to NYC to attend NECSS, the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, which was a hoot at a holler, verily. I had been in New Jersey, as you doubtlessly know, to deliver a paper (posted on this site a few days ago) about science and literary theory. I delivered the paper in New Brunswick in the afternoon and then skipped off to the train station, where I caught a ride to Penn Station.
Penn Station is a crime against aesthetics, but I wasn’t there to sightsee. I was there to leave. I got in a cab and took it up, or possibly down, to my hotel, the Ameritania. I had scoped it online to see if there were bedbugs, because I am a scaredy baby man and didn’t want to bring them home. I had found conflicting reports on bedbug infestation sites, but I decided to go with buggirl’s recommended bedbug watchdog site and decided that it would be ok, as long as my luggage was always only in the bathtub. Except when I was using it.
Now, I was under the impression that the conference hotels and assorted social venues were right around the corner from each other, but they really weren’t, as I found out using my $10-day hotel Internet connection. No matter. I had to go find the bar where the first Drinking Skeptically was being held.
It was a hoot, of course. Luminaries of the skeptical movement were there. I think that the first person I recognized was Carl Zimmer, the science writer. But eventually the balcony of the bar filled with nerds, and all was right in the world.
Talked to a variety of the Skepchicks, caught up briefly with Joe Anderson, met some pleasant folks from Canada (also known as “Canadians”) who had taken the bus from…I think the North Pole. Met folks from all over the country, several of whom were attending one of these types of events for the first time. I also ran into a couple of people who I only knew virtually, which is always a treat. Podcasters, JREF people, astronomers, all sorts of folks were there.
And so I left early.
I didn’t leave because of all the people, but because I had a sense that my time in NYC was going to be taken up almost entirely by NECSS events, and, hey, I had seen some pretty cool stuff from the cab on the way down to the bar. I decided to try to walk back to my probably not infested hotel.
It was mostly a straight shot down 5th Avenue, just one turn, albeit something like 20 blocks away.
I came upon the Empire State Building, and not some ersatz Empire State Building, but a real and proper one. I admired the deco and contemplated how it had been constructed by Daleks during the Depression. There is apparently a deco font that all storefronts need to use on their signs, and while I appreciate the effort, it seemed a little forced to me. I moved on.
When I was a little kid, I visited New York a couple of times, and perhaps of all the things that I saw when I was nine, the coolest by far was the New York Public Library, not because I was a tediously bookish nine-year old, but because Ghostbusters had been filmed there. I walked past and drank it in, remembering when I was a kid, and recognizing something from a favorite movie made the movie just a little bit more real, and the boundaries between reality and fiction dissolved a little.
“Oh! THAT’S high-class!” a girl with an Australian accent yelled.
A guy was pissing on the steps of the library.
I turned and walked away as the drunk staggered through a puddle of his own urine to catch up with his inebriate friends.
I soon came upon Rockefeller Center, and I walked over to contemplate the NBC-ness of it all. I watched ice skaters showboating while novices flailed helplessly on the rink. Following a hunch, I decided to circle the building. I was looking for a mosaic, Barry Faulkner’s “Intelligence Awakens Mankind” (1933). It was put up on the RCA (now GE) Building facade. I wrote about this a few days ago, so I won’t rehash it, but it was a complete thrill for me to see. I curated the business records of the mosaic firm that installed the mosaics, and I had only seen images of them in black and white, so I was completely tickled to see them in vibrant color.
Just around the corner from the Faulkner mural, another artist who worked with the Ravenna Mosaic Company, Hildreth Meiere, was represented on the side of Radio City Music Hall. Her giant medallions representing theater…
…are beautiful examples of the deco style. (Meiere is without a doubt one of the most monumentally under-appreciated artists of the 20th century. Unfortunately, there was no medallion to represent what was appearing at Radio City Music Hall at the time, Charlie Sheen’s Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour:
A little farther down, I found more mosaics, none that I was familiar with, in the tympanum of the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Don’t you judge me.
I decided to plow into Times Square and see what was what. At this point it was about 11:00. Nothing prepared me for the blaze of lights and sheer mass of people. It was rather overwhelming, and I ducked into a back street, where I promptly got myself lost. No matter. Cabbies are there to rescue yokels like me. He told me that he knew I was from out of town because I hailed him from the sidewalk. A New Yorker, he told me, stepped into the middle of the street. I believe him. I gave him my hotel’s address, which turns out was only a few blocks down and around the corner. I hurried through the lobby to the elevator and got off on the 6th floor.
It was a long Friday. It would be a long Saturday.