On Allyn’s Second Adventure in New York

A few days ago, I went to New York City.

I had it all planned out. I was going to go to The Cloisters, I was going to see their exhibition of the Lewis Chessmen, and… well, that really was all I had planned. Which caused problems when I discovered upon arriving there, due to my own lack of research beforehand, that the museum was closed on Mondays.

These things happen.

I said to myself, “Well, Allyn, this just means that you’ll have to go to London and see the Lewis Chessmen at the British Musuem.” The pieces were on loan, and the exhibition ended on April 22nd. That was the way it was going to have to be.

Then my mom said to me on Tuesday, when I explained my story of my New York expotition, “Why don’t you buy another bus ticket and go back on Saturday?” Wednesday, then, I bought another Megabus ticket, and yesterday morning I drove to White Marsh, picked up the bus, and off to New York City I went.

Rain was in the forecast. I did not prepare for rain. I would do this trip light and fast — a tee-shirt and cargo shorts would have to suffice. If I got wet, then so be it.

Here’s the good news. I did see the Lewis Chessmen. Here’s the bad news. I have no pictures of them; they didn’t allow photography. Other than that…

The Cloisters was awesome. 🙂

It’s a museum dedicated to medieval European artwork. That means more than just painting. There’s sculpture. There’s stained glass. There’s reconstructed chapels. It’s amazing stuff. I was impressed that I could identify the places where certain pieces where made — “Okay, that looks Flemish,” “That style looks Dutch,” etc. I’ve been to too many museums in my life, I think. There wasn’t as much to see as I was hoping for — I was in and out within an hour, and I think there’s more work of that time and place in the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of Art — but it is a lovely place to visit. First, the building itself feels old. Second, it has a nice flow and it’s impossible to miss anything unless you deliberately don’t go and look at it.

I bought the official book of the Lewis Chessmen exhibition and, since the show’s t-shirt was on sale (50% off!) I bought one of those, too. The t-shirt is cool; it shows three of the Warders (we’d call them Rooks today), and the Warders are depicted as Viking Berserkers, biting their shields.

After the Cloisters, I hopped the A Train and headed back downtown. I got off in Harlem at 125th Street; I thought about walking to see Grant’s Tomb. I didn’t actually make it there. Instead, I just wandered around, and then I saw a cathedral.

Yes, despite my rampant heathenism, I love cathedrals and any sort of religious architecture.

Specifically, I saw the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I took a few pictures, but they’re not really very good. Note to self: read up on the cathedral on its Wikipedia article.

I stopped in a pizza place near there and had some lunch (by this time it was about 2:30), and then I saw a subway station for the 1 Train and, having no place I needed to be (my bus home didn’t leave until 7:30), I decided to take that to someplace. Once I was on the train, I saw that it went into lower Manhattan, so I decided to see where the Twin Towers once stood.

I made it there, saw the new building that was being built in its place, walked through Greenwich Village, went to the waterfront along the Hudson, walked that to Canal Street, then found my way back to a subway station and took the 1 Train back north.

Getting off a Lincoln Center, I skirted the edge of Central Park, walked past the Apple store (it was sufficient to look down into it through the glass — I saw no reason to wait in the line to go down the stairs) and went in FAO Schwarz.

One thing I saw when I was near FAO Schwarz was a group protesting the treatment of the horses who draw the carriages in and around Central Park. (It may have been this group, honestly.) I have to admit, the images their posters showed of dead horses made me quite sad. I thought of the Amish from when I lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania, much as I did on Monday when I saw the Central Park horses in person for the first time. (My comment at the time: “I haven’t smelled this much horse manure since leaving Amish country.”) Horses are powerful, beautiful creatures; they need to be cared for, they have their feelings and their fears as well. It was an emotional moment I wasn’t expecting yesterday.

The other unexpected moment of yesterday came inside FAO Schwarz. I felt very disconnected from the commercialism of the store. I was surrounded by people who were happy, even deliriously so, by the things around them, and the consumerism on display was very alien to me. I was puzzled by it.

On my way back to the bus pickup, I stopped at The Irish Pub and had a few Guinnesses (consumed Irish-style — four rings or less), and that basically finished off my day.

The trip home was uneventful. We ran into the day’s forecast rain somewhere in the middle of New Jersey.

Of course, I suspect you’re reading this more for the pic-spam than for an accounting of how I spent my day. 😉

Here goes:

The flowers at Fort Tryon Park:

Fort Tryon Park

Fort Tryon Park

Fort Tryon Park

Fort Tryon Park

Outside the Cloisters:

Outside the Cloisters

A Unicorn Tapestry:

Unicorn Tapestry

King Arthur Tapestry:

King Arthur Tapestry

Burial Crypt inside the Gothic Chapel:

Burial crypt

The Gothic Chapel at The Cloisters:

Gothic Chapel

Gothic Chapel

The Fuentiduena Chapel:

The Fuentiduena Chapel

The One World Trade Center, under construction:

One World Trade Center

LEGO Statues inside FAO Schwarz:

LEGO Statue of Liberty

LEGO Batman

I have to admit, though, that when I learned that a friend who lives in New York injured herself a few days ago, I wanted to scrap all of that touristy stuff, even the Lewis Chessmen, which I really wanted to see, for her — change her ice packs, bring her food, keep her company — if it would have helped speed her recovery. If she’s reading, I hope she’s resting comfortably and feeling better today.

For all that I went through the see the Lewis Chessmen, was it worth it? I think so. I admit, for what I spent on four bus tickets, admission to The Cloisters, the official book, and the t-shirt, I could have bought a very nice replica set of the Lewis Chessmen. (In fact, I’m honestly surprised that the museum didn’t have a replica set for sale.) Still, it was nice to see them. We don’t really know who made them, we don’t know who they were for or why they were buried in the sand of the Isle of Lewis. The prevailing theory is that they were abandoned en route to their destination to keep them from being stolen and that they were never used. They are remarkable pieces, whatever their origins, and no two look exactly alike, with different facial expressions, different hair, different armaments, different poses. The artistry is amazing.

There you have it. The tale of Allyn’s second adventure in New York City in a week. 🙂

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

6 thoughts on “On Allyn’s Second Adventure in New York

  1. The chessmen are brilliant, aren’t they? I’m surprised there weren’t replica sets for sale as well; there are at the Museum of Scotland.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that when Dick Grayson was working at The Cloisers in Nightwing a few years back, it never occured to me this was a real museum, and not something they’d made up…i

  2. The chessmen are brilliant, aren’t they? I’m surprised there weren’t replica sets for sale as well; there are at the Museum of Scotland.

    They had only three pieces of merchandise. The book from the British Museum, the t-shirt, and a water bottle. I don’t know that I’d have bought a replica set yesterday, but it was something I’d have expected to see. Something tangible.

    I’ve taken a look at the replica sets for sale on eBay, and now that I’ve seen the real thing I know what not to buy. The sets for sale are generally wrong — the Warders are replaced with Castle-esque Rooks, and the formless pawns are replaced by miniatures Warders. It looks like the replica set made by Studio Anne Carlton is the most accurate, except that that set is white/black instead of the white/red of the original pieces. (All the pieces now are white — okay, technically ivory — but the reports of their discovery indicate that some of the pieces were stained red.)

    It’s not something I need. I already have a few chess sets that I don’t use. But, maybe someday, a Lewis Chessmen replica set will find its way into my collection. 🙂

  3. It depends.

    I believe that Megabus runs a more robust schedule than Bolt. Prices are about the same. (Both have their one dollar specials.) Megabus has a larger passenger capacity (Bolt is a single-deck bus, Mega is a double-decker), and the Bolt bus (since I see them everyday in my commute) appears to be a little more spacious inside than the Mega. There was wi-fi on the Megabus, but I couldn’t get it to work; I believe Bolt also has in-bus wi-fi. I’m told that Bolt can sell out very quickly (fewer routes, smaller capacity); I was able to buy my Megabus tickets for yesterday as late as Wednesday, and someone at the New York stop last night was telling me and others that he had bought his tickets online that morning.

    The main difference is where you end up.

    Boltbus takes you into Penn Station, and from there you can catch the Light Rail to points south and (with some jiggery-pokery) north.

    Megabus takes you into White Marsh. Then you have to navigate the Baltimore bus system to get somewhere. Or you have someone pick you up.

    I should note that I’ve not taken Bolt, so I can’t speak to the actual experience of riding Bolt. I’m just thinking of Bolt purely in terms of the logistics. I know that people in my company have (it’s how we send the Toy and Sales departments to New York Toy Fair and New York Comic Con), and I’ve not had any bad feedback (except for the grumblings that the company sprang for a bus and not a train).

    For me, Mega is more convenient than Bolt because I could drive to White Marsh, park, and go, whereas with Bolt I would have had to park at the subway station in Owings Mills, go to State Center, then walk or catch a Light Rail train to Penn Station. (Then, of course, reverse the process.) There are more moving gears that have to mesh if I want to use the Bolt process. (My fear with Bolt would be missing the last subway train out to Owings Mills if I were coming back into Baltimore via Bolt.)

    However, if I were going to New York for the weekend, Bolt would be a better choice. I could drive into work, leave my car there for the weekend, take the Light Rail down to Mt. Royal, walk to Penn Station, and catch the Bolt. There’s not really an easy way to get from where I work to White Marsh except by car, and I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving the Beetle there for the weekend.

    If you’re thinking about coming to Shore Leave via Megabus, this link gives a map of the public transportation challenge in getting from White Marsh to Hunt Valley. In my opinion, it would be tricky to manage (I’ve been using Baltimore public transportation for years, and I’m not even sure that I could manage it), and I especially wouldn’t try it with luggage. If someone can pick you up at White Marsh, though, Megabus wouldn’t be so bad.

  4. Thanks for the information! Not sure about Shore Leave, but was more considering the Baltimore Comic-Con a month later.

  5. Ah, got it!

    If you take Bolt, you’d take the Light Rail from Penn Station to the Convention Center stop. It would be about a fifteen minute ride.

    If you take Mega, it looks like there are a couple of buses you could take from White Marsh. The 35 would get you there in about an hour, the 120 would get you there in about half an hour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *