Feelin’ Groovy


Tramway cables on the left, the 59th St. Bridge on the right.

I’d always wanted to ride the tram to Roosevelt Island — the narrow strip of land situated in the East River between Manhattan and Queens — mostly, for the view it offers of the city.

So, the other day, we took a breather from the job hunt and DMV hell and the social security card nightmare (it appears you need an actual “card” in N.Y., in order to apply for a job), took the R train to 59th and Lex, walked to Second Ave., and climbed the concrete steps leading to the platform where the tram was docked.

Whew. What an opportunity to rise above it all.

Since a Metro card will take you just about everywhere here in N.Y., two swipes got us each a four-minute ride on the tram.

There’s something magical about watching the ground and the people on it shrink incrementally before your eyes. It feels so peaceful.


tram3A little bit higher now…

tram5Hey, a techno dog park right next to the East River — lucky K9s.

tram6I wished I could’ve kept rising higher and higher…

tram7A spidery shadow was cast over the river on the approach to the rocky shore of Roosevelt Is.

Once our feet touched ground, a stupendous view was there to greet us. Don’t you love it when you stand beneath a monumental structure, like a bridge, and feel so small? I do.


Since we’d done a little googling before our visit, we knew what we wanted to see. We strolled south down the lovely Riverwalk toward the remains of an old small pox hospital.

Gothic and spooky, the structure instantly brought to mind Mandalay and Dragonwyck and Thornfield Manor…


Notice the funny Casper-like graffito on the left. It really did feel haunted.

In fact, the entire Island felt out-of-time and seemed to harbor an undertone of ghostliness.

Scarier to imagine than the small pox hospital is the New York City Municipal Lunatic Asylum, a mental institution that once resided on the Island. All that remains of it is an octagonal building called — what else? — The Octagon. It’s now an apartment building.

Can you imagine living in an apartment that once housed what the tourist pamphlet calls “woe-be-gotten inmates”? It like the stuff of horror movies.

Anyway, you can read more about the asylum in the February 1866 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine by clicking on this link. It’s a fascinating, first-person account that’s definitely worth a visit.

The most interesting section of the Island turned out to be the middle coast, from the westside down to the southern tip. Still, before departing for good, we shelled out the 25 cents apiece for tickets so we could ride the red commuter bus to check out the Island’s northern tip and visit the lighthouse.


As lighthouses go — and I’ve seen lots of them — it was a pretty good specimen, but didn’t compare to the dramatically romantic lighthouses that inhabit the Oregon coast. I know, apples and oranges. But this lighthouse actually looks better in J.C.’s flattering shot than it does in person.

On the north end of the Island, the view underwhelms — off to the Island’s east side, you have Costco glaring back from the Astoria shore. From the west, the tableau is the upper east side of Manhattan — patently boring.

Still, I’m glad I made the trip and satisfied my curiosity.

To make a fun day even more fun, we headed for Greenpoint to meet our good friend, B., for dinner. Descending the steps down to Roosevelt Island’s only subway stop (the most deeply dug tunnel in the city), we waited on the platform for the F train to arrive.

A bit creepy waiting and knowing you’re standing so far under the East River.

We arrived in Manhattan, boarded the #7 train and took it to Vernon/Jackson Ave’s. Then, we walked over the Pulaski Bridge toward B’s painting and sculpture studio.

pulaskiwalkwayBefore going out for Mexican food and a few beers, I gazed through the studio’s window as the sun set  over Newtown Creek, fantasizing about having a studio of my own, once again — now that I’m back in my very favorite city. Sigh.


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One Response to “Feelin’ Groovy”

  1. kapttodd Says:

    i was cruising some previous comments to you from , i believe LA folk.
    it’s nice to know there are friends missing you 3000 miles away, and friends here, close-up, ready to make your NEW YORK LIFE a living HELL. i know i can’t wait. i did notice however, on your paul simon blog (feelin’ groovy), and earlier, that when i ask to go to certain places in NYC, i am likely to hear,
    “JC and i have already been there-we didn’t like it that much.”—or
    “JC and i have already been there- it’s wonderful, you should go, here’s a subway token.”
    and i will be reminded of being alone on top of the empire state building, and thinking-“this is really f__king high”
    it is, i think, the western equivalent to seeing the grand canyon, and thinking,
    “that’s a big f__king hole,”
    what more can one say,
    you two are, breathless…..
    P.S.– hi roberta!, call me after your husband is gone for the night.

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