Lunchtime Walks in the City: My Eastside Adventure

InsomniaCookies53rd St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues

Armed with a rather ambitious plan of walking to a place I’d heard of called the Ford Foundation Atrium on E. 43rd, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, I hit the sidewalk practically running at 12:30 P.M. Ambitious, because I would really have to hustle to make it to 43rd and 1st and then back again in one hour’s time.

My walk started out like this: left on 57th; right on Madison; left on 56th; right on Lexington; left on 53rd. That’s where I passed “Insomnia Cookies” (above) — warm, fresh cookies delivered until 3 am! – says the awning. The lettering on the window says: Better Foods Better Health. Good one.

I liked the more easterly section of 53rd St. so I slowed my pace. I reminded myself of the philosophy I’d adopted when I began my lunchtime walking.

Walk to discover. With no expectations. No destinations.

I relaxed. I looked around. E. 53rd St. It was a United Nations of restaurants.

PalindromeAddressLook at this address. Practically a palindrome…well, sort of…okay, not really

Following 53rd St., I made a right when I reached 1st Ave. A sickeningly sweet cherry smell suddenly drifted up my nostrils. Gag. Where was that coming from?

CherryTiparilloAha. The Tiparillo-smoking guy up ahead.

Quickly passing him on the left, I made tracks down 1st Ave. to 51 St. A plaque on the corner of a building caught my eye.MtPleasantMansionIt said: “from 1763 to 1874 stood Mount Pleasant.” The plaque commemorated a mansion built by James Beekman; the mansion was used as headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Nathan Hale was actually imprisoned on this site.  A few blocks away, he uttered his famous: “I only regret I have one life to give for my country.”

Do you think those words came out of his mouth? I have my doubts. Unless his speech writer was present at the hanging.

Still, true or not, whenever I see a plaque, I stop to read. Many years ago in Florence, Italy, I was exploring the hills above of the city on foot. As I passed a lemon yellow adobe-style villa, I noticed a plaque attached to the wall surrounding the property. Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky once lived in that very villa, it said. So, I always stop. You never know.

Further down 1st Ave., in the distance, up popped the United Nations building! I made one memorable visit during elementary  school. We all sat in a large auditorium. me and my classmates. I wore large headphones, which were wired to the chair. I turned a dial to hear lots of foreign languages, really just a bunch of jibberish. But I thought it was cool.

U.NNice building. Pretty sleek.

A glance down 51 St. enticed me to cross over 1st Ave. and explore. I sensed there was a park on the horizon. As I neared the end of the street, the trees and briny air told me I was correct.

BeekmanPL1Beekman Place

When I was growing up, my mother loved to read the “society page” in the New York Daily News. At breakfast, she frequently name-dropped Beekman Place. She schooled my sister and me in the difference between “old money” and nouveau riche. They may have been the first French words I ever learned. Beekman Place was “old money.” At the time, we had no idea what she meant by that.

And, yes, there was a very pretty park at the end of Beekman Place.


I descended the brick stairs into the park. On the first landing was a bridge:


A bicyclist with shimmering coppery hair rode slowly by:


Below the bridge to the right was the park’s plaza:


One flight down on the left were benches with a view of the 59th St. Bridge and Roosevelt Is.:


This park was a wonderful find. But, alas, it was time for me to head back…

Time may be relative and the universe may be warped, but I still had to get back to the office by 1:30 P.M.

BeekmanPlaceBye bye, Beekman Place (and hello, Mom, wherever you are)

Rounding the corner at 50th St. and 2nd Ave., was this vibrantly colored graffiti:

WarGraffittoQuite rightly so.

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