When I take care of my goddaughter on Thursdays, we travel to the East Village in mid-morning to go to music class taught by the very chipper, very enthusiastic, very effervescent M____, former Carnival Cruise performer. I jest; she is a great teacher for the toddlers in the class. And honestly, 45 minutes of making whopping noises, singing la la la, pounding a beat on the floor and singing songs like Shoo Fly Shoo is good for the adult soul.
After class Thursday 20 October it was such a beautiful day, I decided we should have a Flâneur and a Petite Flâneuse moment and stroll around the city. So, we set off from music class on a lovely sojourn. The clouds were so beautiful that day, creating all kinds of shapes and movement in the sky. I’m cloudbusting daddy…
As we walked my goddaughter and I often do call and response singing while we walk. I sing “Dee dee…” and she replies, “Do do…” and so on. It is fun and a way for us to keep connected while she is in the stroller and I am pushing it behind her.
Our first stop on our journey was St. Mark’s Comics. I needed to get my goddaughter’s older brother who is 9 a comic book, comics being a fairly recent interest. G is a wonderful, creative kid, bursting with artistic talent and ideas, He draws constantly coming up with new characters and new storylines as he produces his own comics. The latest group of characters are called The Maniacs with creepy figures such as Dr. Knife, Gemini and Doll. It’s totally fab.
Earlier in the week I had taken him to Manhattan Comics on 23rd Street across from Madison Square Park. I had noticed it on the bus one day and knew that he had not been there. There, he bought one of the new 52 number ones by DC Comics- their reboot of 52 characters. G bought a Superman comic with our impervious hero (I am, I am Superman and I can do anything…) wearing jeans, work boots and his signature “S” top.
Since my goddaughter and I were close to St. Marks Comics I decided to buy Superman #2 there which had just come out for a Halloween present for G. Along the way on St. Marks Place we saw this pile of pumpkins, seemingly tossed without care in front of a store.
Unfortunately, St. Mark’s Comics was sold out of Action Comics Superman #2, but I did find N___ a My Little Pony for Halloween. It’s swell.
Luckily, Manhattan Comics on 23rd Street had a #2 Superman. Here is the cover:
Um….hmmm…a bit homoerotic no? The invincible Superman is tied down to what appears to be an electric chair. His shirt is ripped; his muscles are straining against the restraints. His eyes are red with fury, passion, anger, desire and he is being confronted by four very phallic guns. What is the narrative here?
To make our way from the East Village to Madison Square Park where the comic shop is located, N___ and I walked up Broadway and then onto Park Avenue at Union Square where we stopped at Starbucks for a treat. Vanilla cookies for her. (Godfather’s prerogative.) and an iced skinny vanilla latte for me. We continued up Park, enjoying our call and response singing while I took pictures of interesting architectural elements.
One of the first buildings of note that we passed was the old Union Square Savings Bank which was built in 1905-1907 according to the designs of Henry Bacon. The style is classical academic with its Roman temple-like front with Corinthian columns.
I love the windows on the side of the building with the giant mullions of circles in squares and rectangles.
Next, I noticed an interesting frieze on The Mills & Grubb Building at 300 Park Avenue at 22nd Street consisting of a central cartouche framed by 2 cherubs.
The building was built in 1910 and the frieze demonstrates its Beaux Arts style which is an academic neo-classical style that was influential in America from 1880-1920 and was often eclectic in its selection of decorative motifs.
My goddaughter and I continued up Park Avenue until we came to the MetLife buildings on Madison Square Park. The Met Life Tower was built in 1909 as the new headquarters of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. It was added to the original 1893 headquarters. The 700ft, 51 stories tall building was modeled on the campanile at St. Mark's Square in Venice. When constructed, it was the tallest building in the world. It would keep that title until the completion of the Woolworth Building in 1913.
Next to the MetLife tower, across 24th street, is another Metropolitan Life Insurance building, known as the North Building. Originally, this Art Deco building was designed to be an immense 100 story tall tower. This tower would give the title of the world's tallest building back to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, but the Great Depression made an abrupt end to these plans: only the 29 first floors were built before construction was stopped in 1932 and finally completed in 1950.
Here are some pictures of the fabulous and superb Deco details of the 1930’s building:
My favorite part of this group of buildings is the sky bridge that spans East 24th Street.
I always thought a sky bridge would make a fabulous apartment. Looking at the sky bridge on the 2o October I was reminded once again of Roland Barthes statement, “There is where I want to live…” As Barthes says the womb is the only place we all surely have been and the desire, my desire, to live in the air in a sky bridge is in the end a desire for the womb, for the pre-Oedipal, for an existence where one has not been castrated by language. Where there is no I, where there is only one. Thank you Mr. Lacan.
From Madison Square Park we continued east back to her apartment. On our way home we passed another great Art Deco building Gramercy House at 235 East 22nd Street which was built in 1930 by George and Edward Blum.
In contrast to this Deco design we passed a single story 19th century structure on East 19th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. I love its false stepped pediment, crenellated applied molding and offset door and window. It is amazing that such a structure has survived in the modern urban landscape.
As we made our way over to 1st Avenue and home, other things caught our eye as we circled back around and walked east across 23rd Street.