The Angel Takes Manhattan, With Love

On the Upper West Side, we sauntered around under the sun on a steamy Saturday till we found an Italian eatery called Polpette tucked into one of the streets. Now if you come upon this modest place and see empty chairs and tables upfront, do not pray stride off into the sunset. In its rear section is a surprise of a garden, a square little affair enclosed by walls painted with murals. Festooned with vines and à la mode Edison light bulbs, it felt like we had been whisked off to the atmospheric back alleys of Roma. Checkered table cloths, rustic green chairs and dappled sunlight. Random joys from the random pickings of life.

An Italian waiter brought us two heavenly baskets of bread and fish and chicken dishes which were exquisite in their own right. A red snapper, accompanied by shrimps, doused in pomodoro sauce ripe with flavour, and a humble chicken dressed up in fragrant juice, redolent of rosemary. The Italians have mastered the art of infusing intense flavour into whatever they dish up and yet they use a few ingredients to achieve the effect.

The simplicity of the meal was heartening, and halfway through the act of uttering sighs of pleasure while masticating, we had to pick up our plates and rush into the eatery because it had started to pour. The waiter remarked that the weather would be quite so the entire day. Did I detect a smirk?

We got out, taking nimble steps under our small umbrella, but the glory of it is that it seemed, as if from above, someone had turned the tap off. The rain petered out, the sun peeking out albeit hesitantly.

We walked through leafy avenues, flanked by rows of pastel hued and brownstone townhouses originally built in the 19th century, vintage street lamps lined up alongside.

Then, Central Park. Finally.

And that spot in it, the Bethesda Fountain, ‘where if you sit there long enough, the entire city walks by.’ Matthew Perry had pointed it out in Fools Rush In. 

Or wait, if you are one for Gossip Girls, remember Cyrus quoting Herman Hesse as he married Chuck and Blair beneath the arcade, ‘we are not going in circles/we are going upwards/The path is a spiral/we have already climbed many steps…?’ It was one of my favourite scenes from the show.

So there we were, right at that iconic spot which you and I have seen numerous times in TV shows such as Sex and the City, movies such as Home Alone 2 and One Fine Day. One of those pinch-myself-is-this-really-happening-to-me moments in my book of life.

A wedding shoot was taking place when we walked into the arcade. The bride in her bustier wedding dress, wrought in lace and sparkling diamanté, must have been burning up in the heat of the noon. Oh but look how gracefully she stood there, a sparkling tiara atop her head, a posy of white blossoms in her hand, and a smile radiating from her pretty face. Bridesmaids in gowns of delicate pink hues stood in front of her, one of them passing by and flashing us a ravishing smile.

The arcade was the stage for many acts. In the backdrop, a guy in a white tunic and pants made of shiny latex, golden sneakers on his feet, stood frozen in a ballet posture. Just the sight of latex on a scorching summer’s day, uncomfortable levels of humidity in the air, can do things to you. Not in a good way, I mean.

Meanwhile, outside the arcade, an artist stood under the rays of the afternoon sun, a mini canvas mounted upon a tripod. Despite the sweltering heat, he found his inspiration in the angel that stood poised above the fountain in front of us.

A perfect swathe of clouds billowed in the backdrop of the Angel of the Waters – the statue that not only symbolises healing and love but was built upon the very foundations of love. How, you might ask? Well its sculptor, Emma Stebbins, was a lesbian who was in love with a leading actress of the American and British stages of the time, Charlotte Cushman.

Picture the mid-1800s when lesbian artists of the time were deemed the ‘female jolly bachelors’. These artists were among the first few women to be in relationships with others of their own sex and they all rallied around Cushman who is said to have given Stebbins the kind of support she needed to design the statue. It induced in me, a flash of emotion, a surge of pride. Stebbins was the first woman in New York City to have designed a public piece of art. For feminism creeps into you from the day you truly open your eyes to the world, isn’t it?

Now the changes have been negligible since the day it was unveiled to the public in 1873. The vista has really remained the same. The angel and her cherubs and then the beautiful lake framed by the woodlands, the colorful gonfalons (medieval-style banners) adding the necessary touch of majesty to it all.

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Demolishing bread baskets in Polpette
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Chicken and rosemary, a delectable duo.
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Red snapper and shrimps in pomodoro sauce.
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In a scanning-the-sky mode in Central Park where boys play football in the muddy fields.
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Fire trucks and carriages that prance down the park.
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The intensely soothing serenity of the Elm woods of Central Park.
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Canopy of Elms
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The old boathouse that stands adjacent the lake where people row boats, true to a 15–year-old tradition of rowing Venetian gondolas. The fans whirr in slow motion inside the dark non-air-conditioned interiors and make you think of the days of yore.
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Little girls in dresses of tulle walk down the park.
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Carriages appear every few seconds as you make your way through the park.
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Camouflaged occupant of the woods. He was adorable if I may state the obvious.
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In summer squirrels have to really hunt for their meals because the nuts are usually not ripe enough for them.
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So Adi chastised me for distracting this little fellow when he turned towards me and the nut slipped from his grasp. He spent aeons looking for it, after.
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Upper Terrace of the Bethesda Fountain
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Bethesda fountain was inspired by a Biblical verse. ‘Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called…Bethesda…whoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.’
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The arcade as it looked in the early 1900s. These old photos are sourced off the Net.
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The wedding shoot
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Inside the arcade are these beautiful Moorish-patterned tiles.
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He who paints the angel under the harsh sun shall be rewarded with true love, cupcakes and lemonade. 

87 thoughts on “The Angel Takes Manhattan, With Love

  1. Yum. Your writing and photos were so creative, as always. I’m looking forward to your email about the blog project! I’m almost ready to send out the email with the next step. So, without being pushy, this is sort of the last chance. If you’d rather not sign up, no worries whatsoever! 😀😀😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Squirell!! I am dying to see one in real life, but I don’t think they are native in the Southern Hemisphere 😦
    You have painted a lovely photo of Central Park, I’m enjoying hearing about your newfound adventures in NYC 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you my lovely. I am quite chuffed too to find my way around the city. Squirrels are the cutest thing. The park opposite my place is teeming with them. They are big, fat and adorable. Come visit and you can meet them xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You reignited my love for NYC. I just realized that last time I was in Central Park, my only thoughts of the Boathouse were about how long and slow the bathroom line was. Thank you for this! I hope you’re having a wonderful trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya Liz, that is a giant compliment. Thank you for the thought and oh yes that boathouse 😀 I wanted a drink to cool off but the sight of the fans rotating ineffectually and the stifling heat inside was just too much. I realised that I could feel better outside and wait for a drink elsewhere.

      I shifted to New Jersey a month ago from the UK. So I am going about exploring NYC in a slow leisurely manner 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Finding hidden gems like that Italian restaurant is akin to winning the lottery! 😉

    Central Park is such a fun excursion, and it’s big enough to fuel several repeat visits! They have great self-guided and guided tours, just in case you’re interested. I’ve always loved the wedding scene from GG as well, particularly because the Minton Tile Ceiling makes me swoon each time. Lovely pics!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ceiling was exotic! I am quite interested in guided tours…they can be interesting if done well and I have a sneaking suspicion it might be so in NYC. Thank you for the tip, Lynn.

      Polpette was a bonus indeed! 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We got the upstairs 3 bedrooms and hallway, plus the stairway done. We did our room yesterday, so worked until almost midnight to put things back together, we can have our bed. We’ll take a week off from painting, and back on our workout routine. Resume painting on the third week. Still can finish before going to my daughter’s baby shower!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Seems like your having one amazing time exploring NYC. I remember the first time ever we saw a squirrel, which was at Central Park ( none her in Australia). Loved the carriage rides too…..ahhh to return to Manhattan…bliss 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lorelle, cheers to experiencing the bliss again 🙂 I needed to be at Central Park. It is a balm of loveliness.

      I heard from a Kiwi friend that squirrels are a non-entity in your part of the world. I wonder why. There is a party of them in the park opposite my place, and when I go for a run, they are constantly scampering across my path. I even have hopes that I can cart a bushy baby squirrel home 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was in New York last year but I never got to go to Central Park, mainly because the weather was horrid. I wish to spend time there some day, just as you and your husband enjoyed yours. And I will definitely try to visit that restaurant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Willia, it was not too hard on the pockets because we had a fancy one reserved for the night (a post on it should be up soon). I am sorry to hear that you could not go to Central Park. I think you shall fall in love with it when you see it the next time you are here. I am positive about that 🙂 xx

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  7. Polpette is such a great restaurant! It was one of my favorite places on the UWS! Also, there is nothing like Central Park. I used to go to school two blocks from the park and I can tell you, I miss just going to walk around after school with friends and passing our days away either strolling around or just hanging out on the Great Lawn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know Polpette! Why what are the chances of that. Knowing the profusion of eateries in NYC, I am thrilled because you know what I am gabbing about.

      You are lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful environment as Central Park. Passing time on the Great Lawn sounds just heavenly! xx

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  8. What a wonderful time. The snapper looks great. I grew up there, you know. Went to Stuyvesant High School on 1st and 15th (it moved way downtown after I graduated). I was just telling my boy stories of Dad’s first time in Central Park when he went out to NYC to ask my father for my hand in marriage. Will be sharing this post with T.

    I forgot the temperamental weather.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Diana, I have missed your fabulous writing. I shall head to your blog to check if you have updated it with a new post. Oh boy, the weather reminded me of the UK alright.

      Is T your husband? Sorry I am a bit lost there. But I would love to read those stories given that you write like you do. And that’s not flattery in the least, okay? You were lucky to have grown up in the lap of such green beauty! xx

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      1. You’re the sweetest. I was going to tell you not to bother, that I haven’t posted. But I remembered this one from my earliest days on WPress, on NYC and cultural adjustment. (And T is our son.) Thanks.

        Xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah! I shall go look it up then. I did notice that you have not posted since I read the last post. I will wait for the next one nonetheless 🙂 Hope you are well and busy in a good way xx

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  9. “Oh but look how gracefully she stood there, a sparkling tiara atop her head, a posy of white blossoms in her hand, and a smile radiating from her pretty face. Bridesmaids in gowns of delicate pink hues stood in front of her, one of them passing by and flashing us a ravishing smile.” <- loved this. You have a gift!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This post made me hungry, I blame you for that! I’ve always admired all these wedding photoshoots with the wrong climate. I remember one in Chicago quite the opposite (freezing) and a graceful bride with an extravagantly open dress – it made me shiver. The things one does for love… I am a big fan of Gossip girl too 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, to Blair then. I hope you have a piece of chocolate to help with the hunger pangs. Which makes me want to pop some in right after writing this 😉

      What we women do for love, eh? At our wedding reception, which took place in Delhi on a freezing December night, I wore a sari with no jacket or layers to protect me. My husband was worse off. After showering, he had gelled his hair and turned up to stand beside me as we received people and stood accepting gifts, smiling all along till our jaws ached. And how we shivered even as Adi caught a nasty head chill. One of the army wives who had turned up at the reception was incredibly thoughtful. She got a patio heater to be installed right next to us so that we could warm up 🙂

      So I can nod my head vigorously and agree that the bride in Chicago was a brave heart xx

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Not only do I love the photographs of the park which always give me a sense of serenity, but I so adore old photographs as well. Looking at the clothes that women wore on a regular basis and how different it is from our time is almost surreal and totally cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t there such character in those photos? I loved ’em too. We are lucky, us women who live in the now. Imagine what they went through – these women in their limiting dresses and gowns – and the mores that they often had to abide by! As much as I like everything old, I shudder to think of their plight.

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      1. Goodness to think of all the basic rights that they didn’t have, the restrictions. I shudder to think as well. Their clothing was beautiful but I’d have to take our day instead. What a fine fight women have put up over the centuries. Yay ladies!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. How lovely a thought 🙂 He demanded to be rewarded and I am sure he was in some way o the other. She got a patio heater to be installed right next to us so that we could warm up 🙂
    So I can nod my head vigorously and agree that the bride in Chicago was a brave heart xx

    Liked by 1 person

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