Part Four-Chinatown-Romancing the Culture …

melting pot

Melting Pot

The joke went… there are 300 different languages represented in New York and everyone of them has a restaurant on the East Side. At least that was my joke in the sixties.

Throughout its history, New York City has been a major point of entry for immigrants; the term “melting post” was coined to describe densely populated immigrant neighborhoods on the Lower East Side. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.English remains the most widely spoken language, although there are areas in the outer boroughs in which up to 25% of people speak English as an alternate language, and/or have limited or no English language fluency. English is least spoken in neighborhoods such as Flushing, Sunset Park, and Corona. (Wikepedia)

You may note that Sunset Park is mentioned as one of the three neighborhoods where English is least spoken. That is the neighborhood you have heard me speak of so often, the name of my book of short stories, the home of Antoinette, and now the home of Brooklyn’s Chinatown. It is no surprise that I found myself contented in Washington Heights, a neighborhood housing the largest Dominican population in the world, other than the Dominican Republic itself.

I am drawn to cultural diversity like a humming bird to sweet nectar. I relish diversity in everything I do and in most places I live or work.

It is worth your time to watch this entire video. The photography is fantastic.

Written in 1928, this is Nat King Cole’s rendition of The Sidewalks of New York:

Part Four of Romancing the Big Apple features the cultural icon of Manhattan’s Chinatown, a place I loved to roam, to eat and shop, to people watch and to enjoy the long winding streets that lead to Little Italy and the Lower East Side Garment Center.

If like myself, you grew up in any major metropolis in the North East, there was never a question as to whether you had a good Chinese restaurant, the question was where was it and do they deliver?

New York City has the largest concentrated population of Chinese in the US. Jump over a dozen states and settle in San Francisco and wander around the second largest Chinatown in the US.

Betwixt and between there are dozens of other smaller concentrations. Successful in business the Chinese-American population of New York have given new title to the expression nepotism, the mom and pop store, the local laundry, take-out counter, the Asian shops stuffed with statues of Buddha, satin slippers or kimono,  Chinese restaurants and green grocers.


Image found here

Lifted from another time, there is no other place in The City whose sights, sounds and aromas come close to the mystery of Chinatown.

Her narrow, cobblestone streets wind around from one intriguing shop to the next. Ducks, plucked, roasted a bright red and hanging upside down in shop windows, small basement restaurants, dim sum parlors and specialty stores, the mystique and incomprehensible individuality of the culture fascinate those who visit there.

Chinatown is physically located in Lower Manhattan, though culturally it is twelve thousand miles away in the distant and unknowable expanse of China. The residents of Chinatown consider their excitable visitors the foreigners.

Image blog here

Reprint from Wikipedia:

Unlike most other urban Chinatowns, Manhattan’s Chinatown is both a residential area as well as commercial area. Many population estimates are in the range of 90,000 to 100,000 residents. It is difficult to get an exact count, as neighborhood participation in the US Census is thought to be low due to language barriers, as well as large-scale illegal immigration.  A minority of Hakka was also represented. Mandarin was rarely spoken by residents even well into the 1980s.  

Immigration reform in 1965 opened the door to a huge influx of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and Cantonese became the dominant tongue. But since the late 1980s and 1990s, the vast majority of new Chinese immigrants have come from mainland China, especially Fujian Province, and tend to speak Mandarin along with their regional dialects. Most Fuzhou immigrants are illegal immigrants while most of the Cantonese immigrants are legal immigrants in Manhattan’s Chinatown. 

As the epicenter of the massive Fuzhou influx has shifted to Brooklyn in the 2000s, Manhattan’s Chinatown’s Cantonese population still remains viable and large and successfully continues to retain its stable Cantonese community identity, maintaining the communal gathering venue established decades ago in the western portion of Chinatown, to shop, work, and socialize — in contrast to the Cantonese population and community identity which are declining very rapidly in Brooklyn’s Chinatown.


Brooklyn’s Chinatown

 I was born and raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park, where as teens we grazed along the grassy slopes under giant oaks. Today you can stroll though the park and see instead, small groups of adults doing their daily Tai Chi, or families enjoying a Sunday picnic.

When you visit New York, take a walk, stop to eat at one of the dozens of restaurants, shop in one of its unique shops, stock up on Asian spices, buy a trinket for a friend.

Shop reference here

Romancing the tip of the Apple

For those who are attending the RWA National Conference in New York in July, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of Manhattan’s Chinatown from the comfort of the red double-decker buses that make daily tours around the island.

Many of these tours are set for a certain number of hours with unlimited stops that also allow you to get off at different locations and then wait for another bus to come along and continue your touring.

Next week, we will take a ride on the happy red bus so you can see first hand what one day of riding can bring. Hang onto your HEA people, because I always save the best for last. As lovers of romance you will be glad I did.

What makes where you live diverse and

do you have good Chinese take out?

fOIS In The City

Maxine credit





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Part Three-Romancing the Big Apple-The Arts

No one can romance the Big Apple without romancing its music and art.

Inspired by comments from Vicki Batman and Laura Drake, I re-post my Museum Mile tour of only a few of New York’s finest collections of art.

Sign credit

Join me on a walking tour of Manhattan’s Museum Mile, one of the most culturally diverse stretches of concrete and asphalt in the United States, and if my French and Italian relatives would please excuse my inflated ego, second to none anywhere on the planet.

Along a route, which is actually two blocks longer than one mile, natives and visitors can visit sites of both old and new, traditional and modern, in a display of art that feeds the hungry soul and dazzles the eye.

The Museum Mile is named for a part of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, that runs South from 104th Street to 82nd Street on Fifth Avenue’s, Upper East Side in the neighborhood called “Carnegie Hill.”

Nine museums are located along this length of Fifth Avenue, joined by a tenth museum in 2009, Museum for African Art, the first new museum constructed on this mile since the Guggenheim in 1959, and will open to the public late 2012.

*Note:  Most of the narrative descriptions of each museum has been provided by Jason Wiggins on Museum Mile’s official web page. Photography is from a variety of sources and credit noted for each.

In addition to their various programs, these museums also collaborate to bring New Yorker’s the Museum Mile Festival, held each year in June.

Festival Photo Credit

 The best way to enjoy this tour is to go north to the farthest location and walk south along Fifth Avenue.

El Museo del Barrio  … Located on 104th Street

Pic located here.

Founded thirty years ago, El Museo del Barrio is New York City’s only Latino museum dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American art.

A visit to the museum should take about two hours and would appeal to people who like contemporary Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American art.

Museum of New York City … Located on 103rd Street

Photo credit.

The Museum of the City of New York, one of the most elegant museums in the city, looks like a Colonial American mansion; it is a large red-brick building with white stone columns accenting the entranceway and marble floors and stairways.

The Museum of the City of New York is the place to go to find out more about the city. Plan on a fairly long visit, three to four hours, if you want to look through the whole museum.

The Jewish Museum … Located on 92nd Street

Photo credit.

The Jewish Museum, located on the same avenue of culture as the Met, Guggenheim and Cooper-Hewitt, has a design style different from many other museums. There is more to the Jewish Museum than meets the eye; unlike many other museums on Museum Mile, the Jewish Museum takes up all of the floors of its building. The galleries are arranged in a circuitous style which allows for a lot of material to be put on display and makes floor plans a necessity.

The museum provides a large amount of information to explain the cultural and historical significance of the artifacts and artwork on display and makes for a wonderful learning experience. A curious visitor would most likely spend three or four hours seeing all of the galleries at this museum.

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum … Located on 91st Street

Image credit here.

Andrew Carnegie’s old mansion, which houses the Museum, looks like a building transplanted from a university campus; a black cast iron fence encloses a courtyard with grass and trees. While most museums have large banners or flags flying, the design museum posts a series of signs along the fence.

The exhibits, in large part, focus on work that gives every day items like furniture, computers and toothbrushes a more unique appearance, adding form to the function. Architecture and graphic design are also well covered. The museum is not as large as it looks. Plan to spend two hours or more.

National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts … Located on 89th Street

Image credit here.

The National Academy Museum, is housed in a landmark turn of the century Beaux-Arts townhouse. Although the museum appears to be rather small, there is a lot of gallery space featuring the museum’s vast collection of 19th and 20th century American Art. The gallery spaces, like the art on display, are rather traditional.

The National Academy Museum is a place that would appeal mostly to art students or people who have a dedicated interest in painting. After visiting two or three other museums on Museum Mile, this museum would probably be too much to absorb or appreciate.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum … Located on 88th Street

Photo credit here.

The Guggenheim Museum is housed in one of the most unique buildings in New York City. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the museum is shaped roughly like a teacup or an upside down terraced hill. It is not unusual to see adults with their children here, going up and down the spiraling ramp.

Expect to spend at least half a day going through the galleries and exploring the building. Try to head here early and avoid the weekends when the museum gets extremely crowded.

Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art … Located from 82nd to 86th Streets

Note:  This is my personal favorite. Not just for their fine selection of art, but for their cultural programs, free admission for most New York college students, and special classes for children.

Photo credit here.

There are several large museums in New York but the Metropolitan Museum of Art is truly gigantic. From the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, the Met, with its tall columns and windows, immense stairways and water fountains, looks like it could be an emperor’s palace.

If you’re planning on visiting the Met and another museum on Museum Mile in one trip, you’ll have to prioritize; going through the entire Met is a full day (or two) affair. The Met is a must see when visiting New York and is always worth another trip.

Goethe House German Cultural Center … Located on 82nd Street

Photo credit.

The Goethe Institute is probably one of the smallest museums in New York. It’s a converted townhouse right across the street from the Met, and the gallery is actually only a part of the institute’s functions.

There is also a library, book center and program center for people interested in German language and culture. It will only take about a half an hour to see this free gallery, so there’s no reason not to take a look in if you’re interested. The staff is friendly and willing to help answer any questions.

Avra Greek Restaurant

Our tour has ended. Sit for a spell at a sidewalk cafe and take a well deserved rest.

If you would like to see the complete lists of museums, cultural landmarks and the most comprehensive arrays of art, architect and mixed media,  you can refer to Wikipedia

You can walk south of the Museum Mile and visit MOMA the Museum of Modern Art, a stone’s throw from Rockefeller Center.

There are a jaw dropping one hundred plus of these magnificent sites in the five boroughs of Manhattan; from the Brooklyn Museum to the Cloister Museum in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights, Manhattan. The Cloisters are technically an outpost of the Met. If nothing else, the scenic views of the Hudson River as you walk through the park are worth the trip. As the man said … Take the A Train. Get off and walk up the hills, stop in the cafe in the park or sit on a bench and enjoy the vistas.

Thank you re-visiting this special edition of City Scapes. Remember to hug an artist and have a great day.

In my humble opinion it would surely take a lifetime to see all of the Met. However, if you don’t have forever and you can’t join Vicki and Laura, take a fifty minute virtual tour.


Art lovers out there, what museums are in your

neck of the states?

fOIS In The City


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Part Two-Radio City Music Hall

Revised from 3am.

For Part Two of my six-week series, we will take a stroll to one of New York’s famous landmarks and  give those attending the conference, a sight that can be seen during odd hours and within walking distance of your hotel.

Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall …


The skating rink during warm months

Today I give you my homage to the magnificent edifice of Rockefeller Plaza and my cherished memories of the Radio City Music Hall.

As a child, I cannot remember a Christmas when we did not go to The City, walk around Rockefeller Plaza to see the tree, and the show at the Music Hall.

The Radio City Music Hall was to my mother the holy grail of events. Not wind, nor storm nor dead of night could keep her from her appointed mission, to herd eight to ten children with her two girlfriends as point and rear guards to the Christmas and Easter shows at the Music Hall.

It was not “are we going this year?” But “on which day are we going?”

We gathered at dawn with blankets, pillows, coffee, hot chocolate, and buttered rolls, and took the long subway ride from Brooklyn to Rockefeller Center. Soon the early hour and the motion of the trains, lulled us to sleep, resting our heads on each other’s shoulders or their laps.

With a round of hands clapping, we woke at our destination, yawned and rubbed our eyes … we were almost there.


Walking towards Rockefeller Center was always a delight. We were no longer sleepy or hungry and turned slowly in a circle to capture all the sights and sounds around us.

Rockefeller Center is an art deco marvel consisting of nineteen commercial buildings covering eleven acres in midtown Manhattan from Forty-Ninth Street to Fifty-Second Street, from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue, with smaller buildings in a rectangle.


Atlas at 30 Rock

On the first floor of these buildings are exclusive shops, their windows lit up and decorated for the holiday season. The tall building in the middle, Thirty Rockefeller Plaza, or as it is called, 30 Rock, looms over a golden sculpture of Prometheus which sits below the giant tree as a symbol of opulence for tourists and native New Yorker’s to enjoy.

Rockefeller_CenterWikipedia File

Inside the open rectangle of buildings is the ice rink, and on the street above, a balcony with a steel railing. We ran around the circle above the ice-skaters, mesmerized by the sights, the music and the smell of the fresh chestnuts, the three mothers “simply could not resist.”

At Christmas the tree-lined pathways of the arcade are decked out in their holiday finest and lead to the giant tree in the middle and along the pathway from Fifth Avenue, the row of Herald Angels.


Hundreds of excited children and their parents mulled in the enormous vestibule of the theater enjoying the spectacle of it all.

The wide circular staircase, art-deco lighting and amazing wall art … vendors selling their wares, the beautiful color program guides the parents purchased for each child, ushers dressed in formal wear and the giant Wurlitzer organ playing holiday tunes.

radio city music

We whispered reverently, our eyes transfixed on the ceiling. My mother grabbed my collar. “Will you get a move on. I want to get orchestra seats.”

The majestic stage is encased in a dome in shades of gold liken to a sunset, a golden curtain across the back. The rows of seats curve upwards from the bottom of the stage … over five thousand soft, wide seats that push back for comfort.

The three women rushed to the middle to give each of the children, even the shortest, a grand view of the show. Carefully the mothers took hats, gloves and coats and began folding and stuffing clothes in their large bags. For an added measure they put pillows and coats under the shortest children and stashed the rest under the seats.


We sat in one long row with the three mothers positioned at the beginning, the middle and the end. It was hard not to admire their organization, their stamina and the den-mother patience with each trip to the bathroom, spitting up, the constant and persistent flow of questions, giggles, interruptions and tantrums of eight children aged six to twelve.

music hall

As the show began to unfold, we became uncharacteristically quiet and still. Not wanting to miss one second as the stage moved up and down in three parts, revealing Christmas scenes like real ice skating, the Nativity with Joseph pulling Mother Mary on a real donkey, and a giant tree, rising from below to the squeals of the audience.

christmas show

In the darkened theater we sat mesmerized by the sounds, the lights and the best of all, the Rockettes as they slowly began their final routine; arms and legs in perfect unity, kicking one, two and three … one, two and three … kicking and circling … kicking and fanning the length of the magnificent stage … adults and children, babies and old women fascinated by the perfection in their dance.


There were three more trips to the bathroom with the youngest children as the Wurlitzer was winding up intermission. When we heard the announcer warn the audience to come back to their seats, each child got the second half of their chocolate bar. Then the final delight, a full length movie.

My fondest memory, the year White Christmas premiered at the Music Hall.


The Music Hall fell on hard times and had been slated for reconstruction. But thanks to Peter Allen, a wonderful Broadway entertainer, and many of his friends and patrons of the arts, the Music Hall has been preserved for generations of adults and children to enjoy.


Well there you have it … week two … well  it is the “new morning” version. The one I did after twelve hours of frustrating stuff yesterday is in my archives. I do trust that anyone reading me this morning enjoys this shorter post with another great place within walking distance of the Marriott Marquis.

Tell me if you will …

What great local sights have you visited within walking distance

of a writer’s group or conference?

fOIS In The City

Note: Since two comments have been left already regarding the Met, next week, I will re-post my tour of New York’s famous museums.


Maxine on romance

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