I get up, and make my way up to the American Museum of Natural History. It is a really nice day, so rather than risking the subway again, and as the Museum doesn’t open until 10am, I walk up 7th Avenue until I reach Central Park, and then wander through the park, trying to head in the right general direction. It is a pleasant walk, and I get to the Museum about 20 minutes after it opens.
It is impossible to “do” the museum in the time I have, but I have fun skimming through its exhibits. In particular, the “Big Bang” show, which exits into the “Scales of the Universe” exhibit, trying to illustrate the relative size and age of the Universe as we know it, Below, in the “Hall of the Universe”, there is much excitment, as it is announced we would shortly have the first pictures of Saturn from Cassini. However, all the excited crowd see is several different talking heads from Cassini Control, talking about what we would be seeing, when the pictures were available. Many people wander off, myself being one of them.
The Frogs exhibit is very good, with over 200 different live species of frog on display. However, I’m slightly ashamed to say that the frog I buy in the museum shop was none other than Kermit the Frog!
After the museum, I meet Elaine Muraskin, over on the East Side, where she lives. We have a very pleasant and civilised lunch in a little bistro, and then take a bus down to the business district, passing through Chinatown on the way.
Elaine wants me to see Ground Zero, but to be honest, there is not much to see. For people who were used to the two towers of the World Trade Centre, their absence is probably still shocking, but to me it looks very much like an empty building site. Which is what it is – the train station is already operational, the whole site is cleared, and foundations are ready, and construction is about to commence. Whether or not the area should have been left as a memorial, as many people think, I do not know, but as things stand, New York appears to have moved on, with business as usual.
We make our way to the Staten Island Ferry, and meet up with Marc Glasser and others for the NYUSFS (New York Unnameable Science Fiction Society) Fourth of July Staten Island Ferry Meeting. They have come prepared for party, with pizza, watermelon and other consumables, and Marc has his guitar with him. The plan is to do the return journey to Staten Island a couple of times, and then those that want to will go off for a meal.
Unfortunately we are not allowed to stay on the Ferry when it arrives at the other side, but are made to disembark, and queue to re-embark again, even though one of our party is in a wheelchair. The reason given for this is “Homeland Security”, although none of us can see what the danger of us staying on the ferry is – given that we have already gone through their security gates once – nor why anyone would want to attack the Staten Island Ferry. On the second time around, I think I see Marc having the pizza boxes searched, or he might have just been offering the guard a slice, I am not sure. We are not the only ones inconvenienced. Although the Staten Island Ferry serves an important role for commuters, every New York guide book I have seen suggests taking a round trip for a free look at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty – as such, there are a number of tourists who are also told to leave the ferry, against their wishes.
I feel that the filking element of the trip is more symbolic than anything else, as it is difficult to hear anybody sing unless you are either sitting next to them, or it is a chorus song involving anyone. A filk of “American Pie” proves popular, with the filkers and also some of the other travellers, many of whom smile and say thanks for the entertainment. Elaine persuades me to do a couple of songs, so I play and sing as loud as I can get (pretty loud), and get an appreciative round of applause.
While we are on the ferry, we see quite a few other small ships, and then one quite large one. It is only as I am framing it, to take a picture, that I realise it is the Queen Mary 2.
Elaine and I had had a pretty late lunch, so we decide not to go to dinner with the others, but walk back along and around the harbour area, ending up at Pier 17 – a harbour pier now turned into a mall/restaurant complex. We sit out on the deck for a while, and admire the view of the Boston bridge and the passing pleasure cruisers. Then we take a bus going uptown again. I say goodbye to Elaine and get off at 42 street, then get the crosstown bus to 7th Avenue and walk back to the hotel.