Although there is no shortage of excellent reasons to go there, starting with an astounding collection of museums, not to mention Central Park, one of the greatest gifts of any city to its citizens since the first brick was laid in Mohenjo Daro, trying to get to the Upper East Side on a bicycle, and getting around once you’re there, is difficult.
A very pleasant riverfront bike path will bring you from Whitehall as far as 35th Street, passing, spectacularly, beneath the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges, along the way. Sadly, a few blocks beyond the splendid new East River Ferry Terminal, the idyll ends in a trash-filled cul-de-sac.
Further progress uptown requires heading inland where the choices will inevitably come down to First and Park Avenues, both highways.
Despite the recent installation of a bike lane on First Avenue, which is a pure delight on the weekend when there is no traffic at all and it is routine to sunbathe, or barbecue, or play every single one of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, or all three, simultaneously or consecutively, in the middle of that most spacious thoroughfare without the worry of being disturbed by a single automobile, or elephant, or even the police. Apart from these golden moments, I cannot, however, recommend this noblest of bike lanes, “sharrowed” as it is at several points by ramps and routes delivering motorists who will not even see you as they careen toward Queens and Long Island, so bedazzled is their mind’s eye by visions of the joys that await them in those Valhallas beyond tunnel and bridge.
As in Midtown, bike lanes are few, but unlike that chaotic throng of highways masquerading as city streets, traffic above 59th Street is usually light and as such in thrall to frantic motorists trying to make all the green lights between the Bronx and the Mid-Town Tunnel.
Are there elephants in that tunnel, or something?
Only sometimes. And were this a regular thing, it would just be one more thing to complain about.
So what’s the rush?
If accidents, whether provoked by bicyclist or motorist, are generally the result of moving faster than the brain can send instructions to the body, between the euphoria of the speeding motorist and the apoplexy of the traffic jam, I prefer the perils of the latter. The damage inflicted by the most neurasthenic cabdriver advancing at 15 miles an hour will be preferable to that of the gayest motorist roaring along at 50 miles an hour in a 30 mile zone.
This is bicycling on the Upper East Side. Possibly a situation that will always be less than ideal. One might get the impression we are just not wanted.
Things being what they are, I say, take Park Avenue.
One evening a couple summers ago I found myself stopped at the light at Park and 42nd alongside a pedicab driver. If anyone knows the best way to get to the Upper East Side on a bicycle, I thought, it’s this guy.
“Hello,” I said, experimentally.
“Hello!” replied the driver brightly.
The two people seated in the cab flicked a glance in our direction, then paid no more attention to us.
“Can I ask you a question?” I said. And I laid my case before him.
“Sure!” He nodded affably. “Just go up here, turn left, then right onto Vanderbilt, then india generic cialis right again on 46th, and you’ll be right back on Park. What’s your name?”
I told him.
“Harry,” he said, pointing at his chest. He was in fact quite hairy, in the manner of a guy who likes to wear colorful large-patterned shirts that show off to their best advantage a springy crown of sun-bleached hair framing a ruddy outdoor complexion. He was wearing one of these. Large orange flowers bloomed on an eye-popping yellow background.
“Your hair is great,” he added.
I thanked him, and returned the compliment.
The light changed and we pushed off.
“How do you like that job?” I asked, taking advantage of slow-moving traffic to ride alongside him.
“It’s alright,” he said, “It’s good.”
“What about the winter?”
“In the winter I’m in Florida!” he said with the wide grin of a man who has no prejudice against sloth, yet has never in his entire life been bored for even one second.
“And the summer it’s really nice, you’re outside, the money’s good…”
We turned left on 42nd, and I had to pull ahead of him until we turned into Vanderbilt Street.
Thinking more about the interrupted conversation behind me than what lay ahead, I kept going straight instead of turning where he’d told me to.
“Jeanne!” I turned to find Harry waving broadly toward the right as he turned into 46th Street.
I waved back, but I didn’t see him again.
It’s unfortunate that the Museum of Art and Design has such a dull name–and somehow MAD doesn’t seem like it will ever have the appeal of “MoMA” or “The Met”–because it is one of the city’s most beautifully proportioned museum, inside and out, in both form and substance.
There are far too many museums on the so-called Museum Mile than you could possible visit in one day or three, even should you scurry through the galleries of, say, MoMA strictly refraining from even a glance at the art as you conscientiously photograph each and every one of the wall labels with your smartphone.
When I saw this I was in the company of a friend visiting from out of town. We got a terrific laugh out of it, once we recovered from the slack-jawed staring. Few things in life are as delightful as a good laugh in a place where one isn’t supposed to even smile, much less find anything funny. When I’m dead it’s one of the things I’ll miss the most.
Without looking quite so far ahead, unless you are a memory expert, visiting more than two museums a day is pointless, and of these, one of them should be on the small side. If you employ this method: one large museum plus one small one, between the two a pleasant snack and ending with a breezy roll around Central Park to wind things up, in a minimum of three months of weekends you will have visited them all, and it will be time to start over.
Although possibly empty of Vermeers, Michelangelos or Monets, each of the city’s smaller museums will reveal to the visitor something which can never be spoiled by over-familiarity or anticipation: surprise.
As for the Museum of the City of New York itself, you really have to wonder how they managed to fit the entire city in a single building.