Since @pinkpanda moves to Virginia soon, I asked her Monday if there was a last field trip she wanted to take, a part of the city she wanted to see before leaving. After some thinking, she declared that she wanted to take a field trip to a comic book store. While looking at a map of options, we noticed a cluster of comic book stores surrounding the giant library at Bryant Park. Taina commented that she would like to go in the library as well, since she had never been, so we decided our field trip would be a general one to that area.
On Wednesday, we took the train with @jacobcb to Grand Central and walked to a comic book store. I’m more of a graphic novel reader than a comic book reader (unless we’re talking about Calvin and Hobbes, of course), so I didn’t recognize most of the series they carried at JHU Comic Books. Jacob and Taina did, though, and we had a good time looking around.
The we walked west on 41st street towards the library, because that route took us past “library way” sidewalk art. As we drew nearer, Jacob commented that the architecture of the library facade resembles that of the Natural History Museum. This got us talking about the use of Greek and Roman style architecture to denote buildings as temples (of knowledge in the case of the library, and of science in the case of the museum). We sustained that conversation inside, up the stairs, and into the second floor foyer, under the various ceiling murals. Then Taina asked “Where are the books?”
The branch of the NYPL at Bryant Park serves as a research library. There are archives and restricted access research rooms housing special collections (one on Shelley and his circle, for example). There is a glass case housing one of the original 48 Gutenberg bibles. There are exhibits of art, like the present ones on romantic landscapes and WWI US propaganda. There are rooms of tables for reading and writing, stages for presentations, a learning center with a theater for film screenings…but a room with open shelves of books accessible to lay bookworms there didn’t seem to be. We did finally find one room where we could play with books: the children’s wing downstairs. It was empty other than us, a few young mothers speaking foreign languages to their babies, and two rather serious librarians. We looked at books for a few minutes, then we turned to leave, library’d out for the day. A glass case with the original Winnie the Pooh and friends stuffed animals caught our interest briefly, but then we headed outside.
I checked the time–it was still early. I offered a few thoughts for destinations in the area, which were politely declined, and I resigned myself to heading back to school early. Not so bad…it was an interesting trip, however short.
Then Taina brought up that she wanted to go to Kleindeutschland (yes, it’s one word) aka the Lower East Side. I’ve gone to school in the LES, worked in the LES, taken a class on LES history…in short, it’s a neighborhood I’m excited to explore with anyone who feels like walking around. We had time, so down we went to Delancy Street. We started in the back of the Tenement Museum gift shop, watching their free mini-documentary about the history of the neighborhood. It explains both why the area became known as Kleindeutschland–it was the third largest German-speaking city in the world at one point–and why we would then have a hard time finding pretzels or bratwurst there in 2014.
After the film, we walked around a bit, looking for traces of Kleindeutschland. We did find pretzels and egg creams and Lenin waving at Wall Street. Then we hopped the subway back uptown and got back to school just in time for clean-up.
Unexpected, but exactly the kind of trip I enjoy most 🙂