I got to sleep in my own bed for two nights! Two! Up and out the door on Thursday morning, riding into the city with Robin and Linda, then onto the Metro to Union Station and Amtrak to New York. I would have preferred to stay home, but had committed months earlier to speak to a group of international business students from Tec de Monterrey, the Mexican engineering and business school that I’ve been visiting in recent years. They were in New York for a field trip, meeting with execs, touring Wall Street, and, I’m sure, having some fun, too.
We arrived a couple of minutes early, and I ambled up and over to the subway, riding north a few stops to Columbus Circle, where I met Pete Pappas, an old pal from American Airlines. Pete and his wife Ivy live right on Central Park South, an awesome location. Met Pete in their lobby and we swooped a couple of blocks south and west for lunch at what Pete described as “a Greek diner.” It was, though one of the posher versions. We weren’t there for the food, but for the super conversation. He’s a swell guy, and we covered a lot of topics over omelettes and potatoes.
At 2:30, I hopped back on the subway, south to the students’ hotel on W. 39th. Checked in, put on a necktie, and some of the group headed north to the site of my preso, Columbia Business School. I led them astray by getting on the wrong uptown train, oops, so we had an interesting walk through Morningside Heights to the campus. Some of the rest of the group joined us, and I delivered the basic leadership talk to a very bright and engaged audience. Afterward, I mentioned to the group that it was Holy Week and I was headed to Protestant services at 7:00 (I found Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on line, 65th and Central Park West). Martín said “I am Protestant,” and I replied that he was very welcome to join me, so after a quick walk around the Columbia campus he and I rode the subway south to Lincoln Center, ambled around the performance halls a bit, then headed east to the church, which was a splendid and medium-sized, in the Gothic Revival style.
Martín had no trouble tracking the (to me familiar) Lutheran liturgy. I explained before the service began that Lutherans have strong musical and choral traditions, and he nodded. When the opening hymn began, he sang well and with great gusto. It made me smile. One thinks of New York as a place of speed and dispatch, but the Maundy Thursday worship at Holy Trinity was anything but – 90 minutes of wonderful prayer and ritual (laying on of hands, feet washing, the works). A wonderful experience. We walked south to Columbus Circle and onto the subway. At the hotel I changed clothes and agreed to head out to dinner with the youngsters, but changed my mind, opting instead for takeout from a wok place a block from the hotel. Ate my udon noodles and spicy tofu in my pajamas and was asleep in no time.
I was still not all the way back on Eastern Time, and woke up at 5:30. Did a bit of work, read the paper on line, and trundled down to the free breakfast, served in the basement. Though I was grateful that the student group paid for my room, the hotel was a bit spartan (especially compared to my swell suite in Doha), and the breakfast room reminded me of a submarine. High point was a nice T-t-S exchange with a fellow from Manchester, England, over with his son – the trip was a birthday present. Nice yak.
I had long wanted to walk the High Line, a 1.1-mile-long linear park built on an abandoned spur line of the New York Central, so off I went. It was a great experience, lovely design, varied plants and trees, public art, really cool (though I had some concern with the durability of some materials used, which after five years were already well worn; I do wonder about some designers’ sense of the practical). Daffodils were blooming, red tulips starting to poke out of the ground. At Gansevoort Street, I turned around and headed back.
Checked out of the hotel at 11 and hopped a train downtown, to West Fourth Street, Greenwich Village. Although there’s a lot about New York that I appreciate, on balance I don’t like the place, and have never hidden my disregard for the noise, disorder, and especially incivility. On the way down, two crankiness-inducing examples of the latter. First, on the train, no one offered a seat to a man on crutches. When he finally sat down at 14th Street, I said I was disappointed that no one had shown him any empathy. “It’s okay,” he shrugged. I replied, “No it’s not, man, it’s wrong, it’s just wrong.” I was happy that several fellow passengers nodded in agreement. Second, walking out of the station I walk past a woman loudly throwing F-bombs into her mobile phone. New York is the In-public Potty Mouth Capital of the World. That’s not a good place to be. Grrrrrrrr.
The lower density and vibe of Greenwich Village brightened my demeanor considerably. It’s an interesting neighborhood. I sat for awhile on a park bench on Sixth Avenue, then headed east on Bleecker Street, then north along the edge of the NYU campus to Washington Square, which was buzzing with locals and tourists. The dog run was hopping, chess games were in full force, and an innovative kids’ playground surfaced with artificial grass was full of laughing tots. Lots of energy in that place. Walked west and south to Carmine Street and plopped down in Father Demo Square. A lovely Catholic church, Our Lady of Pompeii, was just down the street, and I wondered if the two were connected. With a smartphone linked to the Internet all questions can be answered, and in no time I learned that the good padre was pastor for many years in what was the center of one of the largest Italian neighborhoods in the U.S., had been a prominent advocate for the rights of Italians, and played a role in ministering to survivors of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire, one of the worst factory disasters in the U.S.
At 12:30, my friend-since-1960, Tim Holmes, emerged from 11 Carmine Street and we headed down the street to a colossal lunch at an Asian noodle house. Food was good, but conversation was better. Since he was a youngster Tim has had a special and incisive perspective on society and economy. We got caught up – I last saw him in 2010 – and after lunch he fetched his big dog Devin and we ambled north to Penn Station, yakking all the way (and pausing a couple of times for strangers to pet the hound, who is striking, with dark brown fur). Said goodbye, and I hopped on the 3:05 train, home to D.C. I don’t like the place, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have fun and interesting times when I visit.