Punk Chaos Meets Shanghai Glamour

Day 20:  New York

Most people probably don’t know this about me, but growing up I wanted to be a fashion designer.  I made scrapbooks and notebooks of research on design and sketches of outfits I was going to create.  But in Perth in the early 90’s, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity in the creative arts fields, and with the dream seeming an unrealistic dalliance, I threw my sketchbooks away and went down a different path.  I still love fashion and clothes though and am always looking for something a bit different.  And with New York being home to Alexander Wang, Philip Lim, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and so many others…. what better way to spend my time in one of the fashion capitals of the world, than checking out some exhibitions and backing it up with a bit of shopping.

So a fair bit of the last two days has been dedicated to fashion.  While yesterday was about punk couture, today’s style agenda is far more refined, with a visit to the Museum of Chinese in America.  On the way to the museum, I just want to make a stop to visit the Statue of Liberty.

Walking from the hotel towards the pier, I take in the surroundings.  This is a city where people sing in the middle of the street.  People all around me are talking – most into phone headpieces, but some I think, to themselves.  I get handed a brochure for botox.  Not happy Jan.  Obviously I have my concentrating face on today, which makes the wrinkles on my forehead stand out.  I grumpily push the brochure away.

It’s really sticky and humid today.  I succumb to a cab ride the rest of the way.  Geez New York cab drivers have an opinion about everything.  Tour buses shouldn’t be on the main roads causing traffic jams, he can’t drive properly, she’s taking up two lanes.  They weave in and out of the traffic, stop/start, stop/start, screaming up behind other cars.  It’s best not to look.  I wonder how they’d react if you asked them to pay a bit more attention to their own driving?

Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry is a free ferry that runs between Manhattan and Staten Island, Brooklyn.  Some use it to commute to work, but mostly it’s a run for the tourists to get snaps of the Statue of Liberty.  So why is it free?  Well the owner of the land on which the ferry terminal was built, sold the land on the pretext that the fare would never be more than 5 cents – this was back when 5 cents was a considerable amount.  At some point in history, it became more expensive than 5 cents to actually collect the 5 cent fare, so the fare was made free.

Free ferry
Free ferry

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the United States, “in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution.”  Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to sculpt the statue in recognition of the 100-year anniversary of the America’s independence from England.  The statue was completed in France in July 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor in June of 1885 on the French frigate Isere, which transported the Statue of Liberty from France to the United States.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

The official name of the statue is Liberty Enlightening the World.  The statue has recently undergone renovation and only reopened on the 4th of July 2013.  Even though the statue was a fair distance away from the boat, and the day was not very clear, I still couldn’t help but thinking it would have been bigger.  It was good that the ferry ride was free, but if you really wanted a decent photo and didn’t have a great zoom, it would be a much better decision to pay for one of the other ferry services, as they go closer to Ellis Island, where the statue is housed.

Museum of Chinese in America

Currently, this museum in the heart of Chinatown is exhibiting “Shanghai Glamour: New Women 1910-1940’s” and “Front Row:  A Look at Chinese American Designers”.  I love the glamour of the 1910-1940’s in Shanghai.  The exhibition explores how women and their fashionable dress epitomised the seduction and mystery of Shanghai while it was modernizing in the early 20th century.  The exhibition features 12 outfits from the era, on loan from the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, and on view in the US for the first time ever, alongside outfits from prominent private collections.

Shanghai Glamour
Shanghai Glamour
Some of the best American Chinese designers on display
Some of the best American Chinese designers on display

The second exhibitioncelebrates the rise of Chinese American designers who have made their mark in New York and includes works from designers such as Anna Sui, Vera Wang and Vivienne Tam who emerged in the New York fashion scene just as the city was transforming its identity from a garment centre into one of the fashion capitals of the world.

The museum itself also contains displays about the lives of Chinese in America, with interactive displays, audio visual corners, posters, letters and all sorts of objects from the beginnings of the Chinese community in this country.  It was a very worthwhile look at just how hard it would have been to leave home miles and miles away to begin a new life in a country so very different to your own.

What the?
What the?

The rest of the afternoon is spent trying to get in some shopping, but I have a bit of trouble getting into my shopping groove here and only buy a couple of things.  Lola asked me on Skype this morning whether there was a Lush store here in New York, and it was good timing because I actually walked past one on my way to the theatre last night, so I head straight there for a nice soothing bath bomb for later.  Some of the shops I thought would be awesome, aren’t quite so.  I’m having trouble finding things to my fussy cut and fabric requirements, without the expensive price tag.

I’ve got a hankering for steak tonight, so I pop into Ruby Tuesdays.  It comes with a side of broccoli and mashed potato (my favourites), but the potato is just not like mums – I’ll be desperate for Mum’s mash when I get home.  Sitting at my booth, sipping at my wine, I can feel the ground vibrate whenever the subway train rattles by down below.  I feel tired.  I think all the walking, all the thinking and learning and the humidity are getting to me.  I’m desperate for a sleep in, but can’t seem to make it past 6.30am.  I’ve got a late flight tomorrow and nothing planned for the morning, so fingers crossed I can stock up on sleep before I hit grunge town.

I walk along the streets of Times Square to take in the lights for one last time.  My time here has gone by in a whirlwind and I’ve barely scratched the surface of New York.  I’m so far from home, but I wonder whether life will have another trip to New York in store for me?

City Nights and Bright Lights
City Nights and Bright Lights

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