Thursday, November 05, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Chapter 5:

Ken had kindly agreed to accompany me to visit some New York sites related to Project Runway today.  First up was Parsons School of Design.  Located at 7th Avenue and 40th Street W, Parsons has been the home of the Project Runway workroom and runway since the show’s inception in 2004.  
PR’s beloved mentor Tim Gunn, who was an instructor at the school, initially joined the show as an off-camera advisor.  The rest is fashion TV history as Gunn moved on screen and became an accidental break-out star of the popular show now airing its 14th season. 
The old Parsons School location
Wondering whether we’d be permitted to visit the PR spaces, we were both surprised to arrive at 7th and 40th to find a demolition project underway.   The familiar tan exterior featured in PR establishing shots now boasted scars where the signage letters had been and a shroud of scaffolding.  The building is being demolished so a 29-story hotel can be built there, and Parsons School has moved to Greenwich Village.
Swatch turned out to be one of those TV stars who doesn't engage with his fans.
A short five-minute walk from the old Parsons location, the Mood fabric store, made famous by dozens of televised shopping trips by Tim Gunn and the PR designers is still fully operational in the heart of the Garment District.  We even had a chance to meet Swatch, the store’s Boston terrier mascot.  Of course, like all PR fans, we left the store imitating Tim Gunn’s standard words of departure: “Thank you, Mood!”
The original Morgan Library building
Next stop was a place on Ken’s list, the Morgan Library in the Murray Hill neighborhood.   After he became one of America’s wealthiest financiers in the late 1800s , J. Pierpont Morgan began investing his personal fortune in fine art.  To dodge American import taxes on the art, he stashed his impressive collection in his English country home.  His acquisition targets turned to rare books after he discovered that these were exempt from such taxes.  
By 1902, he had filled the basement of his Madison Avenue home to overflowing with these artifacts and decided to build a library on the adjacent property to house the collection.  The library was built in a classical style based on villas of the Italian Renaissance and faced with Tennessee pink marble. Morgan wanted the most perfect structure that human hands could build and didn’t care what it cost.  For example, he added $50,000 to the cost by ordering the use of dry masonry, with the marble blocks cut to fit together so precisely there was no need for joints or mortar.  (That’s $1.35 million in today’s dollars.)
Morgan Library rotunda
Completed in 1906, the building served as Morgan’s personal library during his lifetime.  In 1924, eleven years after his death,  J.P. Morgan, Jr. transformed the library into a public institution, fulfilling his father’s ambition of making the library and its collection available to scholars and the public.
In Morgan’s day, visitors entered the library through the rotunda, with its monumental marble columns, intricately patterned floor, and opulent mosaic panels.  Ceiling paintings depict great literary eras represented in Morgan’s collection—the Renaissance, Middle Ages, and antiquity.
Morgan's East Room
The exquisite East Room was designed as a repository for Morgan’s rare printed books.  With three-story walnut bookshelves and ornately embellished ceiling, the room exudes the essence of the treasury that it is.  
The West Room
During his later years, Morgan spent many hours in the West Room, his richly decorated private study.  This was where he relaxed and met with associates.  His portrait hangs above the fireplace, and many of his favorite woks of art adorn the walls.
Since it was opened to the public,  the library, which has expanded into several adjacent buildings, has continued to acquire rare materials and manuscripts.  A major expansion to the campus was completed in 2006, adding exhibition space, a performance hall, restaurant, shop and other facilities.  The addition connected the various buildings with a lofty steel-and-glass court.
Morgan's court brings disparate parts together.
Around the corner from the Morgan, we enjoyed a delectable lunch at Franchia, a vegan café, before heading back toward the Doubletree at Times Square.  On the way, we detoured a bit to find a couple of letterboxes hidden at the esteemed main branch of the New York Public Library, one inside the building and one outside nearby.
Admirable in its own right.  New York Public Library main branch
Back at Times Square, we broke our own rule and paid full price for tickets to tonight’s performance of China Doll with Al Pacino at the Schoenfeld Theatre.  After a rest at the hotel, we returned to Crossroads Restaurant in the Marriott Marquis.  Just can’t stop going back for the incredible cauliflower “steak.”
We’ve admired Al Pacino’s work in film for many years, so we were pretty excited about seeing him perform live.  Ten minutes into act one, we realized that though his glory hasn’t faded (yet), his acting certainly has.
In this David Mamet two-actor play, Pacino played a besieged billionaire who bullies his cowed assistant.  Most of the seasoned performer’s lines were spoken into a telephone, at various volumes.  Even while seated in a chair, he seemed to stumble from one line to the next .  Later we read a rumor that he was being fed his lines through the phone prop.
"What's my line?"
Naively, we were shocked.  The production is still in previews, so we’ve had no opportunity to see any reviews, which are not published until after the official opening night.  One of us made it to the first intermission; one fled to the lobby before the end of act one.  Ushers confided that audience members are fleeing the theater at the intermission every night.   We walked back to the hotel disgusted at the princely sum we paid for tickets to this drivel.