Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot Town Summer in the City

So summer is officially here, and the longest day of the year has come and gone. Had civilization left it up to me to notice that the sun stayed up just slightly longer yesterday than any other day of the year, we'd have no summer solstice at all. I guess I would have made a lousy pagan, but ever since it was pointed out and explained to me, I've had a special reverence for the first day of summer. I hope some day to travel to Stonehenge and witness the solstice in an observatory built specifically for that purpose. But it is very popular with the neo-druid, "crystals and patchouli" crowd, and lodging is a real challenge. Besides, I hear it rained there all day anyway. So I opted for the Big Apple instead.

Now I know what you are thinking: why head to the asphalt jungle to celebrate summer? The short answer is: yoga. That's right, the ancient physical and mental discipline from India was on full display in New York's Time Square, and I was right in the thick of it. For eight years straight, an event dubbed Mind Over Madness Yoga has brought thousands of people from all over the world to search for peace and tranquility in the heart of the most frenetic city in the world. It's an odd juxtaposition to be sure, but since I love New York and have always been curious about yoga, I thought I'd give it a try. Organized by the Times Square Alliance, this free, all-day yoga session was led by a professional instructor, and all participants were given a free yoga mat by event sponsor Lucy Activewear.

I have to say that taking your first yoga class in the heart of midtown Manhattan is probably not the best way to learn the basics. Sort of like taking your first guitar lesson in the parking lot at a Van Halen concert. Just the same, the event is really more about connecting with the energy associated with the solstice and trying to carry it with you for the rest of the year. I don't know about any of that, and I am not sure that I had any kind of spiritual awakening as a result of the various poses, but I will say I felt great afterwards. Super loose and relaxed. And the spectacle of thousands of people in the street doing yoga as the rest of the city went about their business - seemingly unfazed - was worth the trip. Further, you are not likely to see this much spandex in one place outside of a Dolly Parton concert.

While in Gotham, I am staying at The Roosevelt Hotel. And no, I haven't abandoned timeshare rentals for my trip to NYC. The "Teddy" underwent a $65 million renovation in 1997 and is now home to timeshare accommodations. I am renting a studio unit with a kitchenette. Built in 1924 and dubbed the "Grand Dame of Madison Avenue," it was named in honor of 26th president, and is emblematic of the "Roaring Twenties". It is also famous for launching the careers of both Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk (if you are old enough to remember them), and has appeared in numerous feature films, including "Wall Street", "Quiz Show", "Malcolm X", "The French Connection", and many more. The onsite amenities include a great restaurant, health club, concierge service, child care, and much more. But its location at Madison Ave. at 45th St., and its meticulous restoration, are what makes this place so special.

Well, I am off to Billy's Antiques and Props in the Bowery. You may recall the Bowery as New York's skid row for most of the 20th century, and city-dwellers (let alone tourists) rarely ventured down there at night. But not anymore. You are more likely to find a Crate & Barrel, Whole Foods or Starbucks there as you are to find anything seedy. Except Billy's that is. You see Billy's is a "last hold out" of sorts of the old Bowery, and his signature green tent on East Houston Street is home to all manner of oddities, antiques, and just weird New York stuff. I am on the hunt for a real glass eyeball (don't ask) and I am told Billy has a first rate collection. I wonder what he'd give me for a very lightly used yoga mat?

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