Sutton Clocks is what we at Manhattan Sideways refer to as a true hidden gem. The low shop was lined on both sides with clocks dating back to the eighteenth century, set to different times. I understood why they all displayed different hours when the first one chimed and I imagined the deafening roar that would result if the thousands of clocks went off at once. Sebastian Laws, the youngest son of the original owner, met me at the door. His father, Knud Christenson, came to the United States from Denmark in the 1940s. He initially partnered with Kay Yeager, who owned Sutton Trading, a pawn shop. Knud was a Renaissance man and worked at many things, including importing fish and building furniture, but he quickly found his niche fixing clocks. He began working from a small loft on 61st Street. Sebastian told me how his father recognized a passion for fixing things and working with small parts in his youngest child and took Sebastian on as an apprentice. Sebastian took over the business in the 1990s, and when he lost his lease in 2012, he found this quaint space on 82nd Street. He is excited to have his first store front and to live in a relatively quiet neighborhood again after witnessing 61st Street turn into an extension of midtown. The clocks on display, which are all for sale, come from a variety of sources, including having been abandoned by previous owners. Sebastian pointed to a deep green one that resembled a portal on a submarine, saying that it dated back to 1780. His favorite clock on the wall, however, was a sturdy American clock with early twentieth century lettering, which he called a “strong workhorse. ” Though he now has the space to put clocks on the wall for retail purposes, his main occupation is repairing clocks. People bring him clocks of all shapes and sizes, from mantle clocks to fantastic grandfather clocks. When I asked him if there was a particular kind of clock that was most difficult to fix, he responded without hesitation: “cuckoo clocks. ” He then went on to explain that the Swiss souvenirs are often built as tourist traps rather than trusty timepieces. When I thought that I had seen all that there was to appreciate in this minute space, Sebastian guided me to his worktable in the back, which was surrounded by gears, pendulums, various tools of the trade, and hundreds more time pieces. For the most part, Sebastian’s siblings have not been involved in their father’s business, beyond doing some sweeping in the store and other odd jobs as children. Sebastian’s brother James, however, recently joined him to help with the administrative side of things, in an effort to allow Sebastian to focus on the hands-on work. “I enjoy solving puzzles, ” Sebastian told me. Though he learned a lot from his father, he admitted that his most valuable training came from the job itself, since each clock is different and must be examined as its own unique puzzle. At a certain point, he started repairing barometers along with clocks. He informed me that though the mechanisms are completely different, barometers are often lumped into the same pile as timepieces. Sebastian went on to tell me that his customers come not only from every part of the city, but from all over the country and around the world. He mentioned that quite a few regulars were also his father’s clients. He has a fascinating outlook on his career. He loves that the clocks that he handles each have a special tactile history. By looking at the markings on a clock, he can get into the head of the original horologist who made it and can track the life of the timepiece. He pointed out that a man who built a clock in London in the 1800s probably did not imagine that it would end up in Sebastian’s hands in New York in the twenty-first century. Similarly, one day in the future, horologists will trace clocks back to Sebastian and know when they passed through Manhattan.
New York City is chock full of phenomenal museums - cultural centers that appeal to a variety of interests. For my family, however, it is West 77th Street where we find ourselves returning over and over again. Founded in 1804, the New York Historical Society is the oldest American History museum and research library in New York City. Its holdings include paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts as well as three million books and pamphlets. Of particular note among their art holdings is the John James Audubon collection of Birds of America watercolors and their Hudson River School paintings. The Dimenna Children’s History Museum is a treasure not to be missed. It is a wonderful way to engage children in the history of both New York and the rest of the country. During the holiday season, the amazing train exhibit is a must-see for children of all ages. As a biographer/historian of American history for young adults, my mom has been attending their Tuesday evening programs for as long as I can remember. She has had the pleasure of meeting and listening to speakers such as Joseph Ellis, Richard Brookhiser, Stacy Schiff, and Harold Holzer, among others. The Patricia Klingenstein Research Library, in which she has done extensive research on Abigail Adams, is particularly important to her. She has remarked on many occasions that, for those who frequented the old facility, it is remarkable how superior it is to what it was some twenty years ago. With Caffe Storico attached for a spectacular dining experience, The New York Historical Society continues to be a favorite place that we recommend to everyone from individuals to families, New Yorkers to tourists, and historians to art lovers.
As Master Teresa Throckmorton guided me through Central Park Taekwondo and invited me to take off my shoes, I was struck by how immaculate everything was. "I make sure it's very clean, " Teresa told me, and took me past a group of women practicing the martial art to a smaller studio separated from her office by a glass wall. There were toys on the floor from the camp program that had just left, as I was visiting during the summer months. "It's a real community, " Teresa said, telling me about the different options for all ages. "People come and they don't want to leave. "Teresa is a typical New Yorker in her impressive use of space. Along with the smaller studio in front of her office, the main room has partitions that can be dragged across to create smaller spaces. She has seven full-time instructors who have been doing taekwondo for most of their lives. She proudly told me that she offers each of them benefits, vacation, and sick leave. The glass that separates her office is covered with words in red: "courtesy, " "integrity, " "perseverance, " "self-control, " and "indomitable spirit. " These are the central tenets of taekwondo, a word that means "the way of the hand and foot" in Korean. Teresa explained to me that taekwondo is not just a physical practice, but also a mental one. As a fifth level black belt, she is a well-qualified teacher (Any degree above fourth indicates someone who has dedicated his or her life to teaching martial arts). She grew up with brothers in an active family on a farm in Virginia, and so she was introduced to a series of sports before landing on taekwondo as her passion. She has also introduced the martial art to her children. I met eleven-year-old Caden, a black belt who has been studying taekwondo since he was two years old, though he now splits his time between martial arts and baseball. Teresa's eight-year-old son is also a black belt and her little girl is a third degree red belt. "It was never a choice for them, " Teresa said with a grin. As for Teresa, she is still training. A certain number of years must pass before you can increase your belt degree, but Teresa proudly told me, "By the time I am seventy-six years old, I will be ninth degree black belt grandmaster. "Teresa makes sure that everyone in Central Park Taekwondo - and in her family - is certified through the Kukkiwon Taekwondo World Headquarters, so that their belt status is recognized everywhere. She also follows the rules of the World Taekwondo Federation School whenever her students compete. However, taekwondo is not just about gaining belts and competing. Teresa believes that taekwondo can be beneficial to anyone, even those who have never participated in sports. "What I love about this place, " she told me, "is that you can come with no experience and end up a black belt one day. " She also told me that taekwondo helps people with challenges such as ADD or ADHD, since it can build mental discipline and self-confidence. "A lot of therapists suggest taekwondo, " Teresa informed me. Teresa especially suggests the martial art for children, since taekwondo helps teach principles of respect and builds a foundation of physical concentration. Teresa is very pleased with the fact that she has gained so many students in such a short amount of time. She opened Central Park Taekwondo in August of 2011 after training and working at another school in the area for seventeen years. The studio has been expanding ever since, with students traveling from Harlem and Brooklyn. "We're hoping to buy a new building, since we have grown really quickly in four years, " Teresa said. She wants to remain on the Upper West Side, where people can find her. The only advertising she uses is word of mouth and the sandwich board outside, which reads "They say you kick like a girl, you say thank you! " When I expressed my approval, she let me know that the school is split evenly between men and women, which is unusual for a martial arts studio. "I think it's because I'm a female owner, so people feel connected to me, " she said. She is very proud to have created such a tight-knit community. As I was leaving, she told me, "Our intention is to make anyone who walks in feel welcome, empowered, and strong. "