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. "
Assouline takes the "coffee table" book to a whole new level with their stunning selection. The company began in 1996 when its founders, Martine and Prosper Assouline, wrote a beautiful art book based on La Colombe D’Or, a hotel in the south of France, known for its colorful history and luxuriously bohemian décor. In the 1940s, artists would pay to stay by donating art to the hotel. The art remains intact, as the Colombe d’Or has no interest in relinquishing any of its masterpieces. Martine and Prosper fell in love with the space. As Amane, who works at the 77th Street location explained, “The hotel could be called quaint, but when you have your breakfast, there’s a Picasso hanging in front of you. ” Prosper took photographs of La Colombe D’Or and Martine wrote the texts for their first book, causing the product to become an exquisite work. That book led to many more, and today their company, Assouline, publishes beautifully designed books on countless subjects. Assouline’s twenty-nine outposts are scattered around the world, often near luxury hotels, easily recognizable by their bright red colors and warm atmosphere. Lit with aromatic candles and adjacent to the Mark Hotel, the Upper East Side location is especially inviting. I was in awe as I flipped through each magnificent book. As a former bookstore owner, myself, for some ten years, no detail in this tiny space went unappreciated. Whereas at the beginning, Martine and Prosper searched for their next book topic, the publishers now get proposals from various sources. What has not changed, however, is their hands-on approach with every title. As Amane leafed through a giant book based on the South Pole with me, I was totally enchanted. “You really get a sense of the brutal experience they went through, ” he commented, referring to the many explorers who braved the cold southern extremes. Standing above this book was an entirely "waterproof" edition, which comes with its own story: One evening, a man wandered into the store from The Mark Hotel next door with some friends and half of a dirty martini in his hand. He said that he did not believe the book was waterproof. In response, Amane took the martini from the gentleman and splashed it on the pages. Sure enough, they remained dry. The man “whipped out his black Amex” and purchased the several thousand dollar book. Amane is the perfect person to be the face of the Mark boutique. “I’ve always dreamed of one day working for the brand, ” he admitted, adding, "I couldn't be more proud or lucky to work for influencers whose books have taken me on a journey growing up. I always say: these are the real textbooks that shaped who I am today. " He told me about his childhood as an Upper East Side kid, when he would spend his pocket money on books at the Plaza Assouline Boutique. Since joining the team, he appears to have had his fair share of fascinating experiences. One of his fondest is meeting Lee Radziwill, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ sister, who often comes in to see how her books, Happy Times and Lee, are doing (Happy Times continues to be a best seller). She first approached Assouline in 2001 with a suitcase full of photos, saying that she wanted to look back on what she felt were the ten most important years of her life - the "happy times. "As Amane flipped through the pages of a decadently illustrated Haggadah, and several other breathtaking creations, he revealed that another wonderful aspect of his job is that he is occasionally invited to his clients’ homes. He appreciates seeing where they have chosen to showcase their purchases from Assouline, immediately recognizing the books’ importance to their owners.