J.P. Morgan was more than one of the most influential financiers in American history – he was a collector of impeccable taste. While still a young businessman, he began to acquire quite an impressive set of books, manuscripts and drawings. Later in life, as his wealth grew, he amassed art and historic artifacts. When he died in 1913, his estate was valued at a then astronomical $60 million.
A decade after his passing, his son ceded his fantastic collection to public stewardship. The museum, which has grown vastly from its original home, now covers half a city block with a smorgasbord of buildings and spaces representing distinct architectural schools and periods. The holdings of J.P. Morgan still represent the core of the collection, but new holdings are constantly being acquired and donated. In addition, the Library hosts many excellent and inspiring exhibitions. Over the years, I have appreciated a number of the shows, especially those related to children's literature, a passion of mine - Beatrix Potter: The Picture Letters; Where the Wild Things Are: Original Drawings by Maurice Sendak; Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors; and, most recently, The Little Prince: A New York Story has opened.
Special Note: Free admission is offered on Friday evenings from 7-9pm.
On its own personal wiki (wiki.hackmanhattan.com), Hack Manhattan defines itself as a nonprofit public “hackerspace,” the only one of its kind on the island of Manhattan. A hackerspace is a community work center for constructing, collaborating, and communicating about technology. Unfamiliar with such venues, I was curious as to what I might find when visiting Hack Manhattan.Walking into Hack Manhattan’s second floor workspace I found myself surrounded by shelves and shelves of machine parts and various gadgets organized into countless bins and drawers. In the center of the room, members and visitors lounged at a large communal table, some typing away on their laptops, others participating in a book club meeting.Dave Guan, one of the members at Hack Manhattan, led me around the space. He showed me the workshop members use to construct large-scale projects and the 3D printing station, where I watched a cute little Printerbot spit out a design in green plastic. Dave told me that while Hack Manhattan does participate largely in common hackerspace activities like electronics and coding, they also open the space to lectures in quantum mechanics, “Shakespeare nights,” and other non-traditional goings on.For instance, using an iPad displaying the day’s selection, Dave gave me a sample of Hack Manhattan’s own draft beer, brewed on site by one of the members who is interested in microbreweries. The tabs on the tap were created using one of the 3D printers, and the hops for the brew were grown in the rooftop garden. Also on the rooftop, one can find crates for beekeeping and a custom built antenna. The group is very accommodating of everyone’s individual interests.When I asked Dave who frequented Hack Manhattan, he replied both hobbyists and professional programmers alike. It is an open space for anyone to exercise their gears of innovation. To do so, stop by one of Hack Manhattan’s regular Tuesday and Thursday open houses.
A psychological and cultural resource center combining a bookstore, libraries, training institutes, and continuing education, the C.G. Jung Center serves as a fulcrum for all things Jungian in midtown Manhattan. An air of learnedness wafts throughout the premises, awash in the smell of old books and older dreams. Carl Jung's wide-reaching areas of interest wind their ways through our unconscious, through dreams and myths and memories, and all are represented in the literature available here. The bookstore downstairs has readings on these and more from authors Jungian and otherwise, but the real treasure is the library on the fourth floor. We stopped in and chatted with Robin, a psychoanalyst-in-training who waxed historical on Jung's break with contemporary academics and with Freud, symbols, myths, and newer-age psychoanalytical practices. One of our writers, a once and future psychology student, spent quite a bit of time perusing the literary offerings, happily flipping through tomes from "The Presence of Siva," to "Existential Psychotherapy" to "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" and "Psychopathia Sexualis." The reading room is carpeted with a large, worn, oriental rug and furnished with colorful squishy seating. Chairs sit in a pleasantly haphazard arrangement around a wooden table, giving the impression that the ghosts of scholars remembered and forgotten were sitting in the room reading just before browsers arrived. Certainly, they have not strayed far from this house of learning.
The English Speaking Union was founded in 1920 as a partnership between the United States and Britain in order to solidify ties between the nations. In doing so, the organization hoped to preserve global post-War peace. In recent years, the English Speaking Union has added tutorials in order to help immigrants adjust to American life. The English in Action program offers one-on-one tutoring services, which are bolstered by movie screenings, talks about cultural assimilation, support groups and other such services. Combining the artful side of English with its more practical aspects, this non-profit organization enables visitors to unlock the power of language.When I stopped in their Manhattan headquarters, I found a few people on their way out the door to the New York rendition of a national Shakespeare competition for high school students, housed in the beautifully grand New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. Those students who do make the national finals, next compete at Lincoln Center for a scholarship to travel to England where they will study the Bard. This and other programs at the Union focus on the beauty of the English language and its ability to inspire.
In a mission as important as it is adorable, the Pajama Program works with underprivileged children to provide them with adequate bedclothes and reading instruction. Tragically, these kids move frequently and are often unable to take their things with them. Having a clean and warm set of pajamas to call their own becomes both pragmatically and symbolically important. The other half of the program welcomes younger children for literary instruction to help them get a head start on language arts and has expanded similar programs for slightly older kids. This is about a pure-hearted venture as one can find on the New York side streets.
After having eaten at Barbes, I was eager to check out Omar Balouma's other restaurant. Stopping to notice the beautiful, ornately carved front door, we learned that it was shipped directly from Morocco, and functions as a literal and figurative portal to North Africa. Inside, a vague smell of hookah smoke hangs in the air amidst beautifully crafted walls done in a soft pastel-hued Venetian plaster. The front of the restaurant is for dining where the menu offers smaller Mediterranean-style plates flavored with Moroccan spices. The back hookah room might be the real star. Benches line the large square room, along with colorful seat cushions while tapestry-esque sheets hang overhead. Saturday nights come alive with belly dancers and music is played by Rachid Halibal, a native of Morocco.
Neon lights, on the back wall, greeted us as we entered Trademark Grind, the “boutique coffee bar” serving Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn. In this quaint space, we were treated to excellent cups of hot chocolate, perfect on this winter day. A few minutes later, the PR manager, Matt, greeted us and invited the Manhattan Sideways team to follow him through a small entryway where we discovered Trademark Taste, a cozy, dimly lit restaurant... a safe little hideaway in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan.Opened in the spring of 2016, by In Good Company Hospitality, Trademark Taste & Grind serves a mixed clientele, from guests at the attached hotel and the pre-show crowd from Madison Square Garden to those looking for a unique weekend bar scene. The menu is impeccably curated by culinary director, Jeff Haskell, to featured favorites like Burrata and Knots and Tuna Poke. However, with its dark, mellow colors, graffiti motifs and hints of industrial flair, Trademark is all about the space. The walls are white and black with accents of red. Intimate hidden booths circle a large center bar, the anchor of the room. As soon as I took a look around, I wanted to settle into one of these booths for the evening. When I repeated this to Matt, he replied, “People tend to not want to leave.”
Built originally in the mid-1800s, Sniffen Court encompasses a small alleyway running between two quaint rows of brick buildings. With vegetation lending further tranquility to the scene, a wrought-iron gate protects it from the public. The buildings, which were once stables, have now been repurposed into commercial, residential and artistic spaces. Next door, the historic and private Amateur Comedy Club hosts shows performed by, and for, members. Sniffen Court now appears on the National Register of Historic Places.
The prevailing theme of Staypineapple hotels is barely surprising: pineapples. What might come as a shock to some, however, is just how seriously the hotel takes the pineapple motif: the fruit is prominent in the décor, stitched into the shirts of the employees, and even emblazoned on a rentable bike out front. The lobby offers complimentary pineapple-infused water and pineapple-flavored mini cupcakes amid modern, yet eclectic, furnishings. Covering one wall in the lobby is the following haiku: “Pineapples are sweetYellow makes people happyAnd everyone loves dogs - especially Michelle” Michelle is Michelle Barnet, the founder of the small hotel chain which has locations in a handful of cities across the country. Her passion for dogs informed the last line of the haiku - the hotel is extremely dog-friendly, even offering a “Pup Package” to make traveling with furry friends as relaxing as possible. Each room comes equipped with a plush dog that guests are welcome to purchase at the end of their stay, with a portion of the proceeds going towards animal rescue organizations. “The significance of pineapples is that they are a universal symbol of hospitality,” manager James Bryant explained when Manhattan Sideways inquired about the unique theme of the hotel chain. He said that the symbolic meaning of the pineapple dates back to the 1700s, when the fruit was rare and difficult to acquire. It became a coveted gift, and when placed in front of travelers, it let them know that they were welcome in an unfamiliar place. “It’s this international sign of ‘You are welcome here. Come in and stay with us.’” We explored two rooms. While smaller than a typical hotel room, the first was full of surprises. In a building that is only twenty-four feet wide, Staypineapple creatively utilizes their space. The television was hidden away at the foot of the bed, revealing itself with the press of a button. A coffee machine was tucked away in a similar automated compartment. An entire wall of the room was windowed, offering views of the city that more than offset the small size of the room. Staypineapple prides itself on “The Naked Experience,” a title they have applied to their unique bedding situation (which is so luxurious, "they won’t blame you for wanting to sleep naked"). Two exceptionally soft, twin-sized duvets give guests extreme freedom with their sleeping experience - and diffuse any fighting over covers. In the second, larger room we met Pineapple: a virtual assistant and Staypineapple’s answer to the traditional bedside telephone. James explained that the device “acts as a smart speaker, a telephone, and a way to communicate with the front desk.” Similar to an Amazon Echo or a Google Dot, an automated voice will answer at the cue of “Okay Pineapple.” The device is also loaded with staff-curated dining recommendations, and can answer just about any question a guest might have, from the best sushi restaurants in the area to the day’s weather. Staypineapple is a hotel full of surprises and, in many ways, it is just plain fun. Manhattan Sideways found it refreshing to see a business lean into a theme so unabashedly, and we believe that the commitment pays off. The hotel creates an extremely inviting environment that does not take itself too seriously, prioritizing comfort and hospitality alongside their innovative technology and highly-Instagramable décor.