Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wandering in the footsteps of others

We had another lovely friend, Chris, visit us here in NYC. We went back to MOMA and also The Guggenheim Museum. At the Guggenheim we checked out the Picasso Black and White. As time goes on I like Picasso more and more. We've seen examples of his all over the world on this trip! The exhibit is of course in the wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright building. He is one our favourite architects. In addition to Picasso, I thoroughly enjoyed the Asterisms exhibit by Gabriel Orozco. It is a large installation of found objects, carefully arranged like a human bowerbird nest. Of course we also checked out more delicious vegan dining.

We checked out a super funny and intelligent comedian, Jamie Kilstein that I randomly heard about on twitter. We spent another fun day with our friend Enki (and talented photographer) at Prospect Park, a 585 acre park in Brooklyn. It was nice to be such a green space in the middle of NYC. We all went to MOMA PS1 Museum, up in Queens, NYC. The building was great and while the current exhibits were not of my particular taste it was neat to see some different more contemporary modern art. A highlight was actually outside the museum; a building across the street covered in amazing graffiti. We attempted to go to the Intrepid: Air, Sea and Space Museum, but it was closed until at least December 21, 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy damage. We did walk around the pair to view the aircraft carrier and the Enterprise space shuttle. From a distance we could also see a concorde plane.

A favorite museum was the Tenement Museum, which "tells the stories of 97 Orchard Street. Built on Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1863, this tenement apartment building was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants." Access to the building is by guided tour only. We went on the Hard Times Tour; "Discover how immigrants survived economic depressions at 97 Orchard Street between 1863 and 1935. Visit the restored homes of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family, whose patriarch disappeared during the Panic of 1873, and the Italian-Catholic Baldizzi family, who lived through the Great Depression." The tour was terrific! We walked through the two different restored apartments imagining how the families lived, their struggles and daily lives. The German family had to survive through the patriarch disappearing, leaving the mother the sole care giver and provider for her three children (a fourth passed away. She ended up becoming a seamstress, working from her small apartment. In the Italian family's apartment they had a recording of the, now adult, daughter describing her experience living in the apartment. Their triumph over adversity sure put my own worries into perspective! The museum experience was enhanced by our previous watching of episode one of the seven part series on history of New York city, called New York: A Documentary Film. 

The history experiences spurned me on to get to the New York Public Library, to research my granddad who was a New York City police officer (patrolman), in 1905 to at least 1910. I had intended to spend some time at the NYPD Museum and archives, but sadly they sustained significant damage during Hurricane Sandy as are closed for an indefinite period. I received some great tips of where to search at the library from a librarian online and I was able to get a free visitor library card. Via the library, I was able to access the old microfiche rolls for the Police Special Orders records for 1905, 1906 and 1909 (1907-1908 are not available). We sent four hours each pouring over the rolls and made it through 1905, 1906 and half of 1909. Much of it was quite boring with details such as officers sick days, vacation days, transfers, appointments etc. 

However, there were interesting records of some officers misdeeds and subsequent punishments. Some misdeeds included not feeding the horses, not showing up for patrol or leaving early, being found in a liquor store or saloon while on duty, not being found at home when supposedly sick, sitting while on the job, speaking in an insolent manner to supervisors or citizens etc. Thankfully my granddad did not show up in any of those reprimanded! However, I did a learn a few facts of his appointments, duties and locations. I also found out he got a raise in 1906 to $900.00/year. I was also able to access the http://www.ancestry.com site via the library for free (which you can also do so via Calgary Public Library). I was able to find my granddad in the 1910 census, locate his address and view his apartment on google maps street view! The next plan is to go take a photo of his apartment. I was also able to access the newspaper archives and found an article from 1906 detailing the award my granddad received for saving a man who was drowning.  It's been fun playing family detective and I plan on putting all the information together in a family timeline booklet. 

It has been rather surreal to wander the streets of NYC and wonder what my granddad saw and felt a 100 years ago...