Harlem Redux

Posted in On Tthe Road on July 3rd, 2009 by MadDog
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When you visit a place that captures your imagination, it’s not easy to let go. I need to make a quick trip back to Harlem to think about the things that I saw and the feelings they evoked. While I’m there, I’ll show you a few more images that caught my interest.

Growing up in Indianapolis on the edge of a large black neighbourhood and having been born into a family (can’t choose your family!) with a largely racist background made for an interesting childhood. It turned out to be a lucky thing, because it taught me that the practical solution to all the problems was to simply become colour blind. I took in all the turmoil, processed it, and then made up my own mind.

One figure that I remember vividly from my youth is Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Powell was the first US Congressman to be elected from New York State and served from 1945 to 1971. I remember him as a man who was very troublesome to white folks of a certain persuasion. Being contrary by nature to almost anything that adults said or thought, I read the papers, listened to the radio and made up my own mind. I decided that he was a man of great courage, conviction, and ability. I secretly admired him.  I was very happy to discover this monument to him inscribed with his famous words, “Keep the faith!”

The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. monument in Harlem, New York City

Harlem seems so alive to me. People are moving constantly. They move not with the grim determination of the suits, but with a rhythm and purpose that fits the relaxed nature of the neighbourhood, which is primarily residential. You find happy and purposeful street art around every corner:Community art in Harlem, New York City

Everywhere you look are reminders of the cultural value of Harlem. Here Lenox Avenue, a street name spread across the pages of New York City history, becomes Malcolm X Boulevard:

Malcolm X Boulevard - Harlem - New York CityOne block over, you’ll find Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Here is the nice little café where I took my breakfasts:La Perle Noire Cafe - Harlem - New York CityIn case your French is as poor as mine, La Perle Noire  means, The Black Pearl.

It was cloudy, dark and clammy most of the time that I stayed in Harlem. It made the place seem moody and tense until you start walking around. Then you realise that it’s just the weather:Street Scene - Harlem - New York City

A grey day is not going to stop an impromptu basketball game:Basketball - Harlem - New York City

It was my intention to see other landmarks, particularly the Apollo Theater. However, my exhaustion at the end of a long stay in North America, and the hospitality of my hostess, Stephanie Calla at La Maison d’Art  kept me off the streets a good deal of the time. I did manage to make it to the Alhambra Ballroom, another New York City landmark.

Here is a little gallery containing some of the above images and a few more:


I hope that the next time that I’m in North America, I get an opportunity to go back to Harlem with Eunie.

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La Maison d’Art – NYC – The Place To Stay

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 10th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I walk into a hotel to have a look around, poke around the place to see who else is there, check my room to see if it’s comfy, look out the window . . . you know the drill . . . what I want most is to feel my travellers’ anxiety dissolve and hear that little voice in my head whispering, “Yeah, man. You could live here.”

That little voice was crooning those exact words to me shortly after my arrival at La Maison d’Art  in Harlem, New York City. Harlem reminds me so much of my old neighbourhood that the taxi ride from JFK was like coming home. I arrived at the four story brownstone with only the number 259 to identify it thinking to myself, “This will be interesting.”

A brief unpacking session and  a beer run to the corner store were followed by a visit with the owner, Stephanie Calla, a delightful young French woman who surprised me by accepting my offer of a beer as she sat with me for an hour or so to get acquainted. When is the last time you encountered such pleasantly surprising hospitality? In most hotels I feel more as if I’m checking into a hospital for a coronary bypass.

Here is Stephanie in the reception area of her delightful, art-filled establishment:

Stephanie - Owner of La Maison d'Art - New York City
She must have asked me ten times if there was anything else I needed. It wasn’t phoney baloney. When I suggested that I might want to go out for some night life, she went searching for brochures for me and told me the best places to go. She stopped by again this morning to check on me and chat a bit.

La Maison d’Art  is billed as ” . . . sophisticated lodging for the astute traveller” I don’t know how sophisticated and astute I am, but I dig this place. Whether you are straight off the farm in Iowa or freshly arrived from your townhouse in Vienna, I can’t imagine that you would not be comfortable here. This is another cute shot of Stephanie:

Stephanie in her reception area - La Maison d'Art - New York City
Later today I’m going to walk down to Central Park. I had plans to fill my two days with sightseeing. Now, I’m so comfortable and happy here that I think I’m going to slow down a little to rest and recuperate. It’s that kind of place. I won’t get to see all the things that I planned to see, but hey, that’s what pictures are for.

Blame it on Stephanie and her cool pad. Frank Sinatra could chill out here.

If you are going to NYC, do yourself a favour. Save a bundle of money, be close to all the action, and enjoy the hospitality of a delightful young woman who is quite literally pursuing the American Dream. She’s making it on her own, playing the game by the rules, and doing a great job of it.

Thanks to my clever and omniscient wife, Eunie, for once again booking the exact place that I wanted before I even knew what I wanted. It’s scary, man!

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