[Tampere, Wed 24 May 2006] I'm setting off to NYC this Friday for a long-awaited but last-minute vacation. I'm excited to visit again my favorite city in the whole wide world! I've been running on errands all day today, taking care of the practical issues related (which are plenty, btw). I booked my airline tickets and the accommodation out of spite and in an incredible haste last Friday, and I should've known that's gonna leave me with plenty of loose ends. Also, with Ascension Day and a public holiday tomorrow, it seems like I've had to race against the clock from the very beginning :-)

I've been to NYC three times already, and I actually feel comfortable enough traveling alone. What I *don't* feel comfortable with is the travel part itself. Being in transit and on standby has never been my ideal state, and I always wind up incredibly hyper and tense by the mere thought of it. I know traveling will take up most of Friday: taking the Tampere-Helsinki-Amsterdam-JFK route basically means 12 hours of sitting still and just waiting to be there! And there's more traveling to follow just as soon as I've settled. I'll be joining my hubby on Saturday--he's currenly residing in NJ as a visiting scholar at Rutgers. We'll begin my vacation with a mini-break to D.C. on my first weekend. I'm expecting a sweet reunion to make up for the hassle :-)

I don't know if this page'll evolve into a 'real' travel blog or just a scrapbook of mementoes and impressions en route (do I hear echoes of that Kerouac title already?). I have no idea whether I'll be having Internet access during my 9-day stay, either. Regular access would be too much to hope for, but maybe I can arrange something less utopistic--maybe regular irregularity on a daily basis? I'm sure to look for Internet cafés everywhere I go, and I know the NY Public Library is rumored to provide visitors with free Internet access.

[Tampere, Thu 25 May 2006] OK, all set here. I've now done most of the packing. The weather's still cold and uninviting, so I've stayed indoors all afternoon. Been searching the Net for further travel tips and jotting down addresses etc. I'm gonna miss the Tampere Philharmony concert tomorrow night... but I'm expecting even better experiences :-)

I met two local BookCrossers last night, and Marko gave me two Dragonlance volumes to release in NY. I doubt if I'll get to reading those on the plane--I just packed a Murakami to go. Also, I made preliminary plans with a Manhattan BookCrosser, stacyinthecity, to meet up some time next week, chat over a nice cuppa, and exchange books. Meanwhile, Erkko'd confirmed our hotel reservation for D.C. He actually told me most museums & galleries offer free admission; we should definitely check out the NGA. I also have Jay & Kathleen's phone number written down--I'd love to meet up with them, too, while we're in D.C.

[Tampere/Helsinki/Amsterdam/New York, Fri 26 May 2006] A quick look at my Inbox--and then I'm off to the bus station for an early bus to the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. From there, I'm first taking a KLM flight to Amsterdam and then spend four hours idling before my connection to JFK... I wonder if they have affordable Internet rates at Schiphol? --Estimated arrival at my hostel in Manhattan tonight: closer to midnight local time.

I was surprised to meet my BookCrossing buddy, Taija, at the Tampere bus station, waiting for the 9:15 bus to Helsinki-Vantaa. Turned out she was heading for the airport as well, and our planes (hers to Riccione, Italy, and mine to Amsterdam) left at neighboring gates 23 and 25 respectively! We had a great time chatting, and any extra waiting time flew by till boarding time (1:40 pm). The KLM flight KL 1168 to Amsterdam was very good. The plane (a Boeing 737 jet) wasn't too crowded, either, and I just loved the laid-back & chatty cabin crew. Dix points for Dutch! The cold meal served on the plane was v.g., too: I don't think I've ever tasted onion focaccias quite as tasty as theirs. The Schiphol (skip-hole) airport was super, too. Lots of Dan Brown titles on sale at books & news. They're all over! Boarding for the JFK plane, a Boeing 777 jet, I happened to enter a huge crowd of Ukrainian business students. An incredible hassle with their boarding passes/visas. Luckily I didn't have to wait in line with them. The flight to JFK was just as pleasant as the way to Schiphol. BRAVO, KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines, and another ten points! They served chicken Szechuan on board, the crew was once again incredible, and I had an excellent time on the 7.50-hour flight. The couple sitting next to me (I had my favorite, an aisle seat) was from Romania, and I got the pleasure of translating the US Customs Declaration and Immigration fill-ins forms to them. At JFK, they took everybody's fingerprints and a photo--the new security policy rocks.

The cab ride to the city was nice, and I gave a generous tip to my driver, Mr. Singh. My ho(s)tel, West End Studios at 850 West End Ave, right off Broadway, is your basic cheap accommodation with shared bathrooms. The toilet on my floor doesn't work and the first person I saw when entering was the plumber. No cockroaches or bedbugs-yet. I was gonna go for a stroll around the block before hitting bed, but then it started to rain cats and dogs. Thunder, too. A quick evening wash and to bed then. I hope my alarm wakes me up in time so that I have time to figure out the subway to the Port Authority Bus Station tomorrow morning!

[New York/D.C., Sat 27 May 2006] Got up at 5 am, then walked along Broadway to Port Authority, was kindly assisted by a 'guide' there in finding the Greyhound ticket sales... Then took the 7:30 Peter Pan coach to Washington, D.C. A close to 5-hour drive in total. Arrived at D.C. and met Erkko at the B. Dalton bookstore at Union Station, an impressive Roman replica of a building. Opened on October 27, 1907 and completed in 1908, Union Station is considered to be one of the finest examples of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture. Architect, Daniel Burnham designed the building to be monumental in every respect and to serve as a gateway for the capital city.At the time it was built, the Station covered more ground than any other building in the United States and was the largest train station in the world. The Station sits on the edge of an area once known as "Swampoodle," an infamous shantytown located on the sewery remnants of Tiber Creek. The total area occupied by the Station and the terminal zone was originally about 200 acres and included 75 miles of tracks. In fact, if put on its side, the Washington Monument could lay within the confines of the Station's concourse.-- Every year, 29 million visitors enjoy shopping, entertainment, and an international variety of food in this Beaux Arts transportation hub.

The first thing in D.C., we went to eat at a German restaurant called Cafe Mozart at 1331 H St NW--had a Jäger Schitzel with sauerkraut and a Viennese coffee. A wonderful Austrian lady played the accordion there at the restaurant, and when she heard we're from Finland, she entertained us with 'Taivas on sininen ja valkoinen'. Then we checked in at our hotel, the Quincy suites in downtown D.C., and took a cab back to Union Sta, where we hopped on a 1.5-hour DC Duck tour on land AND on the Potomac River. Terrific! Ducks come from DUKW, a military acronym that designated the vehicle as amphibious military personnel carriers. D Stands for the year it was designated, 1942; U for its amphibious nature; K for its all-wheel drive; and W for its dual rear axles. DUKW's were created following the attack on Pearl Harbor as a means to transport supplies from ships to areas that did not have port facilities. DUKW's were first used operationally during the invasion of Sicily. Nearly 90% of all supplies came in by DUKW on the vital second and third days of the invasion. D-Day brought a force of 2000 DUKW's to the Normandy coasts. The fleet was an essential element in the strategic surprise of the enemy which assumed the Allies needed a port to make an effective landing. DUKW's are standard 2 1/2 ton GM trucks in a water-tight shell with an added propeller. Considered to be one of the most successful amphibious vehicles ever made, there were ultimately over 21,000 produced by a work force consisting mainly of women working in the war effort. After the war, the Army left many of the craft in the towns and villages where they had operated, so the DUKW's can still be found in different countries around the world. Saw the White House [see my picture], the white dome of the US Capitol, and plenty of federal landmark buildings. Vietnam Veterans' memorial & the Korean War Memorial, and drove past the Ronald Reagan National Airport. Managed to get a glimpse of the President's helicopter, too.

After the tour, walked around D.C. and went to the 555-feet neo-Egyptian obelisk, the Washington Monument--one of the most recognizable patriotic symbols in the capital [see my picture]. Breathtaking. The NGA, the Smithsonian, and the White House were closed for the day at that point, but we took a walk in the National Mall, a splendid green park area extending approximately two miles from the Capitol [see my picture] to the Lincoln Memorial. Lining either side of the park, there are 200-year-old elm trees, several of the Smithsonian Institution museums, National Archives, the NGA, and US Botanic Gardens. I really liked the Sculpture Park in National Mall (Roy Lichtenstein!). Found a book, America in Prophecy, lying around in a park bench near the Smithsonian Technology. Will register & label it for BC purposes later. Shopped at a CVS for water, gallons of it! The climate was hot & humid, temps in the high 70s, and the long walks make frequent drinking a necessity.

[D.C./Philadelphia, Sun 28 May 2006] The dog next door (imagine a dog staying in a hotel!) woke us up at 8:00 sharp. Breakfast, then headed downtown: The White House (did not enter it, because any tours inside the White House must be arranged & scheduled with the embassy one month before the requested date!), the Smithsonian Natural History--touched a rock from Mars, saw a lot of dinosaurs, stuffed animals, and live insects... The Smithsonian is a great place to spend a hot day: it's history blended with entertainment and interaction for all the family. A fun warning in one of the pebble collections for sale at the museum shop: "Eating stones may permanently damage your teeth". Then went to the NGA at 6 St & Constitution Ave--marvelous exhibitions there with Charles Sheeler, O'Keeffe, Picasso, Matisse, yet more Lichtenstein, Rivera, and some of the magical mobiles of Alexander Calder. I was surprised to find books by Tristan Tzara there at the museum shop! I chose a French book on Dada instead, though. The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally was in town this weekend, paying homage to the veterans, those missing in action, or prisoners of war--thousands of big motorbikes on the streets and just about everywhere! A patriotic sight, actually, with most drivers holding giant US flags. Most of D.C. itself was a patriotic symbol; preserved history.

Took a Greyhound to Philadelphia in the evening. A 3-hour drive via Delaware and Maryland. One of the first sights when entering the city was the Citizens Bank Park Stadium, the home field of the Phillies. Another one was the light-blue/rusty Benjamin Franklin Bridge spanning the Delaware River that joins New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Philly seems like a great city and very lively after the 600,000 inhabitants of D.C. Our hotel, the Latham Hotel at 17th St and Walnut in the upscale Rittenhouse Row (surrounded by elite shops selling books, clothing, shoes, cigars, jewelry, and art), is just grand and has an excellent location in the immediate center of the city.

Tomorrow's Memorial Day & the official opening of summer. I hope the city tours still operate and museums and sights are open.

[Philadelphia/New York, Mon 29 May 2006: Memorial Day] A scorching day in Philadelphia [see my picture], the City of Brotherly Love and the Birthplace of Liberty, currently the 6th biggest city in the US with a population of 2 million. Slept well & took a hop-on/hop-off tour around central Philadelphia [see my pics 1 and 2]. Released a BC book at the Independence Visitor Center where we purchased the tour tickets... located near the pavilion in which the original Liberty Bell is housed, the famous cracked Bell whose twin we saw yesterday in Washington D.C. in front of Union Station. Philadelphia, surprisingly, is the host of Rodin's The Thinker [see a picture of Two Thinkers :-)]. The Rodin Museum itself was closed for Memorial Day, but it's supposed to be the biggest exhibit of Rodin's work after the one in Paris. A lot Benjamin Franklin and Independence stuff abound the city. Benjamin Franklin came from Boston when he was 17 and became a famous and prosperous man here. His mark is everywhere, from Pennsylvania Hospital, which he helped found, to the University of Pennsylvania, which he also helped found, plus the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Ben Franklin Parkway, the Franklin Institute, and the images of him everywhere you look. There's even a street performer who has played Ben every day for 25 years, to a point where he's invited to official ceremonies and introduced to visiting dignitaries as Dr. Franklin. In the Historic District/Old City, the Betsy Ross House was cute--Betsy Ross herself is best known as the maker of the first American flag, but it is not sure whether she has in fact lived in the building. Elfreth's Alley is the tiniest and oldest street in the US. The City Hall is impressive: it was once the tallest building in the world (1871) [see my picture]. In the local Chinatown, a beautiful Friendship Gate: the Friendship Gate is a many-colored arch ornamented with fire-breathing dragons and Oriental lettering that was a joint project between Philadelphia and her Chinese sister city Tianjin. Chinese artisans completed the Friendship Gate in 1984 with materials brought from Tianjin. The lushness of Fairmount Park was beautiful: our guide said it's a huge park and covers 7 Central Parks! A very colonial, 18th-century feel, also very European. Also a city of murals: over 1,000 of them all around downtown as a result of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program! Ate at a Mexican place near Penn's Landing in the waterfront: delicious gazpacho & enchiladas. Went to the Franklin Institute Science Center near Logan Circle--mainly stuff for kids & geeks there :-}. Bought The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells for 2 bucks at the SciStore. Sent a couple of postcards [see my picture of some serious postcard writing fun!]. Saw the first post office in the US (the Benjamin Franklin Post Office, naturally) [see my picture], the LOVE sculpture at the Love Park, the Clothespin (1976) by Oldenburg @ Centre Square Plaza, 15th & Market Streets [see my picture], and many other outdoor attractions. Visitors here, too, use Segway Human Transporters with headsets to get around on a seg safari--I didn't dare rent an HT even for a day!

In the afternoon after touring the city, sat down--red-in-the-face and exhausted--for an ice cream to make plans for next weekend (Erkko's coming to visit me in New York before I leave on Saturday). Then we went our separate ways: I took the 7:00 Greyhound back to NYC, and Erkko returned to New Jersey by train. After arriving at Port Authority in NYC, I tried my luck (and my poor feet) and walked the 60 blocks uptown to where I'm staying. The sweat! A cold shower to follow--and to bed. Good night.

[New York, Tue 30 May 2006] Got up at 7 am, showered and set off downtown by foot. At 8:50, the temperature was 85F already! Had a chili dog for breakfast at a mall, and headed for Midtown & the New York Public Library [see my picture]. A lovely book shop there, too... so many titles I'd like to own. Wrote a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in petition of not cutting down funds for free libraries. A good cause they're campaigning for on the 2nd floor of the library. I finally found free Internet access, checked my email & proceeded with this itinerary blog. At 1 pm, purchased some black cherry & vanilla coke and spent the afternoon by a statue of Gertrude Stein at Bryant Park behind the Public Library--a popular green spot amidst the skyscrapers. After sunbathing at Bryant Park, I walked down to Little Korea--so little it could barely be seen! Just a few blocks of mainly orean and Chinese-operated businesses. Didn't get a chance to try that kimchi, then, because didn't spot a single authentic Korean restaurant. Went to the Wendy's across the street from the Empire State Building at E 33 St & 5 Ave instead. "Do what tastes right"... right. New York seems to have changed and become somewhat more European since my last visit. Lots of new constructions, of course, but also this feel of a Europeanized metropolis. Still, magically, I can always take the right direction, and places appear eerily familiar. I just realized I've actually dreamed of many of the street corners! Also, I feel at home and for once at ease w/ people. A beggar came into Wendy's--they're everywhere these days. She just came in and begged of everyone in the tables--except for me. Today I'm dressed in my absolute poorest, so maybe I don't appear that good a target. There's a Russian male couple in the table across from mine. Well, I thought there was something odd with them, being obviously gay but unfashionably dressed... The radio's playing 80s pop mostly everywhere I go. Even on a warm day like this, it takes me a while to slurp down the large (LARGE) cola, so I'm just sitting back, relaxing, and observing. Then walked around to Penn Plaza and back, then found a Barnes & Noble... I spent close to 2 hours there, all the while listening to quality jazz and country & western... Their poetry shelves were just amazing. My head didn't clear until way past 80th St :-}. The Beats, Snyder, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Whitman, Akhmatova... Plus some Chabon and Roth. But, surprisingly, very few foreign-language titles. On my way back, saw a bunch of hasidic? Jews, some of whom seemed rabbis even. Must be a rabbi convention somewhere near... My feet are simply killing me by now. I bought a pair of flipflops to ease the pain & prevent further blisters & blood caused by my worn-out sneakers. Walked around Midtown past Radio City Music Hall, the Trump Plaza, and Columbus Circle. There's a very interesting building across the globe thing at Columbus Circle, called The Time Warner Center--the int'l headquarters of Time Warner & a shopping mall. Then walked up north Amsterdam Ave to Upper West Side and felt this incredible pain all the way.

[New York, Wed 31 May 2006] Walked thru what is the apparently Jewish part of Upper West Side thru Chelsea to West Village along Hudson St. A lot of traffic. [See my picture.] Saw a couple of famous alternative bookstores + Henrietta & Rubyfruit, neither looking too dangerous! At 10:00 the temperature was around 80F: a bit cooler than yesterday, thank Heavens. My new beach flipflops help walking, plus they aren't half as hot. Sat down at Abington Square and wondered if I was getting dehydrated... Walked downtown and up along Bowery. Found a great burger place, Paul's, at 14 St. A tableful of NYPD officers on duty there at the next table. And air-conditioning, yay! I love the so-said decadence of the Village & SoHo: red-brick buildings with murals every now and then. Walked past the Poets Café--the place looked interesting but empty in broad daylight. Will come back south fot a tour in Chinatown with Erkko on Saturday. Visited a couple of bookstores (almost fell for a shelfful of Murakami!) and then headed towards Midtown again.

They're building a stage at Bryant Park--an open-air concert coming up! Took a look at the Grand Central Terminal. Bought some amazing Tropicana Pink and enjoyed the sun by the fountain at the Rockefeller Center--a cliché I simply had to see again :-) Much smaller than I actually remembered. A nice breeze, too, and it's not so hot. The temps have been around 78F all day. Released the other one of Marko's BC books on the marble bench across the entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Shop. Visited the shop, too. On the way there, dropped by at Coliseum Books. Gotta add Ferlinghetti on my Wish List; he hooked me to sit there at the store for quite some time, but I managed to resist the temptation... for now. Also read an edition of Mandelshtam with an excellent foreword to it. --Then continued to St. Patrick's Cathedral--always just as beautiful, colorful, accessible, and serene. Saw two other churches along the way... then found the consumeristic heaven! An incredible 3-storey World of Disney megastore! Also visited a Kate's Paperie. Walked past Trump Tower and some other landmark sights before sitting down to rest my feet at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. A sudden flashbak: I remember when I first found my way to the Lincoln Center & the Ballet Theater + Juilliard School with Raila (a total Baryshnikov fan at the time, so the Ballet Theater was a must-see) back in 1991, on my first trip to New York City! On my way back to the hotel (as the sun was setting) along Broadway [see my picture], I shopped at Gourmet Garage at 2567 Broadway & 96 St for 12 ichiban salmon maki rolls. A great selection of food from all over the world there with affordable prices! I wish I could take that place with me to Finland! The maki roll pack cost $5.95, and all the other sushi packs were all under $8. I can't help marveling at how cheap (mostly) everything in the US is these days. Accustomed to the euro prices, the value of the dollar is just crazy :-) I'm keeping a tight budget, but I gotta admit there's so much of this country I want to hold & have as a memento... But on second thought, I figure I can very well do without that and that particular item. It's the experience that counts, anyway. A budget traveler's motto.

[New York, Thu 1 Jun 2006] The River to River NYC festival starts today. They even have a Sauma (design as a cultural interface) exhibition at the World Financial Center. Would love to see the "new portable devices, a modular kitchen, an urban sauna concept, gaming prototypes, and other items that experiment with portability, sensory experiences, and the ways we havigate our urban environment. -- Exploration of new approaches to usability, user experience, and the design process itself through Finnish contemporary design".

Well, today I'm going for a stroll in Central Park. Amazingly, the shower in the hotel had some warm water this morning, so I feel freshened enough to walk long distances again. Two Swedish backpackers checked in yesterday in the room next to mine, so all I heard last night was Swedish. I tried the International Center of Photography while I was in Midtown [see my picture], but it was closed for renovation & the construction of new exhibitions--visited the adjoining photography shop instead.

At about noon, I entered the incredible, massive Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82 St & 5 Ave in Upper East Side by Central Park, and spent the entire afternoon there. Strangely, I have no detailed or even blurry recollection of ever visiting this particular museum before. Could it be that me and Marjut never visited it back in 1997? A fantastic place: the current exhibitions hosted Egyptian art with dozens and dozens of mummies & sarcophagi, American period furniture, a Frank Lloyd Wright Room (a gorgeous sight for a true FLW addict!), Japanese & Chinese art... The exhibition areas are huge; I gladly paid the whole amount of the recommended admission fee ($15). The 19th-century European Art section was nice: Gauguin, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Manet, Monet, Pissarro... Monet's Waterlilies, of course. At the dazzling modern art (1900-) halls, some things caught my eye: Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler, a wonderful display of Betty Woodman's ceramics, of course my old favs Braque, Picasso, Miró, Chirico, Matisse, Leger, Hopper--they even had some Hébuterne portraits by Modigliani. I felt like crying already... A small separate Klee exhibition! Omygod, seems like he's done anything and everything than can possibly be achieved in modern art. Some more Calder! Silhouettes by Kara Walker... Giant surfaces by Clyfford Still! Frank Stella... A Jackson Pollock room... Judd, Warhol... Narva by Jean Tinguely. Bohemia Lies by the Sea by Anselm Kiefer. A couple of breathtaking masterpieces: Animated Landscape by Miró, Laocoon ("Laocoon" (1988), Mr. Lichtenstein's immense tour-de-force riff on the eponymous ancient sculpture, is both a parody and a demonstration of de Kooningesque Abstract Expressionism.) and Galatea by Roy Lichtenstein, I was getting overly pleased and excited to find a showroom of Modern Design--from lalique to Philippe Starck, Frankl, Sottsass, and Alvar Aalto (sadly, the manufacturer's name was misquoted as Oy. Huonekalu-Ja Rakennustötedas AB). And there's more: armors, mostly German & Italian from the late 16th century, and a display of equestrian armory. In addition to the indoor spaces, the Met also has an incredible Roof Garden on the 5th floor, with a bluish (smoggy) skyline view downtown over the green of Central Park [see my picture]. At the center of the Roof Garden, there were displays of art by Cai Guo-Qiang: Transparent Monument, the Nontransparent Monument, and the Clear Sky Black Cloud. After hours in the museum, the weather and the sun felt suffocatingly hot. My hair's getting orangey in the constant sun--and my face is a lush scarlet already. Before leaving the Met, I bought a Modigliani print (Reclining Nude) at one of the museum shops. I was going to go see the exhibitions at Whitney, too... Hopper, O'Keeffe, Calder, and Johns sure sounded attractive, but somehow didn't muster the energy after the Met experience...

When crossing over to Central Park from the Met, I saw a girl named Olivia with rollerblade shoes--they were like regular shoes, but they had hidden rollers on the back of the sole so that she could switch to rolling whenever she felt like it. Those seem popular with kids here. Adorable. Central Park was cool and lush. Walked past the oval-shaped Great Lawn which was reserved for softball players. Entered Central Park West Ave just across from the American Museum of Natural History. Was getting hungry, though, but skipped the famous Zabar's deli right on Broadway and opted for a hearty meal at... McDonalds! Yuk--but filling enough for my needs. Half an hour of waiting, and then at the counter an average waiting time: 50 secs for a Big Mac meal ($5.95).

In the evening, at 6 pm, when I was already back at the hotel resting my feet and lungs (the air was not too good today, and I'm having a constant cough because of the soot) a bit on the bed and working on a crossword puzzle, the biggest thunderstorm and the craziest rain began. Wow! I was just entering the thunder scene in my book (Kafka on the Shore by Murakami)...Kafka: what a great kaleidoscope/mosaic of Greek classics, myths, the subconscious becoming conscious, contemporary city life brought together! Something mysterious and sensual about cats and sexuality... The same unmistakable feel as in Sputnik Sweetheart. But this is far more complete, the scope is wider & more ambitious, although Kafka lacks some of the intimacy of Sputnik. Not as ultra-allegorical as the brain-hacking cyberpunk of Hard-Boiled Wonderland, either. I got to thinking about postmodernism: does the time-warp idea really make this particular book postmodern? I think it's rather the underlying concept of a book constructed in a similar fashion to (post)modern visual arts. Also, the borrowing from many different genres and styles, even from other arts (film, music), and blending it all into a kaleidoscope of which every reader forms his/her own unique experience. This is by no means an extreme case of postmodernism, but the bottom-line idea is definitely there, and it's easily accessible. I'm adoring Murakami more and more every day--c'est ca que j'm :-) A French couple just arrived at the hotel and occupied the room across the hall from me.

[New York, Fri 2 Jun 2006] Woke up later than usual, at 9 am, showered, and walked to Lincoln Center. Breakfast in the open air by the fountain: Dr. Pepper and a cream cheese bagel. Continued to Time Warner Center, a brand-new luxury mall & headquarters with a great view over Columbus Circle, with plenty of artwork inside, plus huge interactive digital sightseeing screens (wave your hand over the screen to navigate) [see my picture]. Walked down to 27 St, plenty of interesting architecture on the way... inspiring concepts for paintings, maybe? Did some tourist-style shopping, and sat down for a gulp of Dr. Pepper by the Fashion Institute of Technology. The weather's at 87F, but it's still hot and tremendously humid. No blue sky to be seen today (smog? clouds?) and it feels as if it's going to rain any minute [see my picture].

Went to the Museum of Sex (MoSex :-)) at 233 5 Ave & 27 St, which boasted three exhibitions (peeping, probing & porn, stag smokers, and spotlight, the permanent collection) plus a store, but was somewhat of a disappointment. Peeping, Probing and Porn traces the erotic image of Japan from Edo period woodblock prints called shunga or "spring pictures" through its direct lineage of today's manga and anime and explores its impact on japanese visual culture. Stags, Smokers & Blue Movies exhibits the origins of American pornographic film. Up to the late sixties, the predominant form of pornographic film was short, usually black and white, and anonymously produced, known variously as the stags, blue movies, or "smokers", so called because of the smoke-filled rooms where men would gather for screenings. Spotlight on the permanent collection offers a sampling of artifacts and ephemera drawn from over 15,000 objects that form the museum's permanent collection. This collection covers many aspects of human sexuality, but the majority reflect America's changing attitudes about sex and sexuality. Didn't buy anything, just memorized stuff and details for daydreaming :-) Then went to the NYPL for my Internet session--this time I had to wait for 35 minutes. The hall on the 3rd floor is huge, with 100 or so good PCs. Too bad they're out of actual library cards, so what they do instead is give you a slip of paper with your name and the library card number written on it. At 3:30 pm, just as I left the NYPL, the downpour started. All city went dark as if it was mignight, streetlamps lit... The phenomenon was quite similat to the one I experienced here with Marjut back in 1997. Took refuse at St. Thomas Episcopal Church for about an hour, then walked two minutes to the Museum of Modern Art at 11 West 53 St.

The MoMA is one of my favorite art museums in the world, and a must for this year, too. Tonight was the free admission night, and people waited in a long serpentine line in the rain. I headed straight for MoMA's flagship store, the MoMA Design and Book Store on the ground floor first (no waiting in line there): an amazing bookstore, too. At the store, they had plenty of Iittala and Alvar Aalto, and also the Jani Martikainen plywood kettle-holders we have at home. I almost fell for a giant Escher lizard puzzle with separate, interlocking pieces made of foam plastic... but ended up bying a toy Wender Bender & a Joe Bender fridge magnets instead. Got to the museum part itself at 5:30. Museum highlights: Rhapsody by Jennifer Bartlett--inspiring, totally beautiful. Tina Turner and other etched glass & steel cable works by Christopher Wilmarth--wonderful, sexy glass structures. A gallery devoted to the sculpture of Christopher Wilmarth (American, 1943-1978) has as its centerpiece Tina Turner (1970-71), a series of four large industrial plates of glass aligned upright in succession to occupy a nearly 15-foot area. Wilmarth employed traditional materials of Minimalist practice—industrial glass and steel—but imbued these materials with a lyrical romanticism. Incredible architecture on display at the Architecture & Design exhibition; they also had a model of the mondrianesque Schröder House in Utrecht by Gerrit Rietveld (1924). Frank Lloyd Wright blueprints & lithographs--everything he's done has turned into art. Meditation on an Oak Leaf by André Masson. A lot of Pollock; more Judd. Colorhythm 1 by Alejandro Otero. Essex by John Chamberlain. Picture with an Archer and other masterpieces by Kandinsky. The Red Studio by Matisse. A Mondrian room. A Girl Before a Mirror by Picasso. The overwhelming sensations all brought tears to my eyes: I think I suffered moments of "abbreviating sensory processing of continuous information" :-)

The rain got worse and worse while I spent hours at the MoMA. My feet in the flipflops were aching and once again bloody, and they refused to carry me any further. I walked a few blocks in the rain and stopped at the Hilton to hail a cab--hopeless! It took me over 1.5 hours to finally get one! The bicycle rikshas would have taken me along, but for $100! Crazy. Finally, a Mr. Mohammad Bahar kindly drove me back to the hotel, even though I was dripping wet. Back in the hotel room, I resumed to reading Murakami and packed my bags for tomorrow morning. I'm meeting Erkko at Macy's at noon.

[New York/Amsterdam/Helsinki/Tampere, Sat 3 Jun 2006] Took the 1 subway to 34 St @ Penn Station; I was early indeed after checking out from my hotel, and even Macy's wasn't open yet for any last-day shopping. I bought a Challenger Series crossword puzzle magazine at a newsagent instead, and headed for Café 34 a few blocks away for a delicious bacon & egg croissant and a large hazelnut coffee for breakfast. I quietly sat down and persisted despite the ice-cold air-conditioning hell :-) The food WAS excellent, though, and I enjoyed my time with the syllacrostics and codewords in the mag. All of a sudden, I felt a bit feverish. It rained all night last night, and for once I was actually shivering cold in my room! The sky's still gray and it's not too warm, either--most likely it's gonna shower again soon. At about 11:30, I walked down to Macy's Men's Store, my and Erkko's agreed meeting place, and voilà: meanwhile it actually started to rain pretty hard. I was lucky to have been the first one to find shelter inside the Men's Store corner lobby, so I just sat down and waited...

Erkko waived at me an hour later: there'd been heavy rain and thunder in New Jersey as well, and all electricity for cut off--which meant that all train traffic had jammed between NJ and NY at his first stop, actually. I thought he was late because he hadn't brought an umbrella (which was true, too). I still felt feverish and coughy, so we left my baggage at Macy's coat & baggage check and took the subway to South Street Seaport, a waterfront community in the financial district. It was still raining, so the promised Asiafest (Part of the Pathmark Multicultural Arts Festival; Asian music, drama, opera, ballet and acrobatics performed by Dance China) down by Pier 17 was not much of a sight. We walked under the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges (safe from the rain, and rather, erm, a picturesque hobo view of the city and over to Brooklyn :-)) to Catherine St and entered Chinatown. Erkko finally gave up and bought an umbrella there. Went to have lunch at a Chinese restaurant. I had some Singapore Chow Mei something noodles... Our sum total in the bill was $14 (tax included), and I couldn't even finish half of my dish, the serving was so huge and delicious! After lunch, had some lychee & banana ice-cream across the street, and proceeded to Little Italy.

We then took a subway to Midtown, where we walked a few blocks and I showed the sights to Erkko--in the rain, of course. Then back to Macy's to fetch my bags, and a subway through Brooklyn where we transferred into an Air Train to the JFK. Erkko was kind enough to come with me all the way to Terminal 4 where my flight was scheduled. Formulated a thought: The subway is a postmodern mode of transport, similarly to the plane being modernist and the car/train premodernist/futuristic.

My plane departed at 22:05--this time, it was a combined passenger & freighter jet Boeing 747. Tiny seats, rather uncomfortable, but luckily it was a night flight and it only took 7 sleepy hours to get to Amsterdam. Because of the 7 hours of time difference, the plane arrived at Schiphol at about 11 am on Sunday morning. My connection to Finland departed at 1:05 pm... but before that, I was body-searched by a female officer... Apparently they routinely took in every "young" person, but it just felt so stupid :-)

I was back in Helsinki at about 4:30 pm, the temperature was +14 degrees and I felt like I had the flu. There were TV cameras and plenty of ppl waiting at the exit hall after the customs: not for me, obviously. I later found out that the boxer Amin Asikainen who just won the European Championships returned to Finland from Hanover at the same time... His white limo drove past me when I was standing outside waiting for my bus. The airport bus to Tampere departed at 5:30, and I slept almost all the way in the bus. Jet lag is hitting me right away!

Copyright © 2006 Rea Lehtonen. All Rights Reserved