Category Archives: New York

Live! From (Upstate) New York!

DSC_0320-280x270While I’ve been trying to keep appearances to a minimum as I finish up work on George Lucas, here’s one I couldn’t resist:

I’ll be giving an hour-long presentation on Jim Henson at the Guilderland Public Library in Guilderland, New York, on Friday, February 19, at 2:00 p.m.  As an added bonus, the library will have several Muppets on display, on loan courtesy of The Jim Henson Legacy.

Which Muppets, you ask? Ah, that’ll be a surprise for me as well.

The Guilderland Public Library is located at 2228 Western Avenue, just northwest of Albany. And did I mention it’s free? Of course it is — so if you’re in the area, come on by.

High Society and “Tough” Talk

A couple of events for you to put on your calendar, if you’re in New York the week of October 7 (yes, I know I seem to be in New York a lot — I’ll be posting a few non-Big Apple venues here shortly).

6a00d83453b09469e20133f58e2bf6970b-400wiOn Thursday, October 10, I’ll be speaking at one of my favorite places in New York, the New York Society Library. I had the privilege of talking about Washington Irving here a few years ago (wow, was it really five years ago now?) and it’s a great room in a great building, in an organization that’s got some seriously cool history. I’ll be speaking in the Members Room, starting at 6:30 p.m. This is a ticketed event, open to the public. And it should be fun.

nycc-panel-posterThe next evening, on October 11, I’m delighted to be taking part in a panel at the New York ComiCon, hosted, moderated, and put together by Joe Hennes and Ryan Roe over at ToughPigs. Officially titled “Tough Pigs Presents: Jim Henson: The Biography: The Panel” (yeah, I see what you did there, Joe), we’re bringing along three special guests to sit on a panel with me to discuss Jim’s life and work: Muppet designer Bonnie Erickson, Henson Company archivist Karen Falk, and Sesame Street performer Fran Brill, who I’m thrilled to at last be meeting in person.  This is yet another panel with a really deep bench when it comes to Jim Henson and the Muppets — heck, even the moderators are experts.  So, if you’re at ComiCon and wanna learn more about Jim Henson, the Muppets, the Muppet performers, or any number of his projects, we’ll be in Room 1A01 at the Javits Center, starting at 7:45 p.m.  Join us, won’t you? Thank you.

Take The A Train . . . Provided It’s Going The Right Way, Of Course.

I hopped the 6:21 a.m. Acela train to New York yesterday, on my way up to have my second extended sit-down session with An Amazing (and Important) Person. It was my first time on the Acela — normally I’m a Northeast Regional kinda guy, but I couldn’t make the generally skittish NER work, as one arrived waaay too early, while the other pulled into Penn Station much too close to my meeting time. And given that the NER is famously delayed on its arrival in New York, I didn’t want to risk missing one moment of the three hours my subject had generously set aside for our conversation.

After riding the NER almost monthly for the last year or so, being on board the Acela seems like stepping onto the set for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Everything seems vaguely futuristic: doors open between cars at a touch (and without the rattle of the NER), the seats look like command chairs, and the cafe car features a streamlined bar area where diners sit on stools, rather than at the cramped booths of the NER. There’s even wi-fi humming throughout the train, allegedly for the courtesy of business passengers who need it for work, but I notice that most passengers — including yours truly — are using it to check Facebook or update their Twitter feeds.

On my arrival in Penn Station, I decide to see if I can navigate the underground tunnels that will take me to the Red 1 subway line I need to get to my destination (usually I exit Penn Station then walk outside for the two blocks or so it takes to get to the station at 34th Street). I’ve tried to do this before, but ended up either dead-ended or completely turned around, and thus simply headed for the closest EXIT sign, which, more often than not, seemed to eject me into the middle of a shopping mall.

This time, however, I manage to successfully weave my way to the subway station, follow the arrows for the 1 and board the train marked 242nd Street.  For a moment, I’m very pleased with myself for my successful navigation of a system that your average New Yorker can navigate drunk—then immediately realize, as I watch the street numbers at the subway stations go down instead of up, that I’m headed the wrong way.

Unlike the Metro in Washington — where you can exit any train boarded in error, cross over to the other platform and board the correct train without ever exiting the Metro — most stops in New York require that you exit the station, cross the street, and re-enter the station (and pay again) for the train going the other direction.  I had learned this lesson months earlier when I boarded the wrong train from Long Island to Brooklyn, but that apparently didn’t stop me from boarding the wrong train at 34th Street.  Rats.

Humbled, I exit and re-enter and board a train going the right way, and make it to my interview with gobs of time to spare — so much so that I have enough time to sit for a bit in a park overlooking the Hudson, where I watch a young woman get pulled along like a waterskiier behind the five large dogs she was walking at once.

At ten on the dot, I ring the bell at my destination, where I’m greeted like an old friend. While we’ve traded e-mails several times, this was only our second face-to-face — but I’m welcomed enthusiastically and ushered into a cozy living room with comfortable furniture and framed by a large open window overlooking the street. For the next three hours, as a cool breeze and birdsong flutter in through the open window, we have a wonderful conversation, during which I scribble notes frantically on a yellow note pad, trying to get it all down and completely ignoring the lines on the paper as a I scrawl in large cursive with a black felt tip. At one o’clock, we’re done. We shake hands warmly, and my subject makes me promise we’ll get together again soon.  It’s a deal.

Afterwards, I sprint for the subway — and board the correct train this time — then slide into a booth at the TGIFriday’s at Penn Station, fire up the laptop, and start typing my notes as quickly as I can while everything’s still fresh, stopping only a few times to squint at my handwriting to figure out what I’ve written.  By 2:45, I’m only about a third of the way through my notes, but it’s time to catch my train back to Maryland.  This time, I’m on the Northeast Regional, which gets up in my face by pulling into Penn Station right on time.

On the ride home, I grab a seat, as I usually do, in the Quiet Car, where chatter and phone calls are strictly prohibited. I do this even when I don’t have work to do because if I don’t, it seems I always end up with someone in the seat next to me who spends the three-hour train ride back to DC discussing the results of their latest physical, their aunt’s rocky marriage, and the personal lives of everyone in their office.  I drop the tray at my window seat, crank up the laptop again, and return to my task at hand for the next 90 minutes or so.  The seat next to me is eventually occupied by a Richmond-bound passenger in a ballcap and shades, who plays video baseball on his iPhone, and tries briefly to engage me and the woman across the aisle from him in conversation. From our stage-whispered responses, he realizes he’s committing a breach of protocol — but that still doesn’t prevent him from answering a phone call and chatting for several minutes before a conductor stops by and loudly announces that those who wish to talk on the phone must move to another car — “or I will put you out,” he adds matter-of-factly. The phone disappears.

I get off at the BWI stop, pay for my parking (when will the BWI station finally get all their ticket booths working??) and head for home in DC-Baltimore rush hour traffic.  To my surprise, I’m home before 7 p.m, just in time for Barb, Madi and I to take in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which we all thought to be a bit plodding and about 45 minutes too long — but that’s for another time.

Trip Report, Part 2: Hi, Society!

When I last left you — at least for the purposes of this particular narrative — I was in the lobby of the Roosevelt hotel, monitoring text messages from Barb and Madi as they made their way up from Maryland on the train.  They were running only slightly behind schedule (as I said earlier, “on time” for the Northeast Regional seems to mean about ten minutes late), so I arrived in plenty of time to meet them, even after walking the mile or so to Penn Station.  A short cab ride back to the hotel (when did New York cabs start taking debit cards? Brilliant) and we went into a bit of decompression mode until it was time to leave for the St. Nicholas Society Event at 6:30.

The Maxfield Parrish bulletin board at the Coffee House Club.

The dinner was being held at the Coffee House Club over on West 44th, only a block or so from the hotel, and an easy walk in the brisk February air.  The Coffee House Club is considered a private New York club, but it’s got  an irreverent, tongue-in-cheek outlook that I love. (Its Constitution consists of a half-dozen “commandments”: “No officers, no charge accounts, no liveries, no tips, no set speeches, no rules.”)  It’s also a comfortably unassuming place, just two large rooms — one a reception area, the other a cozy dining hall.

Just inside the door, I met Jill Spiller, the Executive Director of the St. Nicholas Society, who worked hard over the past few months leading up to the evening to take good care of me. True to form, she escorted us into the reception room and put off to one side a nice gift from the St. Nicolas Society, a set of glasses etched with their logo.  Very nice.

The reception was a very classy affair, yet also laid back — St. Nicholas members are genuinely interested in telling and listening to stories, and a well-told story will usually cause an eruption of laughter.  And people had so many different interests that moving from one small circle to another was like entering a live encyclopedia.  Over here, you could talk about astronauts and one man’s collection of space memorabilia.  In this corner, it was about children’s songs.  Over here, people chatted about medicine.  I even found one gentleman who had in his private collection one of my Holy Grails of Washington Irving portraits: a photograph of a painting of Irving’s best friend, Henry Brevoort.  I had scoured the planet looking for a portrait of Brevoort back when I was working on Irving and had no luck — and now here was someone who had one.  It’s wonderful when things like that happen.

After an hour or so at the reception (the hosts had done a good job taking care of Madi, ensuring there was plenty of teen-friendly food and drink), we were gently herded into the main dining hall.  The President of the St. Nicholas Society, Dr. Billick — who is class and charm personified — had gone to great lengths to seat Madi on his left, with me on his right, and Barb right across from us at the horseshoe of tables.  I smiled as Dr. Billick made certain to engage Madi in conversation throughout the meal, offering up history questions, chatting about the European Union (!) and generally making her feel at ease as the only young person in the room.  Not that Madi can’t hold her own in almost any conversation (at one point, someone came up to me, laughing, and said, “After talking with your daughter, I asked her  what she was majoring in.  She told me ‘eighth grade’!”), but it was a lovely gesture on his part, and I so appreciated his effort.

We were still enjoying our dinners when it was time to conduct some business.  Two new members of the St. Nicholas Society were introduced and initiated to much applause.  I was then introduced by longtime member (and fellow New Mexican!) Mr. Hilliard, with Dr. Billick at his side, who stepped to the mike and presented me with their award.

I promised everyone who wrote to me with their good wishes that I would put up a picture of the medal.  Here it is — and it’s a beauty:

I spoke for about twenty minutes, telling one of my all-time favorite Irving stories: the hoax that Irving pulled off to launch his mock history of New York City, and the Dutch reaction to it (someone threatened to horsewhip him). Given the St. Nicholas Society’s mission to preserve and perpetuate New York’s history, I thought such a talk would be appropriate — and I was delighted that it went over so well.  I took questions for about twenty more minutes, then spent the rest of the evening signing books, talking with members, and generally having a terrific time. It was one of the nicest evenings I’ve ever had — and having Barb and Madi there with me to share in it made it that much more special.

It was cold as we stepped out onto 44th for the walk back to our hotel — we had already changed our travel plans to leave early the next morning, in hopes of getting back to Maryland in front of the advancing snowstorm — but we walked slowly, trying to make the evening last even longer.  Our thanks to the St. Nicholas Society for such a remarkable night.

Trip Report, Day 1: Stuffed!

Hello there.  I’m presently camped out next to the fireplace in the restaurant of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, watching as dozens of men and women in dark suits sit huddled in padded chairs at round tables, speaking business-ese in low voices. Even at 10 in the morning, many of them have their jackets off already, slung over the chair as they shuffle through papers with colleagues.  I’m not certain exactly what they’re doing, but it makes for great people watching. It’s like a slightly bizarre Agatha Christie novel.

The snow that fell on Tuesday night was more a pretty snow than an inconvenient one — and even with six inches of the stuff on the ground, the roads were clear. Not that it mattered to me that much — taking Barb’s advice, I had stayed at the Microtel near the airport, meaning I only had to make the mile-long sprint to the train station. I headed for the station at 8:15 or so, lugging a full box of books that had been presold for the Thursday night event, and cramming the rest into my suitcase, so that it was more full of books than clothes.

The tracks at BWI station looked good.

The train tracks were clear — though a speeding southbound Acela still kicked up an enormous cloud of snow and ice as it hurled past on its way to Washington, DC — and the Northeast Regional trains were running just as casually on time as ever, which means they were running about five minutes late. As I always do, I headed for the quiet car, threw my suitcase and the box of books in an overhead bin, and slouched down into a window seat on the left side of the train.  (I always sit on the left side, because I like the good view I get of the bridge in Trenton, NJ, with the sign declaring that TRENTON MAKES, THE WORLD TAKES). Naturally, it didn’t take long for the quiet car to be infiltrated by loudmouths who had no idea they were in the quiet car — one gentleman perched himself on the back of a seat to engage his two colleagues in a loud conversation, only to be kidney punched by a conductor who shooed them all into a rear car.  Apart from that, things went smoothly.

I arrived at Penn Station only 20 minutes late, giving me a bit more than an hour to make it to the 1:30 lunch I’d set up to chat about Project Blue Harvest. It was meant to be a casual lunch — I had e-mailed My Friend last week, mentioning I would be in town and offering to take him to lunch. But he threw me a change up and very generously offered to take me out instead. His restaurant of choice? Morton’s.  “I hope you like steak,” he said to me in an e-mail, and was therefore unable to see me wiping drool off the keyboard.

I took a cab to my hotel — the Roosevelt, as I mentioned above, one of New York’s grander of the old hotels, and still oozing with, appropriately enough, Roosevelt-era charm — only to learn that my room was not yet ready.  The clerk checked me in anyway and steered me to the bellman’s stand, where I could have my suitcase and box stowed until I returned after lunch.  My bags were taken by a stooped Italian bellhop, who winked that he would take special care of my bags and had me follow him downstairs to a storage room that he swore was some sort of secret chamber in the basement that held the bags of only the most special of guests. I swallowed hard as he moved my bags into a cold, garage-like area, uncertain whether I would ever see them again. Not wanting to appear ungrateful, I then tipped him way too well.

The Roosevelt's lobby.

I made my lunch meeting in plenty of time — it was a three-minute walk from my hotel — and actually arrived at the restaurant before My Friend did.  I was waiting in the bar, watching New York through an enormous plate glass window, when I suddenly developed one of my Famous Spontaneous Nosebleeds. I ran sniffing to the restroom, where it took about twenty minutes to get the darn thing under control. When I finally emerged and walked back toward the bar, I spotted My Friend sitting at a side table.  I slid into a chair across from him, we shook hands warmly, and spent the next two hours talking about politics, television, travel, and debating exactly why cable news sucks.  Oh yeah, and we even talked about my project, too.

We also stuffed ourselves to near explosive levels.  Steaks, baked potatoes, crab cakes, shrimp cocktails, green beans, carmelized onions (one of My Friend’s favorites), creamed spinach . . . it just seemed to keep coming.  Turns out My Friend’s a semi-regular, and the waiters, waitresses and management checked on us regularly, very kindly keeping drinks filled and clearing plates away, sometimes even as we were still taking the last crumbs from them.  All in all, it was a terrific time.

I walked back to the Roosevelt, where I claimed my bags (to my relief, they were just fine), picked up my room key, then dropped into an armchair to have a quick chat with Barb, and then with Agent J.

I had a couple of e-mails I needed to send, so I fired up the laptop only to discover that this upscale hotel doesn’t offer free wireless. Really, Roosevelt? Fourteen bucks a day?  Yeah, I bit — but aren’t we getting to a point where wireless should be among the basic amenities in a hotel?  Most of the cheaper hotels seem to have gotten there (the Microtel in Baltimore, for example, had free wireless, though it was a bit slow).  As a pal of mine pointed out, there’s an inverse relationship between the cost of the hotel and the availability of free wireless, because the more upscale the place, the more likely it is that a visit is being expensed.  Unfortunately, it’s ME expensing it.

Was that a rant? Sorry.

Anyway, around 5:40, I started the 30-block walk up the island toward the Lexington District, where I was meeting Mark Bartlett, the head librarian for the New York Society Library, for dinner and drinks at an Irish pub. I made it by 6:30, and found Mark already enjoying an adult beverage at a back table, away from the noise of the bar. We talked for 90 minutes about books, college basketball, Peanuts comics, and J.D. Salinger; Mark dined on fish and chips, while I tore into a delicious shepherd’s pie. We had two beers each, and there was much rejoicing.

Yeah, I was stuffed.  Again.

Despite my protestations, Mark insisted on picking up the check (I owe you when you come to DC, my friend) and we walked back along 77th until Mark ducked into the subway. I walked the thirty blocks back to the hotel, strolling slowly down Park Avenue, sleepy from good food and beer, but determined to walk all the way back rather than hailing one of the many cabs that seemed to taunt me as they rolled past at each street corner. I finally made it back to the hotel around 9:15, struggled to keep my eyes open for at least another hour and finally failed at about 10:30. A good day.

As I sit here now the next morning — whoops, make that afternoon now! — in the hotel restaurant, I’m texting Barb and Madi, who are coming up for the event at the St. Nicholas Society tonight.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

New York State of Mind

I’m getting ready to leave for New York tomorrow, provided the snow that’s in the forecast stays relatively tame and doesn’t sucker punch us the way it did several weeks ago.  So far, so good — it’s darn cold, but the snow in the forecast looks fairly benign.

While I’ll be receiving the award on Thursday night, I’m heading up tomorrow to take care of both business and pleasure. I’ll be having a working lunch to discuss Project Blue Harvest, then spending the dinner hour at an Irish pub with a literary friend.  And I’m very much looking forward to both.

I plan on checking in from New York, so keep watching this space for trip updates.

Update:  The forecast is now for as much as 8 inches over night, though tapering off by morning.  I made fretful noises to my wife about making it to the train station on time tomorrow morning — “I’ll leave at 5:30 a.m. and take the Jeep!” I moaned — to which she replied, “Why don’t you just stay in a hotel near the station tonight so you don’t have to fight traffic in the morning?”

My wife’s brilliant.

The Bronx is Up, The Bowery Down

Madi and I spent a terrific day in New York City yesterday. We had to be up and on our way to Baltimore to catch the train by 7:00 a.m., and she couldn’t have been more of a trooper — especially since we’re approaching the final days of summer vacation, and teenagers like to get all the sack time they can get before the regular routine starts again.

We made it into New York Penn Station just slightly after 10 a.m. – a bit late, and I had to be at the Paley Center for Media at 10:30 to do some talking head filming for a documentary piece that’s being put together on Washington Irving and Sunnyside. Rather than cab it, Madi and I opted to hoof it and, in spite of a false start by me, when I steered us in the wrong direction out of Penn Station, we arrived at Paley just before 11:00. An elevator whisked us to the 11th floor, where I spent the next hour sitting just near William Paley’s Emmy Awards and talking All Things Irving while cameras rolled, trying not to talk too fast or too much with my hands, which can be particularly embarrassing.  I have no idea yet when the piece will run — it’ll be a while, and will likely be just a regional thing — but I’ll let you know.  At any rate, it was fun, and I got to do my James Fenimore Cooper impression.

After the taping, Madi and I headed over to the Le Parker Meredien to meet my editor, Casey, and dine on what I’ve been told are the finest burgers in the city. The restaurant — a tiny little place called Burger Joint — is crammed in the back of the Meredien’s lobby, almost unnoticeable except for a small neon sign shaped like a hamburger.  There was already a line out the door when we arrived there at 12:30 — which, I was told, was the norm — and at the recommendation of an incredibly nice concierge, we got in line to hold our spot until Casey arrived, which she did within a matter of minutes.

The place was the size of a postage stamp, and the real trick once you’re inside is to watch for someone preparing to leave their table — at which point you hover over them like a vulture and slide into their seats while they’re still bussing their mess.  While standing in line, we spotted a corner booth being vacated, and managed to slip Madi into it just seconds in front of a fellow who had just gotten his food.  The food was, indeed, outstanding, though the slightly melted shakes left something to be desired.

Following lunch and bidding farewell to Casey (who texted me shortly thereafter to officially designate herself a Madi Fan), Madi and I spent the rest of the afternoon back over at the Paley Center for Media, where I had some clips I needed to take a look at for Project Blue Harvest. I had never been to the center before, and I gotta tell ya, it’s a Pop Culture Junkie’s Candy Shop.  You can scan through the center’s enormous video library, select any clip you want to see, then slide into a darkened room where your clip runs on a video monitor. I had them pull about an hour’s worth of footage involving my subject, while Madi chose an old Twilight Zone (“The Bard,” one of the humorous ones in which a hack television writer conjures up William Shakespeare to do some ghost writing for him) and for the next two hours, we sat in front of a monitor with headphones on, laughing and, at times, pointing to other monitors in the room (one was showing “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of Star Trek, while another showed Lucy gagging on Vitameatavegimin).  We got a particular kick out of the old commercials that were still intact on the Twilight Zone clip, for Marlboro cigarettes and Reynold’s Wrap aluminum foil, the virtues of which were extolled by a straw-hatted barbershop quartet.

After shutting off our monitor and hanging up our headphones, we decided to spend a few hours watching some of the presentations that were running in some of the theaters throughout the building, and finally settled on the program in theater four, which featured over an hour’s worth of Super Bowl commercials — some good, some bad, and some shown only once and never seen again because they were deemed too offensive or too ineffective.  We thought one of the most interesting was Apple’s sequel to their incredible successful “1984” commercial — where they unveiled the MacIntosh, as we called it back in the Dark Ages, kids. In 1985, Apple was promoting Mac Office during the Super Bowl — and given the success of their 1984 ad, expectations were running high for the new spot.  The commercial — called “Lemmings” — was a failure, considered too dark and rather sick, and was never shown again. But see what you think.  Here it is:

We ended our day with a slow walk back to Penn Station, where we ate pizza in Bryant Park, tried unsuccessfully to locate an open bookstore, and munched on doughnuts (which I slobbed all over myself, much to Madi’s enjoyment) while we waited for our train. We finally made it home well after midnight — and here at noon now, I only just heard Madi get out of bed. But you know what? She deserves the late morning. It was one of the nicest days I’ve spent in a long time, just hanging out in New York with my kid.

There And Back Again

I’m back home in one piece — and while I was gone I missed the huge rain and windstorm that moved through the DC area late yesterday afternoon.  The only indication it had ever been here were a few wet spots on the driveway and a rather large downed branch in the back yard that juuuuust missed falling on the Jeep.

Anyway, New York was a great time.  I had a fun, interesting and animated lunch meeting with Several Really Neat People, followed by a quick trip through a Really Neat Place to see some Really Interesting Archives.  Did I say really interesting?  Make that unbelievable.  And yes, I’m still hoping that I’ll have something to report here soon.  If it comes together, this’ll be fun.

Meanwhile, I got to hang a bit with Jonathan (and thumb through all of his clients’ books, neatly shelved in his office), ride the subway, take two frenetic cab rides, and sit in a sweltering Penn Station for 90 minutes, waiting for my train.  And all in the span of about five hours. 

Ahhhh, New York.  Nothing like it.

Off To The City

I’m getting ready to head up to New York tomorrow morning, so Jonathan and I can attend a lunch meeting with some really, really neat people.  It’ll be one of those mornings where I have to leave the house around 5 a.m. to catch the 6:30 train — and I debated whether to head up there today and stay the night but decided against it, based mainly on the costs of staying in the city.  Barb suggested that next time I stay in Philadelphia, where it’s a bit less expensive, then take the train from there, cutting my commute in half so I don’t need to get up nearly as early.  I may give that a try next time.

Anyway, I’m looking forward not only to the meeting, but to the city, to seeing and talking with Jonathan, and to the train ride itself.  For some reason, I really enjoy train rides — there’s something vaguely old style about it, like stepping into an Agatha Christie novel, if only for a moment . . . until the lady across the aisle from you begins talking loudly into a cell phone and the moment is shattered.

Suffice it to say, I’ll be sitting in the quiet car.  See you later this week!

“My Beloved Island of Manna-hata!”

The Wildlife Conservation Society has created a neat project on a topic near and dear to Washington Irving’s heart, and to mine.  It’s a history of New York, but with a twist — unlike Irving’s History of New York, which traced the rise and fall of the Dutch settlers, this one traces Manhattan’s ecological history.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Mannahatta Project imagines what Manhattan Island was like only hours before Henry Hudson and his men set foot on the island 400 years ago, in 1609.  As the WCS puts it:

[T]he center of one of the world’s largest and most built-up cities was once a natural landscape of hills, valleys, forests, fields, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, beaches, springs, ponds and streams, supporting a rich and abundant community of wildlife and sustaining people for perhaps 5000 years before Europeans arrived on the scene in 1609.  It turns out that the concrete jungle of New York City was once a vast deciduous forest, home to bears, wolves, songbirds, and salamanders, with clear, clean waters jumping with fish.  In fact, with over 55 different ecological communities, Mannahatta’s biodiversity per acre rivaled that of national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains!

The website for the project is a lot of fun, allowing you to see what New York neighborhoods looked like four centuries ago.  Most familiar sites sit in what was then dense forest, while other familiar locations — like Ground Zero — would be smack in the middle of the Hudson River, centuries before groundfill molded the island to its current shape.

Go poke around on the website, and visit your favorite New York spot or neighborhood as it might have looked in 1609.  And be sure to check out the real work behind the project, Eric W. Sanderson and Markley Boyer’s Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City.