Tag Archives: Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Checking In

Checking in for a bit… Sorry I’ve been away for a while.

The shoulder is doing okay, although the doc is a little concerned about my range of motion. He may want to do another procedure on me, in which they put me under, and then wrench my arm around to break up all the scar tissue, and then give me lots of painkillers. It actually doesn’t sound too bad (I’m told it’s a quick recovery), but doc wants to give the physical therapy more time to work. I see him again toward the end of the month.

In other medical news, a couple weeks ago I broke a tooth, so I’ve been in and out of the dentist’s office getting a gingivectomy, crown lengthening, and a crown build-up around one of my molars, way in the back. Eventually I’ll get a crown back there, but in the meantime I have a mouth full of stitches and I’m in a lot of pain.

My roommate has informed me that he’d like me to move out by the end of August, which is fine by me since I’ve been plotting my escape out of this hellhole anyway. I had been trying to save up money to go through a broker and get my own apartment in a non-shitty neighborhood, but I’ve pretty much had to empty my savings account to pay for all this dental work. Unfortunately, it looks like I may have to move into another share situation for a few months until I can build my savings back up.

In happier news, next week I start a six-week medieval stonecarving workshop hosted by my church, the great unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine near Columbia. It should be an interesting course, and I’m hoping I’ll have portfolio fodder to show for it. Last summer I was learning all about cutting-edge theory and generative design at GSAPP; this summer I’ll be kicking it old school with a mallet and chisel.

I’m happy to report that our multi-year restoration project at the Cathedral is almost complete, and has hit a major milestone. Back in 2001 we had a severe fire that destroyed the north transept, and let to a huge cleaning and restoration project that has had various parts of the cathedral buried behind plywood and scaffolding for years at a time.

One evening late last week I had to make a trip up to the cathedral to retrieve something from the acolyte room, and while there, I decided to poke my head into the crossing for a minute. (This was after the church had been closed to visitors for the evening, and there’s nothing quite like having such a space all to yourself for a few moments.) While there, I was thrilled to discover that the huge wall separating the nave from the crossing has begun to be removed, and that the south aisle of the newly-restored nave is now open while much of the temporary barriers are being removed.

Here’s a photo I snapped with my iPhone:

This is the first time in over two years this space has been open to the public, and it was a huge thrill to see the space again for the first time since I moved away from NYC in 2004. There’s still a lot of work to do (later this month the crossing and Great Choir will be closed off so that all 8000+ pipes of the organ can be re-installed), and we’ll have a huge re-dedication service on Sunday, November 30th. There will also be a public “open house” that week for those who don’t feel inclined to attend a religious service.

Yesterday I met up with my former critic from last year’s Columbia summer program for a couple drinks… Just so happens that he’s now the director of the M.Arch. program up the street at City College. We chatted about my grad school plans, and of course he tried to sell me on City College. Not that he had to try very hard, mind you; City College is already very high on my list. But he also strongly recommended that I apply to Columbia and Harvard as well (both places he has taught at), in addition to a couple other programs. He offered to write me letters of recommendation, and he wants to meet up with me again soon to look at my portfolio.

Not a bad drinking buddy to have, huh? He might even be doing the stonecarving thing with me at the cathedral; he seemed very interested and I gave him the contact info.

I haven’t really kept in touch with my fellow students from the Columbia summer program, but apparently two or three of them will be starting at Harvard this fall, and another will be starting at Princeton. I’m thinking that summer program was probably the smartest move I’ve made in a long time… Hard to believe it’s been almost a year already.

In other school-related news, I still plan to finish up my BA degree next year. There really isn’t much left for me to do, so I’m hoping to spread it out over the next 12 months (but knowing me, I’ll most likely goof off for the first 11 months, and then work nonstop to finish everything during the last month).

A few days ago I got a letter from my college at DePaul University, informing me that I had received a Student Excellence Award for a project I had done last year. I was invited to an award luncheon that takes place tomorrow, but unfortunately, the luncheon is in downtown Chicago and I’m in NYC and unable to make the trip right now. I wonder if they’ll FedEx the plaque to me?

That’s all for now…

New York Road Trip

I recently got back from a road trip to New York… Mainly to visit a couple of prospective grad schools, but also to visit my church in NYC and catch up with some old friends there.I briefly visited Columbia, and although I generally liked what I saw, I wasn’t blown away by it, either. Avery Hall is incredibly cramped, and people are practically sitting on top of each other in the studios. Lots of computers, naturally, but relatively little in the way of models or hand drawings. While walking around, most people seemed inclined to avoid eye contact and pretend I wasn’t there. Being a former NYC resident, I guess I shouldn’t have expected any differently, but it would have been nice to at least gotten a friendly “hello” from somebody.

I spent Monday evening and all day Tuesday up in Ithaca, and spent most of that time hanging around the Cornell campus and the surrounding area. Ithaca itself actually reminds me a lot of Eugene, Oregon… Smallish college town, incredible natural beauty, and lots of flannel and granola. Cornell itself was very nice, and I had a good meeting with Dr. Lily Chi, the director of the graduate architecture program. She gave me a few helpful pointers about my portfolio, gave me tons of information about the program, and led me on a brief tour of the facilities before setting me loose to explore Rand Hall on my own. Rand Hall itself is rather old and decrepit, but much more spacious than Avery, and looks like a cool place with a lot of creative energy… I especially loved the top floor studios. In general, there seemed to be much more of a balance between computers and hand drawings and models, which I appreciated. Dr. Chi introduced me to a couple of the students there, and they were happy to answer any questions I had.

I happen to love waterfalls, so later in the day I did some exploring around the area and got some photos of some of the nicer falls nearby. The Cornell campus reminded me of Rivendell… How many other colleges can claim to have large canyons and waterfalls directly adjacent to the campus? Even if I don’t wind up in Ithaca for grad school, I may have to build myself a vacation house there someday.

Overall, I was much more impressed with Cornell than with Columbia, not only in terms of the welcome and the general vibe I got, but also in terms of the facilities and the program itself. Of course, where I end up going is up to the respective admissions committees of the schools I’m applying to, but I feel safe in saying that Cornell is my #1 pick at the moment.

For those who are interested, I’ve posted some photos from my trip:

Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC
This is my home church in New York, and is currently undergoing a massive cleaning and restoration project as the result of a severe fire in 2001. The nave is currently closed for restoration, but the Great Choir has recently been re-opened, and the results are spectacular.

Ithaca, Cornell, and environs
Okay, not much in the way of Cornell itself, but several photos of Fall Creek Gorge and Taughannock Falls.


PATH / HBLR / Hoboken Trip Report

Just thought I’d chime in with my own rundown of my Sunday in New York City…

I left Collingswood, NJ at about 8:30 AM in order to attend the 11:00 AM Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights. My original plan was to park at Pavonia/Newport on the PATH line and then take PATH and the subway to the cathedral, but since I was running a bit late, I decided to take my chances and drive all the way into Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge. Amazingly enough, I found plenty of street parking on Amsterdam Avenue just a few blocks north of the cathedral. Being a Sunday, I didn’t even have to feed the meter. Certainly something to keep in mind for future visits.

This is going a bit off-topic, but the worship service at the Cathedral was incredible. That’s two worship services I’ve attended there so far, and both of them were incredibly beautiful and sprit-filled. I’m not sure if it’s the building or the music or whatever, but the only other place I’ve felt the same “vibe” was at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. For you Episcopalians out there — or anybody else from any other faith tradition — I highly recommend it. The Cathedral takes very seriously its charter of being a “house of prayer for all people”… The liturgy included a passage in Hebrew — “Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu Adonai echad” (“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”) — and there’s a large Menorah on either side of the High Altar… Unusual for a Christian church, and very nice touches. If I lived just a little bit closer to NYC, I’d be at the Cathedral every Sunday morning in a heartbeat. (I’ve actually become somewhat involved with the Canterbury Club, the Episcopal student organization at UPenn, which meets at St. Mary’s Church on the UPenn campus.)

Anyway, back to my trip… After the service, I got back in my car, and attempted to find my was to the Holland Tunnel. I got over to Riverside Drive without any trouble, but I attempted to get onto Henry Hudson Parkway with no success. I actually found my on once, but I was going in the northbound direction. Not good. So I eventually circled around and simply took 11th Avenue all the way down to the tunnel. I had to stop for gas along the way, as running out of gas in the Holland Tunnel would have ruined my day very quickly. Full-service gasoline in Manhattan is almost as expensive as self-serve in Chicago.

I finally made my way to the Holland Tunnel, and it was stop-and-go traffic all the way to the New Jersey side. However, while in the tunnel, I saw something very interesting: There’s a little tram that goes along the left-hand side of the tunnel, presumably to transport PA employees from one end to the other. It actually runs on rails, and is just big enough for one person. I saw a guy using it to head back to NY as I was sitting in traffic. Very cool! Do any of the other NYC-area tunnels have similar features?

Once in New Jersey, I found the Pavonia/Newport PATH station without too much trouble, and parked my car in a nearby garage. This was the first time I’ve ever ridden PATH. My impressions? The stations were incredibly cramped and claustrophobic, and the trains were unremarkable. Not surprisingly, they’re very similar to the Orange Line and Blue Line trains on the MBTA. As has been mentioned elsewhere here, the side platform at Pavonia/Newport was off-limits due to construction.

Emerging at Hoboken Terminal, I soon found Doug “BMT Man” and Pelham Bay Dave, and hung out with them most of the rest of the day. We checked out the new ALP locomotive on display, as well as the new Comet coach before hitting the new segment of the HBLR line. The ALP locomotive was very sharp-looking, and the Comet coach looked pretty much like your standard-issue NJT coach with a few modern touches.

On to my first-ever ride on the HBLR. Not bad for me to explore two new transit systems in one day. My impressions: A very nice, clean system with very cool LRV railcars. My only complaint is that it seemed exceptionally slow in many areas. But then, I’m more used to rapid transit. As others have mentioned here, the new extension offers and incredible view of the NYC skyline and the rail yards leading into Hoboken Terminal. This was the first time I had gotten a real good view of the lower Manhattan skyline since 9/11, and it just doesn’t look right. Without the WTC, it actually doesn’t look much different than the bland Jersey City skyline. What a shame… How many more words can be said about that day?

Dave got off at Exchange Place, while Doug and I got off at Liberty State Park and transferred to another train and got off at MLK Drive. Doug showed me around a bit before we grabbed the next train back to Hoboken. Once back in Hoboken, we headed down to the PATH station. Being unfamiliar with PATH, I naturally followed Dough into the next outbound train, which happened to be going to 33rd Street. For some reason the distance between stops seemed much longer than it had been on the way in. I finally realized my mistake at Christopher Street, and got off there for a train bound for Journal Square. I finally got off at Pavonia/Newport, and jumped back onto the New Jersey Turnpike for an uneventful drive home.

It was nice meeting up with Doug and Dave, and I’m sorry I missed the rest of you who were there. Hopefully I’ll see you all up at Branford on October 13th.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

I Went to NYC Today!

First of all, I’ll just say that my new job here in New Jersey is going well so far. Wish me luck in hoping that keeps up.

Today I woke up around 9:30 AM, and for the first time in about two weeks, found myself bored. It was actually a very nice feeling: No stress, no worries. In fact, later on in the day I would realize this is probably the most stress-free I’ve been in many years, and certainly the past few months. I’ve got a nice place to live, I’ve got a decent-paying job that I don’t hate, I’ve left all my old emotional baggage behind in Chicago, today is a beautiful day, and I’ve got the use of the company car over the weekend. What to do, what to do…

I decided to spend the day in New York City. I suddenly realized that the coolest thing about living in New Jersey is that I can now do that. I can be in NYC within a couple hours whenever I damn feel like it. How cool is that? Before, I had to make plane and hotel reservations two weeks in advance, and then go through the ordeal of actually getting to New York from 800 miles away. Those days are now over, my friends.

After grabbing a bagel and some coffee in Collingswood, I drove up I-295 to Hamilton, where I caught a NJT train to NYC Penn Station. The ride into the city was uneventful, and I arrived around lunchtime. As I stood on the IRT subway platform at 34th Street, a huge grin spread across my face when I realized where I was. Other cities may come close, but no city has that certain vibe that New York City has.

I took a (3) train up to 96th Street, from where I walked up Broadway to Columbia University and poked around a bit before I grabbed a bite for lunch at a deli and headed over to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. It had been over three years since my last visit to the Cathedral, so it certainly felt good to be back. As an architecture student, the Cathedral seems to stike a very deep chord in me. The immense building is still under construction — still only about 2/3 complete — and I think there’s something very sacred in the art of building. Sort of a metaphor for God’s unfinished work, I suppose.

I just happened to wander in just as a worship service was getting started, so I got a service bulletin and found a seat. It seemed like the right thing to do. Turns out the worship service was a special service in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Community of the Holy Spirit, a monastic order of women within the Episcopal Church that is based in the Upper West Side. Among the celebrants were two bishops of the Diocese of New York, so this was obviously a pretty big affair. The worship service and Eucharist were beautiful, combining the best of high-church Anglicanism with the Cathedral’s celebration of different cultures and mission for social justice. I only wish there was a church like this closer to Philadelphia, but the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is obviously one-of-a-kind. If nothing else, it certainly confirmed my decision to join an Episcopal church here. (My religious background is primarily Presbyterian.) During the reception after the mass, I was even able to chat a bit with each of the bishops. They seem like nice guys.

Leaving the Cathedral, I boarded a very crowded southbound (1) train at 110th, and then transferred to a nearly-empty (3) express train at 96th to Times Square. From there I walked over to Rockefeller Center and up Fifth Avenue a few blocks. By now it was getting later in the day, so I decided to head down to Coney Island and have some fun before going home. I boarded a southbound (F) train at 57th Street, and the ride was uneventful until we got to West 8th. At West 8th, the train stood in the station for an incredibly long period of time with no anouncement. After a bit of waiting, I decided to just leave the train and walk the rest of the way to Stillwell. However, a (Q) train rumbled in on the track above, so I dashed up the steps and took that train the rest of the way to Coney Island.

Once at Coney Island, I had a fine dinner at Nathan’s, and then spent the next couple hours wandering around the place, riding the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone in the process. I also swung by the B&B Carousell and was pleased to see it in operation. What a gem that is. Once again, it was nice to see Coney Island full of life, and to feel like a kid again for a couple hours.

Now the sun was down and it was getting late, so I headed over to Stillwell to grab a (Q) train back into Manhattan. It occurred to me that this was the last day for (Q) and (F) service to Stillwell for the next two years, and my (Q) train was probably one of the last ones to leave the station until 2004. Crews were already installing updated signage at Stillwell as I passed through the turnstiles.

The trip on the Brighton Line was relaxed and uneventful, and the ride across the bridge was a nice treat. It had probably been about two years since the last time I had ridden across the Manhattan Bridge, and that was on the north track. Once in Manhattan, the (Q) train took the Broadway express track. In the vincinity of Prince Street or thereabouts, we came alongside a northbound (R) train on the local track, and our two trains ran side-by-side for a short period. Sitting directly alongside my window on the (R) train was a rather attractive young lady who smiled at me and blew me a kiss before her train slowed down to make the next local stop.

So I did the only natural and proper thing. I jumped up and pulled the cord, pried the door open, and climbed across the tracks and boarded the (R) train and made passionate love to her right then and there.

Okay, I didn’t do that. But that sounds much more interesting than, “I awkwardly smiled back and briefly debated getting off my train at Union Square and waiting for her train to show up in hopes that she’d still be on board, assuming I could even figure out which car she was in.”

I got off at 34th Street, and walked from there over to Penn Station where I waited for the NJT 10:14 Trenton local. They eventually announced our track number and pointed out that both the east and west gates would be boarding. So myself and about a million other people headed down through the east gate, only to be met by a train with closed doors. After what seemed like a lot of waiting, we finally relaized that the front half of the train was boarding, and the rear half was closed despite the announcement to the contrary. So we all rushed up to the front of the train and managed to squeeze ourselves on board. I continued walking up to the front car and by some miracle, found myself a decent window seat with no screaming infants within earshot. The train was held at Newark Penn for a few minutes while an unruly passenger was removed by the police, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. I was back home in Collingswood within two hours.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos to share, as I was determined not to be burdened by carrying around any cameras or bags.

Like I said, I’m still getting used to the idea of being able to head off to NYC on a whim like that. Up until now it may as well have been in a foreign country. I’m looking forward to many happy returns.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

Heartbreaking: Another NYC Landmark in Flames

I found out this morning that the Cathedral of St. John the Divine sustained heavy fire damage to the gift shop area. Luckily, there were no injuries, and the nave and the stained glass windows appear undamaged. Along with the WTC, the Cathedral was one of the landmarks I visited on my first-ever trip to NYC, and I’ve made a point to get back there at least once during each of my subsequent visits. Heartbreaking.

When New Years rolls around in a couple weeks, I’m sure we’ll all be happy to say good riddance to 2001.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)