The list of New York City memorials that I needed to visit had grown intolerably long. With the blessing of my wife (who would therefore be on solo-parenting duty for the day) I took the 3am train out of DC's Union Station and arrived at Penn Station four hours later.
After checking out Section 3 of the High-Line, I walked south to Abingdon Square. There, a pocket park framed a bronze doughboy on a granite plinth. Wrapped in the flag with his pistol drawn, the sculpture packs a lot of drama into a quiet space. The perimeter of the park was buzzing with farm stands and dog walkers. Inside, I was the only one paying much attention to the monument under the sycamores.
Next, I went south to visit an old friend. I wrote about the Irish Hunger Memorial for my master's thesis and needed a second visit. It really is a unique piece of work. Designed by artist Brian Tolle, a rustic Irish landscape rests transplanted on a sleek base of glass and stone in downtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, it was impossible to savor the memorial's surreal beauty when it was built. It's year-long construction began in March 2001 - one block away from the World Trade Center.
At the 9/11 memorial, the crowds - and the site - were more substantial. While I strolled between the enormous fountains, I found it difficult to connect to the place. Still, every time I accidentally glimpse footage of the planes hitting the towers, I must look away. At the memorial though, there was too much casual photo-snapping and gawking to feel much of anything. It wasn't until I looked closer at the Polaroids I took that I caught the words "and her unborn child" next to Helen Crossin-Kittle's name. I felt it then. I kept on moving.
After a visit to Brooklyn Bridge Park, a ferry ride, and a couple of subway transfers, I made it to Roosevelt Island. Louis Kahn's Four Freedoms Park was the main reason for my trip. Designed in the 1970s, the grandest memorial to FDR in his home state opened just two years ago. Stark, modern, angular and empty. Some of this was not the memorial's fault. Roosevelt Island just wasn't a very busy place. Still, full of carefully rigid blocks and planes and slopes, it was the sort of landscape that you might expect a building architect to design.
As the day wound down, I wandered. My phone was dead which meant that I had no map. I would seek out my next destination - a restaurant - by instinct. I crossed Central Park and turned north. I realized that I was very close to Strawberry Fields. Serendipity. Just before sunset, I approached the black and white mosaic across the street from Lennon's old apartment. The benches were packed. A long-haired homeless kid with a guitar played "In my life" and the crowd sang with him. For the first time all day, I let my guard down. I sang too.