Tree houses are going up in Madison Square Park. They are an installation by Tadashi Kawamata called Tree Huts. The huts are being constructed and installed by Kawamata and crew until Wednesday. They, the huts, will remain in the trees until the end of the year.
If you're not in a hurry and you want to see New York you can do worse than take US Route 20 across the state. The road runs from Boston to Newport, Oregon. In New York it roughly follows along the northern edge of the former Devonian Sea which is also, magically, the northern edge of the Finger Lakes. The road travels up and down hills and valleys, through quaint small towns and villages, and is quite scenic.
US-20 is especially scenic in Central New York where it runs along what was known as the Third Great Western Turnpike, or Cherry Valley Turnpike. There's even a few roadside tourist attractions that are still hanging on even though most car traffic long ago shifted to the Thruway. One of those attractions it the Petrified Creatures Museum of Natural History.
The PCMoNH is in sad shape. The museum opened some 70 years ago and there are some old educational exhibits and fossils on display. They are actually quite charming in a "museum stuck in time" sort of way. They are also only partially sheltered and their exposure to the elements is on display. There's a sign saying the museum is a registered non-profit and would really like an artist to donate their time to renovating some of the displays.
The brightly colored, giant fiberglass dinosaurs were in various states of repair/disrepair, the saddest being the collapsed pink triceratops. The dinos were in much better shape when I visited 5-6 years ago. Each dinosaur has a mailbox. Open the mailbox and push a button and the dinosaur speaks to you. Who knew T-Rex was from Long Island?
Perhaps the best thing about the museum is the fossil beds. The PCMoNH is where it is because it is near the former shoreline of the Devonian Sea. There were lots of critters in those shallow waters. You can get a hammer in the gift shop and smash rocks to your heart's content.
The Urban Ecology Center of Milwaukee made a bunch of bicycles available for attendees of the conference I went to last month. Given that it was the Ecological Society of America conference it was a good match. The bikes were free! You just had to leave your driver's license while you borrowed one.
I had a few hours free the last morning of the conference so I borrowed a bike and went for a ride. It was a good way to see much more of Milwaukee than I would have by walking. I saw the art museum, then rode north along the lakeshore for several miles before heading inland and eventually back toward downtown.
The boathouse was a serendipitous discovery when I decided to turn right instead of left. It is nowhere near the lake.
German-American friendship was celebrated on Saturday with the 51st annual German-American Steuben Parade. The parade is named after Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Steuben, the German general who converted the various untrained American militia into the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This was my first time at the parade, which is pretty shameful for a German-American. Even more shameful, I didn't go to the party in Central Park afterward because they were charging $10 admission.
Union Square Greenmarket, Saturday afternoon. The market is a lot less crowded early in the morning, but I was busy sleeping today.
There's not much to report on my Tennessee trip. Rural eastern Tennessee is beautiful. West Knoxville is pretty much suburban hell on earth for a Manhattan resident. Big box stores and chain restaurants with no hint of culture. I did enjoy the Super Target in the strip mall across the street from the hotel, though.
Hillary Clinton was on my flight from DC to New York on Thursday evening. She flies coach, right behind the bulkhead, wore an intensely blue pantsuit, can text like lightning, and is under the watchful eye of three Secret Service agents.
As mentioned several weeks ago, one of my goals on my last trip upstate was to visit the Salt Museum. The salt industry is long-gone but the city of Syracuse would never have existed had it not been for the nearby discovery of briny waters. The salt industry began in the late-1700s and really took off once the Erie Canal was completed early in the 19th century.
Admission is free to the Salt Museum, which is on the shore of Onondaga Lake. Good thing, too, as there's not much to the museum. One room of the museum is a recreation of the kettle method of producing salt. Brine was poured into kettles that were set above wood- and later coal-fired ovens. As the water boiled away the salt was shoveled into baskets and allowed to dry. It must have been completely miserable work.
The other room of the museum had an introductory video, a few salt industry artifacts, a time-line of the salt industry in Syracuse, a wooden barrel with plastic pickles floating in "brine" (actually a sheet of plastic with ripples to resemble water) and a gift shop. There was very little information to put the importance of salt in context or to explain larger trends in the salt extraction industry.
Despite not having any bathrooms the back of the museum smelled of urine. That could have been the nearby lake, which is one of the country's most polluted water bodies.
I wouldn't recommend making a special trip to Syracuse, actually the suburb of Liverpool, just to see the Salt Museum. It may be worth a stop if you're passing through town on I-81 or the Thruway, especially if you combine a visit with a post-museum trip across the street to Heid's for a coney and french fries.
While I was disappointed in the Salt Museum it was not the most depressing museum I visited on this trip. That sad revelation will have to wait a week as I've got to go to Tennessee and hole up in a conference room for the next few days.
Let's go back to Milwaukee! Virtually, not for real.
The striking Milwaukee Art Museum sits on the shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee. The "wings" on the central building opens and closes twice a day. The architect is Santiago Calatrava, who has also designed a bird-like transportation hub for the World Trade Center site. Because of delays, and the complexities of construction Calatrava's original design has been altered several times and faces future changes.