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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

Manhattan Blizzard

In this month's column, you won't read about a great adventure. I won't report on a voyage to a foreign land. I didn't stay at a luxurious resort. I shall not muse about warm seas, white sands, or balmy nights. No, this month my story is about the cold and frozen delights.
I went to visit my daughter in Manhattan in January. I love the city and I had great plans to walk in Greenwich Village and Soho, traipse down Madison and Fifth Avenues, meander through Times Square, buy a soft pretzel or two, and just people watch. But the New York weatherman quickly dismissed that plan with his talk of blizzards, freezing temperatures, and below zero wind chills. Hellova welcome to the Big Apple. Stay indoors was his advice. I decided to ignore it.
Bundled with scarves and gloves, coats and hats, we took a taxi to the Wollman Rink, the ice skating rink at the south end of Central Park near the Grand Army Plaza at East 59th Street and Central Park South. Set in an icy island surrounded by woods and Manhattan's skyline, the location defines "picturesque." We skated round and round - alongside locals and tourists and well-bundled, red cheeked children taking lessons in the center of the rink. The music played and no one stopped even as the first snows of the blizzard of '05 began to fall. The rink is another of Donald Trump's possessions. Inside, there's a snack bar where you can relax, sip hot chocolate, and watch the skaters. There's also a souvenir shop selling tee shirts and hats with Trump's patented "You're Fired" logo.
He needs the money. The Donald was wedding his third wife in Florida at the same time I was skating around his rink with my first, and I don't think his joy was any greater than mine.
Another Central Park ice skating option is the Lasker Rink at the northern, Harlem end of the park between 106th and 108th Streets.
Central Park was quickly covered in a glorious powdery white and we left the Wollman Rink for lunch at the Tavern on the Green in Central Park at West 67th Street (212-873-3200). A curious line of orange markers lined the park's paths. They were the anchors set out in preparation for Christo's "Gates." The Gates is a huge art project by "environmental artists" Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, most famous for their past art projects that involved "wrapping" islands and bridges in cloth. The Gates will be 7500 vertical curtains of free flowing saffron colored cloth hanging above 23 miles of Central Park's footpaths. It is scheduled to be set up in early February and remain for just 16 days.
The artists describe The Gates as "a golden ceiling creating warm shadows. When seen from the buildings surrounding Central Park, The Gates will seem like a golden river appearing and disappearing through the bare branches and will highlight the shape of the footpaths ... a long-to-be-remembered joyous experience for every New Yorker."
Just a short walk in snow brought us to the Tavern on the Green. Built in 1870, the Victorian Gothic building was originally a sheep barn and remained as that until New York's parks commissioner had it converted into a restaurant. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia officiated at its grand opening in 1934. Since then it has been a New York landmark, undergoing a series of renovations and a succession of management companies. In 1976, restaurateur Warner LeRoy, creator of the Russian Tea Room and Maxwell's Plum, took over the Tavern's management. He created glass enclosed dining rooms overlooking Central Park with ornate ceilings and grand glittering chandeliers. In 1993, he created a "menagerie of topiaries" - great animal shaped bushes designed by the landscapers who created the sculptures for the movie "Edward Scizzorhands." The renovated Tavern on the Green became a spectacular setting for New York prestigious events - Broadway openings, film premiers, and political functions. It also became a setting in many a movie - Wall Street, The Out of Towners, Arthur, Heartburn, and many more.
By the time we finished lunch, snow had well-flocked the topiary around the restaurant and the blizzard was in full force. But while the streets of Manhattan were near vacant, the taxis still dared the roads and subways were still running. So, our next indoor stop was Saks Fifth Avenue, on 5th Avenue of course. While few people challenged the snow covered streets, inside, Saks was abuzz with activity. Its main floor is almost entirely cosmetics with the handsomest of men and women offering up their fragrances and lotions. Women can wander from one counter to another getting one free makeover after another, and, for me, in the men's section, they provided all sorts of creams, facial masks, and even lengthy facial massages.

After enough pampering, we headed outdoors again. Rockefeller Center is just across the street from Saks. It has its own skating rink and an underground shopping mall that leads you to the 6th Avenue subway line. From the subway you can travel to stations that exit right next to an assortment of the greatest museums in the world - MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art), the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum (of American Art), or, after a longer ride, to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. You'll need more than one day of blizzard conditions to visit them all.
The Museum of Modern Art, which has been closed for about two years, just re-opened in November 2004. Its collection is wonderful, expansive, and well displayed in new galleries. A single room filled with Van Gogh's, Cezanne's, Picasso's, and other Impressionists was a billion dollar eyeful. It has, however, one of the most expensive museum admissions I have run across: Adults $20.
Broadway theatre remained open during the blizzard. After all, "the show must go on." And TKTS, the ticket discount center in Times Square remained open as well.
So, what do you need to enjoy New York in a blizzard? An overcoat, scarf, gloves, earmuffs, rubber boots, a "damn the cold" adventurous spirit, and plans on how to spend your extra day