Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 4: Lady Liberty

IMG_6088Dear Ducklings,


Today was momentous for a few reasons—we finally made it to Battery Park to take the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferry tours….and we took the subway to get there.  Living where we do, we have to drive to public transportation, and what we have access to (buses) makes the trip twice as long, so we don’t “do” public transportation.  But Dwayne is a master map reader.  The concierge handed us a subway map and pointed us in the right direction, and it was great! But back to the Lady.

We got up early, by my standards, at 8:30, but realistically, we should have tried to be at the ferry by then.  The crowds were huge and tickets to the crown look out were sold out four months ago.


(We prepared for Ellis Island by standing in long, hot lines.)


If we had started a few hours earlier today, we probably could have seen the World Trade Center memorial, but it would have been mentally tough to do after the Statue and Ellis.


We also intended to take the subway to Brooklyn and walk back over the bridge, but I derailed that plan.  That story is coming up.


This is a model of Lady Liberty’s torch, one-eighth the scale.  The original torch had to be replaced due to water damage and that electric lights really weren’t up to snuff…in 1886.  This model was used to build the new one. 


The ticket to the island comes with an audio tour, something I always enjoy.  We also did a Park Ranger guided tour that was supposed to last about 30 minutes. An hour later we were still in the same spot as we started and maybe a touch restless.  I got to play the Statue’s artist’s mother in the living drama the ranger storied for us.  In fact, it’s probably my face that the statue is based off (not literally, Wesley!).


New Yorkers swear the backside is not facing Jersey on purpose.


In all the pictures I’ve seen of this Statue, I never realized she was striding forward.  She’s so calm and purposeful.


Which is why my daughters may appreciate this.  When the Statue was finally completed and “open” to the world, woman were not allowed to attend the ceremony.  Being slightly irritated about this, my suffragist sisters protested in boats nearby.  The only woman invited to the ribbon cutting was 300 feet tall, barefoot.


There was surprising controversy surrounding this gift from France.  First of all, many Americans were not enthused about accepting a gift from France at time our nation was still weak, and not willing or able to take sides in petty European disputes.  It was hard to imagine this gift from France came without any future strings attached. 

Also, France was designing, making, and transporting the statue, and the USA just had to built the foundation for it.  If you look at the pictures, the foundation is an old Revolutionary War fort, but then a very tall, very substantial pedestal had to be built on top of that.  Reportedly, America’s cost was greater than France’s.  The statue was almost ready and the pedestal was months and months (and more importantly, more than $100,000) behind.  Joseph Pulitzer used his newspaper power to beg, cajole and bribe--by publishing donor names in his paper--to raise the needed money.


A small anecdote. Upon it’s opening, Great Britain scoffed a bit, in the Times of London, "We wonder why liberty should be sent from France, which has too little, to America, which has too much."

* * * * * *

After leaving the Statue of Liberty, it was just a short ferry to Ellis Island, where 3 million immigrants came through to find a new life in the United States.  It hasn’t operated as a immigration center for almost 100 years, but statistically, 2 out of every five Americans has an ancestor that come through these gates.

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And waited in this huge room for hours and hours, if they were lucky.  (Not too many unlucky one, but those that were suspected of being ill or “degenerate” had many more rooms and exams to go through.  Only about 1% were refused entry, and the ships they came on had to return them to from whence they came, for free.


Leaving the island, we had more practice pretending we were immigrants in the 1890s.


We did finish the subway trip to Brooklyn, but I got distracted by a nearby TKTS counter that sells many day-of Broadway shows at a 30-50% discount—and had no line. I bought us tickets to see Jersey Boys, which nixed our plans to walk the Bridge or see the memorial. 

And it was a disappointment, only in that everything had been so great so far and this was…ho-hum.  I would put the entertainment value less than $20, a fraction of the regular ticket cost.  It’s the story of how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons began, rose, and fell. I assumed knowing the music would make this a grand slam, but since the music wasn’t fresh, it was hard to make any of the profanity-laced, Jersey ‘hood ethics fresh or interesting. 

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Luckily, Hamilton is tomorrow!

I look forward to out next phone call, Ducklings!



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