Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Anita Wallgren of Arlington and her friend Beth Allaben of Washington
Where, when, why: After seeing “Note by Note,” a documentary about the making of a Steinway grand piano, we wanted to take a Steinway factory tour. It’s free and given once a week on Tuesday mornings from September to June. We booked our tour last fall and hoped that our March calendars would cooperate. Our challenge was filling the rest of the trip with things to do in Queens, skipping Manhattan and Brooklyn this time.
Highlights and high points: Exploring the historic Flushing Meadows Corona Park, site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, we found the Unisphere, the huge globe built by U.S. Steel for the 1964 fair, and the Queens Museum of Art, home to the Panorama of the City of New York. This 9,300-square-foot scale model of every building in all five boroughs was built under the direction of Robert Moses for the 1964 fair and was updated through 1992. It even includes a tiny airplane taking off from LaGuardia.
At the east entrance to the park we discovered the site of the “valley of ashes,” which readers of “The Great Gatsby” will recall. The Corona Dumps near the Flushing River had accumulated a mountain of ashes and debris by 1937 before they were removed to form the grounds for the 1939 World’s Fair.
The next day, we visited Socrates Sculpture Park on the banks of the East River. In the 1980s, a community of artists led an effort to reclaim industrial land here. Today, views of Manhattan form a unique backdrop to the large-scale sculptures.
Cultural connection or disconnect: Flushing has very significant Chinese and Korean populations. Main Street on a Sunday afternoon was full of people shopping at Asian groceries, service businesses and food stands open to the sidewalk.
Biggest laugh or cry: Before we could see it, we heard one of the unique exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art affiliate, PS1. When you locate the small hole in the floor of the lobby, you’ll see a video of a woman shouting, mostly in Italian, “Help me!” It’s Pipilotti Rist’s “Selfless in the Bath of Lava.” Outrageous!
How unexpected: During our Sunday afternoon visit to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a ranger from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation was stationed with binoculars at the base of the Unisphere to help visitors see a pair of red-tailed hawks that had nested in the sculpture.
Fondest memento or memory: The tour of the Steinway factory in Astoriawas well worth it. Our group marveled at the craftsmanship, the detail, the expertise and the consistent focus on quality at each stage of production. Most of the 10,000 parts are sourced from longtime suppliers. Our tour guide offered us each a handmade hammer, one of the critical parts of the piano, as a souvenir.