A quick Manhattan update

by chuckofish

When this posts, DN and I will be on our Amtrak headed home! 7 days in Manhattan has been quite the adventure, with ample Melville programming as well as lots of food, drink, and entertainment. For now, a brief Melville review, with further updates to come this week.

IMG_4193The conference itself took place at NYU, in a building that provided nice views of Washington Square Park. Conferencing is always quite stressful for me, despite the fact that I fancy myself an extrovert. This week I had a realization: I only like networking with people I already know. The only person I knew at this conference was my dissertation director, which is a bit like going to a wedding and only knowing the bride. But all things considered, my paper went well and this keeps me active in my field.

As for exploring “Melville’s Manhattan” — it doesn’t exist, per se. We felt approximately close to Melville, either in location or vibe. Staying in SOHO and spending lots of time in Greenwich Village and along the Hudson River, we certainly traversed some of the same streets and docks that Melville would have. But it all feels very hip and new and highrise-y, of course. On the other hand, we did tour a house built in 1824 that had been completely preserved, down to the furniture placement. (The beds had never been moved an inch!) We got a pretty good sense of the nineteenth-century merchant class.

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One of the more interesting details (I thought) from this house tour was that the house, which was built by a developer and was thus very “standard,” came with nails in the wall for hanging your art. They were huge, and very high up, and had never been removed! Can you imagine builders doing that now?

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A pier along the Hudson River

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This house was built around 1800, and is around the corner from where Melville was born — so, an approximation of his birthplace, though this is considered a “mansion” and I don’t think Melville’s birthplace was such.

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This corner (in the Bowery area) is near to where Melville moved around age 5. This photo also shows you how wet it was for most of our trip!

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Battery Park

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Battery Park Promenade

I gather that Melville spent a lot of time in Battery Park throughout his lifetime. It was definitely nice to walk all over the island (and I mean walk – 15 to 20 thousand steps a day for us!) and picture the places Melville would have lived and worked, even if it took some imagination to do so.

“Now rose the city from out the bay, and one by one, her spires pierced the blue; while thick and more thick, ships, brigs, schooners, and sail boats, thronged around….Oh! he who has never been afar, let him once go from home, to know what home is.”
— from Redburn

It’s true — having been afar, we are very happy to be headed home to our quieter corner of the world.