Travel: NYC’s modern art metropolis |

Travel: NYC’s modern art metropolis

Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a three-part series about New York City. Visit to read the first article and check back next Sunday to read the final installment.

The first step to accomplishing any goal is to write it down. That’s just what Yoko Ono is getting a steady stream of visitors to New York’s Museum of Modern Art – MoMA – to do. Ono’s “Wish Tree” is a a small tree with slender branches located in MOMA’s Sculpture Garden. When my friend Brian and I visited the city in October, I followed Ono’s hand-written directive.

“Make a wish. Write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it and tie it around a branch of the wish tree. Ask your friend to do the same. Keep wishing.”

I joined the hordes of other people, grabbed a slip of paper and and scrawled a sentence on it. And no, of course I can’t tell you what it was. I tied it to the highest branch I could reach and nearly immediately, couldn’t distinguish my wish from the dozens of others tied to that same branch. I bet if that overloaded tree had a wish, it’d be for people to stop weighing it down with scraps of paper and string.

It was our first full day in the city and after dropping our bags off at Hotel Elysee (60 East 54th St.), a charming 100-room boutique hotel in midtown, our first stop was MoMA. It was the last day of the Matisse exhibit and I couldn’t wait to get lost in the sprawling (630,000 square feet!) modern art metropolis. We decided to join a small group gallery talk that focused on a handful of lesser known paintings on the fourth floor. I highly suggest doing the same if you plan to visit as a guide can provide invaluable insights into a few select paintings, making the entire visit more meaningful. Next we checked out the Matisse exhibit (Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917), which was quite crowded on its final day at the museum, and for good reason. The exhibit included many of the famous artist’s most important canvases, including my favorite, “La Danse.”

While I could likely spend a full week exploring MoMA, arguably the greatest modern art museum in the world with more than 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and the like, we only had three days in the city and a long list of things to see, eat and explore. We bid the great building adieu, and set off for Times Square.

After answering a David Letterman trivia question (What does Rupert do for a living? He owns a deli, in case you don’t know) the week before, we’d scored a pair of tickets to a screening of the show, so we hotfooted it over to the Ed Sullivan Theater. Though the show organizers won’t tell you who you’re going to see, you can find it online. When I looked up the guest list the day before, I was dismayed to find I didn’t recognize a single name. But upon getting to the theater we learned they film two shows in a row each Monday – including Friday’s show, which meant the earlier audience got stuck with the no-names. Woohoo! I was ecstatic to learn that Dave would be chatting up the hilarious author/actress/comedian Amy Sedaris and one of my favorite actors (thanks to “Californication”) David Duchovny. While we waited in line in the lobby before filing into the theater, an overly-enthusiastic staffer stood on a chair and coached us about the importance of laughing hard and clapping at Dave’s jokes and not “wooo’ing” loudly since it would screw with the sound.

Once in the theater, I was struck by how much smaller the set looks in person than it does on television.

First up, Dave got the whole audience laughing with a rant about Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan, Canada and the hometown of one audience member. And we certainly didn’t have to pretend to laugh for Duchovny’s trademark dry humor, or Sedaris’ off-the-wall remarks.

We got out of the theater and made it back to our hotel minutes before it began to pour down rain, and in time for the nightly wine-and-cheese reception. The elegant (and quiet) hotel, which was built in the 1920s and named for one of the finest French restaurants of that era, has housed movie stars, writers and artists over the years. We sipped on champagne in the lounge and decided to check out a restaurant recommended by numerous friends (as well as the media) for dinner – David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar. We donned rain jackets and borrowed an umbrella from the friendly front desk folks before heading for the East Village.

I’ve been disappointed before by overly-hyped restaurants that fail to live up to expectations, so I was a little nervous. Thankfully, Noodle Bar didn’t disappoint. Likely due to the stormy weather, we only had to wait 10 minutes for a few seats at the bar. We ordered a couple of signature items – the steamed pork belly buns ($9) and the Momofuku ramen, rife with large pieces of pork belly, pork shoulder and a poached egg ($16) – and the vegetarian ginger scallion noodles with pickled shitake mushrooms ($11). The pork buns were the best I’ve ever eaten, while the noodles were warm and comforting without being overly heavy. With a spicy ginger beer from Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery in hand, we toasted the food, the electric city, and the days to come.

Caramie Schnell can be reached at (970) 748-2984 or

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