Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Papal Prep Ends -- Tomorrow is P-Day!

An empty East 73rd Street between Madison and Park Avenues
Well, here we are at last.  It's the evening before the Pope arrives and things are clearly ramping up here in New York.

This afternoon I was once again required to get down to midtown.  I left my apartment at 73rd Street between Park and Madison Avenues around 1:30 for a 2:15 appointment at 53rd Street, taking one of the Fifth Avenue bus routes to get there.  After my appointment and a snack I walked home up Fifth Avenue and through Central Park to 72nd Street, so I covered quite a lot of the areas that will see the Pope tomorrow and Friday.  And here is what I saw along my way.

At 1:30 my street was completely void of parked cars, although traffic could still drive through.

East 72nd Street between Madison and Fifth Avnues
At 1:30 East 72nd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue was still pretty much as it has been since the weekend.  However, metal barricades have been placed along the opposite side of the street.  There are also metal barricades that are in place to restrict access to the opposite sidewalk from the avenue and many more barricades were waiting to be put in place.

The same barricades were piled up along Fifth Avenue in the 50s, waiting to be positioned (probably overnight).
Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street with steel barricades ready to be positioned
The thought flashed through my mind that whoever makes these things must have really made a lot of money lately.

One of the stranger sights I saw all day occurred after my appointment, when I walked down Madison Avenue to a favorite snack site.  As I walked past the Madison Avenue side of the Palace Hotel I noticed a group of young men in clerical dress exiting the Archbishop's residence at 50th Street.  As I approached and they crossed the street I realized that they were carrying liturgical stuff.
Group of young priests or seminarians with liturgical items
One had a green chausable on a hanger, another had a black bag that probably contained a chalice and paten, a third had what looked suspiciously like the silver cross that was carried by Pope St. John Paul II and frequently used by Pope Francis and a fourth had what looked like the stand for the cross. They continued to head east along 50th Street.  I couldn't help but wonder where they were going.

After my snack I headed for Fifth Avenue and began my northward journey.  Passing St. Patrick's Cathedral I saw the usual flocks of tourists taking pictures and streaming in and out.  But there was also a TV crew hanging out at the 50th Street side and a row of portable toilets at the 51st Street side, both things you don't see there every day.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, 50th Street and Fifth Avenue

St. Patrick's Cathedral, 51st Street and Fifth Avenue (the portable toilets are the small structures with the white roofs)

However, there were a few things that made me laugh, especially the use being made by a tourist couple of the concrete blocks positioned in front of Tiffany on 57th Street and Fifth.
In front of Tiffany's

At the Plaza entrance to Central Park (where General Sherman, who was a Catholic, has appeared again from underneath the wrappings he's been wearing recently, but where the scaffolding surrounding his portion of the Plaza is still standing) there was an obvious police presence, with a mobile command truck in place.
Entrance to Central Park, Fifth Avenue at 59th Street

After a leisurely stroll through the zoo, where I joined a group of small children who were squealing with delight as they watched the sea lions doing some after hours cavorting in their pool, I exited around 6:20 at 72nd Street and Fifth to a decidedly more active scene than the one I had left about five hours before.
Fifth Avenue at 72nd Street

Police were hard at work moving the previously piled up concrete blocks into the road (using a fork lift). Farther down the block I could see that a police guard has been added in front of the residence of the papal nuncio and that the street was now filled with various kinds of police vehicles.

The south side of  72nd Street and Madison Avenue showing from left to right:  the former Rhinelander Mansion, now Ralph Lauren; the new Ralph Lauren store (it was under construction when Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2008, but looks like it was actually built in 1908); a private house and the papal residence, now under police guard.

At the Madison Avenue corner all had changed.  Steel gates (that apparently drop to allow entry to cars) and a guard box have been positioned and the concrete blocks had already been placed.
Corner of Madison and 72nd Street with the blocks, gates and guard box in position.

Back on my own block all was peaceful, but there had been one small addition.  There is a small antique store across the street from my building.  A Pope Francis bobble head statue has been added to the shop window.

Pope Francis bobble head in the window
of L'Antiquaire shop

Finally, a message from building management had been posted in the mail room.  It advised tenants to bring photo ID with them for the next few days.  I have photo ID and official mail all ready to carry with me to prove my identity and residence.

I probably won't be able to do much about seeing the Pope this time around.  I don't have tickets for any event or for the park or the streets and I need to be elsewhere most of the time anyway.  I will be at a concert tomorrow evening at my parish.

It is a performance of contemporary Welsh composer, Karl Jenkins, Mass for Peace "The Armed Man" being presented by the Amor Artis Chorus and the Camerata New York Orchestra in honor of Pope Francis' visit.  Prior to that I will be attending a lecture at the Institute of Fine Arts on iconoclasm in Spain during the 1930s.  And on Friday I will be working at my volunteer position at the Metropolitan Museum, followed by a meeting of the Blessed Sacraments Associates of which I am an as yet a trainee member.  So, each evening I will be coming back later than usual.  But if I see anything of interest I will note it.  At least all these events are in the immediate neighborhood, so I can walk to all.

So, welcome to New York, Pope Francis.  We're ready for you!

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