Ahhh, that time of the year: 72°, gentle breeze, sky as a huge monochrome canvas hanging in MoMA. Even Beijing gets a few days of sheer blue sky in autumn.

It’d be a perfect chance to take a stroll in Central Park, but we left for the city already past noon, and there’re probably already a few hundred-K New Yorker basking and another few hundred-K tourists balking in the park. So we chose to stay mostly inside of museums, stores, and our car.

Our first stop is Ecotopia at International Center of Photography. We went there a couple of years ago when my uncle invited us to an exhibition on Chinese photography. It’s a pretty small gallery, and the exhibition isn’t great, so the $12 admission seems not very well spent.

Next two stops are furniture stores. We want to get a nice office chair to make J more comfortable when J works from home. I looked up Herman Miller’s retailer directory and picked a couple posh stores. First one is Terence Conran at the bottom of Queensborough Bridge. I first heard of it some years ago as the first store in US to carry the now ubiquitous Dyson vacuum cleaners. It’s nice and cool European fine living, but we didn’t find any good office chair. One thing we noticed is an ultra-hip, super-expensive stroller called Bugaboo Frog–lo and behold–3 out of 4 strollers we later saw on upper east side streets have Bugaboo logo! Then we went to a Design Within Reach store. It just opened an outlet store in Secaucus and we bought our bar stools there. It has several Aeron chairs and we liked it. Joel Spolsky can’t be wrong.

Then we went to the Whitney Museum of American Art for the first time. We had the prejudice that American art is somewhat inferior to European, and it turned out not to be totally unfounded. If it were not for the special exhibition “Picasso and American Art” and free admission from J’s corporate badge, it would’ve been a total disappointment. I guess we’re brainwashed by the concepts and aesthetics of classical European “high art”, but we do like certain “modern” stuff from Picasso, Miro, Chagall, etc. However the special exhibition shows the enormous influence and shadow cast by Picasso, which is the intent of the exhibition in the first place. We do like Calder’s sculptures, but graphical arts from the Pollocks, Warhols, and de Koonings (though he’s born in Rotterdam) look either too clueless or too commercial. I watched the first half of a Warhol documentary on PBS a while ago, and gave up on the second half (for Warhol, not the documentary itself). It mentioned that Warhol made a claim at some point that he made more pieces everyday than Picasso. How preposterous.

Our last stop is the Neue Gallery. Because it’s the last day of the Klimt exhibition, there’s even a short line at the door. It would’ve been a total rip-off were it not free admission from J’s corporate badge again. The “museum” is tiny: a 3-story corner townhouse with exhibition space only on 2nd and 3rd floor, and the 3rd floor was closed for renovation. We saw the Klimt paintings in Vienna’s Belvedere before they were returned to the Bloch-Bauer family, and Estee Lauder’s son bought one for a record $135 million for the Neue Gallery, his pet project. The NYTimes said the gallery is more known for the Austrian restaurant on its first floor. Well, we didn’t care for Austrian food at all, so it’s no surprise that we care even less for the gallery.

So it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile trip, but we did enjoy the experience. Where else could we find chic stores to browse and brash museums to bash under a perfect autumn sky?

Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting
Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-nighting

Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel
They’re making me feel – I’m home

It’s autumn in New York
That brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York
Is often mingled with pain

Dreamers with empty hands
They sigh for exotic lands
It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

Autumn in New York
The gleaming rooftops at sundown
Oh, Autumn in New York
It lifts you up when you run down

Yes, jaded roués and gay divorcées
Who lunch at the Ritz
Will tell you that it’s divine

This autumn in New York
Transforms the slums into Mayfair
Oh, Autumn in New York
You’ll need no castles in Spain

Yes, Lovers that bless the dark
On the benches in Central Park
Greet autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

Music and lyrics by Vernon Duke, 1934
As performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong