Visiting John’s Pizzeria was one of the “must-do” activities that we had planned for New York City. Not for its fame, or its pizza, but because of its history. We are members of Salem Alliance Church, part of the Christian & Missionary Alliance – and that denomination was founded in the space that is now John’s Pizzeria!
When built, this space was called “Gospel Tabernacle”. The preacher was A.B. Simpson, the founder of our denomination. It’s a huge space, with a full balcony, and a beautiful stained glass ceiling. The platform used by the preacher has been replaced by the giant mural that you see in this photo, but the stained glass and the balcony have been retained.
Here you can see how they transformed the balcony seating into a very nice dining area for the restaurant.
Original Stained Glass
The people who designed the restaurant have done a beautiful job maintaining the original stained glass ceiling and windows in various parts of the room.
These photos and plans of the original Gospel Tabernacle were displayed in the entry hallway of the restaurant. It was wonderful to see how they honored the heritage of the space that they had taken over.
We walked a few blocks from John’s to the Broadway Theater – directly through Times Square. I don’t have any pictures! It was so crowded – we were afraid of losing each other! The lights are amazing, but the crowds make it almost impossible to walk.
Waiting on the Sidewalk
We went to John’s Pizzeria on Saturday night. The restaurant is located close to Times Square, with many of the Broadway theaters nearby. In fact, “Phantom” was playing across the street. So John’s is a popular place to go before the show! And that was our plan too. So we got in line out on the street, where we had to wait about half an hour before we could even enter the restaurant. Once inside, we had another 30-45 minutes to wait before being seated. Fortunately we had plenty of time to get to our show.
This picture was taken before the show started, from our seats in the balcony. We’d had to wait out on the sidewalk for another half hour just to get in the theater, and the seats were quite uncomfortable. But the show was great – we really enjoyed it.
Ready for the Theater
Karen looks beautiful with her new necklace (purchased near Syracuse). We are excited to go see our first-ever Broadway show. The show is “A Bronx Tale” – a nostalgic look at two Bronx neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s. It features lots of doo-wop style music and dancing.
Sunday Gospel Music in Harlem
One of the reasons we had decided to stay in Harlem was to try and visit one of their historic churches on Sunday morning and hear gospel music. I looked up several options on the Internet but couldn’t decide, so we asked our hostess about it on Saturday. She just shook her head – “You wouldn’t like it,” she said. She described it as a show for tourists. Apparently they bring them in by the busload – tourists who come in just for the music. Of course that was our main reason for going too – but we wanted to be there for the sermon as well, and the full worship experience. We wanted to go to church – but were not interested in a tourist event.
On Sunday we decided to go up to Sylvia’s – a famous “Southern Comfort food” restaurant – for breakfast. But they were closed for the morning. So we walked back and spotted a Whole Foods Market, and had breakfast there. The food wasn’t really very good. Karen ordered a latte made with almond milk – but apparently it had gone bad, and she started feeling sick. We went back to the guest house so she could lay down. She napped for a while, and then we began to hear the gospel music from the churches nearby. It was loud! And not good quality music, either. Apparently we’d not missed much.
Later, when Karen was feeling better, we went back to Sylvia’s for our comfort food. There was a lot of it! They have live gospel music on Sunday afternoons, and we got to listen to it throughout lunch. It was pretty good! So we got our cross-cultural experience, sort of.
Scenes from Central Park
The Iconic Image
When I think of Central Park, this is the image that comes to mind – an oasis of green surrounded by a huge metropolis of tall buildings. This lawn was completely fenced off – I don’t know why – but it made for a very nice picture.
We saw lots of families in the park, relaxing and playing together. After the intensity of the city, it was a strong contrast.
It was a lot of fun to watch the kids playing with the bubbles created for them by the bubble man.
Feeding the Seal
Central Park has a zoo, and on a Sunday afternoon it was packed with people. We didn’t go in, but we could see in to the seal enclosure and watch the feeding. I love all the different facial expressions in this photo.
It was fascinating to see all the different ways people moved through the park. Bicycles, scooters, horse-drawn carts, skateboards, runners, bicycle-drawn carts – and some (like us) were just walking.
These two boys were practicing their soccer kicks under the beautiful old trees.
I’d been thinking about how to get to JFK airport on Monday morning ever since our Lyft driver took us to Harlem on that wild Thursday afternoon ride. For some reason I’d scheduled us for an 8:30 am flight. What was I thinking?
I asked our hostess about it and she suggested that we could take the ‘A’ train. “That’s a song!” I said, so she hummed a bit of it. “Where do we get the ‘A’ train?” I asked. “Up on 125th and a few blocks over” came the reply.
I checked the map. The ‘A’ must be the longest subway route in Manhattan. It goes the whole length of the island, then cuts across the East River and crosses most of Queens. And it doesn’t go into JFK – it connects with the “Air Train” and that’s how you get to JFK. See the map, over to the right. Look at that blue line, how long it is!
I was able to download a train schedule – not that I trusted it – but I figured that we’d have to get on the subway at 5 am to get to JFK on time.
We decided to try it. If it didn’t work, we could always call another Lyft driver.
We left our guest house at 4:15 am to walk about 8 blocks to the subway. It was dark, of course, and nobody else was out on the streets of Harlem as we wheeled our suitcases along the sidewalk. When we got to the subway station we found (much to our surprise) an elevator that would take us down. We went in, showed our tickets to the attendant, and she let us in the special gate to accommodate our luggage. And there was another elevator to get us down to the track level. We were thankful!
It turns out that 5 am is the best possible time to ride the subway. They’re not crowded at all! We actually got to sit down with our luggage in front of us. We had to switch trains midway, since ours was going to the alternate destination. At one station, I looked out the window and saw another ‘A’ train with a sign saying JFK airport, so we grabbed our bags and dashed across the platform into it. (Several other people did the same.)
We got to the airport at exactly the right time, and had a great flight home.