Westside Wanderings

The Lazer Speaks

Recently I spent some time at the very top of New York City’s west side. My goal was to go see the remains of a saint, right here in NYC! I didn’t have to go to Rome to do it. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, founder of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, is in a glass case north of the George Washington Bridge in Hudson Heights at the St. Cabrini Shrine. It’s quite amazing really, she lies in a glass case, but her remains have been covered in wax to help preserve her. Not easy to get to, the best bet is the A train. A long ride, but for a saint, very worthwhile.

Since I was up that way I decided to Uber down to Grant’s Memorial tomb. Maintained by the federal government’s National Park Service, it was once the most visited site in America. The day I was there, I was alone. And you will never guess who is buried there, well yes, Ulysses, but his wife, Julia is there too. While there, it’s worth strolling across the street to Riverside Church. The day I was there, I couldn’t get in because there was a special service happening. But still an impressive church as it towers over the Hudson from its perch on Riverside Drive.

If you are going to make a day out of it, you should perambulate over a few blocks to Broadway and 116th Street to walk the grounds of Columbia University, NYC’s contribution to the Ivy League. The grounds are impressive, and you can walk through them as if you go to school there; this way you can tell people, “Yeah I went to Columbia (and kept walking right through!).” And if you do walk through to the Amsterdam side of the University, then walk a little further toward the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. But make a left at 114th Street and walk toward Morningside Drive. There you will find the Grotto of Notre Dame. The altar is built right into the schist of the rocky outcrop of upper Manhattan. It’s a beautiful church.

Around the corner though, is one of the world’s most massive cathedrals, St. John the Divine. It is so large that they say that the Statue of Liberty could fit under its nave (sans pedestal). It is more than 125 years old, and still not finished!

If you are interested in the mystical, walk down Broadway to 107th Street and make a right toward the Hudson River. Toward the end of the block on the right-hand side is an odd museum dedicated to Nicholas Roerich. He was a Russian artist and writer who immigrated to this country but traveled throughout the Far East. He believed strongly that in times of war and peace, cultural institutions should be protected for future generations. He helped to put in place an agreement among nations that cultural institutions would be protected, and he developed a flag similar to the Red Cross flag that protects hospitals, to protect museums. His paintings and artifacts are on display across the three floors, and I have to say they are rather magnetic.

I had hoped to visit three other locations: the Indian Caves of Inwood Park; the Dyckman Farmhouse from the 1700s; and Trinity Cemetery, the resting place of James Audubon, Charles Dickens' son and Mayor Ed Koch. But alas there are limits even to my abilities to cover so much ground. But all three still lie there waiting for me to pay a visit, and one day I will. And when I do, I will surely report on it to you all. New York, it amazes me everyday!

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