The island's tip was sliced by a ship canal that tamed the Spuyten Duyvil shoals, but severed Marble Hill from Inwood. Medieval tapestry unicorns grace the Cloisters; a flag-pole and stockade mark old Fort Tryon. Lofty crags overlook the broad Hudson River as bedrock & history anchor the Heights to the George Washington Bridge. Walk east toward the Bronx across High bridge; gaze to the south from Sugar Hill, where trumpeters and tap dancers stepped up into the sun. Ages ago Iapetus (an older Atlantic Ocean) closed; the kiss with Africa heated a melting pot. Lava was injected in veins of rock and coagulated to form Palisade cliffs. The legacy of Algonquian life is hidden in our place names and our meals. The newcomers (first the Dutch, then English, African, Irish, German, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, Greek, Ukrainian, Armenian, Puerto Rican, Pakistani, Cuban, Dominican, Haitian, Filipino, and all) have shed blood in a thousand places, but millions live. Legends of Gotham: Father Knickerbocker, Boss Tweed, Emma Lazarus, Fiorello, the roar of the el, the blizzard of '47, Giants at the Polo Grounds. Offshore, barges ply swirling brown water near North River sewage pipes, as striped bass and shad swim up ''the river that flows both ways'': a tidal reach of the sea all the way up to Albany. Brownstone, bodega, ball court & bus stop: on warm nights in Harlem, noisy streets and quiet rooftops. Kids splash around a hydrant as lovers embrace on a Riverside Park bench and rush-hour traffic in stalled on the Triborough Bridge. Some uptown options: gospel choir on Sunday, sooty Grant's Tomb, hiphop the Apollo, ribs at Sylvia's, law at Columbia, mangos in El Barrio, peace garden in the Cathedral, rowboat on the Meer, pub-crawl the West Side, listen to poetry at the 92nd St. Y, nosh at Songbirds alight in leafy woods as a turtle lays eggs near a pond in Central Park. Grand museums flank the green with dinosaur bones and Egyptian tombs. When it snows, we ramble out to Sheep Meadow & the Great Lawn; in sunshine, to Strawberry Fields, the Lake, & the Zoo. Buy hot dogs from pushcarts near Madison boutiques, or subways. (Take the A train, ride the Lexington line, or change at 59th Street for the IRT. Catch the F out to Queens.) Gneiss but full of schist, the bedrock sparkles with mica. It bears the weight of midtown; Skyscrapers at Columbus Circle, Fifth Avenue, and Park Avenue. Attend concerts at Carnegie, ice skating shows at Rockefeller Center, Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Our eyes are drawn up to a blue slice of sky as vertical walls enclose us. 100 gridlocked taxis honk at police blockades as Fidel speaks at the U.N. Revelers jam Times Suqare on New Year's Eve, to jostle and sing as the ball drops. Buses come in (the Lincoln Tunnel) to Port Authority, trains to Grand Central. The lion-flanked public library was once a reservoir; we love the Art Deco classic Chrysler spire. From Hell's Kitchen walk to broadway, buy tickets for ''Showboat'' or ''Cats'' - hey, the Knicks won at the buzzer in the Garden! See Macy's flat parade, then gape from atop the Empire State, where mighty Kong took a fall. Diamond jewelers join fur-clad window shoppers as herds of jaywalkers cross against the light in the Garment District. Graffiti-scrawled boards near the Flatiron Building enclose pits of unconsolidated sediment Consolidated Edison must dig. Workers repair Gramercy Park cables, reroute Chelsea steam pipes, plug a burst main flooding streets by Union Square. (Tap water flows down from the Catskills in deep tunnels; garbage is hauled to a landfill at Fresh Kills.) The riverfront was filled for barnacle-crusted piers, and Minetta Brook wetlands became lots in Greenwich Village. A sweatshop horror: 146 locked-in women lost their lives in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Watch skateboard demons cavort among panhandlers as old men play chess near the arch in Washington Square, N.Y.U. students, art film fans, coffee drinkers, & East Village poets crowd smoky joints on Saturday night; some cross (the Holland Tunnel) back out to New Jersey. Cheap gallery space is a memory in SoHo; cast-iron lofts rent high, as do TriBeCa warehouses. A bag lady seeks warmth huddled over a sidewalk grate on the Bowery, where Stuyvesant's farm once spread in old New Amsterdam. The original steal (this island, traded for $24 in beads) lies plastered in muth and concrete, obscured like the African Burial Grounds. A Lower East Side delicatessen sells good chicken soup; enjoy zuppa di pesca at the Festival of San Gennaro, or bird's nest soup in Chinatown. Marchers to City Hall cross the Brooklyn Bridge to demonstrate, as tourists at South Street Seaport eat lunch with a view. The Fulton Fish Market is mobbed before dawn. Precambrian stocks bond the upper crust with solid foundations below the Trade Towers, Trinity Church and Wall Street. Ferryboats to Staten Island, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Governor's Island depart from wind-swept docks at Battery Park.
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