I used to play squash at Columbia University with Percy Grainger with my good friend from long ago, who died as the result of a terrible bicycle accident on a Manhattan street. He was a playwright and as I am lighting designer, we had much in common and spent much time together.
Columbia University is a good place to observe, wander into whatever buildings you can, feel the vibe. Check out Barnard across Broadway, even attend a basketball game. That’s a really fun thing to do.
Nearby, towards the Hudson River is Riverside Church. I don’t have a lot to write about it: it’s beautiful, regal, voluminous, beautifully situated. A Rockefeller was instrumental in getting it built and a good thing that was as early on it became a center of political activism.
Those who have spoken there include Martin Luther King Jr. (the Riverside Church speech), Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Cesar Chavez, and scores of others.
Also nearby is The Manhattan School of Music, one of the great schools of music in the United States (along with Juilliard, Curtis (Philadelphia) and Berklee (Boston).
There is a café in the basement that is worthy of a pick-me-up before you leave.
But for me, Riverside is a place I go when I’m nearby anyway, to think about the fun Percy and I had together, his family, the tragedies life delivers from time to time and the adaptations we constantly make to survive it.
Go seeking, inspiration.