I used to play squash at Columbia University with my playwright friend Percy Grainger, my friend from long ago, who died as the result of a terrible bicycle accident on a Manhattan street.
Columbia University, his alma mater, is fun to visit, wandering into whatever buildings you can, or attending an Ivy League basketball game.
Nearby, towards the Hudson River is Riverside Church: beautiful, regal, voluminous, beautifully situated. Those who have spoken there include Martin Luther King Jr. (the famous ‘Riverside Church’ speech), Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Cesar Chavez, and scores of others.
The church is now offering access to its 390-foot high steeple, the tallest in North America. It contains a 74-bell carillon of which the Bourbon Bell weighs 20 tons—the largest tuned bell ever cast. Once atop (including a 145-stair climb), it is the equivalent of viewing from floor 64 of a midtown skyscraper.
There is a café in the basement that is worthy of a pick-me-up before you leave.
Also nearby is The Manhattan School of Music and Grant’s Tomb.
For me, Riverside is a place I go when I’m nearby, 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.