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Posts Tagged ‘central park’

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Recently, I took a couple trips to New York to see my sister, who’s been having ups and downs with the brain cancer. We had decided to have a sibling gathering when the Midwest and West Coast brothers were in town with wives and several kids.

I’m not going to show you the group photo from our delicious Maialino lunch because my poor sister, despite feeling much better, is still horrifically bruised from tripping and getting a black eye. Falling is one of the biggest worries these days.

Instead I’ll share other pictures from my trips and explain any that need explaining.

In July, I took Amtrak from Kingston, Rhode Island, where there is a cute historic train station and, across the track, some interesting graffiti.

In New York, my camera was drawn to verbal images: Biblical messages chalked on the sidewalks, a port-a-potty pun for my collection, and outreach to immigrants (I saw the electronic kiosk message in Spanish and Chinese, too).

I also shot a giant balloon version of the city mascot (just kidding, it’s not the mascot) and one of the ubiquitous mini gardens planted around street trees. I especially admired the gardens that managed to do without the “curb your dog” signs because they completely spoil the charm. But how do people protect the plantings otherwise? I wondered. Do the doormen rush out and chase away dogs? Is there a spray deterrent that dogs hate? Some successful mini gardens used higher fences.

A large and glorious volunteer-maintained series of gardens in Riverside Park proclaimed a different kind of success with its clouds of delirious, happy butterflies, like the butterfly below. Red Admiral? Not sure.

Olmstead’s tinkling waterfalls in Central Park make me delirious.

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I can’t stop talking about how much I love New York’s Central Park in the morning, especially as I remember being 14 and told not to walk my aunt’s Corgi anywhere near there in the morning.

In those days, the park had fallen on hard times and wasn’t being loved and protected. Nowadays in the mornings, half the word is there — bikers, walkers, runners, dog exercisers, tennis players, baseball teams, New Yorkers doing tai chi or push-ups or taking a detour to the office surrounded by birdsong and beauty. It’s a welcoming place for people of every background and income, who mingle there unselfconsciously, often with friendly smiles.

The experience is the genius of 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead and the ordinary people who supported his vision. Perhaps you have an Olmstead park near you. You do if you live near Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York City, or Rochester in New York State, or Boston in Massachusetts, Trenton in New Jersey, Riverside in Illinois, Detroit in Michigan, Louisville in Kentucky, Milwaukee in Wisconsin, Asheville in North Carolina … the list goes on.

I took a few highlights from the Wikipedia entry on Olmstead, here.

“The design of Central Park embodies Olmsted’s social consciousness and commitment to egalitarian ideals. Influenced by [landscape architect Andrew Jackson] Downing and his own observations regarding social class in England, China, and the American South, Olmsted believed that the common green space must always be equally accessible to all citizens, and was to be defended against private encroachment. This principle is now fundamental to the idea of a ‘public park,’ but was not assumed as necessary then. Olmsted’s tenure as park commissioner in New York was a long struggle to preserve that idea. …

“Olmsted’s principles of design, generally speaking, encourage the full utilization of the naturally occurring features of a given space, its ‘genius’; the subordination of individual details to the whole so that decorative elements do not take precedence, but rather the whole space; concealment of design, design that does not call attention to itself; design which works on the unconscious to produce relaxation; and utility or purpose over ornamentation. …

“The pastoral style featured vast expanses of green with small lakes, trees and groves and produced a soothing, restorative effect on the viewer. The picturesque style covered rocky, broken terrain with teeming shrubs and creepers and struck the viewer with a sense of nature’s richness. The picturesque style played with light and shade to lend the landscape a sense of mystery.”

Above you see his characteristic use of the elephantine rocks that jut out of the Manhattan landscape. I can’t tell you how mysteriously happy these sleeping giants make me, having grown up in Rockland County, where rocks are king.

Below are my photos of one of Central Park’s fairylike bridges over a babbling brook, a musical waterfall, and a beckoning path under an arched bridge.

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Today I wrapped up my latest visit to New York, where I spent time with my sister and her husband. The city was great in both rain and sunshine. I loved every minute spent in Central Park — amazing at all times of year, but especially in spring. I also enjoyed an exhibit of JRR Tolkien’s art and letters at the Morgan Library (available only until May 12) and my visits with a number of my sister’s friends.

The first picture is of dawn on the Upper West Side. Next are flowering trees near the West Side Community Garden, followed by photos of the garden itself. How terrific to see that much prime real estate being used in this way!

I photographed the Tolkien poster, but no picture-taking was allowed inside the actual exhibit, alas. Tolkien was a fascinating artist as well as a writer of fantasies like The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Among the works shown at the Morgan were the illustrated letters from Father Christmas to Tolkien’s children, which I showed you in 2018, here.

The concluding pictures are from Central Park. I can’t get over what an artist the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was to create so many diverse vistas showcasing nature, never disrupting it. There are wonderful rock formations, hills and valleys, grottoes, woodland paths, waterfalls, streams …

It’s also impressive to observe how residents and city government alike use and cherish the park these days. I remember a time when I wasn’t supposed to go near it when walking my aunt’s corgi in the morning. Nowadays, the mornings are filled with bikers, walkers, runners, dogs — and the lucky people whose work commute is on foot through all that beauty.

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110518-amazing-shade-of-red-on-Japanese-mapleDid you read The Hobbit? Do you remember the thrilling moment when an ancient prophecy comes true as a “thrush knocks” and the sun briefly beams at a tiny spot on the wall of the Iron Mountain, revealing the forgotten keyhole to the dragon’s backdoor? No? Well, check it out.

I mention this ability of the sun to shine at a certain place only at a certain time because the photo below represents one of my attempts to run outside in a mad rush and capture how a particular solar angle projects the squares of the gate on the stone wall. It only happens a couple times a year because the sun keeps moving. (That is, the Earth keeps moving in relation to the sun.) In a few minutes the projection would be on the grass, not the wall. The following week, it wouldn’t happen at all. I totally lost out last spring, but managed to get this much in the fall. Stonehenge.

The first sculpture was by a grateful patient of Mass General Hospital in Boston. Next come sculptures seen from the cafe balcony at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. And, typical of the City That Never Sleeps, Insomnia Cookies will deliver until 3 a.m. The port-a-potty confirms Asakiyume’s contention that these ubiquitous accommodations are as creatively named as hair salons.

Then, I give you Central Park the Beautiful. What city would ever build something this magnificent today?

Finally, another of my favorite topics: the wonder of lichen.

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OK, New York is not a beautiful city in the sense of the traditional song (Dave Van Ronk sings “Oh, What a Beautiful City!” here), but that spiritual has been playing in my head today because I really like New York.

It’s definitely not a clean city. Every day of the week there are so many trash bags on the sidewalk that the garbage trucks often leave half behind for a later pass, and not-civic-minded New Yorkers toss last night’s take-out on the heap as they walk their children to school.

The electronic kiosks that I love featured a relevant quote by Fran Lebowitz this week: “When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.”

Speaking of clean, Asakiyume once pointed out that the business that attracts almost as much creative naming as beauty salons is the porta-potty business, so the first photo below is for her collection.

Next I have two indoor photos, followed by several from beautiful Central Park. Having been warned never to go near the park when I walked the Corgi in the morning decades ago, I’m always astonished that today one can walk there early in the morning and join many other people — runners, bikers, dog walkers, children headed to school, sometimes a solitary practitioner of tai chi chuan.

I love the shadows at that time of day and the greenery, the park’s architectural touches, the benches with thoughtful quotes, the paths that beckon. It’s pretty magical.

Riffing off a Lawrence Block quote, another kiosk asked what was “the thing about New York, if you loved it, if it worked for you, it ruined you for anyplace else in the world”? New York doesn’t ruin anywhere for me, but I feel challenged to answer what is the main thing I like about New York: it’s just that it’s always interesting.

(More quotations about New York City here.)

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Photo: Glenn Castellano
A design by Meredith Bergmann of suffragists Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the first Central Park statue depicting real women.

Other than fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, females have not been represented among Central Park’s statues. A new sculpture, of suffragists Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, is the first step in changing the all-male array of historical figures in the park.

Nadja Sayej reports at the Guardian, “In 1995, the artist Meredith Bergmann was working on a film set in Central Park when she noticed something was off.

“ ‘I noticed then there were no statues of women,’ said Bergmann. ‘There was a wonderful Alice in Wonderland sculpture, but there were no sculptures of actual women of note and accomplishment.’

“Now, 23 years later, Bergmann has created the winning design for a bronze statue of New York suffragists Elizabeth C Stanton and Susan B Anthony, who fought for women’s right to vote. Bergmann’s creation will be erected in Central Park on 26 August 2020, coinciding with the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment ‘Votes for Women.’ …

“There are only five public statues of real women in New York City (excluding fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose), while there are 145 sculptures of men, including statues of William Shakespeare and Ludwig van Beethoven, who are both in Central Park.

“ ‘We are happy to have broken the bronze ceiling to create the first statue of real women in the 164-year history of Central Park,’ said Pam Elam, the president of the Monumental Women campaign, which is backing the statue. …

“The statue has a long scroll that snakes from a desk down to a ballot box, which is meant to represent the change they made to the 19th amendment – but it doesn’t stop there. The scroll will detail the voices of over 20 other women, including Ida B Wells-Barnett and Sojourner Truth, with quotes written chronologically from 1848 to 2020. …

“While the quotes are currently kept under wraps, a few potential teasers have been posted on the group’s Instagram account. For example, Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman, once said: ‘You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining, you make progress by implementing ideas,’ while Maya Angelou once said: ‘We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.’ …

“[Says] Elam, ‘Women’s history is such a treasure chest of inspirational stories, it gives us courage to keep fighting for women’s rights and achieve equality in our lives. We want to get their stories out there for people to be energized by their contributions.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

I’m in New York this week to be with my sister as she winds up six weeks of radiation and chemo. If I see any statues of women, I’ll be sure to share a picture.

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John sent me the picture below of a corn maze designed to look like a scene from Alice in Wonderland.

It got me thinking about Alice’s other outdoor appearances, like the Mad Tea Party topiary at Disney or the statue in Central Park, New York City.

“Alice and her cast of storybook friends found their way to Central Park in 1959, when philanthropist George Delacorte commissioned this bronze statue as a gift to the children of New York City. … Engraved around the statue are lines from his nonsensical poem, The Jabberwocky. …

“Created by the Spanish-born American sculptor José de Creeft, the piece depicts Alice holding court from her perch on the mushroom. The host of the story’s tea party is the Mad Hatter, a caricature of George Delacorte. The White Rabbit is depicted holding his pocket watch, and a timid dormouse nibbles a treat at Alice’s feet.” More.

Photo: http://i.imgur.com/8uwnCKI
Aerial view of a corn maze commemorating the 150th year anniversary of
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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