Central Park in New York….a release from urbanity. A day of sunshine and a day to shed winter inhibitions…..April 2011
This is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban
New York…. The chaotic meanderings of Cross-town, Uptown or Downtown; the bummed-out sense of space; the depressingly dingy Subway Stations; the ostensible dissonance of images; the diverse cultures and languages.
NEW YORK - October, 2009: Not much of an Edgar Allan Poe fan I took the EDGAR ALLAN POE GREENWICH VILLAGE TOUR* more out of curiosity. The writer was in news for his reburial in Baltimore with 2009 his 200th birth anniversary year. Another reason for renewed interest in Poe was the ‘Balloon Boy’ fiasco in Colorado reviving images of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Balloon-Hoax” story published in 1844, complete with diagrams and specifications of the balloon.
Poe’s story was about Monck Mason’s journey across the Atlantic in three days and at a time when crossing the Atlantic by air was unheard of. The story was successful in increasing the circulation figures of the Daily, though it later turned out the saga was a fabrication. The present balloon saga supposedly undertaken by 6 years old Falcon Heene was similar in content with parents of the boy facing felony and deportation charges. Falcon was at home while the much publicized rescue drama was enacted.
The Greenwich Tour : Edgar Allan Poe had close links with New York and his house in the Bronx, ‘Poe Cottage’ ,a museum now, is where he penned “The Bells,” “Ulalume,” “Eureka,” “Annabel Lee” and “The Cask of Amontillado’ among other works (1846-49).
The tour guide walked us to the clubs, theaters and coffee houses where Edgar Allan Poe, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Barbara Streisand, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen began their careers.
The walk started from Washington Square, formerly marsh land used as graveyard for slaves and yellow fever victims. It was a dueling and an execution place with the still sturdy Hangman’s Elm or Hanging Tree, the oldest Manhattan tree that in the past served as the hanging post for highwaymen and revolutionary traitors. We walked along New York University buildings, the Stonewall Inn, Our Lady of the Pompeii Church, the Bleecker Street with its bohemian flavored pubs, bars and music cafes, Rocco’s pastry Shop and Café Wha from where Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bill Cosby and other creative artists started their careers.
The West Village, hemmed in by Broadway on the East, Hudson River on the West, SoHo on South and Chelsea on North, continues with the old street pattern instead of adopting the grid system of rest of New York City. The curved and mostly paved streets, lined with shops, ‘lower’ buildings and parks tucked in corners give the area a feeling of openness. The cobbled MacDougall Alley originally was stable place for for houses on Washington Square North. Along the way we saw other ‘Poe’ landmarks, the Northern Dispensary at crossing of Waverly Place and Christopher Street, where he had gone for treatment , the house where he had recited his famous poem ‘Raven’ and his residences . Poe had lived in the Village during 1837.
From Poe we moved on to other important landmarks; Sheridan Square, the Jefferson Memorial Library and the Women’s House of Detention where legendary actress Mae West was detained for writing, producing and directing ‘Sex’. Far cry from the recent ‘Sex and the City’ scenario and the Guide pointed out the scene of house of Carrie Bradshaw and the building featured in sitcom ‘Friends’.
The Woman’s House of Detention was demolished in 1973 and replaced with a community garden, south of Jefferson Market and corner of Tenth Street and Sixth Avenue. The reason given was the noise level created by families and friends of detainees who would communicate or rather yell out news and greetings to each other. It must have been a raucous ‘party scene’ and with gawkers adding to the commotion, a disturbing element for residents.
The all white statues of gay couples, two men and two women, at Christopher Park on Sheridan Street, appear real till you realize they are statues by George Segal to immortalize the Stonewall Gay riots. There is an old 130 year old iron fence around the Park which has two other monuments, the Flagpole commemorating the lives lost in the 1861 fire and a statue of General Philip H. Sheridan in the eastern end.
My first visit to Central Park, New York was in the winter of 2007. The blanket ban imposed by weather had restricted my entry to the skating rink ( South entrance); a buggy ride. The visit in October 2009 was a bonanza and I made full use of my 12 day stay in the city (October 12-24)
The ‘Park’ was in full bloom, dazzling and electrifying, a package of nearly 25,000 trees landscaped into a nature retreat from 59th Street East /West to 110 Street East/West Manhattan. The in-between swathes of green add to the openness of the Park and made full use by children and adults as personal fiefdoms.
I started from Bethesda Terrace, the Bow Bridge, the Conservancy, along the Lake and the Loeb Boathouse, stopped for a bite at the restaurant and headed towards Belvedere Castle, the Great Lawn, past the Metropolitan Museum of Art or The Met, entrance is from the street side and on to the East Meadow and Conservancy Garden.
Day Two: The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, a 106-acre body of water constructed in 1862 feeding the Pool and Meer, for a fabulous view of New York skyline, weaving through assortment of joggers, pram-pushers, pet walkers, kids of all sizes and senior citizens.
Day 3: From 96th East it was Harlem Meer right on top E 110 and then turned back via the Great Hill on to the Summit rock, the Arthur Ross Pinetum, the Shakespeare Garden, Strawberry Fields, dedicated to John Lennon, on to the Tavern on the Green and the Rink, the starting point.
It was a phased-out walk to savor the serenity and the theatrical production of colors around me. The American Elms, in abundance throughout Central Park, are the color suppliers with their oblong, serrated leaves dark green now a brilliant yellow. The reds and oranges are the Callary Pear heart-shaped leaves while the Norway Maples and Pin Oaks add to the symphony with deep yellow, russet and bronze. The Pine Oaks are found at Strawberry Fields, along the 59th Street Pond and the Dairy lawns. Spotted Red Oaks, the stately Silver Linden with symmetrical oval crowns and green and silver leaves and Willow Oaks along the Great Lawn, the Bow Bridge and Loeb Boathouse. The russet glow belongs to the Cedar crowd on Cedar Hill above the Glade. It is an identification parade of Ginkgo, the Beech trees, the nodding Eastern Hemlocks and the easily identifiable Weeping Willows casting their shadows in the algae green waters of the Pool.
In between, the watery clouds spoilt my fun of watching sunlight flirt with nature’s bounty.
A welcome escape.