Monday, May 9, 2011

Sunday in Central Park

In spite of the forecast for grey, rainy weather, we've had days of sun and temperatures around 20 degrees.  It was to be particularly beautiful on Sunday--none of the wind that has been blowing hair in our face.  Central Park demanded our attention.

I want to describe Central Park as a work of art.  Of course, there is Frederick Law Olmstead's vision of nature in the centre of the busy city.  There are the most remarkable outcrops of rock that people feel compelled to climb.  They lay in the sun above the city streets or simply stare off into space like an urbanized adventurer in Capsar David Friederich's famous painting of the man staring down the Alps.  I don't know whether the landscape of the whole city was like this or whether the outcrops determined where the park should go. Unlike the city itself, which is more or less a triscuit (except in areas like Greenwich Village), the paths here wander; it's very easy to become disoriented and to find yourself fetching up for advice at the Chess House where the Conservancy has volunteers to sort you out and where a mother and son spread their chess pieces out under the wysteria on tables that have chessboards marked right into the stone.

But when I say Central Park is a work of art, I'm referring to a kind of urban theatre that happens here.  A young man offers jokes for $1 and promises laughter.  Judging by the women collected about him, he's delivered.  A Chinese dance troupe (sorry:  no pictures of this one:  it was too crowded) tells an ancient story just across from Lincoln Centre. 

The skateboarders strut their stuff in a small ampitheatre.  You can find any kind of music you want:  a lone saxophonist wailing the popular mellow love songs of the fifties and sixties, a small band playing (one guesses) popular Mexican music that almost prompts people to dance in the streets, a small jazz band playing Gershwin.

My favourite, though, was a young woman on roller skates (not roller blades) dancing to her own music.  She--and other skateboarders and skaters--had found this central place along the wide arborial Mall.  On one side of her we could hear the saxophonist wailing; on the other side the band played Gershwin.  But she was listening to her own song, occasionally belting out the music and words which belonged to her alone, but which she danced into the air around her.

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