Archive for the ‘Central Park Story – Book One’ Category:

Christoforo Colombo, not Christopher Columbus?

Statue of Christopher Columbus

Statue of Christopher Columbus counting the floors of the building on the other side of the Fifth Avenue

Yes, Columbus was Italian, so his first name was actually ‘Christoforo’ not ‘Christopher’.

But who cares about the spelling of his name? The main thing is that, if it wasn’t for Columbus, or Colombo, there wouldn’t be a Central Park Mall or a Central Park, or even a New York City.

When Christopher first sees his statue in the early morning fog at the foot of the promenade, he also misses a few minor details and thinks he’s wearing a miniskirt in the shape of a mushroom (possibly his robes being lifted by the wind).  What truly shocks him, however, is what happens next (see Central Park Story Book One)!

 

What To See When One Visits the Met (on the Front Steps, that is)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art… Impressive, no?

One of the supposed ‘must see’ places to visit while in New York is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I’ve been there dozens of times myself, yet every time it felt like I’d been hit over the head with a bronze sculpture by the time I left.

Not because I don’t love art. I love art in all its forms. There’s just something about the building itself that feels like an anchor around one’s neck…Too big, too cumbersome…too much!

Of course, I’ll keep trying, hoping that my next visit will be better. And I imagine someone reading this will take exception to what I have to say next…but the nicest thing for me are all the pretty girls sunning themselves on its steps.

Christopher Middleton thinks so too when he is forced by his girlfriend, Jennifer, to pay a visit to the museum in Central Park Story Book One.

Steps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The front steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art…even more impressive, yes?

 

Tennis in Central Park, anyone?

Tennis courts in Central Park

The tennis courts in Central Park where Christopher plays and beats his arch enemy, Devon

I never played tennis in Central Park. The area was too dangerous when I was growing up, but here’s a picture of the tennis courts west of the reservoir where I have Christopher and Devon duke it out in Central Park Story Book One.

I became more involved in sports as I grew older (crew, squash and other nearly extinct sports) and eventually settled on becoming a tennis instructor and coach which is how I was able to come up with the tennis scene for my book.

Below is a picture of me giving a lesson, not in Central Park but five hundred miles south in the mountains of West Virginia!

Me giving a tennis lesson

‘Watch the ball and bend your knees. That’ll be fifty dollars please.’

 

 

Mountain Lion, Cougar, Panther or Leopard? Which One is It?

Still Hunt statue in Central Park

Imagine coming across this while jogging in the park!

If you’ve ever gone for a jog along the Central Park Drive near 76th Street, you probably experienced the same shock as I did when I first spotted the menacing statue to the left.

It’s a very naturalistic sculpture of, well, let’s just say a ‘cougar’ for the time being. It was made by a man named Edward Kerneys in the 1880s and placed on a ledge in its current position in 1937. Since then, it must have scared millions of unsuspecting joggers and other innocent passers-by!

I’ve seen it called ever name in the big cat book, so I finally decided to look it up to see which one it really is.

It turns out that, yes, it’s a cougar (aka, mountain lion). It could also be called a panther but panthers encompass leopards and other big cats (except lions) and panthers that aren’t cougars give out a horrific cry whereas cougars only hiss and purr.

Still Hunt statue in Central Park

Lunch from the perspective of a cougar

This one definitely doesn’t look like it’s purring. At least, that’s what Christopher Middleton finds out when he heads past it in Central Park Story Book One.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir–a Billion Gallons of Beauty

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir

For most of my youth, I was fortunate to be able to look out the windows of my mother’s apartment and see the reservoir in Central Park.

I didn’t care about its history. I didn’t care that it was a reservoir that supplied water to my sink and shower. What I cared about was that it took me miles away from the city and across imaginary oceans to places hitherto unknown.

I would take out my 80-power telescope and watch the winter birds that would land there by the hundreds, looking for a rare one and, as I grew older, would jog around its mile-long periphery to clear my mind of the cares of my life.

The reservoir wasn’t always this picturesque and beautiful however. The original one didn’t have the naturalistic edge that Olmsted and Vaux designed. It was square and looked awkwardly out of place in a city park. Fortunately, the older one was abandoned and the current one constructed to look more like a lake than a reservoir.

In Central Park Story Book One, Christopher jogs around it’s periphery on his way to beat Devon in tennis but it plays a more significant role in Book Three when it leads him on an adventure that even my childhood imagination could never have dreamed of happening!

The Bust of Johann Friedrick von Schiller in Central Park

Johann Friedrich von Schiller bust in Central Park

Johann Friedrich von Schiller bust in Central Park. A pretty impressive-looking dude, wouldn’t you say? Christopher thought so too.

If you’re like me, you know nothing about German philosophers of the 18th and 19th centuries, or the bust of Johann Friedrich von Schiller that sits near the Naumberg Bandshell, for that matter. But as a writer it’s my job to investigate everything I come across, so I had to ask myself why they would stick his bust there instead of with the other statues at the south end of Literary Walk. Couldn’t he afford the rent downtown?

The answer came when I discovered that much of his writing dealt with aesthetics and beauty. Of course, I thought, why place him with the poets when he can be placed next to where beauty in the form of music is performed?

Some of the music he’d been made to listen to over the years might not have coincided with the beauty of which he wrote, but at least  he could enjoy a view of the Bethesda Terrace, the heart of one of the most beautiful parks in the world, as he listened.

 

Chinese Dragon Melody Performed in Central Park

Chinese Dragon image

Here’s a Chinese dragon and perhaps a distant relative of the cockatrice at Belvedere Castle

I don’t know if there’s a connection between cockatrices  and Chinese dragons, but as soon as I discovered there had been a performance of Chinese music in the Naumberg Bandshell called the Chinese Dragon Melody, I decided I’d make the connection myself and have the cockatrice dance to the music (Central Park Story Book One).

I couldn’t locate a video of the original performance that took place in the Bandshell in June of 2007, but I found a video of the same music being played in 2011 in a separate location.

If I was a cockatrice, I would certainly be tempted to start flying in time with the richly-textured sounds, though in Christopher’s mind, Chinese music is definitely an acquired taste.

Here’s the video:

 

 

Serendipity’s Shot at the World’s Most Expensive Sugar High!

World's most expensive dessert

Where’s the ice cream?

Forget about Christopher’s favorite triple fudge chocolate ice cream sprinkled with Godiva chocolate bits and gummy bears. Get a load of this over-the-top dessert served at Serendipity III to the tune of $1000! (Yes, that’s a one with three zeros after it!)

The description alone is worth at least a dollar or two: ‘made with 5 scoops of the Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, Madagascar vanilla covered in 23K edible gold leaf, drizzled with the world’s most expensive chocolate, Amedei Porcelana, and covered with chunks of Chuao chocolate. It is suffused with exotic candied fruits from Paris, gold dragees, truffles and Marzipan Cherries and topped with a tiny glass bowl of Grand Passion Caviar. It’s sweetened and infused with passion fruit, orange, and Armagnac. The sundae is served in a baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet with an 18K gold spoon, a petite mother of pearl spoon, and topped with a gilded sugar flower by Ron Ben-Israel.’

World's most expensive dessert

Here’s seconds, though I still don’t see the ice cream.

Had enough? If not, they serve another sundae that costs a mere $25K (I’m not bothering with all the zeros) and needless to say, set another world record. For myself, I think I’ll stick with one of the thousand dollar variety (I’m on a tight budget these days).

To tell you the truth, I ate at Serendipity with my mother on a special occasion (I forget what it was). I think I wanted a banana split but wasn’t sure my mother could afford it, so I ordered a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce instead. I ended up getting the banana split as I recall. That to me was enough to set a world record. The desserts that Christopher and Ashley enjoy in my young adult fantasy series Central Park Story or the over the top dessert to the right never even came to mind. But I loved the banana split.

 

World's most expensive dessert

Enough! I’m totally sick, but I finally found the ice cream. It was melted on the bottom!

 

 

Bethedsa Terrace–the Heart and Soul of Central Park

The Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

A view of the Bethesda Terrace and the Angel of the Waters with the Ramble in the background

It amazes me that the only formal element that Olmsted and Vaux envisioned for Central Park is the Mall that leads to the Bethesda Terrace. The rest of the park is, quite simply, devoted to nature.

When I looked at thirty-odd original submissions in the competition to create America’s premier urban park, most of them were full of formal elements–everything from parade grounds to Eurpean-style gardens!

It’s a tribute to Olmsted and Vaux that they were able to capture the spirit of their fledgling country through their realization that nature was what set it apart.

That’s what makes the Mall and the Terrace true works of genius. They lead one through a kind of open air church to the altar of Nature Herself.

There’s too much to say on this subject to fit in a simple blog. In fact, it’s part of what inspired me to write my young adult adventure series Central Park Story,  but in a single stroke, Vaux managed to bring man and Nature back together in the true spirit of harmony and peace.

The Underground Arcade at the Bethesda Terrace

The mysterious and beautiful arcade in front of the terrace from where one can view the Angel of the Waters and the Ramble beyond

He even suggested that the statue of the Angel that graces the terrace be dedicated to Love, and one can understand why. Only love could have formed such a work of simplicity with the potential to draw man and nature back together as one.

As you will hopefully discover when you read in Central Park StoryBook Two, this isn’t lost on Christopher in his search for meaning in his own chaotic life.

 

Homelessness in New York City

Homeless man in Central Park

Homeless man in Central Park (2014). Could be you, or me.

Over 100,000 people go homeless in NYC every single year. Of those, at least 38,000 live in shelters.

This is a statistic from 2003, over ten years ago. Since then, the number of homeless in shelters and on the street has nearly doubled!

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel more kinship with the homeless than with the rest of humanity. Their life seems more real to me because it’s more immediate and desperate. At certain key points of my life, I’ve also felt I was only a few steps away from where they were. As a struggling writer, I may find myself in that position again.

Probably the first thing we can do to help solve this ongoing problem is to realize that, in a very real sense, we are them and they are us. That, at least, would be a start.

I purposefully contrasted the scene of Christopher and Ashley having dessert at Serendipity in Central Park Story Book One with Christopher running into Old As Time, a homeless man who lives in the park, in order to show the seeming unreality of one versus the hard reality of the other.

May we have eyes to see every man and woman as ourselves. Otherwise, the problem isn’t with the homeless, the problem is us.