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

The Angel of the Waters at the Bethesda Terrace: the Most Powerful Symbol in the Park

Bethesda Fountain and the Angel of the Water

The Bethesda Fountain and the Angel of the Waters,, a statue created by Emma Stebbins in 1873

‘Now there was at Jerusalem by the sheep’s market a pool having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk: the blind, the halt, and the withered, waiting for the movement of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled it, and whosoever first stepped in after the troubling of the water was made whole of whatever disease he had.’

This is the description of the Bethesda Pool in the Bible that was the inspiration behind the Bethesda Terrace and its Angel of the Waters in Central Park.

The Angel is so full of meaning, both historically and symbolically, that it’s hard to to capture in a few short sentences.

On a simple, practical level, it represents the availability of clean water to the city via the Croton Aqueduct system. At the same time, in its simplicity, beauty and grace, it draws together all of the faiths that one expects to find in a democratic society.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I try to take this symbol of unity to a new level by having it spearhead the dawn of a new time, not just for the city and the country, but for the rest of the planet.

Perhaps Calvert Vaux, the architect of the Terrace and the Mall, captured it best when he suggested that this beautiful statue be dedicated to Love.

 

Olmsted’s Family–Not Your Typical 19th Century Family by a Long Shot

 

Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted as a young man, circa 1850

When I think of what it might have been like to be a parent in the mid 19th Century, the word ‘indulgent’ isn’t what comes to mind, yet that was exactly what John Olmsted, Frederick Law Olmsted’s father, was to young Fred.

Tragically, Fred’s mother died before he turned four, and one might imagine that his father felt that by being indulgent with Fred and his older brother, John, he could compensate for the loss.

Being a prosperous merchant from Hartford CT gave him the means by which he could bankroll whatever outlandish schemes Fred managed to come up with–and he came up with quite a number, from exotic travels, to farming and everything in between.

Fred’s brother, John, leaned more on the practical side of life, attending Yale and becoming a physician, but tragically, he succumbed to tuberculosis in the prime of life, leaving Fred and his indulgent father behind.

I like to hear about people’s backgrounds because such intimate details often become the determining factor in how they end up living their lives. The loss of his mother, the search for something that might restore a sense of wholeness, and the discovery that Mother Nature herself could fill the gap, probably played a major role in Olmsted’s ultimate choices.

Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted in his later years

Understanding people’s personal backgrounds also reminds me that it’s not the tragedies of life that define who we become; it’s how we act to overcome those tragedies and turn them into victories that is the ultimate, determining factor.

The Mineral Water Pavilion In Central Park: A Treasure Lost to Time

Mineral Water Pavilion in Central Park

The Mineral Water Pavilion in Central Park shortly after the Civil War

Although it would eventually be razed in 1957, the Mineral Water Pavilion delighted the inhabitants of the city for nearly a century.

Clean water was a major problem for New York for much of its history. Several epidemics of cholera swept the metropolis throughout the early 1800s, costing many thousands of lives, so the advent of a ‘spa’ that offered pure spring water seemed like a gift from heaven itself and attracted many thousands of people daily till the springs finally ran dry.

The building was designed by Calvert Vaux and his associate, Jacob Wrey Mould, and was given a Moorish flavor, popular at the time.

Interior of the Mineral Water Pavilion

The Interior of the Mineral Water Pavilion…Can I offer you something to drink, sir?

In my book, Central Park Story, I resurrect the building and have it dispense mineral waters that are reputed to cure ‘all that ails you’–a stretch of the imagination but in tune with the way people generally thought about mineral water in the 19th Century.

It Took More Gunpowder Than Was Used in the Battle of Gettysburg to Construct Central Park

Gettysburg

More casualties were suffered at Gettysburg than in any other battle in the Civil War

In Book One of my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, Christopher Middleton, the main character,  mentions that it took more gunpowder than was used in the Battle of Gettysburg to construct Central Park.

I also have one of the statues (yes, the statues talk in my books) compare Christopher’s personal challenges to the famous battle.

So, what exactly happened at Gettysburg on those three fateful days in July of 1863 to make it such a potent symbol?

The short answer is that it marked the point in the Civil War where the Confederacy shifted from being on the offensive to being primarily defensive, and although the war would continue, battle after bloody battle, for another two years, never would the South work their way this far north again.

Gettysburg

The Civil War was also the first war where photographs of the casualties were taken

Gettysburg cost a total of 50,000 casualties combined, most of them caused by the same gunpowder that made Central Park what it is today, so the battle proved an apt symbol both for the park, as well as my main character’s own internal battles.

 

 

 

Aspen, Colorado: Just a Short (Private) Jet Ride from NYC

Aspen-Colorado

The humble village of Aspen, Colorado

If you happen to be like Ashley Ferguson, one of the characters in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, you have a choice of which resort to visit over winter vacation. However, when it comes to skiing the choices narrow considerably, and you are forced to make the difficult decision between Aspen and Vail.

Oh well, I guess even the super-rich have difficult choices to make in life!

The last time I went skiing was in college, and I skied straight off the side of a cliff. I hung up my skis after that and turned my attention to something less dangerous!

Skating in Central Park: As Popular Back in the mid-1800s as it is Today

Central Park Skaters

Facing west from Central Park with Skaters on the Ramble Lake and the Dakota in the background, c. 1890.

Today, there are two skating rinks in Central Park, one in the north end and one in the south, but there used to be only one in the middle . . . the Ramble Lake.

When the park was  first opened to the public in the late 1860’s, skating was a popular sport and brought tens of thousands people into the park.

With baseball and bicycling still several decades away, it was the only sport that brought the community together–a very democratic phenomenon that reflected the purpose of the park in the first place.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that the Lake was closed to skating and moved to present-day Wollman’s skating rink in the southernmost end of the park.

wollman skating rink

Wollman Skating Rink circa 2015

Hence, when it came to writing my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, it was natural to include skating in several of the scenes.

School Rankings: What’s Really Behind the Numbers?

groton school

Groton School outside of Boston which I attended from grades 8-12 followed the same boring conveyor-belt approach to education that you find in the rest of the country–only in this case, for the highly-privileged few

In order to get a high ranking for a private school these days, you need to offer a low student-to-faculty ratio, a challenging curriculum, and an excellent reputation for college prep.

You could say the same about colleges and grad school rankings.

Add to this the more general principle that input equals output, meaning if you select the right quality of student coming in, the product coming out will be consistent with your ranking, and voila, you have a formula for a fabulous ranking!

But is this what education is truly about?

I attended some of the best schools in the country, but came out the other end realizing that a fabulous education isn’t just for the carefully selected few in our society; it’s a basic human right, and everyone (I mean EVERYONE) has an inner genius that is fully capable of being unfolded, if given the right set of circumstances in which to blossom.

This is why I tried to interweave the theme of a more natural system of education throughout my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, and emphasize that everyone’s needs for an excellent education can and should be fulfilled–not just those of the privileged few.

 

Thoreau’s Walden–Not Your Typical Backyard Camping Trip

Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond

Thoreau’s cabin near Walden Pond

Walden, a book by by noted Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau,  is part personal declaration of independence, part social experiment, and part manual for self-reliance. Published in 1854, it details Thoreau’s experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

By immersing himself in nature, Thoreau hoped to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection which, in many ways is what happens to Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

Of course, it wouldn’t be possible without a little imagination and fantasy mixed in, but I wanted to prove to my readers, both young and old, that there are no limitations when it comes to nature.

 

Montessori Schools and the Future of Education

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was an amazing educator who emphasized engaging and exploration as opposed to being spoon-fed information

More than 100 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female physician, inspired the birth of a worldwide educational movement.

Drawing upon her scientific background and clinical understanding, Dr. Montessori observed how young people learn best when engaged in purposeful activity rather than being fed information. She recognized that children’s cognitive growth and development requires the construction of an educational framework that respects individuality and fulfills the needs of the ‘whole child.’

Her pioneering work created a blueprint for nurturing all children— from gifted to learning disabled—to become self-motivated, independent, and life-long learners.

Throughout my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, education is a theme. I didn’t intend for my books to be only amusing or exciting (of course,  I tried to make them that, as well!). I wanted them to pique the imagination as well as help the reader come to terms with issues, such as education, in their broadest sense.

 

Taking Exams…At Times You Just Have to Rely on Street Smarts

Taking exams isn’t fun, but it’s fun making fun of exam-taking.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, the main character, Christopher Middleton, doesn’t open a book when it comes to studying for exams. Rather, he relies on what his girlfriend tells him on their early morning walks to school…with amusing results.

I guess that’s one way of using your street smarts. Here’s another that I thought you might also find amusing: