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

A Jousting Tournament in Central Park?

Jousting

Medieval Jousting…not my idea of a relaxing afternoon in the country

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, was the first historical novel of its kind and set off a train of similar type novels.

By today’s standards its plot seems cookie-cutter with lots of valiant fighting and flag-waving tournaments, but one has to remember that it was the original cookie cutter back in 1820 when it was penned.

Seeing as there’s already a statue of Sir Scott on Literary Walk, I decided to make Sir Scott and his novel, Ivanhoe, a part of my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

Of course, this required some creativity. The castle was obvious. Belvedere Castle is the most prominent landmark in the park, sitting on top of a 90-foot bluff that overlooks a pond and a field. The statue of King Jagiello with his two crossed swords that stands a few hundred yards away, proved to be another convenient element. But where was I to find a horse for Christopher Middleton, the main character, to ride in a tournament? Then I remembered the horses on the carousel next to the Dairy. Ridiculous as it may seem, I have Christopher ride a wooden horse from the carousel!

 

 

 

 

Webster’s 1820 Speech at Plymouth Really Rocked!

daniel-webster

Daniel Webster about to give his Plymouth Rock Oration at 72nd Street on the west side of the park…

On a cold December 20th in 1820, Daniel Webster gave an oration commemorating the bicentennial of the Pilgrim’s landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

‘There is a local feeling connected with this occasion too strong to be resisted,’ he said, ‘a sort of genius of the place which inspires and awes us…’ And he went on to describe in vivid detail what he thought it might have been like for these adventurous Europeans when they first set foot in North America.

Though some might consider it a bit of  a stretch, I find it no coincidence that the monolithic statue of Webster and the statue of the Pilgrim face each other from opposite sides of the park, as if Webster were giving his speech and the Pilgrim were listening.

pilgrim

…and the Pilgrim statue on the east side of the park at 72nd Street near Fifth Avenue listening in.

No doubt the park commissioners were aware of Webster’s famous oration and so decided to place the statues accordingly.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I have Webster give a modified version of his Plymouth speech to the Pilgrim as a sort of modern day re-enactment in honor of their being on opposite sides of the park.

 

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address–A Real Show-Stopper!

abraham-lincoln-secondinauguration

It is chilling to think that the conspirators who will kill Lincoln only a few days after his second inaugural address are present at his speech. Even John Wilkes Booth himself is visible in a panoramic shot of this same photograph!

..at least toward the end when he eloquently states:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

A few days later, Lincoln would be shot dead by an assassin’s bullet.

In my young adult adventure story, Central Park Story, I have my main character, Christopher Middleton, echo these same sentiments of forgiveness and charity after being faced with a similarly unavoidable conflict.

The Central Park Cave and the Mark Twain Cave

Staircase to the Central Park Cave

The staircase leading to the Central Park Cave, otherwise known as the ‘Indian Cave’

Although there is no material connection between the two, the Central Park Cave made me think of Tom Sawyer’s cave in Twain’s famous, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, Missouri, covers some six and a half miles consisting of four entrances and 260 passages, while the Central Park Cave consists of a single large room.

Discovered by excavators when the park was under construction, it might have been a shelter used by Indians in the past.

MarkTwainCave

And the Mark Twain Cave…not a whole lot different. became an instant tourist attraction and a magnet for crime until it was eventually sealed in the 1930s.

The staircase leading to the wall that now covers the entrance is still visible from the Ramble and only adds to its mystery.

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I imagine the cave having a hidden corridor that leads underneath the Bethesda Fountain, not unlike Twain’s cave in Hannibal.

If Twain could stretch the truth, then so could I!

cave

…until you get inside!

Bergdorf Goodman: Not Your Typical Department Store

Bergdorf_Goodman

Bergdorf Goodman, at 58th Street and Fifth…talk about location!

Situated at 58th Street and Fifth just opposite Central Park, Bergdorf Goodman is about as iconic a store as you could imagine.

Just prior to the purchase of the property by Mr. Goodman, it was the Cornelius Vanderbilt estate, whose massive gate now graces the entrance to the Conservatory Garden at 106th Street.

bergdorf_goodman_window_display

A typically modest window display at Bergdorf’s

So many references in films have been made to this famous store, they could probably be turned into a movie themselves.

For that reason, as well as the fact that it is located a block from Central Park, I make it a preferred shopping oasis for Ashley Ferguson, one of the main characters in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

 

Mixing Potassium Permanganate and Ethanol…Better Think Twice!

As Christopher Middleton’s chemistry teacher learns in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, it’s probably best not to mix potassium permanganate and ethanol or you might experience the following:

 

European Parks vs. Central Park . . . A World Apart!

Hyde Park

Hyde Park in London, though still on the regal side, comes closer to what Olmsted had in mind for Central Park than its other European counterparts.

European parks had their not-so-humble origins as playgrounds for royalty. Olmsted visited many of these parks on his overseas tours and took voluminous notes of what he saw. Much of what he saw he tried to avoid in his design of Central Park.

Rather than massive fountains, overbearing statues, and cleverly manicured gardens, he and his partner, Calvert Vaux, allowed for only one simple, but beautiful, fountain, one beautiful but elegant statue (the Angel of the Waters on the Terrace) and zero manicured gardens (the Conservatory Garden at 106th Street was only added after Olmsted and Vaux had passed on).

The result was a striking degree of relaxed elegance through naturalistic beauty and simplicity. Their goal throughout was to let nature be the central focus. After all, wasn’t it nature and our natural resources that made our country stand out from its European counterparts?

Throughout my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I have tried to underline the unique vision that Olmsted and Vaux brought to the idea of a public park.

the Jardin du Luxembourg

..like the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

 

Olmsted and Vaux’s Three Separate Ways: Their Greatest Innovation

Arch at 110th Street.

An arch at 110th Street that allows cars (or carriages) to pass over pedestrians

Probably the most influential innovation in the Central Park design was the “separate circulation” system for pedestrians, horseback riders, and carriages along with the sunken traverse roadways that allowed commercial traffic to pass to the other side of the city unnoticed.

The overpasses along the traverses allowed visitors to walk from south to north end of the park without being aware of the traffic that made its way from east to west, while the three separate circulation systems allowed visitors to pass one another without getting in each others way. This allowed one and all to spend their time enjoying the serenity and beauty of nature which was the sole purpose of creating the park in the first place.

Gothic Bridge

…and another next to the reservoir that allows pedestrians to cross over horses

Calvert Vaux designed 36 unique bridges and arches, no two alike, that would allow this clever circulation system to work.

He could have designed them according to the same basic template. Instead, he came up with an array of designs, from stone to iron, to massive boulders, that boggle the imagination.

Try coming up with 36 unique designs for bridges yourself, and you will see what a genius he was.

Emerson’s ‘Nature’ and it’s Subtle Influence on Central Park

emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the inspiration behind Transcendentalism
in the US.

“Nature” is an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, published in 1836. In it, Emerson put forth the foundation of Transcendentalism, which suggests that the divine, or God, suffuses nature, and that reality can only be understood by studying nature.

Emerson explains that to experience the “wholeness” with nature for which mankind is naturally suited, we must be separate ourselves from the flaws and distractions imposed on us by society. He believed that solitude is the single most important mechanism through which we can fully engage with the world of nature.

Whether Olmsted ever read “Nature” is impossible to know (Olmsted’s education was sporadic and piecemeal, at best), but his design of Central Park certainly acts as a living illustration of Emerson’s philosophy of Transcendentalism.

Olmsted’s goal was to suffuse nature back into the soul of each visitor to the park by creating a sense of nature’s wholeness that was completely separate from the distractions of the surrounding city. He did so by creating inspiring vista after inspiring vista, as if one were walking down a gallery of paintings, until one made contact with the inner genius of nature herself.

If Emerson brought the philosophy of Transcendentalism to the intellectual world of his day, it is fair to say that Olmsted brought it to the urban world.

In my own, lesser way, I try to bring it to the world of teenagers in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

 

Education in America…in Crisis Mode

American Schools

What goes in…

It is well-known that, ever since the 1950s, American schools have been in crisis mode, falling behind other countries such as Russia and Japan and China in core subjects such as mathematics and science.

Congress passed the National Defense of Education Act in 1958, and over the ensuing years, a series of other legislative acts, in an attempt to rectify these problems; but according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2012, American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading compared to students in 27 other countries.

To give you an idea of just how big a drop that is, America once ranked #1.

So, what is the cause, and what can be done to stop its seemingly inexorable slide?

In my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I attempt to resolve the issue by asking a slightly different question: what is education and how exactly do we learn? If we know the answer to that, the former question might become moot.

To cut to the chase, I don’t offer my readers a scientifically precise answer. After all, I am writing a fictional story meant to entertain! But in clarifying (and dramatizing) the issues, I suggest that a more open curriculum where mentoring plays a major role, is absolutely key.

This puts the burden, not on the curriculum or even the students. but on the quality and training of the teachers and the way they teach.

American Schools

..must come out the other end. But what happens in between? That’s the trillion dollar question.

As is the teacher, so is the student.