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

Cockatrices: Coming Face-to-Face With One’s Worst Fears


The cockatrice . . . not your typical house pet!

Behind every myth lies a truth, and the the myth of the cockatrice is no exception.

With the head of a rooster, the body of a snake, and the wings of a bat, this mythical creature is a composite of all that we fear most.

When I chose it as an embodiment of all the evil that my main character, Christopher Middleton, learns to face in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, I was looking to add a degree of excitement. However when I dug a little deeper and found that the nasty creature can only be killed by looking at its own reflection, the truth behind it gradually struck home: the only way that we can truly get rid of our worst fears is to turn around and face them.

Cleopatra’s Needle Behind the Met: Was it Really Cleopatra’s Needle?

Cleopatra's Needle

This is how it looked in 1881 in Alexandria, Egypt

Thutmose III would have taken offense at hearing it called ‘Cleopatra’s Needle’. The obelisk was over 1000 years old by the time Cleopatra was even born!

Thutmose III made this monument as an everlasting testament to his reign, and he clearly had a high opinion of himself because its inscriptions compare him to the gods.

Unfortunately, even Thutmose’s desire for immortality proved no match for the wear and tear of the industrial revolution. After it was transported from Alexandria to Central Park and dedicated in 1881, it took only a few decades of acid rain to erase a great deal of his claims.

Cleopatra's Needle

…and now in Central Park, NYC.

Regardless, I make full use of it as a place of mystery in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.


Alexander Hamilton: A True New Yorker

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton: a true blue New Yorker

Alexander Hamilton was a Federalist (believer in a strong central government) and a capitalist (he was the creator of the Central Bank). Though he was one of the founding fathers and signatories of the Declaration of Independence and put his life on the line for his country (he was Washington’s chief of staff during the Revolution) he is somewhat controversial in that he was ultimately an elitist.

For that reason, I try to portray him as both an ally and an adversary to my main character, Christopher Middleton, in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story. But one thing about the man is beyond controversy: he was a devoted  New Yorker, having lived the majority of his life in the city  and having retired and died there, too.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton dressed for success




Turtle Pond: Where Dragonflies Magically Turn into Dragons


A rare species of dragonfly inhabits the pond in front of Belvedere Castle.

The pond in front of Belvedere Castle is a miniature nature preserve that, over the years, has attracted everything from ducks and turtles to a rare species of dragonfly that hasn’t been seen in the park in decades.

Being a designated quiet zone, it’s a perfect place for a writer to let his or her imagination run wild. In my case, that meant making the connection between the dragonflies that frequent its pond and the mythical dragon, or cockatrice, that graces the entrance to the castle on the promontory above.

In case you don’t know what a cockatrice is, they are mythical creatures with the head of a rooster, the body of a snake, and the wings of a bat.

Bronze Cockatrice at Belvedere Castle

The bronze image of the cockatrice that sits above the entrance to Belvedere Castle

Since cockatrices can’t be killed except by seeing their own reflection, I decided to make use of the pond as a mirror, and instead of killing them off, I had them turn into the rare species of dragonfly that lives on its pond!

Such is the freedom of a writer. He can turn anything into anything else with the flick of a pen.

If you want to see how it all unfolds, you might want to read Central Park Story Book One!

The Main Staircases at the Bethesda Terrace: A Treasure Not to be Overlooked

Staircase to the Bethesda Terrace

The main staircases that leads to the Bethesda Fountain displays many wonderful treasures if one takes the time to discover them

When first approaching the Angel of the Waters Fountain at the Bethesda Terrace, it’s easy to overlook the staircase that one must descend in order to get there.

Sculpted from Brunswick sandstone and designed by the brilliant architect, Jacob Wrey Mould, it is well worth having  a closer look.

The reliefs that flank the two staircases are organized according to the four season, while the piers on the various landings display themes that highlight the times of day and the ages of man.

Mould gave the artisans a general vision of what he wanted, then left them to their own creative devices with surprisingly refreshing results.

Imagine a witch riding on a broomstick, a Great Horned Owl sitting on a branch, or a pair of ice skates, and it gives you an idea of some of the visual delights you will discover.

At the bottom of the balustrade dedicated to spring, there’s even a bird’s nest that Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, imagines to be a cockatrice nest!





‘War is Hell’ According to William Tecumseh Sherman

General William Tecumseh Sherma

General William Tecumseh Sherman on his historic march

‘War is Hell’, is a statement generally attributed to the famous Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman.

You’d never know it by looking at his sculpture at Grand Army Plaza just south of Central Park.

Covered in 23.75 karat gold leaf (along with several layers of polyurethane to keep it from corroding) Sherman looks like he’s leading a parade.

The winged Victory statue leading him forward is in the likeness of Harriette Anderson, a freed slave from Georgia–a sharp reminder of what the Civil War was about.

There’s also a pine branch under his horse’s feet, symbolizing Georgia, where Sherman did, in fact, create hell for all those in his path.

It’s no wonder that Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, stops to discuss the battle that is being waged at his school with such a battle-hardened figure!


What is a Genius Loci?


A Genius Loci as depicted in Roman times

It turns out that there is no one answer to the question ‘What is a genius loci?’

In classical Roman religion, a genius loci was the protective spirit of a place. It was depicted in religious iconography as a figure holding attributes such as a cornucopia, patera (libation bowl) or snake.

In contemporary usage, genius loci refers to a location’s distinctive atmosphere, or a “spirit of place” rather than a distinct guardian spirit.

The British poet, Alexander Pope, made the genius loci an important principle in landscape design with the following lines from Epistle IV, to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington:

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

Pope’s verse laid the foundation for one of the most widely agreed principles of landscape architecture: that landscape designs should always be adapted to the context in which they are located.

Of equal importance, in modern works of fantasy, a genius loci is an intelligent spirit or magical power that resides in a given place. Genius loci are usually portrayed as being extremely powerful and very intelligent, though there is a great deal of variation on these points.

In my young adult fantasy series, Central Park Story, I chose to portray the Genius Loci that Christopher Middleton encounters at the Bethesda Terrace as the innermost genius of nature in its omnipresent form.


Bet You Have No Idea What a Lemniscate Is!

a lemniscate

Here’s what a lemniscate looks like…

In algebraic geometry, a lemniscate is any of several figure-eight shaped curves. The word comes from the Latin, “lēmniscātus” meaning “decorated with ribbons”, which may come from the ancient Greek island of Lemnos where ribbons were worn as decorations.

If you still don’t know what a lemniscate is (I admit I’m not much of a mathematician myself), know that you’re not alone. Christopher Middleton’s first reaction when his girlfriend mentions the word ‘lemniscate’ in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story, is “A lemon WHAT?”

So You Know What a Lemniscate Is, But What About a Mobius Strip?


Okay, ants! On your mark..get set…go!

So it turns out that you were smart enough to know what a lemniscate is but you’re stumped when it comes to a Mobius strip?

Well, here’s the answer to the second half of my two-part quiz:

A Mobius strip is a two-dimensional object that can only exist in three-dimensional space.

Got it?

Still confused?

Let’s make one: cut a strip of paper about 1/2″ wide and about a foot long. Cut that in two, give it a half twist, and tape the ends together.

You now have a Mobius strip, where an ant could travel from any one place to any other place without crossing an edge. This makes it a two-dimensional object in three-dimensional space, as mentioned above.

Pretty neat, right?

That’s what Christopher Middleton thinks when he tries to solve a riddle he’s been given in my young adult adventure series, Central Park Story.

By the way, if you’re still interested in even stranger topographical phenomenon, try looking up a ‘Klein bottle’, and see if you can figure that one out!

Olmsted’s Ever-Abiding Love for Central Park

Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted  as an ambitious and passionate young man

‘Love’ isn’t exactly a word that was bandied about in the 19th Century. Times were tough in a country that had to go through a devastating Civil War and for people who had to work hard for everything they put on the table.

So when it comes to Olmsted’s feelings about his work on Central Park, one might have expected a similar degree of practical reserve.

Not so.

As he stated in one of his letters: ‘There is no other place in the world that is more home to me. I love it through and through, and all the more for the trials it has cost me.’

Written in 1865, the trials he is referring to were the obstacles to the park’s completion put in his way by the political powers of his time.

When the park was finally completed and the Angel of the Waters  installed on top of the Bethesda Fountain, it was Olmsted and Vaux who suggested that it be dedicated, not to some politically correct cause like might have happened today, but to Love itself.

To capture the deep sentiment that Olmsted held for this remarkable urban space, I have Christopher Middleton, the main character in my young adult adventure series Central Park Story, echo these same feelings, down to the very words that Olmsted used himself.