The field trip we took a few weeks ago was fairly eye opening for me, I used to live in the financial district when I first moved to New York and I never looked at it so in depth. For one thing, I never walked up the steps of Federal Hall, which made a difference. Feeling the sandstone, and standing under a portico for protection from the rain. Looking down on Wall St. made me feel high up, and at the same time it made Wall St. seem small, but I could easily imagine getting people’s attention from there.
As for the Woolworth Building, I used to walk by it all the time but I never looked up, I never paid attention to the ornate details, and I never knew that I was walking by it. I only recognized it from a distance, the green roof on the skyline, which sounds kind of dumb but it’s true.
Another building I never noticed was the Federal Office Building, the one with the monument to the slaves who’s bodies were found when they started excavating. I don’t really know how I missed that but that was very interesting, that a burial ground was was there and that it was discovered so recently. Also interesting was how it was memorialized, the grassy mounds are what made me look first. Since I had fallen back at that point and couldn’t really hear the professor I had thought that they looked like graves; although we don’t bury people like that, the approximate length and width makes you think that the mounds contain dead bodies. I also have an interest in monuments, and whether or not they are successful and I feel like this one is; but I’d need to go back again to see if that is the case.
Reading in Lankevich I liked learning a little bit more about the making of Central Park. Back when I lived in San Francisco I remember learning about Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect, and being impressed. We have Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, which is our large park (larger than Central Park), which is from around the same time but it’s design is less manicured. I liked that Olmstead’s design was so clean, and so recognizable. There’s a really good book actually, The Devil In The White City, and it talks about him designing the grounds for the Chicago World’s Fair. Anyway, I liked learning more details about Central Park, how it’s construction was delayed because of the Civil War, which I guess could be implied when you know the date of it’s construction but I frankly never thought about it. I also didn’t know that Bryant Park and Madison Square Park are the oldest parks in the city, that’s interesting to me because I’ve eaten lunch in Madison Square Park plenty of times. It was also interesting to learn that CentralsPark’s land was useless “Goose Pasture”, that’s pretty funny considering how expensive that area is now. I guess the other funny thing from the reading was that people wanted to prohibit alcohol in the mid 19th century, I only knew about the prohibition of the 1920’s. Also, that there were mob bosses at that time, I didn’t know that, and that they were actually beneficial and did a lot.
My first visit to New York was a little over 3 years ago, it was November and I took a bus from Baltimore (where I was visiting my brother). It was evening, and I remember being so excited when we were crawling toward New Jersey, because from a distance I thought that it was New York City, and as we got nearer being so disappointed. We sat in traffic for at least an hour more before getting to the Holland Tunnel and approaching NYC from dark side streets. The bus let us out near Madison Square Garden, and meeting me there with a coffee was James. He was the guy I came to see, an old crush/friend from back home in California who moved to NYC five years before. So despite the cold, I had a very pleasant first experience here because we were in love. We went to the High Line, rode the Staten Island Ferry, went to the Met, went ice skating in Central park etc. When I moved here that summer it was Memorial day weekend and it was early morning, and raining. I remember the couple sitting next to me played ‘Empire State of Mind’ on their phone, and I was just so elated to be here, starting a new chapter of my life. I remember that I thought I needed a jacket, I assumed that the rain would be cold like back home in the Bay Area but it was already around 75 degrees that morning. When we went back to his studio in the financial district, to live, the reality of New York hit me. The constant grey haze, the garbage stacked high, the rats and roaches, the dirtiness, the aggressiveness, the general disregard of rules, the bad drivers, the lack of recycling, the bad produce, the crowds, the apparent sense of superiority New Yorker’s seemed to have, etc. But after time I got used to it, and the scary thing is that I’m acclimating to it here. When I go back to California it can seem too slow, the homeless gross me out, public transportation seems lacking, people seem too wishy washy and too politically correct… but it’s beautiful there, and relaxing and I need to leave the city every so often to keep my sanity. We live in Brooklyn now, Park Slope, and it’s nice to be so near Prospect Park; we take our dog there on weekend mornings. We are also near the central library, farmer’s markets, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the Brooklyn Museum, Union Hall, or if it’s too far to walk can just hop on a train or ride our bikes when it’s warmer. I have to remind myself every so often that I am very lucky to be here and that there is so much to do, and to take advantage of it all because we probably won’t stay and it would be a shame to only focus on the negative.