A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 38: A Sunday Afternoon in Central Park

August 3rd · 2 Comments

Back in 1857, when Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were charged with designing Central Park, they envisioned something both grand as the skyline and as common as grass. “Instead of a playground for the city’s upper crust,” my guidebook says, “they wanted a park where people of all social backgrounds would mingle and enjoy beautiful, uncontaminated surroundings.”

This afternoon a picnic blanket of Sikhs reclined on the East Green next to a Connecticut couple batting a shuttlecock. Two Hasidic boys ran about in their black coats and yarmulkes, kicking a yellow ball, while by the drinking fountain two fourteen-year-old black girls made out.

Joo and I spread a blanket under a London plane tree. I laid face-up and cruised the New York Times style section and she studied for an upcoming exam. On Terrace Drive, sweaty rickshaw drivers hauled entire families, interpreting the landmarks while gasping for breath, and nearer us, among sprinting children, adults were scattered across the lawn unconscious, as if struck by sleep cannons.

A muffled thumping of music came from across East Drive. Finally Joo couldn’t stand it anymore. She shook me awake and insisted we visit. Turns out this was SummerStage, the music festival I had heard so much about. Bouncers stood at the gates but they let everyone pass with just a glance into their bags, because it’s all free. Inside an every-stripe crowd was bobbing its heads to the final act of the day, Jamie Lidell. We got a plastic cup of chardonnay and another of Molson and rocked out from the bleachers as the sun set over the towers on Central Park West.

Vaux and Olmsted, brothers, you done good. I ought to look up your graves, give your headstones a fist bump.

Tags: Sights & Scenes · Why I Love This Town

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kimberly Winston // Aug 12, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Central Park is without a doubt THE single best thing about NY. I used to hang in the Sheeps Meadow a lot when I worked at Lincoln Center. And on the grass just to the west of the Bethesda Fountain, overlooking the pond. I love it there. So glad you do too.

  • 2 anne // Aug 15, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Quoting Olmstead and Vaux, you make me proud Dave. On this particular Sunday, I had already walked 10 miles, fixed a dozen chocolate chip waffles, and was playing a very slow 9 holes of golf in the 103 degree heat.
    Although I was so jealous of your leisurely afternoon, I am thrilled you two are enjoying the park. We will have to hit the boathouse next time I’m in town.

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