Thursday, April 21, 2016

Captured by the view

Reading under a cherry blossom tree in Central Park. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, April 21, 2016. Bright and sunny day, yesterday in New York, a little cooler than the day before, with temps in the low 60s. The traffic in the city was horrendous beginning in the morning.  Fewer lanes and roadspace, construction on main thoroughfares, double parked trucks everywhere. Furthermore, in the afternoon, the 5 and the 6, on the Lexington Avenue lines were closed to and from 125th Street all the way downtown.

I started the morning (leaving the house) a little earlier for my Michael’s lunch because I had to walk Tobey over to the cleaner – Groomingdales on East 82nd Street between First and Second. He loves the walks but this particular direction did not appeal to him and he kept pulling away as if to say, “let’s forget it and go home.” He knew. He hates the groomer the way I hated the barber when I was a kid.

After dropping him off, because I could already see what the traffic was like (practically gridlock), I walked over to Fifth Avenue to catch a bus going down Fifth. When I got to Fifth, even the buses were having a hard time moving (in the bus lane), because two lanes were closed for a few blocks in the 70s.

So I hoofed it for about ten blocks. Walking down Fifth while waiting for the bus to make it through traffic, I was captured by the view of the extraordinary Park festooning, full of nature’s bounty beautiful right in the middle of the metropolis. 12:10 PM.
After lunch heading back up Park Avenue to pick up the pup at Groomingdales, the avenue’s island are in full bloom.  All thanks to the Park Avenue Fund.
When I got out of the cab on 82nd and Park, I crossed to the middle of the lanes overlooking the islands to get this shot looking south. This Spring the tulips are a sunny, yellow Darwin Hybrid called Golden Oxford – among the most weather resistant of all garden tulips with large flower heads and strong stems.
And looking north. After the Tulips have finished, the Park Avenue Fund hosts a “Park Avenue Tulip Dig” – a longstanding tradition that allows members of the community to dig up the spent bulbs for future use in their own gardens.  Then Begonias are planted. This year – if enough funds are raised – an additional planting of colorful mums will follow in the fall.
I walked from Park and 82nd where the blocks from Park to Lex was entirely blocked off because a crane was operating in construction of another luxury apartment building going up.  Along the sidewalk, surrounding some of the trees, neighbors had planted their own Spring gardens of tulips.
And Hyacinth ...
... shaded by these exquisite flowering trees.
And then on the southeast corner of 82nd and Second Avenue, the deli’s floral collection had more to say about the day ...
Just inside the block between Second and First Avenues there is barber shop on the north side of the street where these two little beauties who were very curious are in residence. Their owner had put their cage on the sidewalk so they could take in the air and the sunshine.
Back home, out on the terrace, I noticed the buds on the tree in front had flourished overnight.
Here’s the boy, glad to be home (he pulled me down the street, running from the groomer’s shop) and contemplating the street.
On today’s NYSD, Schulenberg’s Page evoked a lot of personal memories. It was about the time of these sketches that  he and I met.  I was living on East 81st Street and very close to Yorkville which was still known to many New Yorkers as Germantown that he references on his Page. The neighborhood around East 86th east of  Lexington Avenue got its name because of the great river accident of the PS General Slocum, a passenger steamboat that caught fire and sank in the East River on June 15, 1904.
More than 1000 of the 1300 passengers on board died, many of them by drowning in the river’s rapids.
PS General Slocum.
The General Slocum was on a chartered run carrying members of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church to a church picnic. Most of the passengers were women and children. Before this horrific incident occurred there was a large German immigrant population in Manhattan whose main neighborhood was on the East Side in the 14th Street area down to St. Mark's Place. The incident decimated much of the church’s congregation, and it never recovered. It is still the worst maritime disaster in the history of the city, and so great a loss to the community of what was known as “Little Germany” that many of its citizens so bereft from it, that they moved away, up to Yorkville and abandoned the church and their neighborhoods. It had been New York’s greatest loss of life in a disaster until 9/11.
The Slocum sinking.
In the 1960s, 86th Street and the avenues crossing had many German restaurants and as well as bakeries, butchers and delicatessens. Walking along East 86th Street one could often hear German spoken by the elderly members of the community.

Schulenberg’s illustrations on today’s NYSD also emphasize the coffee shop and tavern social life in those days of people both young and old, often in conversation about the world and the town we were living in. Without the technology that has besieged so many of us today, people gathered to talk and share thoughts and dramas and commentaries. There was an excitement in the air. It was clear to me because I was very young and new to it, but the older people were also aware of its vitality. We were all in the thick of this amazing place with the New aborning every day.
An October beer festival on 86th Street and Third Avenue.

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