Man’s (in)humanity to man

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Cherry blossoms almost at peak bloom along the bridle path in Central Park. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019.  The warmer weather moved aside yesterday, blown away in the late-late hours by hurricane-like rain and winds (and even thunder and lightning). The temps dropped into the low 50s by midday and the low 40s by night. All this, delivered by powerful late afternoon winds and overcast skies, changed attitudes. However, one of my favorite neighborhood trees has begun a-blossoming, and the pears are beginning to blossom also.

“Paris is burning…” a Parisienne friend wrote to me yesterday afternoon with profound sadness. This fire is occurring at a seminal moment in human history. It’s almost unbelievable that it’s not a movie. It is a monument to the history of Western Civilization. It also evokes fear, from a literary point of view, and auguring darkness.

It also reminds us of the nature of time. 850 years ago when it was begun, it was another world, ideally a modern world (for them). A life none of us could even imagine, today. As those who lived then could not imagine the world we live in. There were native Americans living on this continent at that time, all of whom had not a scintilla of conception of the cathedral or even its location or the country it was sitting in. Now, everyone has heard and has access to this situation, everywhere around the planet, almost instantly. All life is like that, for all.

The Naked City at Springtime. A friend sent me this photo taken somewhere along Central Park West in the 80s, and the Park beyond. The scene drew attention (briefly) Monday afternoon because a couple of NYPD squad cars pulled up and had a look at the body on the bench.

The cops never left their cars but had a good look. Was he dead or alive? Obviously they determined that he was alive. They went on their way.

The bystander who was watching this scene had greater curiosity about the situation: another man was sitting on the next bench looking in the direction of the body. Was he a friend? Did they know each other? Was he waiting for him for some reason?

After the cops left, the “other” man moved to the foot of his bench, a foot and a half from the bench hosting the body and what looked like some of his belongings. He sat there watching  for a short time, then suddenly stood up, and helped himself to a white bag of what looked like food, and casually walked away.

The bystander who took the video then did some investigating with camera and determined that the man was asleep.

A few minutes later, the sleeping man arose, and straightened up. He put on the jacket that had been serving him as a blanket on the bench, and went on his way.

The Park and its strong durable benches have played host to many thousands of visitors over the decades of the last century, especially in times of financial duress for the many. During the Depression there were not a few who used it frequently on occasion, many of whom were newcomers looking for work, or even had jobs, or were just surrendering. Entertainers, actors, dancers, comics, all in the business of “doin’-wotcha-hafta-do” often found their way in a pinch to those benches.

The main character in this video looked to be about 50, maybe younger, solidly built, neatly dressed despite the obstacles, and moved with a solid and sensible gait.

The image had me wondering how he came into this situation. From where? And why? Whatever it was, it all spelled dank hardship. Then I think of all the vacant retail spaces/stores up and down the avenues and along the streets, all over the city. You’d think we were in a Depression. That man on the bench is/was.

Meanwhile, back to business. Tonight at John Rosselli Antiques on East 61st Street, John and Bunny Williams are hosting a book signing with Yours Truly for a new book by Bunny and a first book by the team who created the HOUSE series that we run on Fridays on the NYSD: Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge (who do the interviews) and JH (who photographs the subjects and their home). All three have worked together for the past twenty years – briefly at Avenue – and then on the NYSD series.

Coincidentally, John Rosselli is one of the featured designers in the book.

I make no contribution to it. Sian came to me with the idea when JH and I were first launching the NYSD. She is a devoted student and editor (PhD) of interior design. Lesley is a writer, an editor and has otherwise nothing more than a passing interest in it. They’re a great team because Lesley is most interested in the principals and lives that are reflected by their personal choices. I love reading them even though I have only a passing interest in interiors. But with them, you see the environment, and also get a sense of the personality that dwells within. Your house speaks of you and for you no matter the interior design. The interior design is really the work, the art, but the person always fascinates.

I wrote the introduction to it, but otherwise I’m just an avid fan.

Click to order Making Rooms Your Own: Lessons from Interior Designers.

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