Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Parks and recreation
Saturday: With Alice strapped into the Baby Bjorn on my chest, giving me the opportunity to develop new and unexpected constellations of sweat over the course of a long hot Saturday, we walked all the way from 125th Street to Lincoln Center, in the low 60s, and back -- for a nice urban hike of six miles. On the way down I was constantly aware of heads turning to stare at the baby, women gushing and cooing over her cuteness. As parents, we tried to respond modestly ("oh, thank you" with a demure smile) but eventually gave way to bald-faced honesty ("yes, she is!").
One highlight of the day was exploring the new developments at Lincoln Center. I am constantly amazed by the renovations I'm seeing throughout the city during these lean years. Where is the money coming from? Who decides that now is the time to invest in public art and topiary sculptures? I have no idea, but I'm thankful someone is deciding this. The most exciting thing at Lincoln Center is a new parabolic lawn -- a sloping wafer of green that serves as the rooftop of a new restaurant and curves upwards to audacious peaks overlooking the streets below. The edges are lined with glass or metallic fencing, creating unexpected promontories with their own peaks and swells. It is remarkable.
They've added a lot of other exciting stuff there, too, including the elegantly powerful new fountain, ringed by a sleek black bench; a new grove of trees with plenty of chairs and benches; and an intriguing shallow pool intersecting with a sloping, warmly-colored plaza. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs pointed to Lincoln Center as an example of bad urban planning: a broad, single-use space, devoid of foot traffic and isolated in its cold grandeur. It seems that some smart people have heeded her critique; every new development I saw seemed designed to create a richer, more livable, more welcoming space. And they are succeeding.
Sunday: On Sunday L and Alice met me at the gym downtown after a good workout. Once I emerged from the locker room, all fresh and clean, L put Alice in my arms (which were shaking at that point, due to the rigor of the workout). A few minutes later I handed the baby back and L looked at me and said, with the kind of sneer I thought we were no longer using in marital conversation, "Are you still sweating?" I looked down at the oblong stain on my shirt. I smelled it. "No, she peed on me." So we ended up going to the Gap to buy a new shirt for me to wear for the day. Thanks a lot, Alice.
Later we made our way back to the park on the Hudson, where we read and people-watched and let Alice nap on the blanket. We saw a few reality show celebrities and plenty of people who had clearly been working out for months and months just to be ready on the first plausibly shirtless day of summer. It was a good reminder of the pros and cons of living in the Village.
Monday: Today I cleaned out my computer, which gave me a disproportionate sense of accomplishment. And in the evening I went for a run along on the Hudson, on the new route I've found for myself: taking the path on the waterfront from 125th to the 79th Street Boat Basin and back. It's about five miles, and the path hugs the shoreline the entire time (a few sections are next to the West Side Highway, but it's easy enough to focus on the water -- on the boats bobbing along the piers, or the bridge standing tall in the distance). The path is organized so that pedestrians are on one side, regardless of which direction you are travelling in, and bikers and Rollerbladers are relegated to the other side.
Today there were a ton of bikers in my lane, which posed a problem. Do I fall off on to the shoulder, and risk stumbling into the inhospitable water of the Hudson? Or do I bolt into the wrong lane myself, thus perpetuating the original transgression?
I approached the dilemma with the same passive-aggressive, slow-boil approach that has served me so well in the past. As the bikers came barreling towards me, at first I did nothing. Then I gave one of my tried and true Dirty Looks. Then I threw up my hands in a gesture of disgust. Then I started saying, "you're in the wrong lane." Finally I was confronted with a knot of idiot bikers, coming at me at the same time as the other side of the path was clogged with others. I had nowhere to go. "WRONG LANE!" I said, a few times. One chick in a sundress and bike helmet actually had to sort of stumble off her pedals to catch the bike with her feet to avoid hitting me. I ended up maybe six inches from her handlebars. "WRONG LANE," I pointed out. "Sorry -- where was I supposed to -- the bike," she explained, but not very nicely. "You should be in the other lane, that's for bikes," I said, doing my best to explain the clear symbols and words that were paved on the surface of the path in numerous locations. I mean, Excuse Me New York. I concluded the conversation with that sound you make when you're huffy and catch the air in the back of your throat in something that's halfway between a sigh and a grunt -- if you've ever talked to me in person you know what I'm talking about -- and that was it.
All in all, a great weekend. I love this city.