Citysketch: A saxophone in the park

I bought a sketchbook on my way to work yesterday and needed to break it in with a quick sketch. At lunch I went to Central Park and came across this man playing saxophone. It finally feels like winter has retreated and left behind hopes for better days ahead. The melody is All The Way, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and made famous by Frank Sinatra’s 1957 recording.

Fun fact: In 1953, Sinatra slit his wrist in a suicide attempt, distraught over his divorce from Ava Gardner, and it was Van Heusen who rushed him to the hospital.

The lyrics to All The Way were written by Sammy Cahn:

When somebody loves you
It’s no good unless he loves you all the way
Happy to be near you
When you need someone to cheer you all the way
Taller than the tallest tree is
That’s how it’s got to feel
Deeper than the deep blue see is
That’s how deep it goes, if it’s real
When somebody needs you
It’s no good unless he needs you all the way
Through the good or lean years
And for all the in-between years come what may
Who knows where the road will lead us?
Only a fool would say
But if you’ll let me love you
It’s for sure I’m gonna love you all the way

CitySketch: Trees

The trees of the city – not the ones in the parks but the ones in the sidewalks and courtyards, surrounded by concrete – watch over us the way our elders always have, with understanding and indulgence.
They say, “It is possible to survive even the strangulation of your roots.”
They say, “Make a home in me, little birds, and let your hatchlings grow here.”
They say, “Take some oxygen; it’s free.”
They say, “We are all going to die. It’s OK. We may all live again. Who’s to say?”

CitySketch: Lamppost


There are 1,600 lampposts scattered across Central Park’s 843 acres. They were designed in 1980 by architects Gerald Allen and Kent Bloomer, to replace the original electric lamps that were designed in 1910 by Henry Bacon, architect of the Lincoln Memorial.
The Landmarks Commission held hearings to decide if the lamps would be of modern design or if they should continue the tradition of the original lamps, attempting to blend into the landscape. Those who favored the natural design proved more persuasive.
”The whole idea of the natural landscape reproduced in the man-made elements of the park was in the spirit of those times and is traceable to the 19th-century theoretician John Ruskin. The Bacon lamppost itself depicts seeds, leaves, stems and a trunk. The lamppost was a metaphor for a plant.” Kent Bloomer
Fun fact: at the base of each lamp are four numbers. The first two are the nearest cross-street north to south and the last two let you know if you’re on the east or west side of the park. Even numbers are east and odd are west.

CitySketch: Pomona

Pomona by Nicolas Fouche, circa 1700

Across a street that is more like a driveway to the Plaza Hotel stands this statue of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees, orchards, and gardens. 
Pomona is one of the few Roman deities who doesn’t have a Greek counterpart. She stands on top of the Pulitzer Fountain in Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, the source of the hotel’s name.
Pomona has kept her eye on the southeast corner of Central Park for more than a century.

CitySketch: The Dairy

I made a quick sketch of the Dairy in Central Park and was going to write a post about its history but found that Tom Miller had beaten me to it on his Daytonian inManhattan blog:
In 1853, the same year that the New York State Legislature set aside more than 750 acres to create The Central Park, authorities noticed a suspicious rise in the amount of cow’s milk being brought from outlying farms into Manhattan.  Previously about 90,000 quarts arrived in the city each day; now the number rose inexplicably to 120,000.  An investigation was launched.

The findings were chilling.  Investigators found that some dairymen were diluting the milk with water, then adding flour to restore its consistency.  But worse, unscrupulous dairy farmers, many in Brooklyn, were feeding their cows the alcoholic mash left over from the whiskey distillery process.

These cows were stricken with disease and deformities – losing their tails and hooves and developing open sores. The resulting milk, called “swill milk” by the press, was a thin, bluish liquid. To disguise it, the dairymen added plaster of paris, starch and eggs.  Molasses gave it the proper coloring of wholesome milk.  Harper’s Weekly, the newspaper that lead the charge against swill milk, reported that up to 8,000 children in New York died every year.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux

In the meantime, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won the 1858 design competition for Central Park.  Their vision would create open space for all New Yorkers, including the poor and underprivileged.  The green spaces, terraces, ponds and roadways were designed not only for their beauty, but to contribute to public health.  As the Park developed, it would play a substantial role in the milk crisis.

But for now the unspeakable corruption and tragedy continued.   When, in 1862, a Brooklyn “distillery dairy” caught fire, The New York Timesdescribed the deplorable condition of the milk cows that were released into the streets:

Many of the cows were in such a weak condition that they were thrown down and trampled upon by the more recent additions to the stock, and several will have to be braced up before they can undergo the process of milking again…One cow in particular, owing to her deformed feet, being unable to stand, attracted considerable attention, and yet the lookers-on were assured that she gave the best milk of any animal in the whole country.  [The cows had] long tails, short tails, stub tails, and some with no tails at all.  Their appendages were in every conceivable condition, from a sound stump down to stumps in every degree of decomposition… It was a most pitiable and disgusting spectacle.

From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly
At the southern point of Central Park–the spot where families would first enter–was to be a Children’s Area.  Although not originally part of Olmstead and Vaux’s design, plans were laid for a dairy here in 1869.  Its purpose would be to provide children with
wholesome milk and pastries with no fear of contamination.
The US Food and Drug Administration, formed in 1906
On February 18, 1870 The New York Times happily anticipated the new project. “The Commissioners of the Central Park have determined to erect and open next Spring a dairy for the supply of pure, wholesome, and unadulterated milk for the special use of invalid and delicate ladies and their infant children visiting the Park…There is a cottage being erected, with a handsome steeple and ornamental turrets, for the accommodation of ladies and infants.  There will be female attendants there, and all the regular conveniences.  In the basement cows will be kept in readiness to supply the demand made of them. Around this cottage a fine area of land is set apart for a playground, exclusively for the very young children, being distinct and separate from the present boys’ and girls’ playground…The milk will be supplied at cost price.”
 
Calvert Vaux designed the dairy, a whimsical fantasy of Victorian Gothic, multi-colored gingerbread right off the pages of Hansel and Gretel. The polychrome wooden loggia was intended to shelter the children from the elements and catch cool breezes in the summer. The stone block dairy, a combination of Manhattan schist and sandstone, took its inspiration from picturesque country German church architecture.

The Central Park Dairy

Take A Walk

Over the last century our species figured out, finally, how to overcome the force of gravity and take to the skies, and even to the great mysterious space beyond our atmosphere. With the internal combustion engine we already had motorized transportation that we measured in horsepower. In the centuries before the last we built chariots, carriages, and trains to move us forward at ever-increasing speeds.

Around 3,500 BC two developments changed the human experience forever: In Mesopotamia the first wheels were used, and in the Eurasian steppes the horse was domesticated. Somewhere between 4 and 5 centuries before that our ancestors figured out how to use balance, flotation, and the currents of water and air to paddle, then sail, our bodies on rivers, lakes, and seas at superhuman speed.
Before that we used our feet. 
A normal walking pace is 3 miles per hour. I found that out recently when I re-discovered the joys of walking. And there are distinctive joys in self-propulsion that should not be taken lightly. I see things when I walk that literally fly past me in other modes of transportation.
I am a disciple of the arts, not physical fitness. I search for inspiration and a stronger mind, not a fitter body. But if walking, like yoga or vegetarianism, leads to a healthier body, I’m cool with that.
But that’s not why I walk. 
I walk to watch the river move faster than me.