Monday, May 19, 2008

Bicycle Fetish Day and After-Disaster!

Hooray for Bicycle Fetish Day! Hooray for the City Reliquary! Boo for 5 stitches over two lacerations in one's right (that is to say: typing & writing) hand. Boo for a suspension of posts on ActionDirection blog. Lets show some pretty pictures and briefly explain a) Bike Fetish Day and b) how I ended up with abovementioned stitches.

A) Bike Fetish Day is the single largest community event the City Reliquary hosts all year. It's a day long celebration of bike culture and events, and we have a block party, where local bike gangs ride their tricked-out and bedecked two wheelers:

Where we have a blazin Bar-B-Que:

Where I acted as the MC for a bunch of great and goofy bike awards, like Ugliest Bike, Smallest Two Wheeler, Most Tricked Out Bike, Best in Show, etc etc.

We also had the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a politico-radical-marching-band perform, as well as a Brazilian Drum Core group.

It was an overall blast. Maybe 250-300 people showed up, ate watermelon, rode their bikes, boogied to the DJs Stacher and Dirtyfinger, and it is generally surmised that everyone had a glorious time. I also agreed to host and manage the after-party, in the CR's backyard. Most of the other Reliquarians wanted no part in the party, but BFU Marin Tockman agreed to bartend. Here's where disaster strikes.

B) As I'm stocking an ice cooler with beer for the party, I shove a bottle into the cooler with too much force and it explodes in my hand. Blood everywhere. Dave, CR Prez wraps a gauze pad around the gaping slashes in my palm and we call the ambulance. The EMTs determine I need stitches and its best to get them done now. Here's my bloody claw in the ambulance. Note the arrow indicating the damage.

I might be all smiles in this picture (and the snazziest dressed mofo at Woodhull hospital),

but the ensuing evening, in which I missed the party I was supposed to host, was spectacularly depressing. 2 hours in the ER, another 2 in the Triage Unit, watching a mounting battle of empty threats between two alkies (druggies? possiblys.) who were screaming in their respective English and Spanish, that they were going to fucking kill each other. No matter that the one speaking English didnt understand a word of Spanish; no matter that the one speaking Spanish couldnt comprehend a word of English; regardless, these two screwshits were hollering
muerte y puta de madre and all sorts of angry mania directly from the mouths of two men, knocked clear out of the ballpark I dont even think they came to the hospital together. All I wanted was for my hand to get stitched and to crawl into a cab, back to my pad.

Which, 4 hours after strolling into the joint, finally occured. 3 stitches in the top gash, two smaller in the lower, and frustrated, angered, infuriated and depressed, i got the holy hell out of there. Marin and other reliable sources say the party was lowkey but cool, and i didnt miss much. What I missed was the whole thing - the party I was hosting for my museum. But now I can tell people I got into a bar fight with a beer bottle, however it wasnt a bar, but a Community Museum, and it wasnt a fight with another patron, but a battle with the bottle.

The hand's all better now (you can see the scar right under the index finger if you squint),

but for the last few weeks it was too stressful to type or write, as too much flexing of the index and mid fingers have caused pain and frustration. Thanks to all who helped me through the night and ensuing weeks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lost in History vol. 62: You Say Hanami, I Say Huhwuzzi?

Spring is finally swinging its gorgeous pendulum ever closer to our neck-napes: Warm breezes, shorts, and slathered sunscreen all prove that the median temperature, along with people’s flirtation levels, is on the rise. Another certain indicator of spring springing eternal is the Cherry Blossom Festival at our beloved Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a perennial favorite amongst romantics, botanists, horticulturists, New Yorkers and tourists alike. The peak cherry blossom moment just hit on Sunday, and with the largest collection of cherry blossoms in the world outside of Japan, the BBG was the place to be.

Founded in 1910, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was established on an ash dump, sandwiched in between the Brooklyn Museum, originally called the Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences, and Prospect Park. It was intended to be the green, outdoorsy compartment to a top-notch museum. (The BIAS was supposed to be the largest single museum complex in the world, with an unsurpassed collection of art, natural history and science objects. The Great Consolidation of 1898 put an end to all that.) Although hardly the first botanical gardens in the city — the first one in the country was founded in 1801 on land that would become Rockefeller Center — the Bot (as we native Brooklynites like to call it) was developed over the beginning of the 20th century and “became known for its emphasis on plant physiology and genetics and for its efforts in public education: the world’s first children’s gardening program was established in 1914.” (Per the Encyclopedia of New York City.) Dr. Charles Stuart Gager was the main man responsible for the development of the Bot, especially its beloved Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, which was the first Japanese garden to be landscaped in an American public gardens — in 1915, by immigrant Takeo Shiota. The cherry blossom trees, although not within the original confines of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, have since been incorporated into the greater schematic of the Garden and are now considered a part of the whole East-meets-West aesthetic.

The Japanese have a term for the “viewing and cherishing each moment of the cherry blossom season” (as the BBG’s website puts it):
Hanami. Along with being a fabulous one-word sales pitch, Hanami is also a lovely microcosm for our lives as New Yorkers as the temperature climbs into the 70s and 80s. We cherish the switch from hot to iced coffee, the swish of summer. We become aware of each moment spent outdoors, away from our computers and cubicles, in the glorious weather that envelopes us. Hooray for Hanami, cherry blossoms and springtime!

(originally published on 5/6/08 in

Lost in History vol. 61: Happy 150th Birthday Central Park!

Two weekends back, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Central Park Conservancy held a celebratory series of events dedicated to reminding New Yorkers just how near and dear Central Park is, and just how impossible its 20-year prehistory of invention and construction was. It’s a welcome reminder, as today, April 28th, is the 150th anniversary of the selection of Olmstead and Vaux’s Greensward Plan by the Commissioners of Central Park, a body of elder statesmen who had the final say in the 600 acres (eventually enlarged to 843) at the center of Manhattan.

Fifty-one blocks long and three avenues wide, or two and a half miles long and a mile wide, or slightly larger than the country of Monaco, Central Park almost wasn’t so central. As the city’s elders were determining what kind of general green space to build for the city, the prospect of building such an enormous area of un-rentable real estate practically shot the idea dead in the water. It was the aristocracy of Gilded Age NYC who demanded a park to match the ones in Paris and London. So in 1853, the state legislature authorized the city to use eminent domain to take the land between 59th and 106th Sts, evicting the 1,600 Irish, German and African-American residents, including all the inhabitants of Seneca Village, a substantially developed colony of Free Blacks with three churches and a schoolhouse. With them out of the way, the space could be landscaped so as to feature terrain other than the rocky outcroppings of schist, swamp and scrubland that preceded the park as we know it today. Problem was: who to design Central Park?

The easy choice was Andrew Jackson Downing, a preeminent landscape and editor of the The Horticulturalist. A celebrity in his time, Downing was one of Frederick Law Olmstead’s role models as a landscape designer, and Calvert Vaux — eventually Central Park’s other prominent architect — emigrated to the U.S. and opened his own architecture and landscape design due in part to Downing’s direct encouragement . Downing was one of the major supporters of Central Park well before the land was purchased; there’s no doubt his design skills would’ve been put to work landscaping the park, had Downing not drowned while trying to save his mother-in-law during a freak steamboat explosion on the Hudson River in 1852.

Next up in the line to design this “New York Park” was Egbert Viele, the Chief Engineer for the park as of 1857, and most noted for his bad-ass map, initially known as the “Sanitary and Topographical Atlas of the City and Island of New York," but more commonly known as the Viele Map, made in 1865. When the park commissioners released their plans in that year, it was Viele’s layout that made the cut — a collection of green spaces without a larger unified motive. If it hadn’t been for Vaux — by then an established green-chitect working in Newburgh, New York, who successfully lobbied the park Commissioners to open up a contest for park designs — our park today would look a lot different. Vaux, who had been in conversation with Olmstead, worked on the Greensward Plan; theirs was the last entry submitted, on March 31st, 1858. The original ten-foot long map is on view at the Central Park Armory. Voila! One hundred fifty years ago today, the Greensward Plan was selected as the park for New York City! Now all they had to was build the thing. But that’s another Lost in History altogether.

(originally published on 4/28/08 in