Archive for January 2008

Balto in Central Park

January 31, 2008

Central Park isn’t famous for statues.  It’s one of those things that you don’t think about…but try to think of a famous statue in Central Park and you’re hard-pressed to come up with some.

The exception is probably Balto.  I don’t know why, but I spent my youth in complete ignorance of Balto and only read about him once I became an adult and started to become aware of the Iditerod Trail Sled Race.  Balto was the lead sled dog for a significant part of the 1925 delivery of diphtheria medicine to Nome, Alaska.  Back in those days there was no airplane delivery, no roads, and no way to take the serum up by ship in the winter.  Nome was faced with an epidemic until Balto, his fellow huskies, and owner Gunnar Kaasen delivered the serum by dog sled team.

Balto became the symbol of the heroic actions taken to save Nome and schoolkids everywhere became smitten with the dog.  For its part, New York commissioned a statue to celebrate the dog which was put up less than a year after the mission.

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I kind of like having taken my pictures of the dog in winter.  It’s a bit more fitting.  I just wish that there had been snow on the ground (and on the dog’s statue).

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There is a plaque under the statue.

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As for Balto…he and his fellow sleddogs were purchased and displayed on the Vaudville circuit for a couple of years before they were purchased by the Cleveland Zoo.  After he died in 1933, he was stuffed and put out for display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

You know, I remember Roy Rogers getting grief for displaying a stuffed Trigger.  But I guess an animal that performed a truly heroic feat can be stuffed and displayed without the hassle.

-H

Open Road Park in Alphabet City

January 30, 2008

I’ve been going through Alphabet City recently.  In other posts, I’ll describe it a little better, but it’s part of the East Village.  I’ve recently been informed that the old timers reject the “East Village” appellation and prefer to remember it as the Lower East Side (which generally is used nowadays as the same general area, but only below Houston).

Anyway, I kept running into small community gardens in the area.  Calling them “gardens” isn’t quite right as they don’t let you grow your own stuff, but are set aside as greenery areas in the midst of a lot of four and five story buildings.

On Avenue A and 11th Street, I ran into the Open Road Park garden area…although it’s not much of a park nor much of a garden (at least not right now).  Note the sophisticated signage.

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This one’s quite a bit bigger than the normal community garden in other parts of the area, but it really does fall into the general type of garden in most ways.  Look at the plantings (it’s winter and all is dormant, of course).

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In fact, it is very deep and even has a greenhouse area.

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Amazingly, and I mean that with a lot of feeling, they even have a tiny pond!

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It isn’t much, but it’s real.

The area itself is so mixed.  Alphabet City has areas of great beauty and significant poverty.  But it does have a lot of places like this and, although not unique by any means in NYC, it made me very pleased with how NYC has shaped up.

-H

The Site of Richard Adan’s Murder

January 29, 2008

I know virtually nothing about who Richard Adan was other than an aspiring actor and a waiter at a small restaurant called the Binibon.  I remember hearing about the circumstances of his murder back in July 1981 and the huge uproar regarding his death.

I lead this section talking about him simply as a matter of citing the victim rather than the perpetrator.  You don’t want to celebrate Jack Abbott too much; he already has a Wikipedia entry and probably a hundred books cite him in some way.  Anyway, Abbott committed suicide in 2002.

Richard Adan was trying to be helpful to Abbott when Abbott asked to use the restroom and was informed it was for employees only.  Apparently he said Abbott should “take it outside” which might have been meant as use an alley or building side for a urinal (NYC was that kind of place back then); but Abbott apparently took as an invitation to fight.  When Adan led him outside, Abbott knifed him to death.

Most people probably don’t know who Jack Abbott was, despite the extremely brief celebrity of the man.  He was a lifelong criminal apparently with high intelligence and a gift for language.  He wrote a book called “In the Belly of the Beast” in which he put forth his anger and frustration with great talent and fanfare.  The New York Times published a glowing review of his book the morning after he murdered Richard Adan.

And the lifelong criminal would have been behind bars during the time of the murder if not for one of 2007’s most celebrated celebrities hadn’t made every possible effort to get Abbott released:  Norman Mailer (who died in 2007).

Maybe Richard Adan’s life would have made him someone that Mailer would have enjoyed.  He was also an author, but one cut short.  I have no knowledge of Adan, but am weary at the idea that both Abbott and Mailer have Wikipedia articles, but Adan doesn’t.

Enough of the ennui.  I’ve spent a couple of weekends touring the Lower East Side/East Village and the below was pointed out to me as the site of the murder.  The Binibon is gone, but I’m told is where the “Join or Die” sign is now on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 5th Street.

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-H

BET Protest

January 28, 2008

I was on 65th Street between Park Avenue and Lexington when I started hearing chanting.  Intrigued, I sought out the source and discovered a small group of protestors walking in a tight circle in front of one of the townhouses, just using some open parking spaces and not blocking traffic.

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They were orderly and not particularly loud, but we doing an organized chant.  I should have written them down as they changed it a couple of times during my short visit.  (I do remember “BET doesn’t speak for me”, though.)

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I was interested in the protest as they were uniformly Black protesters carrying signs about BET.  It turned out that they were denouncing Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman who apparently lives nearby.  In addition to owning such things as MTV, Dreamworks, Paramount, and more than a dozen other entertainment properties, Viacom owns Black Entertainment Television.

They were protesting the portrayal of Blacks on BET as showing derogatory images and sending negative images of Black Americans.  They handed out literature that identified them as being sponsored by Shiloh Baptist Church and asking for support in generating legislation to set standards in music and videos to prevent such portrayals.  In addition, they want to eliminate a lot of what I would call “basic cable” by generating opt-ins for cable purchases.

Apparently, they do this every Saturday in front of the guy’s home (it’s a pretty nice looking townhouse).  Philippe wasn’t available for comment – or so I presume as I didn’t knock.

-H

Gaza Protest on 42nd Street

January 27, 2008

On Saturday, I was walking home with my lunch when I saw police barricades set up near the corner of 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue.

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The Israeli mission to the United Nations is in the area and there are frequent protests directed toward them.  I suspected that this was true again, and was proved correct moments later when I saw the signs.

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“Answer” is a left-wing group against…well, about everything that America does and is (at least as far as I can tell).  Israel, too.

I’m not a fan.  But I do enjoy a good protest, so I took a few pictures and noticed something a little odd.  Notice the protester with the flag who was standing apart from the others.  I was there just as the protest was beginning and within a minute or two, the guy was more or less part of the larger group.  

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I got a bit confused with it as it was a maxist-leninist protest against Israel and some guy was flying the American flag and the Lebanese flag and the Israeli flag.  I asked some cops about it and they said that he was a counterprotester and that they had to do something about him.  I didn’t get any sense of “do something about him” in a pejorative sense, but that the organizers were unhappy about being pre-empted by this guy and wanting to have their protest be their protest and the police were concerned about having to worry about the guy in the midst of the rapidly growing group.

I guess the mixed message was too much for them.

As I watched and took pictures, two things started to happen.  First, the protesters decided to pre-empt the guy’s protest.  Look at how one of them tries to position herself to block his flag.

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But she just didn’t have the height and the signage to do it (poor, poor, dear [laugh]).

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Next, I saw the police come over and start to talk with the counter-protester and at least one of the protest organizers.

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After a minute or two, I left to eat my lunch before it got cold.  At this point, the protesters numbered a couple of dozen.  I didn’t know their timetable, but figured it’d go on for a while and that I’d be back.

After about an hour, I had finished lunch and started to hear them through my window.  By the time I got there, the protesters may have numbered 60 to 80. 

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They were doing the usual:  milling around with speeches and waving their signs.  They were moderately interesting, but two other groups were more so.

First, the Hasidem had shown up.

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The Hasidem are generally described as “ultra-Orthodox” Jews.  There are several large communities of them over in Brooklyn.  I don’t know if these were from that area or not.  As Saturday is the Sabbath, I don’t know their thought processes nor how they got to the protest site.  I did note that they weren’t holding signs or joining in conversations outside of their own group.

And which side were they on?  They were joining the protesters against Israel.  There’s little love between the Hasidem and Israel.

The other group I found interesting was that the sole counterprotester had been segregated off to the right of the group and had been joined by a few fellows.  They did have a small megaphone and were trying to make themselves heard.  The protesters were not acknowledging the existence of the counter-protesters.

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I was finally able to get a good picture of the third flag (the Israeli flag) that the woman had been blocking with her smaller sign.  It wasn’t an official flag.  Instead, it has an English-language slogan at the bottom:  No surrender.

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No wonder she wanted to block it.

-H

Avenue B and Avenue C in Alphabet City

January 26, 2008

Avenue B has the nickname “Charlie Parker Place”. The jazz great lived very near Tompkins Square Park back in the days that living near there didn’t have any cache at all. The street itself is quite pleasant nowadays.

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I was going on 7th Street and subsequently ran into Avenue C and found it…perfectly normal.

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In honesty, I expected it to look perfectly normal.  This isn’t the 80s and NYC is really nice.  I couldn’t help thinking about what I had been told:  if you get to Ave C, you’re crazy.  Nothing crazy about this…except for me sightseeing in the cold of the day.

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If you look closely, you’ll see a NYC rarity:  a two-way north-south street.  There are a few, but most are two-way for only a distance.  I didn’t get below 7th Street at this point, but I think it held true for all of Alphabet City.

-H

Graffiti Church in Alphabet City

January 25, 2008

During my Alphabet City tour I saw a bit of graffiti, but nothing as big as Graffiti Church.  It’s located on 7th Street between Avenue B and Avenue C.

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It’s actually a Baptist Church and the website looks interesting.  At some point, I’ll probably attend services, but I think I’ll let it warm up a bit first.

The building isn’t all that big, but it is relatively nice.

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No graffiti on the church itself, but there is a little bit on the building to the right.

-H