Archive for the ‘Central Park’ category

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

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Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain

October 2, 2007

If you’re in Central Park on any weekend with wonderful weather, prepare to run into the Brides!  If you’re at Bethesda Fountain and don’t see a Bride, you ain’t lookin’.

Okay, it’s a wild exaggeration but bridal couples, and often just the bride, can be seen actually dashing from one area in Central Park to another with one or more photographers and family to catch the light and the just-right background for a shot.  And there are few places more photogenic than the fountain.

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As you can see, a wonderful open area called, I believe, the Naval Terrace, leading to the Bethesda Fountain which is just a few yards from a nice lake.  Brides seem to love it.

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She may be too young to be a bride (maybe it’s a coming-out/debutante or whatever they call it) but it’s the same sort of idea.  Dress up to pose at your absolute best in front of one of NYC’s best spots.  The Fountain is in a low area and the climb out of the place is a bear…

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I’m sure she was having a great time.  She certainly was the center of attention of a whole lot of us for a few minutes.

Here’s another, somewhat tighter shot of the fountain.

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It is nice.

Oh, as I was heading out I saw a verifiable Bride and Groom in somewhat unusual regalia.  Here’s the front shot of them walking up toward me.

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I noticed the Bride had a gown that wasn’t standard garb…here’s the back shot….

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Angel wings.  Hey, it is her day so who can/would say anything about it?  Actually, the New Yorker in me loves that sort of individuality.  Good for her.

-H

Belvedere Castle in Central Park

September 30, 2007

Whatever else it may be, Central Park is diverse and varied and just all over the place in terms of what’s there and what you can see at any one time.  When it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux , they seem to take to the idea of it being impossible to see in one fell swoop.  There are areas that you can see a lot of the Park, but no place that you can see the whole.  About the best you can do is go to Belvedere Castle and get an elevated view.

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There are a number of ways to get there, but the primary means I’ve always done is by wandering through The Ramble and it kind of ends up there.  But, for me, the Ramble is something I do when I really want to do some twisty, curvey, wooded walking.  It’s really nice and I usually view Belvedere as my “reward” for having done the walk.  Once you get there, you can go up and take in that semi-aerial view.

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The body of water is called Turtle Lake and this time it was pretty well covered with some sort of pond scum.  I think it’s “duckweed”, but that’s a guess on my part.  Few ducks, but quite a few turtles.  The area in the distance is one of the many lawn areas that dot the Park.  Some are much grander (the Great Lawn and Sheep’s Meadow are two famous and wonderful ones).

The inside of Belvedere is a Park exhibit on the ecology of the area.  Mostly, though, what people do is go up this tiny circular stone stairway to the top to get the best view.  I don’t think I’ve ever done it without running into someone coming the other way and one of us has to back out ’cause it’s too small for two.

One of my more odd pleasures in doing the Ramble walk is seeing what’s right next to Belvedere Castle.  It takes a few pictures to capture it all, but I’m used to putting up too many pictures.

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It’s the official Central Park weather station.  I always get a kick out of it thinking it’s the source of all the “current weather” reports on NYC.  There are no signs and I’ve never seen anyone in there, but it’s definitely a weather station…or an alien communications station…nah, it’s a weather station.  It’s completely enclosed in a secure fenced-in area but I have my secrets for getting fence-free pictures.

-H

Cleopatra’s Needle (AKA “the Obelisk” in Central Park)

September 27, 2007

I haven’t been to Central Park for a month or more and got the itch to go back.  This time I actually had a plan.  It hurts to admit that.  I’ve wanted to go back to Cleopatra’s Needle and take some photos with my new camera and it meant I needed to make sure I went in the right entrance.  Here’s a tip:  it’s just south of the Metropolitan Museum.  Enter around 81st Street and walk straight.  You’ll see some bears (with the occasional child hanging on)…

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Continue straight on by and ignore the first right turn.  Take the second right turn.  Life is good, you’re close.

Cleopatra’s Needle is somewhere around 3,600 years old.  And it looks pretty good for that kind of age.  Unfortunately, New York City is aging it faster.  Or, rather, the pollution and the rain and the temperature changes and the….are all ganging up on it.  Nevertheless, it’s a magnificent point of interest.

Here’s a view from just north of it.

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Ain’t it photogenic?

A little closer it starts to really show both the good and the bad.  As you can see, one side’s in pretty good shape and the other is very weathered.

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With a slightly different view, the weathering is very evident.

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Okay, that’s enough of the negatives.  I love this obelisk.  It is very historic and the history of it being constructed thousands of years ago, being moved to Alexandria a thousand or more years later, and then to New York another couple of thousand years after that is just mind boggling.  I love to sit and stare at it and think about the original makers and how they couldn’t have begun to conceive their handiwork’s fate.

And, no matter how crowded Central Park is, there are few people here.  When I showed up on Sunday, there were about 10 people milling around, more than I’ve ever seen there.  But within two minutes they had wandered off, leaving just three of us.  A few minutes later a couple of others showed up.  Here’s a shot for scale.

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You can notice a couple of things about the base from this.  First, at each corner near the ground is a plaque with a translation of the markings; sometimes with blanks where the archeologists couldn’t read it due to weathering.  Second, at the point of the actual obelisk meeting the new base, there are “crabs” holding the obelisk steady.  These crabs are modern, but are based on the stone ones in the Metropolitan Museum just across the way.  One at each corner holds the obelisk upright.

If you like history, and I do, the sight of Cleopatra’s Needle is quite inspiring and impressive.  If you want to know more about it, I’d suggest the Wikipedia article.

-H