Thursday, May 01, 2008

Beltáin Walk

Work in the studio took a bit longer than expected, and I was wiped out afterwards, so I took a nap before heading out on my May Day walk. First though I had to stop by my Union Halls to deposit some checks. The Equity Building is at 46th between 6th and 7th Avenues. This is a picture I took from the next corner up, as I started up towards Central Park. Yes, Gentle Readers, for you I committed what is possibly the greatest sin a local can be guilty of; I stood in Midtown, and took pictures. Like I was a tourist. I'm surprised no one took away my Metrocard and the keys to my apartment. This photo doesn't quite do justice to the feeling of the place; the crowd looks so small and sedate, the traffic highly manageable. Not so much. Oh, and that poster in the center, of the M&M's? That's not actually a poster, it's a video screen. That image constantly moves and changes. And yes, it's huge, but not as huge as...

THIS. This is the side of the Lehman Brothers Building. They do something with finance. I have a friend who works there as an executive assistant and even she seems a little foggy on what it is they do exactly. Or maybe she just wasn't able to dumb it down enough for me. They're in the business of making money, as near as I can tell. They make truckloads of it, I'm really clear on that. All those letters? They're three stories tall, and these screens keep changing too. Here's another shot of the same wall, about ten seconds later.

Okay I didn't have to be anywhere in a hurry so I was a bit more sedate than is my wont while walking in Midtown, but with all the flashing lights, honking cars, crowds of people, it's easy for me to kick into BRISK SURLY WALKING MAN. Especially when people are STANDING IN MY WAY. I did better today. Like I said, I didn't need to be anywhere at any particular time, though I did want to get to the park before sundown.

Here's a dogwood I liked inside the park. It's over near the big lake (below) which has been undergoing some renovations and actually looks pretty good, though still under construction. I was glad to see the boats are still going to be available to rent. I thought of Cooper seeing this photo; you can't really tell, but it's an adult man and two small boys, and the boys are very happily rowing, one oar each. They're not getting anywhere, but everyone seems to be having a blast. They're not the same ages as Cooper's sons, but they still made me think of them. I bet the Coopers would enjoy rowing a boat.
Having already committed to looking like a tourist today, I decided it was all right to buy a hot pretzel from a vender. As a kid, I always thought this was one of the best things about cities, hot pretzels for sale all over the place. As an adult they rarely satisfy; somehow they are always stale and hard, albeit warm. This one was no exception, but I enjoyed it more than usual, maybe because I hadn't eaten anything since 9:30 am it was pushing 5pm.
Here is the field of violets I visit every year. For those who know the park, it lies at the northern edge of the Ramble, just south of Belvedere Castle. The Ramble is reputed to be one of those places where I could have found some male company if I had wanted to. Joe, would I find any commemorative souvenir jock-straps here, or is that just Riverside? Funnily enough, the Ramble is also one of the best places in the state for birding. Apparently the diversity of wild-life here, and in the park generally, is impressive. Right there in the middle of Manhattan.

It looks like I got here just in time; I don't think the violets have peaked yet, and though I won't be able to visit again before Monday, I think I'll get to see them at least once more before they fade for another year. My camera does something funky to the color; the blossoms are far too blue in these photos, all of them. I don't know what is up with that. I've only just started being able to get the damn camera to focus on a regular basis, I mean focus on the things I want it to focus on, what do you expect of me? I'll keep plugging away though. If I were forced to choose a favorite color, it would be this, the violet of violets, the purple you can't really see in these photos, where they almost look like bluebells. Which are also lovely, but don't quite make my heart sing the way violets do. I am always looking for clothes in this shade of purple, and it's harder to find than you might think. I like purples in all sorts of shades (just as I seem to like their namesake flowers: lilac, violet, lavender), but for some reason this one, which seems to me to be almost a perfect balance of red and blue, just isn't out there in clothing much, at least not for men. Way too faggy, perhaps.

An experiment with the zoom feature, as I was lying on the ground.

My unfocused homage to Georgia O'Keefe. But damn, that color is just WRONG.

I'm not sure why I love violets so much, but for as long as I can remember, they have been an important part of my Spring. Where I grew up, the college campus and back woods will get carpeted with them at some point in the season, and I always feel like something lush and opulent has happened in the world. Later in the season the woods will be almost as covered by white violets, which as a kid I found even more magical, almost like finding a unicorn. I still find white violets magical -even the name is funny to me, like white lilacs- but for the deep, heartsong response, I gotta go with classic violet.

No doubt I also became fond of them as a kid because they showed up right as the weather got nice again, and the prospect of Summer vacation began to torment deliciously. May was also the first month without an 'r' in it, which meant we were allowed to go barefoot. I don't remember hearing this rule from my parents, but rather from the mother of my friend Richard, but it did seem to sum up my parents' general policy. Well, Mom the farm girl was the one who agreed to a no shoes policy. Had it been up to Dad the inner city Philly boy, we'd never have left the house without shoes. They have a similar disagreement on the subject of curtains. In short, Mom wants the light, Dad wants the privacy. For nearly fifty years they've been having this discussion.

But back to violets.

As an adult I've found all sorts of fun stories linking gay men and violets -not just pansies- as well as the color purple (Judy Grahn devotes a whole chapter to the subject in her book Another Mother Tongue) , so it's fun to wonder if I was predisposed to like both those things because I was gay. Actually, there are times when I think I'm not just gay, but actually Faery (though I've never been a Radical Faery), given the way I gravitated towards pagan homo things from a very early age. I don't buy a lot of Grahn's book, but it's a fun read, with some great stories and interesting ideas. She'd be the first to acknowledge, I suspect, that as a social historian she makes a great poet.

After I communed with my purple friends for a while, I went up to Belvedere Castle to find the lilacs. On my way there though, I passed this bush, which gave off the most wonderful smell. Can any of my gardening friends tell me what this is? I haven't a clue.

The lilacs also were out, and smelling heavenly. I forgot to take pictures of them, I was too busy sniffing. I'm finally starting to realize that in New York one can lie on the ground to photograph violets, hug trees, or sniff lilacs for twenty minute stretches because:

1. People won't notice
2. If they notice, they won't care
3. If they care, they won't say anything to you.
4. If they say anything, you just need to act a little bit crazy, and they go away
and finally
5. Chances are good that even if none of the above rules hold true, once the encounter is over, you'll never see them again.

Anyway, the lilacs and whatever that other shrub is were intoxicating. I don't know why people don't plant more things that smell good. If I ever have a garden (and live with someone allergy-free, I guess I have to say), I will fill it with lavendar, lilac, basil, thyme, scented geraniums, scented roses (notice how the red ones don't smell like anything now? They were bred for color, not scent), sage, oregano, sweetpeas, rosemary and anything else I can get my hands on. Friends of mine got married on a lavender farm last August, and I had to resist the urge to roll around on the plants throughout the reception.

As I get older, I seem to be noticing and developing more opinions about scent. Sure, as as kid I had my likes (garlic, baking bread, coffee), but it wasn't a sense I gave much time to. Just about the only one, actually. In the last ten years though, boy have I begun to value it. Anybody else have a similar experience with smell, or any other sense?

Having gotten to the end of my planned journey, I realized that the ornamental cherry trees up near the old reservoir were possibly in bloom too. To be honest I figured I had missed them, but it looks like I caught them only just past their peak.

I took the photo above in the Shakespeare Garden. To be honest I find tulips rather dull most of the time, but I loved this combination of colors. I wonder if I can put similar colors together in a friendship bracelet, and not just have the red and green immediately fighting, or looking Christmas-y?

So there's a brief snapshot of my May Day walk. I'll have to wait for the "sex, eros, and dancing" to happen another day, but it still felt festive.


Butch said...

The dogwood tree is really very beautiful. I love this time of year especially when everything continues to flash more and more colours at us. When we think we couldn't possibly find something more beautiful, Mother Nature throws and splashes us with more colours.

Happy Beltane to you as well.

Java said...

Thank you for sharing your May Day walk! It was beautiful. I wish there was some way I could experience those scents, too, short of lying on the ground in the middle of NYC.

The Midtown pictures, now those were a little bit scary. What sensory overload, and not in a good way. Very un-peaceful. It must take some time to get used to all that rush rush rush, flash flash flash, honk beep boom. Makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

Eric said...

Your love of violets and the green man, its your Celtic roots, my boy. You know, the whole Celtic spirituality... thing...

tornwordo said...

That was a lovely walk. I admire your bravery in acting like a tourist.

Jess said...

A beautiful post from a beautiful man. Thank you for sharing this!

somewhere joe said...

I don't think I left any underwear in the Ramble. OK, I didn't leave any lavendar colored underwear in the Ramble. I don't think.

Speaking of flowers and spring, thank you for this petal-strewn walk down memory lane... and up the garden path. Seriously lovely, word and image. So many variations of violet, including the phantom lilacs, evoked instead in my own neural circuits... there were clouds of them at the front gate at the cottage long ago. Nothing evokes memory so vividly as a scent. I'm sure that if I got even one whiff of a hot pretzel, I'd be right back in midtown. And if there was mustard on it... fuggetaboutit.

Marc said...

As you know, I love purple, too. I was never allowed to indulge in much purple growing up, but I indulge in it all the time now. Jess is probably sick of purple, but I love it.

Your pictures are beautiful and I can so identify with them! I really love the pinks and purples. It's the mega-gay in me, I guess.

oscar said...

I just can't believe that you can find so much (natural) beauty in downtown NYC! Very beautiful pictures.
Am equally impressed by all the high-tech larger-than-life video screens. That is complete craziness.
Am not a big pretzel fan, though. That's probably because I didn't grow up eating them as a child.
Enjoy your weekend!

Greg said...

The greatest thing about Central Park is its super-sharp contrast to the hustling city all around it. Thank you, Patrick, for letting me come along on your walk...I've missed the Park and this was just the thing to end my long workday.

The violets are delightful, and so are you for getting right down there on the ground with them!

I bet the bracelet wouldn't look christmas-y or color warring at all if you can get a couple of those deep rosy pink threads in there to marry the red and the green.

I'm sorry to say you've completely stumped me on that white bush's identity. What sort of scent was it?

I think you hit the cherries just right. I love how the petals on the ground seem a reflection of the blossoms still branch-bound.

Damn. I want a pretzel.

Greg said...

Your camera might have a macrofocus which is perfect for upclose floral pics. Usually the setting's indicated by a flower, in fact.

(About photos...I played around with one of your violet pics in my photo program and I think I fixed the color. Email?)