Please Keep Off the Grass


I walked through Bryant Park this morning. It was just beautiful out. [Architectural highlight: if you stand in the southwest corner and look up, you can see the Chrysler Building in front of you and the Empire State Building to your right.] Around the edge of the newly-planted lawn were a bunch of signs that read:

Lawn Closed.
The new sod is establishing its root system.
Thank you for your cooperation.

A thin red rope about knee high ran along the perimeter of the lawn. The lawn looked like the fairway of a golf course. Each blade of grass was the exact same uniform height. Nobody walked on it. I started to think about the incredible arc that the city has traveled from the first day I got here until this morning. When I arrived, Bryant Park (along with Union Square) were dangerous, decrepit places that you didn’t even THINK about going into. They were overrun with drug addicts, homeless alcoholics and all manner of predators. The slime from the strip of porno theaters on 42nd St. emptied out into the Park. They would have used the “Lawn Closed” signs to feed their trash can bonfires and the rope to tie up and roll tourists who accidented into the area. It was a far cry from the 60’s when Mr. French use to take Buffy and Jodi there for walks.

I like it better this way. A lot of people lament the demise of “old” New York and scorn the Disneyficiation of 42nd St., and I get that. I see their point. Something was lost. But I don’t agree with them. It was scary and unpleasant and I’m glad that it’s different now. I like walking through the Park in the morning listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing out of my earbuds and not having to look over my shoulder. Just call me whitey-white man, I suppose.

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