New York, my favorite city

New York is full of fragmented people — from those who talk to themselves and move jerkily, to those whose faces are set in hostility or negation. But others live tulmutuously, whose energies they save for the acceleration of fighting on the highest levels of their professions.

On Greenwich Village

The bohemian’s lair, I fell in love with Greenwich Village sometime in the 60’s when fellow Philets, from the University of Santo Tomas-Faculty of Philosophy and Letters made it our favorite summer haunts. Even if its atmosphere of hard work and regular meals would bear rather heavily even on girls, it was the place where bad (as well as good) literature exists, and for artists to live dangerously. It wasn’t far fetched when we imagined ourselves as a model like Maja Desnuda or Madame X, our portraits hanging on the wall of the Metropolitan driving men with desire.  It was a little more sinful than the music studios of our friends.

Still, Greenwich Village was not a place to the topple virtue, so much as to expand one’s vision. It was here where we began to see things like we’ve never seen before — not only as objects but a way of looking at them not only as shapes but a way of feeling them. My ears had been opened to sound since birth and the structure of music had enter my being.  My mother was a mezzo soprano who fed me Puccini’s “Tosca” for breakfast, Verdi’s “La Traviata” for dinner.

In Greenwich Village, I first heard people speak of breasts, thighs, buttocks and bellies as one would speak of mountains, rivers, bread and fruit.  It was there when I first discovered the bareness of a painter’s studio, of white purity, lit evenly on coldly by skylights. It was possible to look at a naked body impersonally; as form, texture and substance.

It was also the place where I first heard sex discussed with joy and amusement, as an open delight and not a secret urge. All these revelation sounded unimaginably naïve to a generation drilled in a four letter word. I can only say that our parents were not only inhibited and fastidious, but found much ugly, what is now routine for us.

The calm of Central Park

Central Park is many things. It is the calm eye in the center of the hurricane, the vision of a man who knew what people needs. It is the measure of the seasons in a city which tries to insulate itself from them. “It is the refuge of wild things escaping stone, a zone of danger, the only sleeping city,” said William Cullen Bryant.

But when is Central Park most beautiful?  I’d say in heavy snow, I think; or the pale green fuzzing of early spring. When the snow has stopped falling, still blindingly white and the lake is frozen, when the rough ice is dotted with skating and slipping black figures, while the branches are black.  All the dogs, leaping and racing black silhouettes, are delirious in the snow. In the certain lushness of a full summer, the heavy denseness of green leaves unstirred by wind, the whole park breathes like a tired beast in the intolerable heat of July. But summer stirs the beast, too, for this is the time of danger when human animals hide in the cover of leaves and darkness. As you hear night cries which might be horseplay, but could also be a scream for fear!

Central Park was created from a tract of featureless land spotted with shanties that had the backing of then Mayor Ambrose Kingsland.  It is a triumph over the “practical” rapacity of realtors who wept at the waste of building sites. It became the first park in the United State, and a model for the most that followed.

Today, these very same men would weep at the park that they made. Everywhere they would see the liter of plastic and bottle tops in the bottom of every grove, paper cups and cans at the fringes. The once clean lake also has its fair share of trash, and newspapers left lying on the grass get sodden and stick among the twigs. The fault lies with the people for whom the park was made.


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