Our first outing in Manhattan was a walk to Central Park. It is called the gem of New York and is the pride of the city, a huge green space in the midst of concrete and buildings. It is used daily by New Yorkers as well as visitors and beloved by all. It is full of rolling hills, pedestrian paths, dense wooded areas, sports fields, playgrounds, lakes, bridges, and statues. This is a photo of a wonderful playground where the slide is actually built into the rock. There are historical markers at various spots of interest where you can dial a number on your phone to obtain a recording by a well-known New Yorker describing that particular site. There are park benches everywhere to encourage people to sit down and relax and enjoy the beauty and peace of the park. Most of them have brass plaques dedicating them to the memory of a loved one and some are quite touching and others are just funny…..one could spend weeks just reading park bench inscriptions!
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is known for its jogging track that circles the reservoir. Supposedly, Bill Clinton runs there. We did not see him on our visit, but we enjoyed looking across the water at the upper west side skyline.
In various places around the park are street performers and musicians, some with permits and some without. We have seen saxophone players, puppeteers, and even a guy making gigantic soap bubbles. In terms of cleanliness the park is pristine with few pieces of trash to be seen. We have heard that in the fall every single one of the fallen leaves is picked up and removed.
Every summer the Delacorte Theater in the park is home to Shakespeare in the Park, a free open-air event where plays or artistic events are provided at no charge to the public, usually for two performances each. Such artists as Meryl Streep (many years ago) and Matt Damon (this past summer) have starred. The trick is to obtain tickets. The tickets are distributed at noon on the day of the performance, and hopefuls often start lining up at 6:00 a.m. at the box office inside the park when the park opens. The system is totally amazing as it is quite civilized and well-mannered. People come with lawn chairs and blankets and dogs and books and newspapers and camp out in a meandering line near the theater. Everyone understands the unwritten rule that there are no cuts into the line and all seem to respect this…..we saw one person try to violate this and another person in line immediately informed them of the rule. You can leave the line at any time (food or potty break) and just put a marker down such as a jacket or umbrella or book. When you come back, your place is held for you. We arrived at 10:45 a.m. one Friday to try to get tickets to The Tempest but just missed the cutoff. We spent the time in line chatting with some native New Yorkers who were delighted to talk about their city…..and, as they say, everyone is a character!
I tried again for tickets for the final 2013 production, Fall for Dance, last week and was successful…and was so happy to have the tickets as the wait in line was worth it. The theater holds less than 2000 people and our seats were great, as are all the seats there. The backdrop to the stage is looking across Turtle Pond at the Belvedere Castle, a small castle offering the highest point in the park. At night it is lit by floodlight, and the turrets make it look like the setting for a fairy tale. The night was warm and there was a full harvest moon. We felt like we were in the best place ever as we enjoyed four different dance performances, including dancers from the New York City Ballet, an African troupe called Ronald K Brown/Evidence, and the Paul Taylor Dance Compnay.
The first performance was by STREB Extreme Action Company and was breathtaking and amazing and even hard to describe. There was a four story scaffolding structure on stage aglow with lights (note Belvedere Castle in background on left side). Twenty performers in red unitards launched themselves off the various levels by diving onto a thick mat below. They did backward dives, jackkknives, corkscrews, and flips. Often this was choreographed so that they had a domino effect from top to bottom or side to side. It left the audience gasping at their grace and courage. We felt very lucky to be there on this special night!