Monday, February 21, 2005

Orange Sherbert
Saturday was freezing sunshine. A February day crisp with light winds, blinding sunlight, and toe-chilling temperatures. A perfect day for the city to be packed with its dwellers and its visitors. The family, minus Mr. Ohio, rose early, staggered over to the car and pointed it north toward NYC. We met with friends at Port Imperial in Weehawken, NJ where we caught a (cheap) ferry over to 38th St in Manahattan. What a gorgeous way to enter the city! Leave your car behind in Jersey for the day, 7 bucks :<(That and the cost of the ferry was the last time that day anything cost under a sawbuck).
A block south of the Park, glints of orange/saffron/mandarin/tangerine flicker. Streams of people quietly congeal into crowds as we cross 58th Street, pass by Sherman's statue by Fifth Avenue. The southeast corner of the park is dotted with groups of people, but there's no pushing or yelling. People mill about with smiles on their faces, or at least on faces you can see that aren't wrapped to eye-level in scrafs or pulled up sweaters. We meander down the paths, passing under the Gates. The sun is bright, high overhead at midday; the paths are bright with the flapping orange material (I will not try to use any other "orange" synonym, although, when I was googling for alternate color descriptions, it was interesting to find out that as the orange (fruit) made its way from China to western Asia to Europe and eventaully to the flatlands of Florida, it changed its name from the Persian narang to the Arabic naranj to the Italian melarancio was translated into Old French as pume orenge and finally to orange. The Croatian word for orange is "naranc(h)a", a variation of the Arabic word).
The Bulgarian born artist Christo's vision is, if nothing else, a reason to discuss the definition of art. And that's the main topic that drifted from group to group. That and the cost of the project, a topic everyone seemed to have an unwavering opinion on. "If I had that money.." was an introduction to many an exchanged greeting. All I kept on thinking about was pumpkin & roast turkey, an earworm planted by Pepper of the Earth's take on the Gates. Read that review to get a true feel for what the outdoor exhibit is like. I thoroughly enjoyed the short 3-4 miles that we walked of the 23 miles of paths marked in orange. With the sun out so brightly, the shadows laid out by the cloth were as interesting as the bright banners themselves. With the dismantling to start on Feb. 27th, my mind's eye will not be affected. I'll always see certian parts of the Park strewn with the Gates undulating along the topography of the Park. The Gates opened up my eyes to certain peculiarities of Central Park I'd been blind to. Christo's idea was brilliant and so helpful. The fact that it's just a temporary installation is a complement to the Park's designers, Fredrick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, whose eyes for details may be seen now by some of us who were blind to them.
The New Yorker's Peter Schjedahl opines here. reading it, I knew how those Allied pilots felt when they realized the Red Baron was around chumming for kills.
Another NYC blogger, Jamie at The Known Universe adds his displeasure here. I guess if it's
1) popular
2) free
3) (seemingly) simple,
it's tough to get a New Yorker to smile.

The cold and the wind began straining the positive family outing, so we all repaired to a small restaturant populated by more wait staff than customers. After being eyed for a while, we were approached with ennui and "What cha wants?". The Christo spirit unfortunately did not cross over from the Park. The fare was not Christo-colored food, but the room was toasty, the hot chocolate was hot, and a cold day in NYC beats most warm days anywhere else.

Hey Darko - Thanks for the props on our Gates thoughts. I enjoyed reading your story as well (and the more people talk about them, the more I'm impressed by the narrative qualities of The Gates: they are irrelevant without the experience of seeing them in the company of others, almost). I'm hoping for one more launch through them this weekend, and I hope the weather cooperates.

That picture with the crackers? Awesome.
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