Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Weight Bearing Elements

The city stands on its trees. In early spring when the stick straight bareness begins to pubesce and bulb the buildings lose their winter prominence.  The bricks still stack all the way up to the sky, but their middles are missing, replaced by freshly minted leaves.  Brown grey branches end in elegant pink and white tips. Old bikes cannibalized down to their naughty bits lay chained to iron skirted guards, like the last reminders of winter's inhuman appetite.  The skeletons of conquistadors lay wrapped in strangling vines, speared by tall grass a mere mile shy of the fountain of youth. 

How many people can pass the same tree and have different thoughts? Shel Silverstein aside, what are the trees of New York?  The New Jersey wetlands do more to scrub the air in New York City than all of Bloomberg's million trees ever will.  The trees are under control.  Frederick Law Olmsted planted Central Park with the idea of a romantic garden in mind.  The trees were planted purposefully askance.  The grid gone spaghetti soft.
The trees break the sidewalk. The trees count your steps. Your stride fits between trees. The trees seldom show ill-use, outside of the occasional restaurant permanently celebrating Christmas with a wending choke of white lights plugged in year-round or sycamore trunk bearing a purple graffitied initial. 

The trees give your dog directions.  The trees hold scarves, hats and pilates balls. They get shaggy with blossoms, perfume bloated to over-ripeness.  They mark the seasons and track the sun.  They bend around corners and flick you the bird.  They hold onto rain showers and continue to drip for hours after.   

Treehuggers and treefuckers (and bear fuckers) beware: New York City's trees bear the weight of the whole hag-ridden Western world.  

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tying My Shoes

Occasionally my shoes come untied.  I don't generally find this to be a desperate problem.  I've never taken to heart the admonitions of parental types and shoelace-gazers that I will be more apt to trip and chip a tooth if my shoelaces are undone.  I am perfectly apt to trip and chip all my teeth at any moment of the day, not the least of which is when my shoelaces are undone.  

But now I'm walking down a fairly busy street and I have to wonder if someone else might trip over my shoelaces and if this is liability.  I for one do not have insurance against such things.  So rather than going into the poorhouse (I wonder how many families have ended up in the poorhouse because of their shoelaces?) I try to find an appropriate place to stop to tie my shoe. 

The problem being that as far as I can tell every surface in New York City is in play and really why do human flies need to climb up the sides of buildings? There is no more vulnerable position on a busy sidewalk than the crouch.  In the crouch even toddlers can run head-first full blast into you and knock you down, take your wallet and giggle.  But if I decide to post a foot up on a near-by implement, say a hydrant, then I am also in this indefensible flamingo pose.  But there's really no other choice.  The shoelace must be tied and guard must be let down for the brief time it takes the rabbit to go into the hole and around the bend, etc.  

The funny thing is I can never recall seeing anyone else over the age of six stopping on the sidewalk to tie their shoe.  Is this the sort of he thing the mind just ignores and moves on or am I just the only adult who never learned to tie a proper square knot?  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Blocking the Box

The city's rules are all plotted out in paint and light.  The city wears its own rules like a series of fading tattoos.  Driving, biking and walking in the city one quickly finds that the rules are more or less guidelines for idealized transportation.  Driving down second avenue, the lanes disappear. Occasionally dots and thin rules appear solely for the sake of confusing the motorist.  Then suddenly a gorgeous Sunday drive appears to your right, a road leading to verdant sun drenched canyons.  In New York?  Why not? Never mind that it's raining.  Cross two lanes without signaling and make that sharp right into paradise. When the subsidized firefighters arrive in a truck bearing a full-length video ad for Shrek The Musical you wake up just long enough to see that those hills were just a painted scene on the side of a green grocer (but how did those joggers and that guy on the recumbent bicycle get in there?).

The playground on the other hand has repurposed all of those lines and made hopscotch, and four square. Kids play red light green light imagining the unbridled thrill of stop and go traffic. The whole poisonous world dangles like a carbon monoxide piƱata just out of reach and the collective thrill of imagining that it is indeed full of that strange secret energy that allows adults to take themselves seriously.  That juice that powers listening. A dozen red dodgeballs whiz across a single line drawn across the basketball court.