Sunday in the Park
February 11, 2008
Being in New York City this week for business and tagging a few days around that business has come at a curious convergence of events: Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, The Year of The Rat, Chinese New Year, Fashion Week, and the ticker tape parade for the Super Champs, The New York City Giants.
The weather has been wacky. So warm and humid it confuses the senses and certainly the hair. Yesterday was 68 degrees and rainy. Which, in no way stopped us from walking those long, lovely streets of New York. Which is lovely until you arrive back at the hotel and remember your natural state is not to walk on cement for miles every day. And your body protests such treatment but your little reptile brain overrides it and says, ‘ah, yes, but walking in New York is so lovely.’
So night falls and you search for a restaurant. One block becomes two, becomes two more and you settle on Shun Lee, where you have forgotten it is New Year’s Eve in the Year of the Rat. Still, the pleasant maitre d’ finds you a table in the crowded lively space where a golden dragon work of art, made of some combination of fancy paper and fine silk with dozens of exotic dragon heads lit up with tiny red lights, circles the walls of the room. The large round tables in the sunken center appear to have been reserved by families and there are heaping platters of Peking duck and twice-cooked delicacies passing by.
Festive. A word not used nearly enough. It is elegant and festive and bright.
Which takes you back just to yesterday which seems like weeks ago in the compressed time of cramming everything you can in with just a few short days here. Yesterday was festive, in a crush of humanity, primal ritual sort of way. We arrived there via the subway where the driver, who by trade is part of a breed notorious for sticking to the script of "Next stop, Broadway," was clearly a fan. As we approached the parade area he kept repeating we should move to the first five cars so we wouldn’t miss our stop. He called the city "the great blue nation, for the day" and encouraged us to get off at certain stops. A subway rider looked at us, two women, clearly tourists and told us a better stop to exit. Since a batch of young men in blue jerseys exited there we knew it was solid advice.
Parades in Park City are such gentle events. We put out chairs, we respect blankets placed on sidewalks. There is no pushing and shoving because really, there is little remarkable to see that is improved by elevation. There are paths to walk behind spectators. This was none of that. It was a crush of humanity. Remarkably, well behaved, because the cops were there, a force in splendid force and New Yorkers tend to police one another with spectacular verbal insults. And, these were fans. Proud, underdog, fans. The ticker-tape parade, which these days actually was more like, throw your white recycling paper out the window and add a few hundred rolls of toilet paper, took place in the cooler, by about 20 degrees, honest, weather. And they did make quite a parade of it all. Double Decker red sightseeing buses held owners and family members and some kind of Wall Street-looking booster club. The press were contained in garbage, oops, sanitation trucks that moved along the parade route. There were no less than a dozen marching bands and drill teams waving flags and marching in step and somehow always wearing blue hats.
The team came by in a number of floats. Offense, Defense, MVPs. I won’t pretend to know who the slight, (by beefy comparison) handsome black man was holding the Vince Lombardi trophy as they passed by our viewing spot on the part of Broadway that starts in Wall Street. It was all rather impressive and chaotic and quintessential New York, in a once-in-a-lifetime, sort of way.
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In Chinese culture, so popular stories go, the Rat is not seen as a mean-spirited rodent of cartoon fame but rather as a hard-working, somewhat wise, creature. Myself, I fall under the sign of the Rabbit, and have always, since my childhood of growing up outside San Francisco, loved the fact my birthday coincides, by a few days with the start of a New Year in some culture, other than my head. I make lists, and resolutions now, instead of Christmas when the energy air waves are cluttered with so many other requests.
The good Catholics, and other Catholic lite versions of Christianity, wore smudges of ash proudly on their foreheads Wednesday which seemed slightly wacky on the east side where they were also so handsomely dressed. Still, it was a visual reminder of why there are so very many stunning churches so active in all of the downtown area. Because, there are so many believers.
I believe the amount of genuine diversity and humanity per square inch is nowhere greater than New York City. Which makes it an incredible place to visit. The museums, the shopping, the restaurants, the architecture, the celebrations, the music and culture. The vibrations per second here, I’m certain, are 10 times more then any other place in the at least in the United States. I love the injection of all that energy. And I love the idea too, that in a matter of hours, I will be back to the gentle, crazy, winter white cold of another slightly quieter, Sunday in the Park
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. Orr is also a former editor of The Park Record.