NYC Journal #9 – First Nice Day – observed and notes jotted on Sunday 4/19/2020, although not completed/posted until Wednesday, 4/22/2020
Is the following a true-account?
There’s no need to take it as such.
But you could confidently call it a rough sketch of the general scene as wandered through by one observer who’s trying to get better at noticing and remembering but is so far not the very most reliable observer.
On Sunday, April 19, 2020, the weather in New York City was sunny and warm enough that many wore sweaters and light jackets and a few wore T-shirts and shorts.
Along Eastern Parkway by the Museum the wide white sidewalks beamed in the sunshine. A thin woman a little above average height with tumbling gray locks and a long wizened face with stark folds and somber eyes behind a strong nose walked slowly, distractedly, pulling a small yellow box (a canvas-walled cart on wheels, maybe), her long brown smooth-leather (almost plasticky) jacket open. No mask. Not everyone had on a mask. But most did. She did not.
Upon entering the Prospect Park entrance across the round-about from the Civil War Monument, visitors were greeted by a large orange-framed black roadwork sign with “Beat COVID-19: Practice Social Distancing” (or something like that) scrolling across in yellow lightbulb-pixelation. Directly in front of the giant sign, at the bottom corner of that little spigot of land that borders the roadway around the park and splits the road entering/leaving the park, was a piece of orange plastic about six feet long and a couple feet wide that read “<---- Stay this far apart —->”
The park on this day was so very full! Everyone exercising, walking, talking. Most of the locomoting people behind masks, except for the serious exercisers — maybe half of that subgroup had covered noses/mouths. At this entrance near the Civil War monument and the main Brooklyn library, park-goers walk up the road a little ways and then carefully cross the wide circumambulating bike/walk/run road (so as to avoid death by cyclists, who sometimes seem more interested in maintaining their heartrates than in the safety of all these annoying pedestrians); head down maybe ten wide stairs cut in dirt and shored up by logs, with trees and other brush on all sides, and then they see it: a great bowl of treeless green, bordered on either side by a raised path and trees.
On this fine spring day in that bowl—which is maybe 100 yards wide and 400 yards until it rolls up onto a stretch of higher, tree-ier ground—bloomed hundreds of little encampments. Small groups of people on blankets and sheets. Individual people on towels or blankets or lying on their backs, their heads propped up on backpacks or whatever else was handy. People in shorts and T-shirts doing lunge-squats or other exertions. Some with masks up, some with masks hanging about their chins. Some with their masks presumably in pockets, backpacks, purses, handbags.
A young woman in black track pants (the kind with the double white lines running down the sides) and a tight-fitting black top that left her midriff bare (pale; sturdy, but with curves and a soft stomach) fell forward onto her belly, her back bowed backwards, and was so elastic that she could somehow slide her head to one side and roll over her shoulder while her bare feet wound around and over her head, caught the ground, and pulled her contortioning body up and back around into a thoughtful sitting pose. She’d take a break for a minute or so and then fall forward again. Another young woman lay nearby, her head turned towards her friend, admiring and chatting, as the occasion permitted. Or maybe they didn’t know each other, and the one just happened to glance over and say something as this observing entity passed by. What can you recall of the perhaps-friend? A long brown braid? A long body and face? Olive skinned? Lying next to a bike? Oh, now you’re just guessing! At any rate, neither wore a mask right then and there.
Near the front center of the bowl sat two colonies about four feet apart, talking to one another across the safe-ish distance. A man [40s? Tall. A little belly settling around his square youth. Big head, big brow and fleshy forward chin. Full head of hair (light brown?) worn long and pulled back. A ruggedness and/or lumpiness nestling into his square youth. In the 1920s silent films he played a Viking in the winter and spring and a cowboy in the summer and fall, when his tan set in] and a young woman (short, slight, petite, long straight black hair, Asian). His mask, perhaps a bandana blue and white from the Wild West, was pulled down below his chin, so he could speak across the space to the three huddled on their private blanket. The woman was busy. Standing up. Folding up a towel. Her face shrouded always behind a giant multi-colored bandana hanging down to her chest. It couldn’t have been a bandana; they’re not that big; perhaps shawl? Dark running tights? A sweatshirt?
No, don’t you shouldn’t in the middle of an article switch tenses!
Oh, no, stop!
Everyone is happy in the grass and in the sun.
A farmer and his wife walk down the steep incline on one side of the bowl. He swings a classic picnic basket woven of thin strips of light brown wood. The blue and white plaid fabric lining the basket and rounding its rim was also used to make his nose/mouth/chin mask. Her pink, with yellow and white lines (plaid, I guess) one-piece straight-cut textured-cotton farmer’s wife dress does not exactly match her face mask.
He swings the basket gayly. I wish I could remember the kind of blues he wore. Blue plaid short sleeve? Knee-length dark-denim shorts? Navy blue khaki slacks? They are both 30ish, tall, sturdy, with a little excess flesh rounding out their full shoulders and thighs. It’s like the coach said: those farmer boys from North East don’t have the prettiest muscles, but they are big useful muscles, and they make for good football players, and — at least at the upper weights — good wrestlers. Their faces were soft, large, pale from the winter, and topped with some kind of hair.
[Did a coach ever say that? Anyway, North East had kids of all shapes and sizes, like all the other little towns that we, ourselves a little town, competed against.]
Are these two happy larks really farmers? Seems really unlikely. Could be that one works in software and the other in design. Hard to say from merrily swinging picnic basket while greedily gobbling sunlight: could be anybody from any kind of business out in the Sunday sun. Were they at least raised on farms? Probably not. Most people weren’t anymore.
Outside the park, walking home, still sunny:
A tall pale Orthodox guy with a large belly in his white button-up shirt and stretching the top of his black slacks leans back a little as he walks, long arms swaying, swinging cupped hands fore and aft. He wears large thick-framed glasses and a blue surgical mask. His great gray and white beard explodes all around the mask so that it bunches and lumps up a little.It sits on the front of his face like the little floppy blue snout. A light skinned black guy with a powerful square-cut beard has a similar problem. Is it a problem? Sure: there’s more space for air to go in and out of when you wear your mask as a little lumpy dome on the front of your beard. Better than nothing, though, I guess.
[You invented the man with the square beard. Did I? Well, here’s another invention: a mask for giant beards: a flat mask; like a 4×4 cloth with strings; the standard cupping shape is counterproductive when the chin’s been replaced by a bristly platform.]
Those several kids leaning over scooter handles are skinny. Their bangs are too long and they should be wearing helmets. At least they’re wearing cloth face masks as they roll-mill around the Brooklyn Museum’s Eastern Parkway entrance. That’s more than can be said for the two shirtless skater kids (young teens; so older than the scooterers) in baggy bright-colored shorts and brown and white skins hitting and missing tricks on the wide concrete patio of the main branch of the Brooklyn Library [on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Flatbush; the patio being a short flight of steps above the sidewalk and a short flight below the spinning-door library entrance].
Why is this old woman in the long brown smooth-leather coat still near the museum / botanic garden entrances? She looks away from the observer’s gaze, pointedly pivoting her head, neck and upper torso away so as to almost face the street.
The people you saw were more likely to be white than is normal for that walk. Is that true? Nothing approximating a formal study was performed. Quite a few Orthodox families; that’s normal for that walk I guess. How old were the people in the thousand chatting encampments in the Prospect park bowl? Mostly late-20s through 40s, maybe? With some young families mixed in. That’d be my guess. I noticed many exceptions in age and/or race, but the general impression I had of the bowl was a thousand encampments of one, two, three, maybe four 30 year old white people on blankets in the sun. A pitched military camp that had forgotten their tents or were perhaps laying groggily, drunk on peace and quiet, on top of them. But now I think I should’ve looked more closely. Certainly a thousand encampments were not observed, let alone remembered. In any case, the park was different than normal: An unbroken sea of isolated outposts and a lack of sports changed the mood from an active park to a desperate field of sunworship and hellohellohelloing.
I can think of at least one example of four young people resting on backs or sides, propped up on elbows or forearms, forming a loose square, hanging out in a socially distanced society. I don’t think they had on masks. Many congregants kept their many colored mostly light cloth lowerface masks on; many didn’t. The ones that didn’t often wore the masks around their necks.
It’s good to get outside finally and see somebodies. Tiring though. Mighty tiring. An hour and a half of fresh air and interfacing with other pedestrians (every interaction with another person, however distant, is at least a tiny little confrontation, a stressor—however minute)!
Makes a body more than ready to slide back into isolation, sink into bed, forget the world outside and how we are all here together and beholden to one another and actually all the same exact Light though wearing slightly different flesh and notions; but how we still somehow slide past each other and don’t really get each other and sometimes even get all mad at each other, or high and mighty or bitter resentful or lustfully focused or all this other stuff that isn’t quite at all the Truth and yet which we cling to and serve as if it were the Truth.
Yes, just go back to bed. You’re tired, and everyone is just a person until they die and learn the Whole Truth and sit with the Great God on a red and white checkered picnic blanket in the park one fine sunny day, eating cucumber sandwiches while jointly critiquing their (the dead-human’s) performance, considering where to improve and how. Only in heaven do picnic blankets spread out so perfectly, never and nowhere bunching up nor flutter-flapping over.
Author: Proud Mary Pledge with Johnny onde Spoett
Editor: B. Willard with A. Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson with Andy W.
We’d love it if you’d
[Buy a Books]
Books So Far: Superhero Novella, A Readable Reader, First Loves, First Essays
Books Coming Summer 2020: Fixing Frankenstein, NYC Journal Volume 1
&/Or, sign up for our mailing list:
&/OrVisit our Pure Love Shop
&/Or write to us at Editor@PureLoveShop.com