Kristina's Birthday / Fifth Avenue Mile

Kristina's Birthday / Fifth Avenue Mile

September 10-23, 2012
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He is of a type, even though ages ago when he was creating his image it was designed to be not of a type. But now it is a most recognizable style, a norm in certain places. And Washington Square is in the heart of Greenwich Village. He was an aging hippie. A white guy in a black tank top, black jeans and with a satchel over his shoulders. I expect that he was working hard to keep his hair unkept and wild -- or rather his hair was thinning and he was just trying to keep it. He wore a red sash for a belt, his only point of color, and was carrying a travel mug full of -- coffee? herbal tea? something with a bit more juice?

It was a sunny day and I was sitting in the square for a few minutes soaking in the sun. The equinox is upon us and these warm days will soon be part of that hazy memory of summer. But right here, right at this moment Washington Square is as alive as could be, and if all the world is a stage, this bench has a front row and this part of the world is Vaudeville. People, pigeons, music, dogs, color and motion.

He walked into the plaza, paused and held out his hand, closed fisted except for his forefinger which was crooked. He stared at a jet black pigeon who was pecking at the pavement a few feet away and called, "Leo, Leo!" The bird looked up and seemed to recognize the voice, and then flew up and settled on the finger-perch. The man fished around in his satchel, "You know I have it in here", he reassured the bird. With a bird on one hand and a coffee mug in the other it can be tricky finding something in your satchel. Eventually he pulled out an almond and fed Leo.

Leo flew off after eating, but not too far. The man spotted Zoe, a grey and black pigeon, and then Sophie, a pigeon with white spots. But the two girls are a bit stand-off-ish at first. So the man finds a bench across the path from me, in the shade and sits for a bit. Leo comes back and the two seem to talk for a while, although I can only hear one side of the conversation.

However, by the time I leave the two girls' desire for almonds has overwhelmed their shyness, and the four are sitting together. Leo on his hand, Sophie on his shoulder, and Zoe balanced on his thinning hair.

I was sitting in St. Vartan's Park having lunch and watching the kids and their caretakers. Since the three and four year olds are mostly white and the women with them are mainly elderly and black or Hispanic, they don't looked related. Being lunch a few men and women whom I think are the parents, arrive for a little while. Their are hugs, kisses and conversations.

But it was one three year old boy, with a wreath of golden curls and the old Hispanic women he was attached to which chiefly caught my attention. He came running over, all smiles and sunshine and pronounced, in long and clear sentences which were beyond his age, "I think we would both like ice cream!" There was a push cart at the corner of the park.

His caretaker started to explain that she was given a budget for that sort of thing and that they had finished spending it yesterday. "I know you have lots of money", said the boy, oblivious to her explanation, in part because he had stuck his whole head into her hand bag. When he reemerged from the inside of her bag he was clutching her wallet. "See Gertrude, you have lots of money!" he announced.

She shook her head, and then waved him off towards the push cart. The golden boy flashed across the playground, with Gertrude shuffling behind. As she passed me I heard her mumble, "I just can't say no to that child."

Later, when I was walking out of the park I again saw the two of them, seated together on a bench in partial shade. The boy was cuddled close to the woman. His legs straight in front of him because they were too short to reach over the edge of the bench. He had a red, white and blue popsicle and she had a chocolate covered ice cream bar and both appeared happy.

Manhattan Journal

Hello People,

When I sit down to write these reports I open up my diary and look for interesting events. Stories that I see, but are not really about us, show up above in the "MicroStories". And then there are the events of Kristina's and my lives. Most days my diary says; "Worked at the Hudson Park Library, ran north to 96th street", which is not the stuff of ripping yarns. But there are gems -- especially on the weekends when the actions of the day are not so well scripted.

Tuesday, Sept 11
In the evening we happened to be on the roof, overlooking the sea of light which is Manhattan. To the south we saw the most intense light beam I have ever seen. Later I read that they shine 40 search light up from the footprint of the twin world trade towers to form two "towers of light". From our roof top they happened to line up. They now turn them on only once a year, to commemorate 9/11.

Thursday, Sept 13
Worked in Riverside Library, which turns out to be in the same building as where we heard A Little Nigh Music, with the Juilliard School of Music at the other end of the block and Lincoln Center across the street. At lunch time I too was across the street, having lunch in the plaza of Lincoln Center.

Saturday, Sept 15

All Possible Photons
After the farmer's market I went to the Edward Tufte Gallery. Chelsea is crammed full of art galleries, and I have yet to visit any. Edward Tufte's exhibit is called All Possible Photons: The Conceptual and Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams. The banner which hung in the street sported a pseudo-Feynman Diagram. As one who has used and calculated these diagrams my interest was peaked. Inside the Gallery two or three dozen people were milling around. I had read -- studied -- the catalog ahead of time, so soon picked out the artist himself. According to the catalog before opening this gallery he had been a statistics professor at Yale who specialized in how to present information. Tall, thinning hair and glasses, he stood in front of a wall covered with 64 Feynman diagrams made of stainless steel. I introduced myself and we talked for awhile. I asked him why the six-photon motif. He told me it was because of the way 64 sculptures fit on the wall. Later he spoke to the thirty people there describing his work.

I was disappointed. I think he had latched on the diagrams because of the geometry -- not because they meant anything. It was decoration. It could have been Chinese characters or hieroglyphics and it would have meant as much to him. I think someone had told him the wavy lines were photons, and that matched his image of sculptures as something which reflects light in unexpected ways. I am sure that he worked hard on his selection of metal and picking out the sizes, the off-sets from the wall, but he didn't really bother learning what it was that was being drawn. There are simple stories in those diagrams -- that as a collection made no since.

Yes I am a science snob.

Monday, Sept 17
Just to do something different I took the subway up to in front of the American Museum of Natural History and crossed the street into central park. I ran around the reservoir, then into the northern section of Central Park. I've never been in this part of the park before. There are a few major roads in the park which are crowded with bicyclers and runners. However, I eventually found the bridle trail. This is a dirt road which winds around three-quarters of the park, for a total of four miles. It goes around hills, down ravines, over bridges, almost never touching the other trails, roads and paths of the park. I also had it almost exclusively to myself. The footing is too loose for bikes or most runners. This is a gem I must come back to.

Tuesday, Sept 20 - Kristina's Birthday

Lights at
Longwood Garden
Kristina gave a talk about the Aurora at Longwood Gardens, a botanical gardens between Wilmington and Philadelphia. She tells me it was beautiful. There is a special exhibit there with thousands of lights mixed in with the garden. Talking about the aurora was part of this illuminated exhibit.

After her talk, 300 people sang "Happy Birthday" to Kristina.

Saturday, Sept 22 - 5th Avenue Mile

Start of 5th Ave Mile (ages 50-59)
The Fifth Avenue Mile is a race which started my senior year at college, and always sounded curious and fun. So since I am in New York City, I took the opportunity to sign-up. The race is down Fifth Avenue from 80th to 60th street, which means from the Met to Grand Army Plaza, with Central Park on your right. The New York Road Runners (NYRR) organize it, and invite a number of professional runners. But there are also dozens of other heats for amateur and age groups.

Finish of 5th Ave Mile
My heat went off at 10:40, The previous heat (women 40-49) left the line at 10:25 and immediately there was a lot of jostling to get a good position. Fifth Avenue is four lanes wide, but the starting line is only two. That means that as soon as you cross the starting line you have space. About 460 of us were in this heat, 300 men and 160 women ages 50-59. I mentioned to someone five minutes before the start that I had run a 5:45 and was aiming for 5:30. That set thing to a stir and half a dozen of us were pushed forward, while a number of people slipped back in the crowd. We are packed like sardines. In some sense your position doesn't matter. We all wear a electronic tag on our shoes which records when we cross the starting line, which is then subtracted from our finishing time, but you do want to be near people who run like you do.

When the gun went off I was in the third row, but soon broke to the outside, on the east side of the avenue. There is a slight downhill for the first five blocks (quarter of a mile) and I was flying. I passed the quarter in 76-77 seconds, which was faster then I meant. The next quarter mile to 70th street and the Frick Museum is a slight rise. I feel like I am changing gears, shortening the stride for the hill -- an paying for that quick start. I pass the half mile point at 2:41-2. There is now a bit of a downhill, but not enough to offset the hill we just came up. And then a long flat quarter mile across the finish line and into the chute. I did not have much of a kick at the end.

I ended up in 30th place out of the 210 men 50-54 age group, and yes I think I can do better next time. My time was 5:29. (splits: 76/85/84/84). According to the NYRR that is equivalent to running a 4:44 when you are 23 years old. I guess I have something to work on.

Kristina met me at the finish. I staggered around for a bit, collected my bag and we walked off into Central Park. It is such a beautiful day.

Saturday, Sept 22 (same day) - Kristina's Birthday Celebration
While we were sitting in the park, who should happen to wander by but Robin! Best yet, he was toting a bag full of a picnic lunch. So we sat on a bench overlooking a pond munching on bread, cheese, olive paste, cookies and apples. And then Will showed up!

It was a gloriously beautiful day with sunshine and warmth. Robin had to go to practice, but promised to meet us later. So Will, Kristina and I wander though the park and then back to our apartment. Kristina is eager to show Will where we live. You can view all the details of our apartment in less then a minute, so we also took him to the roof top, the park by the Hudson River and along the High Line. We then went to the "Strand Bookstore" - famed for "18 miles of bookshelves".

Inline for Billy Collins
The Strand is near New York University, so we met Robin at Washington Square and took the subway to the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn. Dumbo stands for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass", an area which was filled with abandoned warehouses which in the 1970s-80s became art spaces and is now trendy and gentrified. There is a nice park on the East River between the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. We sat there and watched the lights of the Bridges and the City start to glow as the evening fell.

Back in Chelsea we went to "M-Thai", a very good restaurant.

Sunday, Sept 23

Kristina and Will
at the Brooklyn Bookfest
We have a half day with Will, and so started with breakfast and the New York Times on the roof. We then wandered over to the Brooklyn Bookfest, hoping to hear Billy Collins, the poet, do a reading. There was a huge line going into the auditorium to hear him. The line was cut-off one person in front of us.

Still, it was time to put Will on the subway and train to Bard. Kristina and I then walked through Brooklyn Heights to the Promenade, then down to the river at the new Brooklyn Bridge Park. The place is mobbed with weddings. If you are married in Brooklyn, are you required to have your portraits taken here?

Kristina on the Promenade / New York Harbor
We found a nice open air cafe in the park and had "Fika". You can feel summer coming to an end. But it is warm a pleasant here in the sunshine on a Sunday afternoon.