Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The New World

     In 1667, Peter Stuyvesant -Pieter to his friends- planted a pear tree in a corner of his Manhattan farm. That corner is now the corner of 3rd ave and 10th. The tree grew pears until a truck hit it in 1867.
     Papers blamed the weather as much as they did the driver. Global freezing and the irresponsibility of organized labor. So contemporary, as they mourned the loss of a fruit tree which had survived Washington's evacuation to Brooklyn and on through to the draft riots of the Civil War.
   There's a memorial plaque to it now on the original Kiehls bldg - which opened for business when the tree was a tree and probably supplied fruit for the employees during their lunch breaks. 
     That's seven blocks from where I currently and will briefly live.
     Six blocks from St George's Episcopal Church - where I recently sat thru a bit of an Easter vigil- which was also built on the remaining grounds of Stuyvesant's estate. The Anglo establishment putting a religious stake into the heart of Pete's Dutch Reformation.
     An avenue and half east of that is a small brownstone pressed up against the massive Beth Israel hospital complex - all of it built on the slopes of Pieter's farm rolling down to the East River- where Antonin Dvorak lived in the 1890s and where he composed most of his famous and relentlessly overplayed symphony "From the New World".
   My friend Milton and I used to sit on a cliff overlooking a slice of Lake Erie and blast our teenage souls into reverie as we scanned the water for ore boats. Summer camp. Back when if you wanted a soundtrack to your life you had to make it public.
    The things you learn when you're unemployed and like to walk.
    Facts pile up around you in NYC. They cry out to be sifted. I'm sure 20 other, 2000 other, famous people lived and worked on their masterpieces and died ten blocks from where- in a Dunkin Donuts- I'm sitting right now. I'm sure orchards stretched the width of the island and streams ran beneath the corporate counter behind me. Datum don't make a poem.
   Life here is so literal, so angular and monetized and at once so abstract. You walk an endless grid. It's filled with variety, layered to the point of madness, but at the same time it's like an experiment and you're the control factor to a circuit board testing various economic theories, a proving ground looking for an exception to gather up, to either champion or ruin. Exalt or swallow.
   Triumph here is a rare as a public bathroom.
   Oblivion is easier.
   You can hide in New York. Retreat from your own ambition, give up, let the reins drop and because there's so many strivers here few take notice as you plod to a halt on the sidewalk. 
   If you don't want to make it here you don't have to make it anywhere. 
  At least you're "here". Reigning in your own private Hell.
   But rough as it can be Manhattan is always part Heaven. 
   Long as u can pay your rent you can put your head down here and not lift it for a generation. 
   There's a guy two floors up from me in our Stuyvesant brownstone who was friends with a famous children's author. Got written into his will. Hasn't done a thing in 20 years. He gets his mail. He takes out the recycling. Amazon delivers the occasional package. Beyond that he does....nothing....
   What would Pieter, our original Protestant, the founding father of our infamous work ethic, have to say about his distant tenant?
    Maybe the man's writing a symphony. 
    They say Vladimir Horowitz was studying a Beethoven score, got depressed, went upstairs and didn't come down for two years. Ate Dover sole every night, played very little, read and reread all of Beethoven's piano pieces while his wife ran interference and made excuses to the media and Vlad's agents and then one afternoon the man put on his overcoat, went to the barber as he'd never once shaved his own face, walked to the Steinway store on 57th street and tried out a new grand.
    Someone should replant that tree. 




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  2. I couldn't agree more... I myself find very interesting the amount of versatility in New York City. There are many open doors for those "STRIVERS" whom wish to achieve and be progressive. .however it is also very corrupt and one can easily find himself/herself in lost and ruined.depending completely on how much control he/she has on their actions.

  3. Well, David it looks like you need to get started on replanting that tree. It's rejuvenation time. It seems that the tree holds a lot of memories for that time that is now gone. Living in the big cities like NY can be very challenging for small town folks like me. In my childhood years I grew up in big cities and now as an adult I've decided to live in smaller communities. Although it does have its quirks, for one, where everyone knows everyone and I can actually wake up in the morning to silence or birds chirping or just the sound of soothing rain. Well, the occasional TRAIN!!! The one thing that I have learned about living in the bigger and smaller communities is that the social economics is not that much of a difference, political values eh still competitive, small town folks wants big city pay and the list could go on. But small town ideas and plans is a whole lot different than what the bigger population has to deal with. At least in the bigger cities you can get lost and no one knows who you are unless you make yourself known in ways like "what just happened." I'm hoping this stuff makes sense. It's 7:09am here and I need to go and feed the chickens, lol. Just kidding. I've have some things to do by Monday morning. Have fun planting that tree in NY and have a great day. It's Sunday. It's suppose to be a day of rest. I'm suppose God will forgive me, we'll just for today. Yes, I am a Christian:)

  4. Although I have heard New York is the ideal surroundings for a feverant writer, I myself enjoy the simpleness of Washington or Idaho for it's serene atmosphere and no obnoxious distractions

  5. What a heartwarming surprise to find out you are a writer. Although those kind eyes always told me there was something more in there. Keep writing. You do it beautifully. Eternal hugs from Tennessee.

  6. Welcome to the Big Apple, David. Hope it stimulates your writing and creativity. It can be a crazy city, but has a lot to offer. Enjoy your stay and much luck with further journalistic experience!