Prospect Park's Ice Skating Center Set To Open In December.
I gave the summer veg one last chance, deciding to wait on things like this golden cauliflower that peeked from its bonnet of leaves. These and the other cruciferous guys will be around a good while longer.
On hand today were Emily and Melissa Elsen, the enterprising young ladies behind Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a superb pie establishment I have haunted down near the Gowanus. Their new cookbook, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, looks phenomenal and has the magic instructions for making Salted Honey Pie, my current addiction. I enjoyed a wonderful conversation about all things Pie (although I stopped short of an exposition of my theory of the Pieness of Pie). and assured them that the book will shoot to the very top of my Christmas list.
The backdrop for today's market was a scrim of gold, russet, and a bit of green. This tree is one of the park's brand-new youngsters, a sapling with the mighty task of replacing some of the countless trees lost to Sandy and Irene. It sheds its leaves onto the history-rich soil of Prospect Park for the very first time.
GREENMARKET DOG OF THE DAY
On the day the first Brooklyn snowflake falls, good news (I think). In what is being reported as a departing gesture of largesse, Mayor-for-a-bit-longer Bloomberg has apparently decided to have the city run the gigantic new Lakeside rink project for a year for free.
The implications of the financial arrangements (still uncommented-upon by some key players) are utterly beyond me; this is the sort of thing I had nightmares about covering if I ever became a metro or financial reporter (and lo, I am neither). Gothamist calls it a "wildly generous sweetheart deal," which sounds good to me as a Prospect Park lover/user (and sounds overdue, given our measly support from both the city and the private sector when compared to Central Park). Geoffrey Croft of the sharp-eyed advocacy blog A Walk in the Park (an organ of NYC Park Advocates) is less sanguine. He reports (in what appears to be the original source for this news):
Speaking of journalistic acumen, even the New York Post covered this story, and managed to work in "animal sacrificing rituals," God bless them. See, I coulda been a metro reporter after all.
LAKESIDE SKATING PRICES REVEALED
Okay, everyone including me "buried the lede": The NYC Park Advocates report, citing the city's license agreement they have "obtained," claims that ice rink admissions will be $5 on weekdays and $8 on weekends and holidays, with skate rental $5 at all times. That sounds about what the old rink charged, causing me to breathe a huge sigh of relief that they won't be jacking it up to Rock-Center levels. The minimum public hours of operation for skating have been set for Fridays (3 to 9 pm), Saturdays (10-10) and Sundays (10-6), with another 20 hours a week Monday through Thursday on one or another of the two rinks.
November 7, 2013.
This is the pristine southern entrance to the new Lakeside area--pristine because it remains fenced off to the public. The garden design is beautiful, done with a painterly eye to composition as well as color. In nine days, the golds and reds appear to have fallen into the undergrowth, where they keep up a dull radiance; soon, that flame will go out, too.
From our doorstep every year, I watch a row of young oak trees in the Parade Grounds turn burnished russet. As a rain storm blew closer, I headed for them. Doing crunches on a picnic bench, I watched them blow off and away overhead.
This got me contemplating how we are all as individual and ephemeral as oak leaves, until I noticed that the new ladies' room on the Parade Grounds is finally open! Workers have also been dutifully bagging countless leaf-souls. Note to our new Mayor DiBlasio: I can't imagine how much more liberal, er, "progressive," New York could be, but hopefully what the New York Times calls a "sharp leftward turn" will involve more money for parks.
In the park itself, gorgeous late color is at peak. The cretinous geese were oblivious, but even they seemed to give a collective shudder when this redtail swooped low and perched. And even the redtail seems to realize that a goose is too big a meal for one.
But what about for two? Moments later, another hawk flew in. Look closely for their silhouettes! Are they a mated pair, I wonder? I'm not one of those hawk wonks who tracks their every move, but would love to hear from any of you who are.
One ruddy oak leaf scuttled at my feet, in a desperate bid to recapture my melancholy attentions. Before I could get a second shot, it blew away.
Pass the sprawling construction site on Prospect Park's East Drive, where the lavish new Lakeside skating complex draws closer to its public unveiling, and climb a slight hill. There, in the old Concert Grove, is a fading but magical structure, empty except for the scuttling of fallen leaves. It's called the Oriental Pavilion, a name from another age when "oriental" was a signifier of all things exotic.
It's a delightful folly, with an amazing history. Built in 1874, according to the Parks Department's site, it is "made of eight cast-iron posts modeled after Hindu columns of the medieval period (8th to 12th centuries), and supporting an elaborately painted hipped roof with stained-glass cupola." Here it is in 1908; the structure to its right was the Dairy, a restaurant demolished in the 1930s.
Originally serving as a tea house and shelter for patrons of the concerts in the grove and on Music Island (now restored), the pavilion suffered a series of indignities in later decades. With hallmark sensitivity, Robert Moses installed a brick snack bar in it, which caught fire; apparently, little remained for years but the columns. (I can find no pictures from this dark age.)
The whole was restored in 1987, but 26 years later, that restoration has sadly gone unmaintained. Hey, I get it; we bought our house about then, and it's infuriating to discover that "renovation 1.0" is now as blighted as the original blight it replaced.
About the only thing that looks okay is the lovely skylight. As I stood looking up at it, the sound of saws and hammers floated over from Lakeside, where the multi-million-dollar new LEED-certified showplace is getting its finishing touches. My heart ached for the pavilion, soon to be overshadowed forever by the glitzy spaceship that has landed next door. How I wish I were filthy rich, and could endow another restoration--of a folly so Victorian, quaint, and obsolete that its very name is politically incorrect.
And the pavilion, by the way, has still "got it"; it was used as the location for an al fresco wedding luncheon in the movie "Julie and Julia" (thanks to the Lawrence/Julie&Julia Project for the only picture I could find of that scene on the entire web). I would hold catered luncheons in it, with recipes of Ms. Child's.
Hard to believe a year has passed since Sandy swept away so many lives, and homes, and places of gathering. And trees. The park was butchered, on a scale that dwarfed its previous recent ravages by Hurricane Irene. Days later, it snowed, and more fell.
In a world of instant gratification, it was a harsh reminder that trees can't be replaced with CGI. The "prospect" of Prospect Park is changed, in some places, for the rest of my lifetime. (Not for nothing that Tolkien had his Ents, the wise walking trees, distinguished by their agonizing deliberation in thought, speech, and action.) From Prospect Park Southwest, for example, where the tree above was impaled, you can now see clear from one side to the other; before, there was a mysterious wall of branches and trunks that shielded the park's heart even in winter.
The park's staff have done an incomprehensible amount of work to clear deadfall, prune damaged but salvageable trees, and plant new ones. The work is still ongoing, every day. Not a bad day to make a donation to, or join as a member of, the Prospect Park Alliance in memory of the lost Ents.
Much flitting about near the stream that borders the Nethermead. I may not have a DSLR, but now I do have a 50X zoom! "Fine if you want to carry around a telescope," huffed one online reviewer of the Canon PowerShot SX50. Yeah? You say that like it's a bad thing! This little shaver, I believe, is a song sparrow, although he was mostly gorging on pokeweed berries, not singing. (Note: If I get my bird ID wrong, please correct me in the comments!)
Those were what birders call "good birds." But "bad" birds—commonplace, often invasive or introduced—have their charms, like Darwinian pluck. This looks like your basic McDonalds-parking-lot sparrow (the "European house sparrow"), but in the park wilds, she was lovely, feasting on dried flowerheads.
I saw lots of warblers, but they are incessantly in motion. "Twerking" should refer to warbler locomotion among leaves, not vile dance-floor contortions. I did capture what I believe to be a ruby-crowned kinglet as the "Blurry Bird of the Day." Forget about ever seeing their ruby crowns.
We got a chunk of swordfish and a few delicata squash; grilled the swordfish by flashlight (the days are shortening so quickly!) and roasted the squash slices with apples and onions and rosemary. Between now and Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of gold and orange; why is the commercial world so intent on obliterating it under a tide of red and green?
GREENMARKET DOG OF THE DAY
Poor lute player; for high-impact facial hair, this Belgian Griffon named Milos had him beat. Milos's buddy, a black Griffon named Raspberry, was short-haired and resembled a bat-like pug, but wouldn't pose for me; Milosz is greeting a new acquaintance, in what turned into a freeform canine speed-date.
I didn't make it over to the park to check out the Secret Service action yesterday afternoon in Prospect Park, but watched from our window on the southern perimeter as two impressive presidential choppers descended past the treeline to land on the ballfields.
The entire park was originally announced as closed (prompting Green-Wood Cemetery to extend an invitation to joggers to exert themselves among the dead for the afternoon), but apparently it was a less than total lock-down. A friend reported that dozens thronged the cordoned-off landing area; our friends at the Ditmas Park Corner blog have more coverage of the "historic visit."
After his pep talk to kids at an innovative high school in Crown Heights (where with astounding originality he was reported to have declared Brooklyn even "cooler" than when he briefly lived here after college), Obama paid an obligatory visit to Junior's, the overrated tourist deli, for a cheesecake run. He reportedly got the plain, which is still good, but also the glob-encrusted vile strawberry, alas. He was shadowed (literally) by the mayor-all-but-elect, De Blasio; but where was Marty, our Clown Prince? I didn't see him capering about; maybe De Blasio's flunkies had him duct-taped to a chair in Borough Hall?