Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Prospect Park-o-Type

tenth ave courtesy of the loopweaver's flickr
thin ice courtesy of axlotl's flickr

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tall Fences Make Good Neighbors

Our friends at Wikipedia tell us that unlike many other groups that emerged within Christianity, the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, has tended away from creeds, and away from a hierarchical structure.

Well, there's certainly a hierarchical structure around their cemetery in the middle of Prospect Park. I suppose one has to protect one's self from our stupid fucking local teen pseudo-thugs. Barbed wire though? Zowee. Don't be like that, baby. I thought we were Friends. 

Actually, I'm kidding. I really do have respect for their wishes. If someone doesn't want you on their  property, I think you should stay the fuck out. If the Quakers prefer we not be stomping all over their graves, I think that's awesome. I mean we do have the nation's #1 funereal tourist attraction right down the street - Greenwood Land.

However, the Quakers have allowed us a mini-tour, revealed in short peeks and mosquito bites along the fences and gates. And there is a path. So, I have to think that a little fence action is okey-doke with the Quakers. Why is their cemetery right smack in the middle of the Park? It's really the simplest answer possible - It was already there, so Olmstead and Vaux simply built the park around it. Enjoy the tour! You can click on any of the pics to enbiggen them.

From the Horse Pen and the South end of the Ball Fields, follow the bridal path down to the corner of the chain link fence,  just into the woods alongside West Drive. The fence is the South(ish) boundry of the cemetery, and a rather nice little path will follow it. Fair warning - You'll have to do a little dodging and bushwhacking, and you'll be bit by a thousand fucking mosquitoes. Still a nice walk though. Are we smilin'?

There are a few neat views through the fence, shaded and filtered through trees along the first part of the path. However, fear not, and trust the Quakers - there's a nice view of a small section of the cemetery further along. By nature, there's not a lot to see here, but my view is that it is nice to see a simple, well-tended cemetery, especially one that has been in existence for so long.  

Not too too many curiosities, but I did come across a few. What's this old vault or stone pit along the fence? Clearly, it's been there for a very long time. Maybe an old dry well? Notice along side of it - there's a piece of an old monument or a broken stone finial. I decided it had probably been tossed over the fence. The Quaker markers are very simple, and it doesn't look like something you'd find in there. 

In a covered clearing near the corner of the cemetery, I found another curiosity - and I find these odd structures all over the park. It's an odd little lean-to made out of fallen wood. It looks like some sort of shelter. (I suppose if you tossed something over the frame, it actually would be some sort of shelter.) There was recently one of these also near the BBQ area to the left, just in from The Marquis at 9th Street. They're always built on a fallen tree. Curious.

As you turn the corner, following the fence to the left, you'll come to the cemetery's main entrance. Not much in the way of signage, but I guess there wouldn't be in this case. You'll see the much fabled "private property" sign on the left through the gate, but other than that, you'll have to content yourself with the beautiful view.

You know what I really wanna see? The fenced-off area between the cemetery's Northeast border and Fallkill Falls. Maybe someday. 


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shih Tzu Happens

En route to my Cemetery Fence Tour (coming up later in the week), I stopped by Dog Beach - there's an awesome stepped hill and grove of trees across the lane that serves as an excellent viewing stand - a right nice patch from which you can watch the precious pooches. Very crowded last Saturday, even just after the Brooklyn Paper reported, Rat droppings poison 'Dog Beach.' You see, those nasty rats are fouling the dogs' swimming hole with their poison poop.

The Parks Department's answer? Kill 'em. (Not the dogs, the rats.) You can currently take in the rat poison signs blowing gently in the sylvan breezes all over the back alleys of the park. Hey Parks Department - The rats ain't all you're gonna kill. Jeez. Hasn't anyone over there read Red Tails in Love?!

Committee for Responsible Dog Ownership reports that "Prospect Park has a family of resident of red-tailed hawks, and this time of year plays host to all sorts of migrating raptors, most of whom prey on rats. When they eat poisoned rats, they die ... So that Park Slope dogs can play in Prospect Park’s waterways instead of –heaven forbid—their owners’ fancy bathtubs, a bunch of unsuspecting birds are not going to be flying south this winter."

Although it's entirely possible that the Park Slope Literati has taught its canines to read, the pooches are evidently not reading the Brooklyn Paper - Dog Beach was a regular Canine Coney Island on Saturday. 



Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Nightmare on Elm Street

Right here in Prospect Park, we have perhaps the most notable and distinguished tree in New York City. It's the Camperdown Elm, just off the Boathouse. (I'm not being ironic, people. It's a seriously cool tree.) Take that, you Bitches Across the Bridge.

Shame on us though - we almost fucked it up.

It was planted near the corner of the Boathouse, just to the South, in 1872. It's kind of hard to describe, but suffice it to say, it looks like the a giant mutant bonsai tree with weeping branches. In fact, ducking under the canopy is sort of like entering a little hobbit house. I wish there weren't a huge fence around it (totally sucks), but I suppose we must protect the thing. It's rare, you know. 

There's this estate in Dundee, Scotland, which belonged to the Earl of Camperdown. Well, the old Earl's head tree man discovered a mutant branch growing along the ground (as opposed to growing skyward). Tree-Guy created the first Camperdown Elm by grafting it onto the trunk of a Wych Elm - curiously, the only elm species that the Camperdown will canoodle with ... it will not successfully graft onto any other root stock. Ergo, that original mutant cutting is the Baby-Daddy of every Camperdown in existence.

There was a little Camperdown soap-opera when the fourth and final Earl hopped the pond and moved to Boston. I wonder if he ever took the trip to Brooklyn to see his tree? Lord Camperdown (of the Boston Camperdowns) never had any children, so all his titles expired when he died in Boston in 1933.

The rare tree was a gift of Mr. A. G. Burgess to Prospect Park in 1872. Can you dig that? This thing is one-hundred forty years old! 

Well, no good deed goes unpunished. (Sorry, Mr. Burgess.) By the 1960s, the tree was dying - the result of neglect, improper cutting, and just pain poor care. Mercifully, someone noticed. They called up Bartlett the tree guy, and lo and behold, he stuck his whole arm up inside the poor thing's wound. The elm became a right-and-proper celebrity when in 1967, Brooklyn's own Marianne Moore wrote a poem about it, and helped raise funds to pay for its treatment.



I think, in connection with this weeping elm,
of "Kindred Spirits" at the edge of a rockledge
overlooking a stream:
Thanatopsis-invoking tree-loving Bryant
conversing with Thomas Cole
in Asher Durand's painting of them
under the filigree of an elm overhead.

No doubt they had seen other trees -- lindens,
maples and sycamores, oaks and the Paris
street-tree, the horse-chestnut; but imagine
their rapture, had they come on the Camperdown elm's
massiveness and "the intricate pattern of its branches,"
arching high, curving low, in its mist of fine twigs.
The Bartlett tree-cavity specialist saw it
and thrust his arm the whole length of the hollowness
of its torso and there were six small cavities also.

Props are needed and tree-food. It is still leafing;
still there. Mortal though. We must save it. It is
our crowning curio.

-Marianne Moore

camperdown elm canopy photo courtesy of www.prospectpark.org

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Beasts of Prospect Park

For the first entry in our Snark in the Park video series, we proudly present ... The Beasts of Prospect Park, including all manner of wily beast and dangerous foe. Watch out for those geese

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Developing a Cran-Do Attitude

I found me some Brooklyn Berries, and that's a fact. Okay, they're not really called "Brooklyn Berries," but I think it's catchy. They're Viburnum Trilobum. You don't like Latin? Don't be like that, baby. I'm talking Highbush Cranberries!

Sam Thayer tells us, in his column From The Forager, "The small fruits, about a half-inch long, begin to turn from green to red in August." 

Prospect Park is full of 'em. I made reservations to tag long with Wildman Steve Brill's foraging tour in Prospect Park last Saturday ... but it was cancelled. (Thanks to Karen, all the same.) So, I set out on my own. The foraging people love to put supposedly delicious recipes up on their websites. Well, I figure, Hell. I can pick and cook. I'm not entirely without skills.

Well, let me tell you what a fucking disgusting experience that was from beginning to end. When you are cooking them, these things fucking stink like ten filthy wet dogs. One person said that "boiling high-bush cranberries smells like wet, dirty socks." I'd ammend that. It smells like boiling three-month old wet, dirty socks from a bum on the G train after he's been walking through shit. In July. 

Did the recipe work? I suppose. Yes, it made jelly. Mutant skank jelly, but jelly all the same. How does it taste? Picture it - I open the jar, barely cracking it at first, because I don't want the lethal stink to seep out like toxic waste. I put my spoon in ... I taste it. Is it edible? Yes. Do I like it? No. It tastes like what someone might have experienced just before they said, "I think these cranberries might have gone bad." Cranberry jelly, yes. But with a sick, underworldly bitterness to it. And it still stinks. 

I was really hoping it was going to be tasty. Ah, well. Fucking berries. Suffice it to say, I don't think this is a flavor that Smucker's is going to be considering. You have a tasty day, now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Rose is a Rose

I'm sick of Central Park having more money and more nice things than we do. Fuck you, Central Park ... your shiny zoo, your Marionette Theatre, your numbered lamp-posts, your pristine outbuildings, and your wild edibles tours. 

With a chip on my shoulder, I set out to find something that I could chow on. I don't care if it's only a damn dandelion. I figure we must have our own species of tasty treats right here within the iron-gated walls of Le Parc de la Perspective. 

I know precious little about any of this, but I do know what a Rose Hip is - the red bulby thing that grows where the bloom punks out. Score! Maybe if I can score some Rose Hips and make tea out of them, the marching mommies might finally bow down and do my bidding. True, I might have to slip some crack into it, but I'm pretty sure I can get them to boycott Barnes & Noble and renounce Union Market if I keep them whacked out on locally grown Rose Hip Tea. But I digress.

Rose Hips are a good source of vitamin C. You could also make jam, jelly, pies, syrup. (Personally, I would like to see Rose Hiptinies at Union Hall.) Also, I read that the little bulbies are good for a smooth coat and hoof growth - too bad they're not growing around the horse pen area.

Anyhow. Wanna see some? Below the Ravine, take the path next to Dog Beach toward the waterfall. Just wander around. You'll find large bushes of the bulbous little buggers - guarded by big-ass scary monster thorns ... you should go take a look at these things, if only for their Little Shop of Horrors qualities.

Of course, it's not quite Fall yet, so the Rose Hips are not quite ready. Maybe in a month. Or like a Trust Fund Tea Lounger, maybe they'll never ripen. 


Ed - Thought this was important to bring to the front page - Janet writes to tell us, "As to the "wild edibles" tours, Steve Brill does them several times a year in Prospect Park, including, if his website is correct, this Saturday (August 30th)." Wildman Steve Brill's excellent website with schedules and info can be found here.