Saturday In The Park—It Must Be Central

Listening to a little Cat Stevens this morning, I was instantly  brought back to 1261 Leland Avenue on a typical summer’s Saturday morning. Feeling a little “tired” from the night before, it would not be uncommon to grab my camera and whatever book I was reading at the time and head downtown.

Walking over to the Parkchester station of the 6 train on a hot Saturday afternoon was glorious. There was no air conditioned subway to take me to 59th Street, but it was glorious nonetheless.

I used to love to look north from the subway platform and see the beautiful Bronx layed out in all its splendor. Even the rumble of the approaching train could not destroy the image.

The train was not nearly as crowded as the day before when daily commuters made their way to midtown or Wall Street. In those days we merely said we were going Downtown. After all, The Bronx was up and the Battery was down.

Part of my recollection to that typical Saturday morning circa 1970 included the books that I would be reading. No murder mystery. No Tom Clancy or Nelson DeMille. If JK Rowling had written a book, I hadn’t heard of it back then.

No, I was reading Herman Hesse, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and anybody who would make me wonder about life and the universe.

My single lens reflex camera was loaded with KodaChrome or KodaColor (KodaColour for my English cousins). Digital only applied to the finger that would activate the shutter.

The big decision of the day was weather to transfer to the 4 or 5 express at 125th street or to stay on the 6. Either way, I would disembark at 59th Street.

As you got to the top of the stairs to the street level of 59th Street, you were first struck by the heat. Even though the subway and the underground passages getting to the street were an inferno, somehow, when you got above ground and onto the sidewalk, it seemed even hotter.

The only way to beat this heat was to head west and go to Central Park.

I always entered on the Central Park South end of the Park and had a very defined route. It would take me over hills and around softball fields and to the Bethesda Fountain. The fountain was beautiful but it was the  terrace in front of it that was the attraction in those days.

Hundreds of frisbees would be flung, simultaneously it would seem, by scores of like minded people. No one worried about losing their frisbee, and no one criticized errant flingers.

I would continue my walk after a few minutes.

Literary Walk was a beautiful place to go. Not that I was a big fan of Robert Burns or Sir Walter Scott, but because it was a beautiful tree-lined path and a welcomed relief from the sun. However, it was the pick up musicians that you would meet along the way that made it the place to be.

There were several artists that would meet routinely on Saturday afternoons and they would play much of the music of the day. Free concerts and in such a beautiful setting were hard to ignore.

Somewhere I have pictures of these events but today they are only memories.

When I think back to living in New York, Central Park was as important to me as Yankee Stadium and Leland Avenue. Especially on a hot summer’s day.

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