The Intractable Autodidact

You are your own best teacher

Vestiges — Ancient and Otherwise — in New York City

I recently returned from a long weekend in NYC. I hadn’t been back since 2008, and as always it has changed a lot. A bit cleaner and seemingly safer; consequently a little less interesting, though more interesting than I found it in 2008. There are some more independent shops, and the street fairs are always excellent. The west side piers, for so long a dangerous area known for anonymous amorous hook ups, has been cleaned up while still retaining a lot of its charm. I saw some fascinating things I never in my life thought I’d see in New York:

Pugnacious crab on the West Side

This guys was actually CRABBING in Manhattan! Normally you would never, ever catch & eat your food in Manhattan (referred to as “The City” by NYers). I didn’t even think there was anything much alive in the waters around the City (the Hudson River is what’s in this image). This man hauled up a little net in which he had placed a fish head as bait. He snagged a blue crab and I noticed him untangling it from the net. He then tossed it into a cooler with, I assume, others. Off to the side were people playing soccer, and others picnicking on the grass. UNHEARD OF, except for possibly in Central Park on a Sunday. It was an almost bucolic experience.

There’s another vestige of the past I only read about after leaving New York. Twenty five years there, and I never knew there was a tangible, wrought piece of the American Revolution still standing. Bowling Green park in the downtown financial district once featured a statue of King George III. Wary of rowdy New Yorkers who might love to decapitate George, the British authorities erected a wrought iron fence around the statue and park. The fence stands in the same location to this day! George, however, does not. Riled by the reading of the Declaration of Independence, rebels toppled the statue, and the story has it melted it down for bullets to be used in the Revolution (George’s head is said to have been rescued by loyalists and shipped back to England). Posts along the fence were each topped by a finial in the shape of a crown. This would not do, so each and every one was sawed/hacked/bashed off. To this day it stands, the fence without finials:

A Revolutionary Fence

Each one with cut marks still visible, with the angle of separation slightly different. You can touch the same spot where an angry revolutionary tore off the crown in the name of liberty. How cool is that?!

Note: One last thing I never dreamed I’d see in Manhattan: Fireflies. These bioluminescent insects are actually beetles, not flies. They’ve been disappearing around the U.S., so to see them in Washington Square Park one night was astounding. I half expected to look up and see a pack of wolves.

Bowling Green Park

10 comments on “Vestiges — Ancient and Otherwise — in New York City

  1. Barbara Backer-Gray
    October 7, 2012

    Interesting. I will have to check out that fence next time.

    • Kenneth Setzer
      October 8, 2012

      It’s actually a nice-looking park too. Not that I had a spare second to go in!

  2. Fork in My Eye
    October 8, 2012

    I’m still a little worried about whoever ate that crab. Cool post. My dad is something of a history buff and I bet he’ll love this little tidbit. I’ve never been to “The City” but if I ever do, I’ll be sure to check out the fence too. (If I don’t spend the whole time in the American Museum of Natural History which may be my only motivation for ever entering such a big, scary urban environment as NYC.)

    • Kenneth Setzer
      October 8, 2012

      You would spend the entire time in the museum, I swear. I could easily too. I actually read the display information, when I’m not getting pulled from one display to the next by family.

      • Fork in My Eye
        October 8, 2012

        Have you ever read Dinosaurs in the Attic by Douglas Preston? It’s about the founding of the museum and some of the expeditions that helped to build its collections – one of my favorite books. I bet you would like it.

      • kentiki
        October 8, 2012

        YESSSS! I recently read it. I specifically wanted to see the meteorites Peary brought back from Greenland, but didn’t get to. Next time!

  3. Charles Gallagher
    October 8, 2012

    I returned to The City on a business trip after a 21 year absence and was shocked at the improvement in cleanliness, safety, and people friendliness. A lady in the elevator actually initiated a conversation welcoming us. I do recall however that the taxi drivers still drove in what appeared to me to be wreckless abandon; however on this trip they did laugh at the near misses and slight bumps.

    • kentiki
      October 8, 2012

      Wow, it is probably like a different city after 21 years. I moved out 17 years ago. The taxis are still wretched.

  4. Being En Pointe
    October 8, 2012

    Awesome stuff, my Friend! We visited recently and were AGAIN blown away by the BIG Apple. Such a great city….so much to see and appreciate! Great pics and blog. :-)

    • kentiki
      October 8, 2012

      I saw! Weird how much time I spent there, and now it’s a place to see on vacation. Thanks!

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