The Cherry Blossom Hunt

“You’re sure enjoying that book.”

I looked to my left, and there he was. Sitting on a patch of grass not too far from my patch of grass, this unidentified stater of the obvious had been there for who knows how long, apparently watching me read.

“Yeah,” I said, almost directly into the book.

Normally, I don’t mind talking to strangers – it’s almost inevitable when I venture out solo – but it was getting dark. I’d spent the day wandering around Central Park, taking pictures, before sitting down to read in an area with significantly fewer people than the periphery of the park. Fully engrossed in my book, the sun had begun to set without me noticing.

Books are usually effective deterrents of uninvited conversation. Mine proved futile in this case.

“What are you reading?” he said.

“Oh, you know, a book of travel essays… by women.”

“Oh? That’s good,” he said. “It’s good to read about what you’re interested in.”

Though there were quite a few people around — families, couples, small groups of friends – we had enough space between us to not have to hear each other’s conversations. This stranger obviously had no intention to leave me in peace, all the while sending off major creepy vibes. As he talked about something or other, in my head his words were replaced with, “Don’t worry, I’m just really, really lonely… and sometimes I kill bunnies for fun.”

Maybe it was because he was wearing a beanie in 70-degree weather or maybe it was because he chose to sit dangerously close to me in a park of many patches of grass. Or maybe it was the essay I was reading, eerily depicting much of what I was experiencing at that exact moment. In the essay, the author writes about how as a woman traveling by herself, she often has to depend on strangers, which, as was the case with some creepy male attendants she’d met, can be unsettling. She eventually realized that by sitting alone on the platform at a train station in India, she had unintentionally sent a signal to creepy men everywhere that she was not one of the good girls.

He asked me a few more questions. I told him I was a writer, and he, in turn, said he was an artist. As for what kind of art he did, I’m not sure because I was too busy plotting how to exit the conversation. I wanted to be polite enough to seem casual, but not so polite to give off the impression that I wanted company or to exchange e-mail.

Just then, Lucas* appeared.

He’d somehow freed himself from his owner and, leash and collar in tow, circled the stranger and me in a euphoric gallop.

“I’m free! I’m free!” he seemed to say.

He ran to me, getting close enough for me to pet him. Just as my hand grazed his scalp, he tore off in full speed, his owner pleading for him to relax.

It was the perfect escape.

“Nice talking to you,” I said to the stranger as I gathered my stuff before walking away.

I didn’t bother to look behind me.

*Note: Lucas may or may not have been his real name. It was the first name that popped up in my head as I wrote this, so that mutt shall forever be Lucas, to me at least.

Last year’s trip to the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. was ridiculously fun
, and I’d captured my trek with friends in photos. This year, with no plans to revisit the festival and still yearning for some blossoms, I spent a beautiful afternoon on a Cherry Blossom hunt in Central Park.

There were several scattered throughout the park and in the city. Though majestic, the trees themselves weren’t very interesting, so I aimed to capture the activity around them. I hope these images evoke the stark contrast between the serenity at the park and the constant movement of Manhattan. It’s as if once entering, people immediately disassociated themselves from the quick pace of the city, which, while visible through the trees, seemed worlds away.

I love the colors in this picture, especially compared to the people under tree,
all in dark colors and dressed much warmer than necessary.

Urban quiet.

I was tempted to do the same, but the hunt wasn’t over.

Loved the light that day.

It gets kind of treacherous when you cross without looking. Cyclists
and joggers are pretty serious about their space.

I’d wandered from 59th to the Met, and stumbled
upon cute elderly Asians touristing across from it.

Pink girl, pink trees.


Where the balloons live

Before I headed back to Richmond, I ventured out to the city yesterday for some pre-Thanksgiving fun. Nothing sounded more awesome than watching balloons being inflated by the Museum of Natural History for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I imagined myself happily snapping away as the balloons slowly took form and floated into the big blue sky.

That image was tarnished as soon as I stepped outside. First of all, it was almost dark (This happens around, what, 4 p.m. now?). Second, it was raining. And third, there were too many people there, namely kids. Now, I love kids as much as the next non-maternal woman, but they’re pretty much guaranteed to step into shots, obstruct your view (hoisted on their parents’ shoulders) and the like. In many cases, this still could present the opportunity for great familial pictures, except it was too crowded and we were herded like cattle, nicely encouraged by staff to keep moving so as to keep the next group of gawkers happy.

Instead of happy pictures and big blue sky, there was rain, serious multitasking (one hand on the camera, the other on the umbrella), and disgruntled strangers.

“Watch your umbrella!” said the angry woman behind me.
“It’s not even raining!” some guy muttered.
“Oof!” said another after my umbrella stabbed his neck (I guess you could say this one was warranted).

Further, the floats looked like they were held captive, waiting to be freed the following morning for the spectacle that awaited them. Mickey Mouse wasn’t soaring above us, his white gloves in a permanent high five. A net covered him from head to toe. The Pillsbury Doughboy, making his first appearance at the parade, lay with his head on the pavement, weighed down by sandbags. At the end of the line, men and women in bright colored uniforms inflated yet another one doomed to meet its Gulliver-like fate.

Still, beneath all that unglamorous presentation, I admit there was something kind of magical about it.

Happy Thanksgiving, you.

Mickey under siege. Photographers nearby looked through their photos.

Two pups.

Hordes of balloon lovers.


Pillsbury Doughboy eats it.

Lilliputian hijinks.

Pooh from behind. What a great last glimpse.

Street musicians, Central Park

I had a few hours to kill before a meeting yesterday so I wandered over to Central Park. I’d gone there planning to take pictures of trees, but was drawn to the street musicians instead (finding bare trees at The Mall swayed things that way).

There was Boris, the saxophone player from somewhere near Argentina. When I told him I hadn’t heard of his town, he kindly told me I needed to review my geography (which is true). On a good day he makes more than $100. On a slow one, like yesterday, he expected to make no more than $80. I hadn’t taken three shots before he started talking to me… and kept talking to me, which is why I have no decent pictures of him in action. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

Then there was the double bassist under the Terrace by the Bethesda Fountain. Using my nonexistent Russian vocabulary, or something that sounded Russian, I inferred from a conversation he was having with a passerby that his bass was 150 years old.

I sat near him to take pictures, with full intentions to exit past him. I somehow ended up staying a half hour, never making it to the other side.

Then, I was off to Brooklyn.