Saturday, September 19, 2009


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[this first picture is a Google Map of Inwood...some browsers may not load it]

We set off for the northernmost corner of the island of Manhattan today just after 2 o'clock. The A-Train would take us there in about 50 minutes. Vince had never seen Inwood, this farflung New York neighbourhood with lots of green near the water, and we were considering the Cloisters, though the $20 per person entry fee was fairly discouraging.

At 175th Street we got out at the entrance to Fort Tryon Park and walked through the Heather Garden, so-named for many heathers about to bloom, and a little unkempt at this time of year. Lots of fall anemones in flower, late roses, tall green nicotiana, and...Franklinia alatamaha, above. A week ago I would not have known what it was, this stewartia lookalike, but here it was, in perfection.

Colchicum - fall crocus - were planted in a patch of lamb's ears...

After rejecting the Cloisters (too many people on a Saturday, too much money and a no-tripod rule) we walked down the steepish, winding paths towards Inwood Hill Park, enjoying the unusual gradient. Not too many hills in Manhattan and here you are actually high above the Hudson.

After getting close to the water we walked a long way with baseball diamonds on our right, manned (no girls at all) by team after team of Hispanic players - it was a very American sight. Green grass, uniforms, the thwack of the bat on the ball, and the water to our left. This broad swift Hudson and the wooded cliffs on the far side.

Then we got to the end, Spuyten Duyvil in sight, hoping to turn right, or east, to Inwood Park proper. Barred. Railway line. Backtrack. Vince grumbling about New York's attitude to parks and water, how Vancouver could teach them something...Past a dog chasing a flock of Canadian geese from their grazing into the air. Past a Reunion (there was a sign) with people gathered around foil-covered casseroles, eating red pasta sauce on penne on paper plates, rock music playing from a tailgate.

And found an overpass, and walked into the woods, up the hill.

Hawthorns were soft and quite sweet.

The floor of the deciduous forest was white-flecked with asters: Aster divaricatus - white wood aster.

Jewel weed in abundance...Vince stuck to the middle of the path, thinking poison ivy thoughts.

It was a lovely walk, empty of people. It wound around the northernmost tip of Manhattan, high above the water, under the tall bridge that carries cars off the island. It afforded rare views of this narrow body of water that cuts Manhattan off from the mainland, and gave small clues to what the place may have been like before we flattened and gridded it. And down into Inwood Park, where a trumpeter on a bench was practising scales. Mud flats left bare by the tide were patrolled by herons, and the abundant green lawns were full of families and picnickers. More baseball. Tennis courts.

We were starving, after 5pm, and a very late breakfast at home, and were dying for a hotdog. We pounced on the only cart we'd seen all day. I chose a shish kebab after having seen a man tenderly feeding pieces of one to his old German shepherd dog nearby. It looked good, and the dog looked happy. I prepared myself mentally for food poisoning and kept an eye on the dog to see if it would keel over...I asked the vendor whether they were chicken or lamb and the curt ex-East Block voice said, Bif! A man had just yelled at him, saying to me as he left with his two wailing little boys (But daddy I wan' it!!), He doan' spea' Eenglish! , so Vendorman was not in a good mood.

It was the most bare bones, fundamentalist shish kebab I have ever seen.

And possibly the best. I couldn't believe it. It was good.

Beef, charred, and yet still succulent, and a hunk o' bread on a stick. We bought three more, and drank Cokes. The meat sticks cost $2.50. It's worth the trip. A-Train to 207th Street, two blocks to Inwood Park. Entrance of park past the tennis courts.

It was turning a little chilly as we left. The old man and the old German shepherd got up stiffly and walked home. Balls continued to thwack over the green grass. Two small children were fed pieces of hotdog by their child-parents. Papi, said the father to the tiny boy, you eat this piece first before I give another one, OK?


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