Thursday, November 4, 2010

Prospect Park: the good, the bad and the mushrooms

 

Prospect Park in early November. An early fall, too. I think. Above, amelanchier in its orange leaves; a tree I would use again and again in gardens with enough sun. More sun means more flowers, more berries, more colour.



We entered the park at the western corner, having cheated and caught the F to the Prospect Park stop, instead of walking over the Gowanus,  and then walked over to the east and  more or less parallel to the eastern edge of the park, in the woods.


The native witch hazels, Hamamelis virginiana, are interesting. They are all in bloom, but in all stages of leaf drop. Some have lost all their leaves, some are in flower beneath dry brown leaves, some bloom under yellow, and some, like this one, open while the tree is still green.


We found fenced paths and water.

 
 



And beside the paths, over the fences, we found litter. A lot of litter. Never a line of sight without a cup, bag, a tissue, plastic, paper. This is the edited version of our walk. This is how the park should look. But it is an illusion. At the paths' edge the park is filthy. Some parts are worse than others.

[Here is the litter post, and a link to a form to submit to the Parks Department about the litter]





Coming down a leaf-strewn ridge we found many baby fir trees, obviously planted.

 

And then we found mushrooms.



I was almost certain that these were oysters but I have not seen them this immature, so we passed on, and will come back soon to see what they look like.

 

But I was sure of these.

 

This is in the part of the park where the solitary men walk. When we first noticed them, there seemed only two plausible explanations: drugs or sex. Dealing made more sense to me. As wooded as it is, there is precious little cover for sex. I have subsequently found various blogs, all over the country,  that describe these parts of the woods as cruising grounds for men, especially men of West Indian origin. I had no idea. This seems very specialized, but there it is. Most of the men we saw on our two trips were black, a couple of younger Hispanic men and one white dude, idly thumbing an iPhone. The two men we saw hanging together and chatting sounded West Indian. A very niche market, it would seem. The saddest part is that they are here because in their home neighbourhoods they lead a double life. Straight at home, themselves in the cover of the woods.

Thank you, Google Maps.

The litter in the circled areas increases incrementally. Once we saw a police cruiser on a mulched path. If I were on my own, without Vince, I'm not sure how I'd feel, as a woman, here. Uncomfortable, yes, but not necessarily threatened. No one is interested in me. The woods are beautiful. There are birds and chipmunks and a sense of escape from the city - which is perhaps what the men want, too. But this very private and clearly clandestine business conducted in a public space makes my skin creep. And it goes on every day. This is where we found the mother and two small children gathering trash into bags the other day.

 

 
The late afternoon life of the weekday park: teenaged white and black Americans jogging on the west end, two girls flirting with a schoolboy,  a young black man and his father tossing a shot put backward over their heads landing with a boom on the grassy hill, an Uzbek nanny teaching a toddler in a stroller to count in Russian - adeen, dvah, tree, chetyreh, pyat, and again - soccer drill ending as the light leaves the top of the rows of red and yellow trees, the hills in shadow. Leaves dropping yellow and silent in Olmsted's beautiful gorges from blue November sky to float mirrored on piped Brooklyn water dark in a chasm constructed to give the lie to anyone ever having set foot on this island to change anything, ever.

The east end, the haunt of the lone men, who walk back and forth on fresh leaf litter, stop at an invisible border and repeat. Trash, litter condoms, Dunkin Donuts bags, Bud Lite and oyster mushrooms. What are they selling, who's buying, who drops the trash and why is it never cleaned up?

Why does the Parks Department not bring a broom a sweep it clean? Why has it been forgotten?

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