September 28, 2011

Change of course

A banyan tree has grown to fairy-tale size at The Golf Club, an abandoned golf course not far from around here. Fifty years old this year the golf course, and its popular club house, were the social hub in the scotch and samba sixties. The city now has golf courses galore - an Irish word that means, literally, enough. Surely. The Golf Club was purchased by a consortium four years ago, and was promptly closed, apparently in the hope that the property could be developed in a more lucrative direction. Those plans were bollixed by the city. It is now in litigation. But nature never waits for a settlement.

It's more overgrown now than when these photographs were taken. I’m OK with this state of "decline". If the lawn is one of the most profligate stressors of the environment on the planet, the golf course is its paragon. There were few if any lawns in the U.S., or so the story goes, until the Rockefellers saw Buckingham palace. They soon proceeded to plant acres of the stuff at their Pocantico estate, and before long homeowners across the country were imitating the Rockefellers imitating the Windsors. The invasion of the lawn is now complete. Grass is a crop. The only way it can be successfully maintained, without proper rotation, is with perpetual applications of chemical fertilizers, pest control, and water. Lots and lots of water.

A heron cops a drink, or a snack, at a pond.

Lost golf balls still lurk in the undergrowth.

The cup on the fifth green has filled up with sand.

A serpent-headed walk winds through an old fairway. Fittingly enough, more snakes roam and hunt here now do their hunters.

Although it's still private property and going there is discouraged, it's a popular spot for dog running, bird watching, skateboarding, and sunset strolls for those who aren't scared off by the isolation.

September 27, 2011

Picking sides

When I’m out riding my scooter and wearing certain shirts, the wind will invariably catch the collar and flap it, flicking the collar point against my jaw. It’s annoying, and after a while it hurts. I can defeat this by opening my shirt a couple of buttons and letting the collar slip back behind my neck. Oddly, only my left collar hooks up with the wind to party at my expense.

Seems the human body is subtly, and not so subtly, asymmetrical. I’m right-handed, but left-eyed. You can check your eye dominance by crossing your open hands, palms out, about ten inches in front of your face and creating a small window just above your crossed thumbs. With both eyes open, frame a small object across the room in the window. Keeping the object framed, alternately close one eye, then the other. The eye that has framed the object is your dominant eye.

It has been said that one side of your face, I forget which one, is the one you’re born with, the other is the one you make. My left side is less troubled than the right. It’s the one, apparently, that has received the fewest flicks, or has handled them better.

September 24, 2011

September 21, 2011

September 19, 2011

September 17, 2011

September 10, 2011

Terror and dust

I heard about 911 (“a wake-up call from hell” as Benjamin Netanyahu 
put it) like a billion other souls, when the news bulletin hit on television 
that morning, and appropriated the television screen, and global 
attention, for many days and weeks to come. I got on the phone with 
Stu, a fellow ex-New Yorker, and we both watched the disaster 
unfolding, phones to our ears, saying little, until Stu realized he had 
other phone calls to make. Within the next couple of hours a real-life 
replica of the destruction scene from Independence Day, whose 
monstrous majesty I’ve always suspected inspired Bin Laden, was 
played out in the dreadful cinematic slow motion that no one can forget, 
and the towers lay collapsed, along with three thousand lives, 
in a tower of dust.

My friend, and Staten Island ex-neighbor Pat, told me that a lot of 
Staten Islanders who worked in the World Trade Center perished in the 
attack. I could see the towers from nearly every room in my Staten 
Island apartment. I’d always loved them, and admired the balance 
they had achieved between brute scale and an austere delicacy. Looking
up at them (“giving the double finger to God and the taxpayer,” as a 
friend of mine once quipped) from the ground, you could scarcely believe 
what you were seeing. Audacious, ghostly, sensitive to light and 
therefore always changing, you could watch the shadows of clouds 
passing over them, and at sunset their tracery was limned with gold.

The photograph of President Bush, tucked down on a classroom chair, 
looking up from My Pet Goat, deer in the headlights, while the nation 
was under attack, will forever emblematize the man and his 
misbegotten administration for me. Sometimes things are precisely what 
they seem. He responded to 911 like a humiliated brat, stupidly, 
viscerally, opportunistically. And with ruinous cost to the nation.

What a transformative moment it might have been - drowned at birth by 
the Bush administration’s reptilian-brain response and venal ambitions. 
We should have done exactly nothing except quietly find Bin Laden... an 
accomplishment that was denied to Bush and given to his successor. It is 
impossible, in my opinion, to overestimate the leap in global 
consciousness that was rising on the horizon in the aftermath of 911, 
or the magnitude of the loss with which it was trashed. There were 
candlelight vigils for the U.S. in the streets of Tehran, fer Chrissakes. 
Al Qaida was finished. The world was our family. In perhaps the most 
tragic failure of vision in history, we traded gold for ashes. Which now 
we must eat.

September 7, 2011

September 4, 2011