Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bike Polo

Last year, I was trying to get more in touch with New York City while working on an assignment for a radio class I was taking, when I heard about this Bike Polo game every Sunday in Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side. I decided to check it out. It turned out to be a small group of friends playing bike polo on a large cement section of the park. I watched for a while and interviewed one of the players while he was on the sidelines. He explains the game in the audio. (Just click on the title of this post!) He said that every once in a while they have tournaments but most of the time its just a small group of people playing.

I went back a couple weeks ago and it just happened to be a tournament day. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, but what a sight it was to see. There were two teams "East Coast" vs. "West Coast." One team was wearing black, the other was in red. Someone was standing up on the railing above the cement court and blew a horn every time a goal was scored. Someone in a silly superhero mask had a PA system and acted as commentator and scorekeeper. The bikes were decorated and some of the players were wearing costumes. One girl was wearing a pink costume dress and leggings while she played. Another guy was wearing pink striped socks, a pink polka dotted skirt and black rabbit ears on his head. The players weren't the only ones dressed up. A spectator sitting on the railing wore a blue Cinderella dress and sat under an umbrella. 

Not only were there 25 players for each team but at least 75 spectators avidly watching the tournament. Loud music blared over the noise of the game and the sound of the street on either side. It was quite a sight. One I will remember for a while. Seeing stuff like this makes me so happy to live in this city. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Art Speigelman...Revolutionizing Comics

I have admired Art Speigelman's work ever since I read his graphic novel Maus: A Survivor's Tale as a senior in high school. Published in 1991, it was a graphic rendering of his parents survival of World War II and the Holocaust. That someone could portray such harsh realities and deep emotions in a comic was a great surprise to me, but Speigelman does it in a way that seems so simple. It is one of the most effective reflections on World War II and the Holocaust I have ever encountered. It is completely deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won in 1992. He has just published a new book called Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*!. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but it is another memoir, this time documenting Speigelman's comics over his career. The politically charged, emotional graphics are definitely worth the time. Check both out.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New York Parks

One of the things I love most about living in New York City is the parks. I grew up in a very rural part of the United States where trees and grass and wildlife are a regular part of life. Every morning I would wake up to hear birds chirping outside my window. Now I am jolted awake by car horns and sirens. I miss the nature that I grew up with when I'm in the city but  I have to admit that I took it for granted. It wasn't until I moved to Manhattan that I realized what a wonderful thing nature could be. I think the reason for that lies in the difference in the way parks are treated here from the ones at home. In Nebraska, everyone has a backyard. Even the apartment complexes have huge central courtyards. We have the room for that. My own family has 8 acres of grass and trees behind our house, without mentioning the large pasture and pond where we keep our small herd of cattle. So in Nebraska, there's no reason to go to the park. Why go spend time on community grass when you can walk out your back door? But here in New York, those parks are our backyards. We share our backyards with the entire community. And for that reason there's a feeling that I get in New York City Parks that I've never felt anywhere else. A feeling of commonality among people who may have nothing else in common. We come to Washington Square Park, Tomkins Square Park, Central Park, Riverside Park and all of the others for all sorts of different reasons. It could be to bring kids to the playground, or to meet up with a friend or two, to eat lunch, to take the dog for a walk, or to just enjoy the fresh air. But we all come to the park because we want to get a bit of nature: smell the grass, sit in the shade, whatever it is. And thats why I love New York Parks.