Sunday, August 24, 2008

Item from the Past: The Bronx, 1983

August 29, 1983

Last full day in New York. In the early morn I decided to see the Bronx Zoo and the NY Botanical Gardens. Eventually I did so, but it took me a while to get out of 17D [the apartment where I was staying]. On the way, I took the wrong subway, but the detour wasn't without its rewards. At one of the stations, I saw part of the filming of a music video, complete with stereotypical punk costumes, a camera and cameraman, and a woman squatting near a boombox, operating the tunes. Extras were standing around, and a makeup woman with a box of paints powder-puffed the musicians every now and then. I didn't recognize anyone involved, or any of the songs.

Before long I was on the #5 IRT, which after leaving Manhattan becomes an elevated train and gave me a full look at the wasteland that is the south Bronx. Blocks of rundown buildings are one thing, but what's astonishing is how few buildings stand on many blocks, and how much rubble there is. I've never seen the aftermath of a city shelled by an enemy, but I'd think it would look like this place.

Arrived at 180th Street and found the zoo without any trouble. I was expecting a more cage-oriented zoo, but was pleasantly surprised -- it's mostly fields and few cages, with a river running through it too. It also had a fine collection of animals, as zoos should, with only one annoying habit: it seemed like each and every sign describing the animals also waxed tendentious about how MAN as the vile enemy of all that is good and natural (I exaggerate, but only a little). I see what they're getting at, but if you ask the zebra being chased by the lioness, he might cite a more immediate threat.

The Botanic Gardens was less given to lecturing its visitors, with simple name plates to describe its many plants. After a walk through the gardens, I rode back to Manhattan and bought half-price theater tickets at TIKT in Times Square for 'night, Mother at the John Golden Theater on 45th near 8th Ave. (There's also an Army recruiting station at Times Square; a nearby graffito says "Fight War, Not Wars.")

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