Time and Memory

The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band has been remastered and issued to celebrate its original release a half century ago. Fifty years is a considerable amount of time during which a lot can happen, and indeed it has. While I understand the abstract nature of music engenders a more direct connection with emotion, making for a most effective trigger of memory, I was, quite frankly, unprepared for the memories the album triggered in me.

The triggering of memory has always made me somewhat uncomfortable, I think, because I feared becoming someone who lived more in the past than the present. I cringed at the idea of  standing around talking about the “good old days,” or being lodged with nostalgia in a rocking chair  “till in the end, close of a long day” (as Samuel Becket put it).

But I’m beginning to realize that just because you have a rich memory doesn’t mean you’re forfeiting living in the present. No, it simply means you’ve lived a life, and that being able to remember much of  that life, is a gift with a bit of wisdom that might be helpful in getting us through today and tomorrow.

Stuyvesant Town is now seventy years old. So many of its remaining original tenants have rich memories which contain compelling stories and insights. What impresses me most about talking with original tenants is their appreciation for the complex despite the withering away of many of the things (e.g., a real sense of community) that made it so special. If you have the good fortune of encountering a long term tenant, ask him or her to share some of those memories.

The Abhorrence of Open Space, or, A Marketing Idiot’s Delight part 2

Zen-like simplicity is currently being replaced by a ludicrous marketing scheme. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to marketing per se (I work in marketing), but as with  anything, there is good and there is bad. This is a clear case of the latter. Playground #7, as it is known, is being transformed into a marketing idiot’s delight — a cluttered accretion of objects, textures, and colors to create the impression of an outdoor gym and track.

Did no one ask the one essential  question that should be asked of any project: “Is this really necessary?” Even from a marketing standpoint, once you get past the initial feeling of being taken aback (they call it the “Wow” factor) and you begin to look closely at what is before your eyes, you see it’s essentially  a facade, a virtual gym or track. Might they replace the “#7” moniker with “Land of Oz” Playground?  Any decent runner is not going to be running around its arrested small track. Even novice runners, if they’d wanted to, could have run around the old unadorned space. As for the gym machines, who needs them when there is already a “Fitness Center”  on 20th street, not to mention the Y on 14th street, and countless other gyms in the area. Moreover, what was once a highly adaptable space which could be used for numerous activities (running, soft ball, roller blading—both solo and team competition, teaching  kids how to ride a bike, play catch, dog meets, martial arts, etc) is now diminished.

I don’t know how much money this is costing but I’m sure it’s not insignificant. (Will this show up as an MCI?) But worse, the “transformation” has already resulted in the sacrifice of two mature trees.