I Talk To Trees, They Talk To Me


A tree museum in the Bronx is offering a rather unique if perhaps gimmicky exhibition: trees that not only look interesting but also “talk” about themselves…interestingly, I’d presume. One hundred trees, stretching 4 1/2 miles along Grand Concourse Boulevard, are currently marked with signs that include phone numbers and codes. These numbers/ codes will provide the viewer with links to short recordings of people talking about the Bronx, their lives and their work.

Tree No. 39, a honey locust at Marcy Place, will feature Jose Ortiz of the percussion group BombaYo. At another honey locust, No. 52, at 175th Street, Lurry Boyd, who grows peaches and strawberries in a community garden, will narrate. In Poe Park, a London plane tree (No. 75) will connect listeners to the story of the park, a former apple orchard that is now home to a cottage where Edgar Allan Poe lived. People often danced around the park’s bandstand at night, as Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx borough historian, tells it, including two sisters named Clooney. One of them was the singer Rosemary Clooney, aunt of the actor George Clooney.

The museum’s founder, Katie Holten, stumbled upon the idea while she was strolling down the boulevard one day near the Cross Bronx Expressway. She was endeavoring to win an art commission honoring the centennial of Grand Course Boulevard and was pondering how to best describe the place and its people. “The light bulb came on: If this is about the whole street, well, then the trees have to be part of it… …the Concourse has always been tree-lined, even before it was paved.”

The Concourse was designed in the late nineteenth century as an express route for people traveling from Manhattan to the parks of the north Bronx. In 1909, a road with designated paths for horse-drawn carriages, cyclists and pedestrians opened. The arrival of the IRT elevated line spurred development of the Concourse with construction of Art Deco apartment buildings, the Loewe’s Paradise Theatre and the Concourse Plaza Hotel, to name just a few. Indeed, the trees up there saw a whole lot of history strut and fret its hours upon the stage.

Note: This tree exhibit began about 3 years ago; oftentimes in NYC, insofar as novelty is concerned, 3 years could just as well be 30 years. I’m not sure if the trees are still talking up in the Bronx or if they’ve been rendered “speechless” through disinterest and neglect.

NY Times


Terminal Esoterica

Grand Central Terminal (incorrectly referred to as Grand Central Station) has a few secrets to delight visitors. Built in 1913, its abundance of quaint secrets is only equaled by its very rich history. Here are just a few of the more popular ones.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used an underground passageway leading from the terminal to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. FDR often endeavored to keep the fact that he was paralyzed, if not out of public knowledge, out of public view; on several occasions, he used this passageway to avoid being spotted on his wheelchair.

The tunnel is actually that of an abandoned train link-up between the W-A hotel and GCT; more about it could be found at Abandoned Stations.  A welded shut door, behind which lies the elevator shaft extending to the passageway, is all that remains.

The terminal’s “Whispering Gallery” is another famed secret and a popular spot for those dabbling in romance to those dabbling in acoustics. It’s located a hop-skip away from the Oyster Bar & Restaurant on the Dining Concourse beneath a row of ceramic arches. A person whispering into a corner will be heard distinctly by another person standing at an opposite corner of the large arched entrance-way. Experts say that this is caused when sound vibrations are carried along the domed ceiling to diametrical points along the wall. In any event, the jazz great Charles Mingus just liked to play beneath the arches, while lovers and other strangers often whisper sweet nothings and words of love to each other as they pass through.

For lovers who aren’t content merely to whisper but also have a desire to kiss, the legendary “Kissing Room” (actually, the Biltmore Room) on the terminal’s Grand Concourse is the place for them.  (Even this distracted blogger passed that way a few times, but that’s of little importance.) In the 1930s/ 1940s, this was where the legendary 20th Century Limited used to arrive and was the in place for what would become known as train travel’s Golden Age. Passengers (many of them celebrities and politicians) would get off the train and be greeted with hugs and kisses by those awaiting their arrival. After the hugging and kissing had concluded, they (at least the more fortunate ones) would often go up into the Biltmore Hotel to resume their hugging and kissing over dinner and beyond.

Finally, the terminal’s ceiling, with its famous star mural, is a well-known yet usually little-noticed and misunderstood curiosity. Many have noticed that the zodiac painted on the ceiling is depicted backwards and have attributed this to an error by the artist Paul Helleu. In fact, this wasn’t an error: Helleu drew his inspiration from a medieval manuscript depicting the heavens as viewed from outside our celestial sphere (quite unusual).

But the ceiling’s most overlooked and most recent secret is a dark-patch on the restored blue of the mural showing the color of the ceiling before its restoration: the contrast is terribly striking. The smoke of years and of neglect threatened to turn Grand Central Terminal into a relic that would have ceased to exist by today.

Source:  About.com