An Escape from Reality
by Sarah P. Lustbader
Jul 21, 2003
William Glackens, 1912, oil on canvas.
Central Park at 150
Still a Pioneer
Art in the Park:
Our Project for the Park by Christo and Jeanne-Claude
» Birth of the Park
» Death of Seneca Village
» Dancing in the Park
» An Escape from Reality
Taking Back the Park from Crime
Books About Central Park
Perhaps the change in rules was most apparent when I was young, because it was literal then. I did not have to hold my mother’s hand for fear of being "taken," there were no real streets to cross after looking both ways, and so I was pretty much free. In warm weather, I had the "ancient playground," where I filled my shoes and socks with sand within ten seconds of arriving. I had mountainous rocks to scale and Balto the brave medicine dog to inspire my adventures.
In the winter, there was sledding to do. Nothing else in Manhattan can offer a 5-year-old such abandon as flying down a hill, spinning in a saucer, until she runs out of steam or hits something. Nothing.
As I got older, and the intellectual and social pressures of New York began to pile up, I enjoyed the physical challenges offered by the park. For a respite from term papers about transcendentalism and music theory classes, I struggled to bike up the "big hill" on 110th Street without giving up and walking. And if the boy I liked at school turned out to prefer my best friend, I could always try to rollerblade down the hill by the "Stuart Little" pond without slowing down (I never quite mastered that). These days, my escapes from the fast-paced city involve trying to jog around the reservoir without being passed by anyone over 70 years old.
For me, the park is about suspended reality. For groups of middle schoolers at 1 a.m. on a Friday night, some controlled substance laws are temporarily forgotten (or so I hear). For young couples on an afternoon picnic, the complications of serious relationships are ignored for a while.
I now attend a college out west, where the whole enormous campus might as well be called a park. I can take pleasure in outdoor activities there, but something is missing. Without the nearby noise of 5th Avenue and the cerebral Metropolitan Museum, the park would not be so different, and without that contrast, the magic might be lost.Sarah Lustbader, a NYC native and a student at Stanford University, is the 2003 Lenore Chester Searchlight intern for Gotham Gazette.
Discuss this Article
Other Related Articles:
Visit the complete "" Archives