Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dale Squad's Vision Quest Experience

For our two day vision quest, we were led by the spirits of Herman Melville, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Joseph Pulitzer. In their own way, they all inspired us to find different places, experience different things, and learn more about the city. Throughout our 2 days of travel we stopped at 10 places, took 8 different subway lines, and visited 3 boroughs. Our journey is chronicled below:

Stop 1: Woodlawn Cemetery.
Upon arrival we were struck with the sheer beauty and grandeur of the cemetery. As Ms. Furfey said, "it's so beautiful and the trees are mad old school". The part about the trees is quite significant because there are so many different species of them in this sacred place. We then visited the gravestones of our three spirit guides, leaving some sort of commemoration of their lives and their work at each. First we saw Melville's gravestone which is a humble memorial with a scroll carved and ivy carved into it, most likely because of his writings and his connection to transcendentalism. Here we presented the food that we made for him,  a tuna sandwich and apples and honey (the explanation is too long for this blog post). On our way to Pulitzer's grave we picked up a Coca-Cola can that was on the grass, Preservation! Yay! At Pulitzer's grave, which seemed more like a memorial because it had a large stone structure that had two benches carved into it and a sculpture of a man holding a basket, Jennie presented her drawing of the Columbia School of Journalism and Hannah told a story about his life and his legacy. This was a particularly moving moment for us because the thoughts expressed in both the drawing and the story were deep and insightful, enough so that Pulitzer's thanks were conveyed through our medium to us. Our final stop in Woodlawn was the grave of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & family. After getting lost for a little while, the sight of the grave was a beautiful, yet sorrowful one. Mourning such a great mind is always tough, but a small play about two girls running for PAC at Fieldston lifted our spirits. We then received our first clue, to find the "dead man's park" without crossing the river (Bronx River).
Our food presentation at Melville's grave

Stop 2: Franz Siegel Park
Franz Siegel Park was a beautiful park located just off the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. We didn't spend a lot of time there but while we were there we felt enthralled by the park and its beauty. From its top you could see all of the Bronx around you, including Yankee Stadium, which I passed on the 4 train for the first time not going to a game. One thing that we saw that I didn't like was the amount of heavy squirrels we saw. Now this isn't a commentary on obesity rate in America but rather the fact that squirrels were coming out of hibernation far too early, made clear by the fact that they were incredibly heavy. This is a direct result of the crazy weather, which we in the Nature in the City class are not a fan of. After taking a picture in front of the 'Franz Siegel Park' sign we received our next clue and figured out that we should be on our way to the Pulitzer Midtown.
Franz Siegel Park

Stop 3: Pulitzer Fountain
After a lengthy walk along Central Park South from the Columbus Circle station to the fountain we arrived to see a beautiful, yet inactive fountain. One thing that we did see though, was that the bowl that would usually be filled with water was filled with lit Christmas trees, a pleasant surprise. On top of the fountain is a statue of a woman holding a basket of fruits and on the sides are rams heads carved out of stone. The Fountain is surrounded in all sides by signs of wealth and luxury: The Plaza Hotel, The Apple Store, Bergdorf Goodmans and Central Park. This is truly a testament to Pulitzer's success and massive legacy. Being near Central Park, Jazzy thought it would be fitting that we do our Green Guide Adventure, so we walked the grueling 2 blocks, dodging the droppings from the infamous herd of birds on the stoplight on 59th and 5th and the often crazy horses, one of which seemed to be rabid, to get to Central Park.

Stop 4: Green Guide Adventure in Central Park
We ventured out to the bank of the 59th Street Pond, taking pictures along the way of people enjoying the park on an uncharacteristically warm day. We captured birds flying around the pond, certain plants and weeds in the pond that are there to make the habitat more like the natural one of the animals living there, the sounds of birds chirping, and other things that we thought represented the purpose of the park and its use today. After doing this we were given our 3rd clue, an incredibly challenging one having to do with the Scarlet Letter and Herman Melville's birthplace. After deliberating for quite some time and receiving a warning that the terrifying baseball furies were after us, we hopped on the F train were on our way to 6 Pearl Street (get it Pearl, like from Scarlet Letter) to complete our next task.

Stop 5: Melville's Birthplace
After a wit-challenging wait for the R train we finally boarded it and arrived at 6 Pearl street to receive yet another daunting challenge, to return one of Melville's most culturally recognized yet misrepresented characters back to its place of origin. Jennie described this task as "the most frustrating of the day". While the rest of the group was trying to sort out the madness that was this clue, I took some time to examine the surroundings of 6 Pearl Street, which is now the site of New York Unearthed, a New York City Museum. To the South was the water which was beautiful but also brought with it wind and cold that made our time down there a little bit uncomfortable. In front of 6 Pearl Street was an old building made of red brick that was the site of the birth of the first American Saint. In front of another building near it was a very nice sculpture. After minutes of deliberation we made the connection between one of Melville's characters, Starbuck, and the Starbucks card that we had been given in the box the previous day. While this was a sneaky little trick that Drybala and Ms. Furfey pulled on us, we were happy to get into a warm building to enjoy some warm coffee and some tasty treats. With the time left that we had before the interview at CCBA we decided to roam Chinatown for some time, visiting Aji Ichiban, a dumpling place that sold 5 dumplings for $1.25 (it got a B on the Health Inspection but the dumplings were so good that it was worth it), and ViVi Bubble Tea so Jennie could finally curb her craving for some Tazo bubble tea.
Casually strolling down Mott St.

Stop 6: Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
At CCBA, we had an interview with Gary Tai, one of the people who worked for the Association, which refers to itself as the "city hall of Chinatown". Gary gave us a background on the history of Chinese immigrants in New York City and why an organization such as CCBA was necessary for these people's survival. He also told us about what the CCBA does now, which is to help new Chinese immigrants become acclimated to American society and offer them educational services. This final stop concluded our Day 1 travels. We went home tired, full, but also ready for another day of New York City adventure.
Mr. Gary Tai, educating us on the ins and outs of the CCBA

Stop 7: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Street Sign
After coming off the Brooklyn Bridge cold and a bit rattled by the constant flow of bikers going in the opposite direction, we quickly finished our first task, which was to find out what was "revolutionary" (notice the quotes) about the New York World Building. We made the conclusion that this was where Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Beecher Stowe published The Revolution, a newsletter advocating women's rights and a change in government. We quickly hopped into Starbucks, where we met a Fieldston class of '94 alum who was dumbfounded yet intrigued that we weren't in school, and then made our way to Orange street in Brooklyn, where Harriet Beecher Stowe's brother, Henry Ward Beecher was the minister of the Plymouth Church for the Pilgrims.

Stop 8: Plymouth Church For the Pilgrims
After getting off the train we were in what felt like a different world. Brooklyn Heights seemed to be much more laid back, with small shops ruling the area rather than the hustle and bustle of Wall Street traders and City Hall members. We crossed over Pineapple street and turned on Orange street right before we got to Cranberry street, in what we like to call Fruit City. Here we had to make the connection between Walt Whitman (who had an apartment complex just 2 blocks away named after him) and the church. Whitman, along with many other famous anti-slavery leaders during the time such as Abraham Lincoln, worshipped at the church. Following this, we connected Whitman to Lincoln by reading O' Captain My Captain, written by Whitman about Lincoln. This led us to our next destination, the Grand Army Plaza just outside of Prospect Park, commemorating the efforts of the men who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

Stop 9: Grand Army Plaza and Cheryl's Global Food
Upon arriving at Grand Army Plaza we were all struck with the sheer grace and beauty of the area. There was a large monument that looked like the one in Washington Square Park but had statues of different soldiers on it, representing the different groups that fought in the civil war for the union, from slaves to farmers. We then each posed as one of the statues and our picture was taken, except we were quick in our taking of the picture because there was a crazy man walking around near us screaming about something or other and this was disconcerting to say the least. We then realized that we had an hour and a half to kill and were in one of the best spots in the city, one where the culture is so different from that of where we all come from, that we thought we would experience it first hand. So we found Cheryl's global food, just 2 blocks away from Grand Army Plaza and had ourselves an incredible brunch. We each had something different and we all enjoyed it very much. We were then took a long walk through Prospect Park (because we still had time to kill) to get to the Q train station to be on our way to our final destination, Coney Island.

Our great meal at Cheryl's

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