Manhattan is small, and notwithstanding the New York Times' article today about Texans living "large" in New York, the small things about (and in) New York are often the most endearing to me. I'm also one of those impossibly rare former Texans (though one is really never a "former" Texan, I've been told) who is greatly comforted by "small" - small apartments, small closets, small handbags, small luggage, small amounts of kitchenware, furniture and most other belongings. Too much is too much. And too much is overwhelming to me (except scarves - and my kids would add shoes - for some reason). Maybe it's exactly because New York is so jam-packed that I need the calm of the small to have a few sanity moments of not feeling I have to conquer every inch of New York space all the time.
Finding Septuagesimo Uno Park, the smallest park in New York City, just by chance in the rain as I walked my soaked bike home (too chicken to ride on slick streets), was a tiny treat, just my size.
As I said, it was raining and no one was inside, but here was this imposingly tall gate, which belied the itty-bitty patch of green space behind. So mysterious. Yet oddly welcoming.
What was this? I've seen pocket parks in midtown for the office workers who have no parks nearby. I've seen perpetually locked up "community gardens" (and still haven't quite figured out the bureaucracy on that one). But this is different. The signs indicate it's an official New York City Park, but it's right near Riverside Park, just a block away. Central Park is another three blocks in the other direction. What? Why? The second plaque beneath the name gives a full and historical description - also here. Beyond history, though, was calm - sheer and utter peace and remove, under and through the trees, and sandwiched like a thin slice of pastrami between two apartment buildings on West 71st Street.
Before 2000, the park was called "71st Street Plot." Poor thing. The current name means "71" in Latin. So much more exotic. It's like when you come across Paris Hilton-type dogs that carry names like "Lord Wilfred Blogstock." Similarly, this is a name that overcompensates (or makes a joke on its small stature), but offered up a tiny surprise and didn't disappoint.
I can't wait to go back and spend some time there, with a book or my new ipad, in the sunshine. Wonder if that park offers free wifi? Hmmmm, bet not.