The Heat & the Mordant

New Ways New Yorkers Find Bikes,
Mosquitoes & Flip Flops Annoying

If you live in this city, you’re bound to be a five-borough complainer. And if it’s about the weather, in itself a subject capable of making a screeching whiner out of even the most pious nun, any unexpected change is greeted here with grinding teeth and clenched fists.
That’s how last week’s heat wave brought together three predictable features of the season to an unhealthy boil, as this fair town bubbled with nasty epithets galore and vituperative profanities thrown at flying biters, fatigued riders and unwashed walkers alike.
For even though there aren’t many redeeming qualities about mosquitoes who show up uninvited at outdoor cookouts and private cocktail functions, they should be expected to be an integral part of this town’s ‘gorgeous mosaic.’ Still, thank goodness someone always finds a new way to get rid of them.
As for New York’s tardy entrance in the row of world-class cities with a liberal tilt towards biking, as with everything else here, it got kind of complicated. And many blame Mayor Bloomberg, a man who’s yet to see a corporate logo he doesn’t like, for turning this green idea into a factory of another kind of green for its sponsor.
On top of that, or rather, underneath it all, there are those distraught by someone else’s exposed toes, which let’s face it, after a few miles of accumulated street grime, are indeed an unflattering sight. But to drive pedestrians to loudly make deleterious observations about each other’s personal hygiene? Who knew?
It’s all part, of course, of the unduly sense of entitlement and delusion shared by Manhattanites and their kin, who wish to believe they preside over whatever happens around, and have no qualms saying something about it; the do-you-have-a-problem-with-that? kind of attitude that we all so dearly embrace and like to brag about.
As we approach the zenith of the season, baking sidewalks and sweaty subways included, we thought that now would be as good a time as ever to, what else? complain a little about things we have absolutely no Continue reading

Safe Arbor Clauses

Three About Trees &
a 5,000 Year Old Truck

Buddha sat under one. Sumerians have crossed oceans on ships built with them. Many species disappeared, or exist only in old depictions, paintings predating the modern era. Yet defying all odds, trees still grace our world, and stun us with their girth, height, and vigor.
That’s why a man in India has planted whole forests of them, and the Brazilians plan to count those in the Amazon. Now, as the world’s biggest trees continue to grow, according to botanists, an editor at NOVA begs new architects: please, stop placing them in skyscrapers.
In New York City, where the latter thrive, though, trees are subjected to more mundane afflictions of street life, such as dog pee, rusted chains, and cigarette butts. That’s why the Treedom Project is halfway through a quest, which ends May 26, to ‘liberate them’ from such indignities.
But without being the cradle of ancient trees, or having a forest to call its own – never mind the woody wilderness of upstate New York – the city is still home of one of the gems of modern urban green architecture: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Central Park.
Carved and carefully planted at the heart of the city, it’s a wonder that neither its 800 acres plus nor its incredible variety of species haven’t felt to the axes of powerful real estate moguls. If the park’s been the setting of a few bloody crimes, it’s also been the very reason many a resident haven’t yet lost his or her mind.
Still, for all their majestic and soothing presence in Manhattan, no Central Park tree comes close in age to Methuselah, a fittingly-named truck which, by some accounts, is the world’s oldest. The bristlecone is said to be 4,844 years old, a thousand years older than any other on Earth, and it’s been living all this time at a pine forest in California.
The good news, at least if you’re a tree, is that many of the big species are still growing, just like what you’d wish your mind were doing right now. A Humboldt State University research team found that 3,200-year old giant sequoias, for instance, actually grow faster later in life than in their ‘teenage’ years, when all they’ve got is a few hundred summers imprinted on their rings.
One of nature’s best recordkeepers, trees can report back to us our entire walk on this planet, better that we ever could. They may not Continue reading