It Happened Here! – The Great Lawn

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November 20, 1937.

On a chilly Saturday morning, dozens of New Yorkers gathered on the Great Lawn for a very special Thanksgiving treat from J.L. Harbinger, owner of Harbinger’s Sports Emporium, Manhattan’s largest sporting goods store.

Calling it “The Great Lawn Turkey Shoot” Harbinger promised all in attendance the opportunity to “celebrate Thanksgiving like our forefathers did by shooting a turkey with reasonably priced weapons provided by Harbinger’s Sports Emporium.”

Armed with long bows and small caliber rifles, participants lined up on the southern end of the Great Lawn as Harbinger’s assistant’s set loose a bunch of farm raised turkeys from a pen located in the center.  Harbinger fired a ceremonial shot from his pistol and declared the hunt to be on!

When the smoke finally cleared 15 minutes later, all of the turkeys had escaped unharmed. Several participants were  treated at the scene for minor gunshot and arrow wounds. The only fatality was Morton Finnay of Brooklyn New York who was felled by 13 gunshots and seven arrows by his wife Caroline, who swore until her dying day she thought her husband was an extra large turkey who often criticized her cooking and housekeeping skills.

It Happened Here! 

Happy Thanksgiving from Central Park: A Misguide!

Bethesda Terrace Arcade Time Portal

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Connecting the world famous Bethesda Fountain to the Mall is a magnificent subterranean passageway known as The Arcade, a true highlight of any visit to Bethesda Terrace. This beautiful walkway features an amazing ceiling featuring more than 15,000 tiles, beautiful archways painted to mimic centuries old marble, and the only functioning time portal in the borough of Manhattan!

How is it possible? Could it be the way the imported tiles were arranged when they were installed in 1869 by a practicing alchemist, or the configuration of the columns the original park workers lovingly dubbed “the cursed columns from an unholy world?”  Nobody knows for sure. But for many years random park visitors, while strolling through the arcade have found themselves transported to a very specific time in their past or future. Here are a few bizarre incidents recorded by park historians:

1886 – East side resident Franz Keller claims that while walking towards the Bethesda fountain, he had what he thought was a vision of New York City far into the future, where “buildings touched the sky, people travelled in metal, horseless wagons, and a man named Starbucks owned a shop on every street corner.”

1915 – While admiring the tile ceilings in the Arcade, Brian Cochran was transported back in time three years to his native Ireland the very minute his neighbor Colin O’Toole told him he had booked passage to the United States aboard the RMS Titanic. Instead of warning O’Toole not to board the doomed ocean liner, Cochran wished him good luck on his trip. Cochran was kind of a jerk.

1936 – Penniless hobo Stanley Fitzgerald found himself transported back to October 1929 – a week before the infamous Stock Market Crash.  With his knowledge of what was soon to happen, he was able to save his fortune from being lost. Fitzgerald returned to 1933 a millionaire but lost all of his money a year later producing the failed Broadway musical “Hitler On The Town!”

1965-1980 – During this 15 year period there are multiple reports in the park archives of people who swore they experienced time travel at Bethesda Arcade, but pretty much everyone in New York City was on drugs back then so these claims are unreliable.

2011 – Local fashion blogger Janette Feig was transported to her family home on Long Island in the 1980s where she encountered her 16 year old self who wore nothing but stonewashed jeans. Miss Feig never recovered from her experience.

The Pond

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Just across the street from the world famous Plaza Hotel and the hustle and bustle of 59th street is a veritable oasis in the heart of Manhattan – The Pond.

This gorgeous body of water is home to the picturesque Gapstow Bridge and is the perfect spot for any harried New Yorker looking for  a quiet place to enjoy a quick lunch.

Here are some interesting facts and bits of trivia about The Pond:

Widely believed to be a naturally formed body of water, The Pond was actually constructed in England by talented pond artisans, then disassembled and shipped to America for reassembly in 1855. Due to a misprint on the shipping manifest, several thousand tons of rock wound up in a garden apartment in Brooklyn.

The Pond is home to the Hallut Nature Sanctuary, where many small animals live in a natural safe environment. Any small animals wishing to live in the sanctuary must submit an application (complete with references) with the Hallut Nature Sanctuary Homeowners association.

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned the sale of large sized soft drinks in 2012 in an effort to get New York residents to live healthier, The Pond was drained of Mountain Dew and refilled with plain spring water.

The Pond is a very popular rest stop  for migrating ducks and other assorted waterfowl.

Except cranes.

Apparently The Pond isn’t up to their particular standards. Arrogant, long necked, little bastards.

In the wee hours of the morning on July 5 1874,  an inebriated President Ulysses S. Grant was found swimming in The Pond by his Secret Service detail. As he was pulled from the water, an enraged Grant cursed his bodyguards for interrupting his attempt to cross the English Channel.

One time at The Pond I saw this guy making out with his girl on a bench. I mean they were really going at it. Everyone there was like “dude, get a room,” but they didn’t care at all. Totally messed up.

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Spring

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As difficult as it is to pick the best time of the year to visit Central Park, it’s hard not to argue with anyone who picks Spring.

Spring is a beautiful time in Central Park; the snow and ice has melted, the waters of the Pond and Lake return to a crystal clear blue, and the trees and flowers literally explode in a gorgeous celebration of color!

How does Central Park manage to display all of this beauty year in and year out? Well it has a little something to do with the powers of Mother Nature, and a lot of help from the hard working men and women of the Central Park Foliage Brigade.

Every year while New Yorkers are huddled in their apartments hiding from the winter chill, the CPFB is hard at work in preparing for Spring. Day and night for months these skilled artists fold millions of tiny flowers (each slightly different from the other)  from discarded phone books and Chinese takeout menus. These flowers are then painted by hand in an amazing variety of colors, perfectly mimicking the dozens of species of flora all over the park. Each flower is then glued in place using the strongest industrial adhesives available, insuring each delicate bloom will be around well into summer!

Special lawn and leaf painters using tiny paint brushes apply a fresh coat of green paint to each blade of grass in the meadow and every leaf in The Ramble. Painting tiny blades of grass by hand is tiresome work, (many lawn and leaf artists lose their sight and are prone to madness)  but it’s well worth it when you lay out on a freshly painted lawn on a warm spring day.

And the melodic songing of the birds? You can thank the Central Park Foliage Brigade’s Avain Division for that! Each year the CPFBAD raises thousands of songbirds in a private hatchery and trains each one to chirp in a pitch that stimulates the right and left hemispheres of your brain, making you a happy and productive member of society who is finally good at math!

So be sure head to the park this Spring and check out all the beautiful flora and fauna on display courtesy of the CPFB! And feel free to leave a small cash donation at any Central Park information kiosk, because the fine work of the CPFB costs millions of dollars and is bankrupting New York City!

Seriously, they’re going to close schools and firehouses.

Bethesda Fountain, aka The Fountain That Grants Wishes

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Without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Central Park is Bethesda Terrace. This magnificent plaza of stone and brick has been featured in countless films and TV shows and is one of the most visited attractions in the entire park.

At the edge of Bethesda Terrace overlooking The Lake is the magnificent Bethesda Fountain. This beautiful fountain is topped with a sculpture known as The Angel of the Waters. The winged female figure is depicted stretching out her hand to bestow her blessings on the bubbling water below.

And if you’re lucky, perhaps The Angel of the Waters will grant you a wish!

The Bethesda Fountain has been granting random wishes to people since the first day of its construction when stone mason Rico Bertucci wished for the afternoon off and was struck on the head with a falling hammer, rendering him unconscious for the rest of the day.

For nearly a century and a half park goers and tourist have flocked to the fountain hoping their wish will be granted by the Angel of the Waters. While most have gone away empty handed, a few lucky ones have had their lives changed forever.

1880 – Local haberdasher Carlton Blummer wished to learn what his fiance was thinking. A week later he called off the engagement because his beloved Beatrice  only thoughts were about a naked President James Garfield.

1897 – A Manhattan  shipping clerk Boris Hublick wishes for wealth and fame. He is granted fabulous wealth, but the fame is on back order. When it arrives four months later, Hublick cannot accept the fame, because he has misplaced the receipt. He dies twenty years later in obscurity.

1907 – Magician and escape artist Harry Houdini wishes to pull off the hardest trick in the world. Two weeks later, he successfully hails a cab on Broadway during rush hour in a rain storm.

1948 – While visiting New York City on their honeymoon, a newlywed couple made a wish at the fountain. The bride wished for a child, and her husband Fidel Castro wished the bourgeois capitalist system controlling his homeland of Cuba to be overthrown in a bloody revolution. A few short years later, they both got their wish!

1959 – Local beatnik Sylvester Grange wishes at the fountain for inspiration to create the ultimate poem that will “tear down the walls of this nowhere society and put the fatcats and squares in their place, man!” Grange is instantly struck by lightning when he refers to the Angel of the Waters as “one groovy and far out chick.”

1976 – New York Yankees manager Billy Martin drops a coin in the Bethesda fountain and wishes for his team to win the upcoming World Series. A week later after the Yankees are swept in the series by the Cincinnati Reds, an inebriated Martin is spotted wading into the fountain to recover his coin and is dragged away by park personnel.

1982 – Struggling dancer Madonna Louise Ciccone wishes to become a successful singer and entertainer. The Angel of the Waters thought she heard the young woman say “I wish to become extremely self important and annoying in 20 or 30 years” and grants her that wish instead.

2012 – High School sophomore Miranda Trilby, not familiar with the procedures for making a wish at a fountain, texts her wish on her smartphone and tosses the device into the water.

 

Samuel Morse

Just off the East 72nd Street entrance (also known as Inventor’s Gate) is the magnificent statue of Samuel Morse, famed inventor of the telegraph machine.

Morse also created the method of transmitting words and messages on the telegraph system. This clever series of dots and dashes became known as Morse Code, which is still in use today.

Morse became fascinated with code making, and created several other codes before his death in 1872.

These codes are:

The Code of the West – A list of guidelines involving horse etiquette, the multiple meanings of the word “howdy,” and the best time of day to shoot someone.

The Code of Silence – Created to avoid lengthy conversations with his second wife Sarah and her problems with the household staff.

Bar Code  – Not related to the system of product classification we are familiar with today. Sam really liked hanging out in bars.

The Code of the Desert – Same as the Code of the West, only with Camels.

Unnamed Code – Discovered in a notebook after Morse’s death, this 10 digit code remained a mystery for over a century until it was revealed to be the cheat code for Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The DaVinci Code – Yeah, that too.