I went to the monthly book club at the Central Park Arsenal, built between 1847 – 1851. It had stored New York State Militia arms and the building predates the park. We met in a renovated room on the third floor complete with a new table and matching chairs. It smelled like a new car. I miss the too large wooden table, the chairs that were deceptive rockers. If caught off guard you’d go into a swinging motion like an amusement park ride. Most of all I miss Frederick Law Olmsted’s and Calvert Vaux’s 1857 design plan that hung on one wall. The men had submitted it to the Central Park design competition. Now, it’s in some safe, prestigious spot.
We talked about the most recently read book, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. I wonder if Bryson has ever received a more thoughtful discussion of one of his works. The book club is made up of professional gardeners, landscape artists and environmentalists. All are serious readers. Some liked Bryson’s larky, take it or leave it attitude to nature, but some dismissed the book as too frivolous. Since I write mysteries I appreciate the difficulty of writing a well crafted story, but as an astute reader pointed out, A Walk in the Woods seemed like a movie script. Ouch. Once I heard that I thought of the set dialogue, Sancho Panza sidekick and predictably happy ending.
A few blocks north and a few days later, I went to the Frick Collection to see Charles Coypel’s Don Quixote’s Tapestries. Coypel’s eighteenth century drawings of the novel, Don Quixote, were woven into tapestries by Gobelins. At the Frick they’re hung in the Oval Room and East Gallery. They gleam. it’s hard not to touch them.
Steve Kulchek told me that his Uncle Con, a retired NYPD detective, started out as a patrolman. His beat, as they said in those days, included 5th Avenue and 70th Street. Con was ordered to pick up a man who lived in a nearby building for questioning. When Con went to the apartment, the guy’s wife told him that her husband was at the Frick. Con thought the Frick was a movie house.At that time, there were several in the area. So Con combed them. Finally, someone enlightened him. Con went to the Frick Collection and collected the guy in front of a Memling.