dinsdag 8 februari 2011

The forest in the city [The Ramble]

Recently I purchased Marie Winn's 'Red Tails in Love' (1999), subtitled 'A wildlife drama in Central Park'. I didn't think it would be much but for one Euro you can take a guess and it turned out to be money well spent. The title of the book refers to two hawks who raised their hawk children on a Manhattan balcony; yes this is a bird watchers opera. Its entertainment value is not so much because of the birds but because of the way Winn describes the birdwatchers in Central Park as an example of a successful ad-hoc community that is open, enduring and, in a modest way, able to get things done. The book closes with useful lists of the birds (190 species), butterflies (53), dragonflies (50) and edible plants (200) that can be found in Central Park on a yearly basis.

The main scene for the Central Park birdwatching community is The Ramble, which is presented in Winn's book as a, well, cryptoforest.Wikipedia describes it as a ill maintained woodland park that was popularly believed to be in the process of becoming a proper forest, a belief that the wikipedia author describes as misguided and having led to impoverishment.

The city ecologist of Rotterdam recently complained on Twitter that often when he was chasing some rare nightly animal he would end up in places where he would be invited to illicit gay sex. These were not the alpha males he was looking for. The Ramble has its own night life like that too to make up for the starry eyed birdwatchers and foragers. Simplesteps offers a slideshow of what edibles are to be found in Central Park and here is an interview with Steve Brill who has been doing forage walks in the park for at least twenty years.

Winn's book taught me something else about a psychogeographically themed Dutch picture book called 'Stimmy or the jungle in the city' by Daan Remmerts de Vries en Philip Hopman. Stimmy is a city boy who dreams of going wild and one day after school he decides to leave the beaten track in the hope of ending up in the jungle. The setting is obviously New York and the the jungle must therefore be the Ramble.


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