Monday, February 14, 2005


For a REAL Valentine, check out Lincoln's website,!] MEANWHILE...


New York has gone wild with joy about the Christos' sea of orange. Michael Kimmelman, the Times' art critic started the ball rolling two years ago with a wildly enthusiastic article about Christo and the project. His front-page article in the NY Times yesterday was nothing short of ecstatic. "A work of pure joy," he enthused, "A vast populist spectacle of good will and simple eloquence..."

When the Daily News called the public's reaction "Gates Fever" a slightly disagreeable thought popped into my mind:

New York's reaction to the Gates, this feverish jumping on the bandwagon, this universal rapture , this desire to be part of a New York happening, with tourists flocking in to have a look, the headlines, etc, reminded me of another recent event that similarly galvanized the city. What was it? Why, it was the Pale Male and Lola nest-removal crisis!

Suddenly last December Pale Male was on everyone's tongue. People all over the city who had never heard of the species Buteo jamaicensis, indeed, who didn't know a red-tailed hawk from a red-handled handsaw were flocking to the model-boat pond to jump on the hawk bandwagon. And when one of the pair happened to come sailing by in the sky, people screamed and jumped up and down, crying "I see him! It's Pale Male!" as if they were having an Elvis sighting.

It was very strange. Of course it was great too, because it undoubtedly helped achieve the goal of forcing the building to restore the spikes. But there was definitely a mass hysteria element about it.

Things have settled down now. Only the real hawk enthusiasts continue to monitor the happenings at the hawk bench, and of the thousands of correspondents who wrote to me on my web-site, now only a few hundred I feel I have gotten to know, who are fascinated by John Blakeman's info and the daily reports from the hawkwatchers, continue to be interested.

Still, this thought gave me pause. It made me rethink the Christo project, and even my strong antipathy to it. I'm sure there are many other ways of seeing it, but looking back at the events between December 8th, when the nest went down, and December 23rd, when the spikes were restored, iI began to feel as if we had all been caght up in some sort of wild, slightly nightmarish waking dream.