The good thing about staying in NYC for longer than a few days is that I get to explore places I've never been before. Take for example Columbus Park, in Chinatown. This little park used to be called Mulberry Bend Park in the 1800s, located in what was known as the Five Points district, where gangs and criminals of all stripes hung out. It was a dangerous place full of treachery to be sure, as Charles Dickens noted, but was also home to a wide mix of people—Chinese, Irish, Italians, Jews—basically, every poor immigrant in the city. I wandered into the park for the first time the other day and came across large groups of men and women playing Chinese chess. French tourists strolled by as if they were taking in the Bois de Boulogne, admiring the trees and gardens; but for me, it was the faces.
After the park, I wandered across Hester Street, heading east, across the Bowery:
Said the man to nobody in particular, "I'm gonna tell you all about it, so stick with me."
Across Hester Street, down to Division Street, then back around to Mulberry St, which was full of fruit and smelly fish. Chinatown can be such a dense maze of people, noise and traffic that you can get totally turned around and lost, like the medina in Fez, Morocco, where you need a guide to find your way out. That's how I felt today in Chinatown: Please, someone, point me in the direction of Broadway and Canal!
Above Canal, at Kenmare and Mulberry Streets, I saw these three auto mechanics, performing a hacky sack ballet. Don't try this in your garage.