On Saturday, I finally made my first visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. First … ever. It’s embarrassing, I know. It just was something that always fell into that category of things you do when friends or family come to visit – you know, one of those things that makes New York great and that makes being a New Yorker super cool but that you never do, which makes New York more like any other town and you like any other townee (which, when it comes down to it is probably more true than any of us cares to admit). But, like a dyed-in-wool local yokel, I do have my list of things to do right here at home before I die or leave Gotham, whichever comes first. And visiting the BBG for the first time is no longer on that list. Visiting it again many times, however, now is.
I’m glad it was a scuddy, rain-soaked day. It can only get better from there – and it was pretty damn good as it was. Aside from the phenomenal foliage, and the massive trees that really do seem to sing to each passerby, I am in love with the little old lady at the information booth, which, by the way, is piled high with pamphlets (each of which was more alluring than the next and each of which I couldn’t help but stuff in my bag, to the chagrin of my patient partner). Our BBG ambassador urged us to take the next tour, and when we politely (I hope) declined, she almost couldn’t contain herself as she directed us breathlessly to the bluebells (when we saw them, we realized why – it is just pure joy, truly – it’s got a kind of magical buoyancy that lifts every person within range). After cautiously, anxiously making our escape from her eager urgings — nodding our heads, backing up to the nearest exit, as she chattered on about all the things we could see on our way to the native plants garden — we were finally on our way.
Now, I question the countless times I’ve looked up Lady Liberty’s skirt, my out of town entourage in tow, or took my tourist friends to guzzle more than our share at ChaCha’s on the boardwalk, or stuff our faces at Nathan’s, when all this time I could’ve been tripping through the bluebells. Maybe it’s age. Try to convince a 25-year old visiting from Beloit, Wisconsin that, yes, what they really came to New York to see is that vast field of flowers in the middle of Brooklyn, when all they wanna do is shout “HowYOUdoin” in a very bad Brooklyn accent to every surly regular in the bar. Yeah, it did take me a long time to live that down. Back then, in my own heyday at the local pub, it eventually helped me feel more at home, since after that visitor left I ended up with a new Brooklyn nickname, like Mikey Apples, or Jimmy Deli (he owned a bodega, of course – later came to be known as Jimmy Daily for his increasing presence at the bar). My moniker was, simply, “Wisconsin.” A dubious benchmark but one I warmed to nonetheless. My own Brooklyn name. “Hey, Wisconsin, what’re you having?” Bluebells. Lots and lots more bluebells.
QUESTION: if, as it’s said, we have a mere five days left, what would you do to get yourself back to the garden? What are your bluebells?
Curly willow. One day I met a friend at Olbrich gardens for a walk. I saw an amazing old knotty twisty curly willow next to a still pond. It looked like a fairytale. Since that day I have planted two in my yard. I wonder what my yard will look like when my trees are old enough to look like the one at Olbrich. ~