City Pulse

By Kimberly McDonald

By Lauren Baccus

As wonderfully appealing as Jamie Fox’s butt shot may have been, and as deliciously naughty as Colin Farrell’s handle bar mustache was, seeing Miami Vice for the third (yes, third) time this weekend was just not an option. Running down the list of movie offerings this past Sunday, something caught my eye.

I had heard about Little Miss Sunshine from a friend who had read the original screenplay. She remembered it as “interesting”. “Interesting” is usually a death toll review but Little Miss Sunshine really was just that. It was also funny, fresh and beautiful.

The story focuses on your typical American family in all its dysfunctional glory including a son who has taken a vow of silence, an uncle fresh from a failed suicide attempt (played to perfection by Steve Carell), and Greg Kinnear as the perfectionist, yet completely flawed, father. As a total Toni Collette groupie, I was also thrilled to see her in this movie as well, rounding out what seemed like an unlikely but well assembled cast.

As the family races across state lines in a barely functioning VW bus to enter their not-so-typical beauty queen daughter into the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, it seems that the family’s lives are slowly dismantled. What everyone ends up clinging to is the little girl, their Little Miss Sunshine, and her dreams of beauty-queendom. There are no glistening glutes, no pseudo Village people facial hair; just a family on a road trip dealing with life; Sometimes running out of answers but never forgetting their humor. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Central Park Conservatory Garden: An Oasis in the Sweltering City
By Lauren Baccus

As a recent transplant to New York, I was always ambivalent about the mass of people that rolled in, and out, and through the city. Despite the obvious perks that come with anonymity, the problem with falling into this sea of characters is that, well, you become anonymous. Sooner or later, however, the currents of daily life guide you over and over again to a set of familiar faces, places and scenes. Over time, the city becomes significantly smaller and the appeal of true anonymity, greater. In what becomes a better accessorized version of an Appalachian family tree (no disrespect to my Appalachian peoples, of course), even the architecture is up for a game of “Six degrees of Separation”.

For instance, any fashionista worth her weight in vintage Chanel should know that the property upon which Bergdorff Goodman now sits was actually once the location of the Vanderbilt Mansion at Fifth Ave and 58th Street. One of the highlights of the home was its beautiful black iron gate, originally from Paris and constructed in 1894. While the humble Vanderbilt abode may have made way for the north star of New York fashion, the gates have lived on to serve as the entrance to the Central Park’s Conservatory Garden, which is under the stewardship of the Arthur Ross foundation, at whose annual awards dinner Kitty Carlisle Hart wore a suit purchased at, you guessed it, Bergdorff Goodman.

Kevin Bacon, eat your heart out (actually, I have no idea whether Kitty actually shopped at Bergdorff for her outfit but you got to admit that it sure makes for a good story).

The conservatory itself is a collection of three expertly coifed gardens cut by shaded alleys of crab apple trees and climbing vines. Immediately in front of the old gates, the Central Italian garden rolls out to a picturesque fountain and Wisteria-covered trellis . To the left and right lay the English and French gardens respectively. As a woman who’s green thumb extends only as far as her neighborhood deli/flower mart, I was actually fascinated by the different techniques and species used in each. The flowers and plants in the conservatory come from South Africa, Mexico, Peru, China and Japan; almost like a botanical microcosm of the city.

As a Central Park designated “Quiet Zone” the Conservatory is the ideal spot to rest, recover and recuperate, if only for a few moments. In what becomes a continuous swell of faces, places, and things, it’s always important to take the opportunity to loose oneself and find onself all at once – without having to hire a mover, of course.

Lunch time tours are available on Wednesdays or every Saturday at 11pm. The park is also open to visitors from 8am till dusk.

Central Park Conservatory
Fifth Avenue between 105th Street and 106th St.

Originally published August 2006
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