Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Well, the picture above comes from America's funkiest city. I took it Saturday afternoon in Central Park, a place where I heard at least a dozen languages and saw nearly as many skin tones on a two-hour stroll -- much of it within sight of the skyscrapers, as you can tell.
I saw this guy swirling a net through the air and making bubbles of immense size and multifarious shapes. I heard an elderly Chinese man playing traditional music on the zhong-hu, a stringed instrument he called a little brother to the better known erhu. (Later, I came across another Chinese man playing "Oh Susannah" on an erhu.) I saw woman painting elaborate face tattoos for $5, a living statue pretending to be Lady Liberty, guys in the distance forming some kind of loose-knit drum circle.
Mostly, I saw chaos.
A great city has to have room for a sensory mess once in a while. It can't prescribe a few street corners for buskers (not that we get them much in Charlotte anyhow) or designate one out-of-the-way corner for speakers or invite a single artist to some pocket park for an afternoon.
We have nothing as glorious as Central Park, with its antique carousel and sprawling Sheep Meadow and a tract of marsh that seems to make the city vanish. I stood at the edge of that bank, watching ducks and turtles dipping and sunning themselves, and I saw a white egret soar over the trees. Of course, then I looked down and saw an audacious rat foraging for crackers about four feet from my toes. (Perhaps that's the full New York experience: an egret and a rat.)
But if we want funk, we're going to have to stop worrying about controlling every aspect of it. As cities go, Charlotte seems OCD about order and neatness. And nobody has fun at a party where the host runs around constantly, fretting about whether a guest dropped a cheese stick on the rug.
Posted by Lawrence Toppman at 12:44 PM