Monday, February 28, 2005

The Gates 

Well, I finally saw The Gates in Central Park on Saturday. I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling disposed to give them a break. Most things I’d heard about them and seen over the course of the past few weeks gave me pause. The commercialism of Gates-o-belia on ebay being sold, the dressing up of a great public space in Hare Krishna robes hung from industrial pipes, the cross-selling of Lincoln Mercury cars at AOL Center under saffron drapes, it all made me feel less disposed to like them.

Then there were moments when you’d hear people describe seeing them and crying at the beauty of it all. Cool. Maybe there WAS something to it. OK, wrap my Reichstag, I’ll go see them.

For a nanosecond.

First, midtown has become a theme park. You come up at 59th St at Columbus Circle and the feeling is akin to an urban Disneyworld. Lots of tourists vectoring in to the ‘big event.’ Already I’m wanting to walk away, but Linda has promised her family she’ll report back and send pictures, so we’re heading in. Dogs are wearing saffron vests and eating crackers on the other side of Broadway. Leafleteers are giving out saffron notices about Gates-related poetry readings.

The crowds are pressing into the park, cameras at the ready, eyes at the watch for vistas that’ll be classic backgrounds for their trip to Christoville. In short, it’s everything the Park isn’t in February. It’s not quiet, not a respite from the pavement, not so much. More of a continuation of the mall that has become midtown. We pass a provocatively clad young woman sporting sheer saffron and a tiara. Her companion is holding her parka. Her pudgy, middle-aged photographer is telling her to “look bold, look leggy,” instead of urging her not to catch her death on a sub-freezing afternoon. I wish her the best, but suspect the day is going downhill for her.

The Gates stretch out in pretty much every direction, making more the impression of excess than accent. Saffron really isn’t a color that inspires awe against the brown trees' skeletons and thin layers of snow in the Park. Maybe I’d have felt better about red. There’s so much of it, so many flashes going off. Maybe I’m just freezing. The millions of dollars spent feel too close, too much associated with the little Switzerland that has become most of midtown, while people are literally begging to finance a play or shoot an independent film, find a warm place to rest, or feed their kids.

We take our own Gates-o-belia photos, walk into the AOL Center, get asked to leave the lobby of the Mandarin Hotel, and find our way to the public library at Lincoln Center. There’s a find. Great films, free to borrow. It’s warm, too.

All in all, I preferred The Somerville Gates.

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