Song of the Bronx

  

This is one of my favorite drawings because it covers many of my obsessions; architecture, in particular Beaux Arts, New York City, baseball, the Yankees,(that’s Babe Ruth) animals, angels.  Well, those ladies cavorting on the roof don’t have wings, but they might be angels.  I put then there to fill an empty space then decided they were too prominent so I shaded them.  There are always decisions to be made and I never plan ahead beyond a vague pencil sketch.  I like to let a picture evolve; sometimes there are nice surprises and sometimes there are disasters.  I never know. Does my perspective look a little off?  My Dad once said to me, “I like how you get things a little wonky,”

The Elephant House at the Bronx Zoo stands at the head of Astor Court, a series of Beaux-Arts pavilions surrounding the sea lion pool.  The red brick buildings are adorned with sculpture to tell who lives inside.  This was the original zoo, opened in 1906.  It was progressive for its time but they’ve learned a lot since then about caring for wild creatures and the big animals have since moved to more commodious quarters. 

 I’ve spent some of my happiest hours here, starting with my fifth birthday party. That was back in the day when you just threw a gang of kids in the car and took off. Mom stowed the cake in the bottom of Alan’s stroller.

The years passed and Arthur and I took our own kids to the zoo. We always went early, arriving as the gates opened. We liked it best in winter, especially when it was really nasty out and nobody else came. The animals seemed glad to see us.  Once a sandhill crane came right up to us and rubbed his head on the bars as if he wanted a scratch.  And as we entered the Sea Bird Aviary this little penguin spotted us from across the pool, dived in, swam to us and popped up as if to say Hello. It was a lovely welcome. That’s my hand in the blue glove.  I was tempted to tuck him under my coat and take him home but I didn’t.

I was deep in my bird drawing period in those days and could have spent hours in the World of Birds but Sam, age three, walked out  saying,

“I seen enough birds.” 

 

Now my kids take their kids to the zoo and the Elephant House is the Zoo Center but sometimes you’ll find an animal there-like this White Rhino. Jessie took this shot and sent it to me–she knows about me and rhinos.

Here’s Teddy making friends with a baby Llama–is he an alpaca?

The zoo is now part of the Wildlife Conservation Society. —saving species all over the world. 

Here is their mission statement:

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: newsroom.wcs.org. Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: +1 (347) 840-1242.

It’s a wonderful place that’s brought me enormous happiness and  inspiration.

Writing the Baseball Queen

Writing the Baseball Queen

The Evolution of Inspiration

I showed this drawing to my second grade students and one girl said, “She’s the Baseball Queen, and she saves all the home run balls.”

And I said, “Eureka!”

The woman is the sculpture, “Memory”, who sits at Broadway and 106th Street in the memorial to  Isidore and Ida Strauss who went down with the Titanic. The baseball players? For months, vague ideas had been swirling in my head, centered on the great American Pastime.

In my neighborhood there was Dads and Daughters softball.  Several men gathered on Saturday mornings with their daughters to help the girls develop their skills and build confidence on the field.  The girls had other ideas, twirling, looking at the sky, practicing cartwheels–anything but batting and fielding. I thought there was a story there, but I didn’t know what.  Girls and baseball, feeling left out, the sense of longing; a baseball stew bubbled in my head.

ThenI learned Leonardo DaVinci’s last words and I couldn’t get them out of my head; “If I could make…If I…”

Then the Baseball Queen appeared.  I thought about her for some time and then sat down to write.  Anthony Trollope said, “It you want to write, apply cobbler’s wax to the seat of your pants.”  So I promised myself that I would sit with a pen and paper for one hour and I wouldn’t get up, I wouldn’t turn on the radio or pick up a book.  One hour.

Nothing happened for forty minutes and then the Baseball Queen flowed on to the paper.

 

The Baseball Queen

I am in bed and the sun is still shining.  I have to go to bed when it isn’t even dark.  It isn’t dark. It isn’t night. It isn’t fair. The sun is shining right in my eyes. Who could sleep?  Everyone else is outside playing baseball.

I can see them. I can hear them. I wish I was with them.

I wish I could get in that game.  They’re not really bigger than me.  I could play with them.

I could say, “Give me a shot.”  Then they’d pitch it to me, and I would belt that ball and it would go flying–sailing–out of the park, over the houses, over the trees, and over the clock tower.  The ladies who hold up the clock would try to catch it but it would be too high for them and much too fast.

It would fly all the way to the Baseball Queen, who catches all the home run balls and keeps them in her Home run Hall of Fame Palace in the sky.

She would say, “Who hit this ball?”

Hank Aaron would say, “It wasn’t me.”

Ted Williams would say, “Not me.”

Mickey Mantle would say, “I didn’t hit it.”

Even Reggie Jackson would say, “Don’t look at me.”

Then the Baseball Queen would say, “ Who is this new Sultan of Swat?”  And she would come all the way down to our field.

When she found out that it was me, that I was the one who hit that amazing home run, she would look at me and say, “Why are you wearing your pajamas?”

And when the Baseball Queen found out that the greatest home run hitter in the history of baseball had to go to bed before it was even dark, she would march right up to my front door, ring my doorbell, and tell my mother a thing or two.

that’s what would happen, if I could only get on that field.  If I could only get outside. If I could only stay up. If I could only…If I…

Why Baseball?

Why do I draw Baseball?
Safe at Home in a Persian Garden

 

Why Baseball?  I once said to my brother, Alan, “Did you love baseball for itself or for all the time you spent with Dad?”  His answer was, “It was all so wonderful, why choose?” That’s a typical answer from my family, one that left me wanting. Wanting what?

Baseball infused my life–the constant sound of the game on the radio or TV, the never ending games of catch in our yard and even in the living room. But baseball wasn’t for me. I didn’t like standing in the hot sun with people yelling and throwing things at me.  I have no interest in sitting through a whole game but I do like to watch on TV where I can see a beautiful play again and again on the replay.

It’s not the game itself, it’s the mystique.  There’s something about boys. I remember the moment when I was very little and realized I would grow up to be a woman like my mother, not a man like Daddy. I wasn’t disappointed but I wasn’t thrilled either.  It was more like…well, Ok. I watched my brothers and their friends and wanted to somehow be part of that mysterious fraternity. I admired the intensity of their interest and their mastery.  They’d practice and practice and never get tired or bored. I coveted their passion.

Once at Yankee Stadium I emerged from the dark stands to see the sun shining on the brilliant grass. As nine young men in pinstripes ran onto the field I felt the romance of it all, the history, the timelessness and the grace.  My first thought was, I want to draw that. That was my way to make baseball my own. But how to make it unique?

When my grandmother reached the end of her life and had trouble remembering which story she had already told, she repeated over and over that her favorite Yankee had left the team. Her words were, “Did you hear that Tommy John got traded to the Angels?

It was the perfect metaphor for dying and going to Heaven, merging all the threads of my yearning. And so MomMom inspired me to begin a series of baseball players, primarily Yankees, whose pinstripes make a useful drawing device.  I set them in various classical, baroque and celestial settings. I took to reading the sports pages, not for the scores but for the photos of the graceful movements of elite athletes.

I’ve had a wonderful time placing the boys in odd but beautiful places.  Here’s Mickey Mantle being traded to the Angels.



Congratulations to Mariano Rivera–602!!!

The Saver of the Ninth

I made this drawing in 2000–I’ve always been a Mariano groupie.  The background is the top of the old Madison Square Garden, designed by Stanford White.  See my Baseball in Heaven page under portfolios for a discussion of Baseball’s spiritual elements and its place in our world.