Date: October 28

Time: Around 3:40 p.m.

Location: Columbus Park, sitting on a bench, facing north, in the southern end of the park, in the children’s playground. Then: wandering through the playground towards the park’s southwestern exit.

Weather: darker, stormier, windier.

Background: after walking through the park’s inner partition, we found a bench facing north where we sat and interacted with some of the City Park workers who were preparing for the hurricane. A list of items prohibited from the playground:

  • Adults except in the company of children
  • Littering and glass bottles
  • Bicycles, roller skates, scooters, and skateboards
  • Pets
  • Using illegal drugs, alcohol, and smoking
  • Amplifying sound, except by permit
  • Disorderly conduct and standing on swings
  • Feeding birds and squirrels
  • Entering the playground after it is closed
  • Engaging in commercial activity, except by permit
  • Performing and rallying, except by permit
  • Rummaging through trash receptacles
  • Vehicles without specific authorization from Parks
  • Barbecuing and open fires
  • Bare feet



Transcript of observed events:

Writer: “That’s a full drawing. I can’t believe you were able to get that much.”

Dictation: Artist opens a miniature, portable water-color paint set. Starts water-coloring the drawing.

Photographer: “That would be a good gift for [name redacted].”

Dictation: What appears to be a nanny. Sound of basketball bouncing, laughter.

Photographer: “I’m reading Cleopatra: A life.”

Artist: “How is it? I mean, she must’ve had an interesting life.”

Photographer: “What I can’t figure out for the life of me is that Alexandria was this really advanced society in which, you know, women held positions of power. It was okay for Cleopatra to rule, women were doctors, scholars. This was 48 B.C.”

Artist: “Was Alexandria part of the Greek Empire?”

Photographer: “It was its own; it was Egyptian.”

Artist: “They were trading with them, though, right?”

Photographer: “–and she and Caesar were quite a pair, though. They controlled the Middle East, Jerusalem, Macedonia. It was really interesting.”

Writer: “Is it well written?”


Photographer: “It’s good. It won the Pulitzer. Stacy Schiff. What I’m figuring out is that I don’t really read non-fiction. You could read it forever.”

Dictation: Nanny on cell phone with two kids, kid pushing her sibling on swing. Chinese woman rubbing her butt on the Xos and Os.

Writer: “What is she doing?”

Artist: “She’s rubbing her butt on it. She’s getting off on it.”

Photographer: “That’s part of the exercise. Rubbing your butt muscles.”

Dictation: The southern end of the park is much more New York. Less Chinatown. Feels like New York City, like Financial District. All different types of kids running around, three different park workers changing the cans in preparation for the hurricane. Tree storm maintenance.

Writer: “Is that for the hurricane?”

Parks Worker: “So it won’t fly away. The park closes at 5pm today. No garbage or nothin’ flying around.”


Photographer: “Will that give you enough time to get home?”

Parks Worker: “Yeah, the subways close at 7pm.”

Second Parks Worker: “Hi, bye, it’s raining.”

Dictation: But it’s not raining?

Writer: “How long have we been here?”

Photographer: “About an hour.”

Writer: “Let’s continue around.”

Dictation: Counting at least six parks employees.

Photographer: “So many of the trees have leaves on them; the areas that have powerlines, it’ll be even worse. Do you have power lines in Brooklyn?”

Artist: “Yeah.”

Photographer: “So it’s just Manhattan that has them underground.”

Writer: “You could lose power.”

Artist: “Yeah. We could. Potentially. I got to think. I don’t think there are power lines in our neighborhood.”


Dictation: No smoking in playground sign. Fountain without water, like the Perec book, waterless fountain. Look at the view of City Hall. New high rise, the Geary building. Top of City Hall building. Little bit of rain. London plain tree, platanos x acerfolia, fufa. Refresh on the weather: at 3:49 p.m., 59 degrees, showers in the vicinity, we can loop back towards Chambers. Wind from the northeast 26 miles an hour. Chinese plaza, the sporting area, separate corridor, crossing ground. This is Columbus Park, but that’s Columbus plaza: what’s the distinction? Comfort Station, plastic sandwiches, unwrapping plastic sandwiches.

Dictation: Dirtier park, dirtier Comfort Station. Child yells: Yes, I am!

Artist: “Why would they choose that bench, right outside the nasty skeezy bathroom?”

Writer: “It’s totally disgusting.”

Dictation: Sound of automatic hand-dryer. Urinating. Like a prison toilet. Outside: someone loves you and his name is Jesus Christ and 2000 years ago he died on the cross for you. It’s a big box of sandwiches wrapped in plastic. Each guy’s had like three of them in the time since we’ve been there. It’s gonna rain, soon. Gonna pour. Dangerous clouds overhead. Hurricane’s coming.

Writer: “Signing off.”



(This is Part 6 out of a nine-part series. To read the Seventh Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Chinatown click here.)