I have good memories of Washington Square Park. I always feel good there. It’s located in the Village, which I love. It’s away from the traffic and noisy shopping around Broadway, and it’s a pretty park.

In other words, my impressions of the location are positive. It feels educated and intellectual, maybe because of the NYU nearby. There’s always a presence of American history and most of the time street artists entertain the parkgoers.


I read somewhere that in the early 17th century before the Dutch arrived, there used to be a Native American village named after a tobacco field nearby. Then the Dutch from the VOC attacked and after a while, they gave this plot of land to slaves as a buffer zone against hostile Native Americans outside their settlement. These slaves were of course maliciously tricked into believing that they would be really free farmers. In those days Washington Square Park was called the “Land of the Blacks”.

Racial issues left aside, the park is nowadays designed around a large central fountain, reachable from four sides, a perfect meeting point with benches all around. Also a perfect skateboarding ground with great grinding opportunities, but this is no longer allowed in the park.

The Arc which looks like a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris takes up quite an important and visual space in the park. What do people think when they see this arc, I wonder? The inscription reads like a riddle. Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of god. — Washington

Standing in front of it, I suddenly remember the monument from the 2007 film “I Am Legend”. The protagonist played by Will Smith, lives across the street from the park in one of the Classic Revival houses on the north side of the park. Then the degenerate zombies swarm the square in a spectacular action scene and completely destroy the man’s house.

The real, more human, visitors of the park that day can roughly be categorized into four groups. The first group are people who come for a stroll, to walk the dog or walk their iPhone, to meet up with a friend or colleague, or just tourists taking snapshots of the famous arc; secondly, there are people passing through, using the park as a strategic shortcut, they don’t want anything to do with what happens in the park; thirdly we can see students with a purpose, studying or doing some assignments (not unlike myself); and lastly there are street artists. Maybe there are more groups, public servants and homeless and such but that day in the park I didn’t see any.

I am sitting on one of the old-style André Kertész benches, close to the Garibaldi statue. It is cold, the sky is partially blue and the light is fading because it is winter and it’s 4 PM.

I am observing the people passing by, and I’m trying to listen to their conversations as they walk. They say that Robert L. Stevenson had a conversation with Mark Twain here. So who knows, it might get interesting.

In the background, a man is playing a grand piano, stationed next to the large, sleeping fountain base. I believe he is playing a Franz Schubert piece or something else of the Romantics (I’m sure it’s not Rzewski). Rubbing my hands together in my gloves I can’t stop to think how this guy plays the piano in this type of weather. He must enter a state of analgesic trance when he is playing. “Blind and deaf to the world?”

The park seems to be a popular location to come and walk the dog. People who walk their dogs are guided to a certain spot like the blind are guided across the street. They walk in one direction, stop, walk in another direction, stop and only continue when the dog allows them to. They walk slowly, as slow as the dog. This changes drastically with the number of dogs. A person with four or more dogs almost runs, constantly pulling the leashes not to be dragged around the park as a sack of bones.
The people of the second group, the ones who are passing through, walk like they are on a mission. They have to get across, the faster the better. People with headphones walk even faster. Nothing can stop them. They are deaf to the world.

A lot of young people are standing around in small groups. Are they friends? What are they talking about? I quickly decide these young people (I estimate them 18 to 24 years old) must be students and they have some spare time between their classes. A bit further from where I am hiding in my imaginary foxhole a group of young men looks like they are filming something. I can see some equipment and cables lying around and a camera with a large microphone that looks like a squirrel on a stick. The camera points at two men gesticulating. They are not happy with each other and the smaller of the two suddenly shouts out in anger: GO AWAY!

“Aaand cut”!

Quite a short scene, I mumble. The actors start laughing at something I can’t possibly understand and just stand around and talk. Making a movie definitely is an agile process.

It is completely dark now. The night has fallen. The park is deserted everybody is leaving. I decide to leave the park too, to go to my dinner appointment at Miss Lily’s a bit further down.

Two tufted ground squirrels jump up in front of my feet, an elusive species living in the dense shrubbery of New York City. Few scientists have set eyes on this rare squirrel, currently listed as vulnerable, though according to folklore, the fierce squirrels have attacked and killed tourists to eat their stomach contents, liver, and heart. The squirrel waits on a low branch, then jumps onto the back of a passing or Facebooking tourist and bites its jugular, forcing the much larger human to bleed out. A disemboweled tourist with none of its flesh eaten is a sure sign of a squirrel kill.

With these macabre thoughts running through my head I walk through the park gate and enter back into civilization.