Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Parkman

Having recently reconnected with a childhood pal from the "ol neighborhood' through an Internet message board I have been inspired to recollect people and images of my youth. I have not thought of Vincent the Parkman from our little piece of urban playground in decades. He had a dark, cramped office in the middle of the fenced-in kiddie playground with a distinct odor of garlic, motor oil and cleaning fluids. In the background was heard the faint sound of music being sung in a foreign language he proudly said was Italian. Just a locker, desk and some shelves to hold a few meager pieces of very well worn recreational equipment. He would loan out those ping pong paddles like they were cherished heirlooms. Most of us respected them and did them little harm.
He would be a gentle friend and made each one of the kids feel special. Just before quitting time he would take the American Flag down from its twenty foot pole in a little ceremony performed in the middle of the park. It was Vincent who taught me to never let the flag touch the floor and how to carefully in a team of two fold the Stars and Stripes. The sacred cloth ended up in an uncreased shape of triangle. As we grew into our teens and discontent due to the war in Viet Nam surged defiantly, that very flag was surreptitiously removed and passed around between us as room decorations. I was never able to look Vincent in the eyes again.
A Park man's job is what you make it I am sure that there are some required job tasks and the personality of the individual seems to define the rest of the role. Vincent left a lasting impression on me with his distinct style and grace something so rare in Upper Manhattan of that era. I wanted to give a final salute (shout out) to that little man who loved opera, his Park and his Country.
It is so respectful of the city now to have these plaques that proudly state the name of the person responsible for these little urban oasis's.

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