A lesson from Christo and Jean Claude


From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

New York City – There’s something about the big idea that brings the people. It’s exciting. It’s larger than life and everyone wants to be part of it. It doesn’t even have to make sense. After all, two artists, Christo and Jean Claude, decided 25 years ago that they wanted to build these gates with hanging fabric in News York’s Central Park. It took 25 years, more than $20 million, monumental battles about permits and possible environmental damage, and literally a crew of hundreds, if not thousands. Understand, in New York City, Central Park is practically considered sacred soil, and there were plenty of naysayers who didn’t want it. But the artists hung in there and made it happen, and New York is much the better for it.

I’m sitting in Starbucks, on 57th Street down the block from Carnegie Hall, and the parade of people ordering soy lattes are doing it in about every language on the face of the earth. People have come from all over the world and there’s a festive feeling in the air. It’s a big party and everyone is invited, which makes it extra fun.

There is a moral to this story. If they can do it, we can do it. We’ve got this great big empty patch of land sitting in the middle of our city. It cries out to be a park, a botanical garden, walks, streams, ponds and benches, places to sit and do … just nothing. If we had a competition, landscape architects would come from all over the world to design and build this park. So let’s not get crazy fighting over where to put a waste treatment building, or what to plant, or worrying about the squirrels. Let’s move ahead and get it done, and many of those problems will just recede into the background. End of commercial.

Today we’re off to Madison Square Garden to see the finals of the Westminster Dog Show. If you liked the movie “Best in Show,” you’ll love the Westminster Dog Show. Every character in the movie is there at the show. The dogs, the trainers, the audience, the owners, the announcers are all there.

Backstage at Westminster (and you can go backstage), is like going into the world’s biggest beauty parlor. Hundreds of hairdryers going simultaneously, more tease combs than you ever saw in the 1950s, hundreds of dogs patiently being groomed, and, under it all, a tension as you get toward the end and to the best in show. But it’s something of a surprise. You expect the owners and the handlers to be high strung, and they are. But, surprisingly, the dogs are not. The show dogs that make it to Westminster are very mellow. They’re used to crowds and adulation and being petted, and they take it in stride as their due. Some of them have been on the circuit so long that I suspect they know how to call room service on the hotel phone. Then it’s over and everyone relaxes. It’s not just the people who relax. The dogs also relax. You realize these dogs are competitors-serious competitors. If you’ve ever had a kid in Little League, you’ll know what I mean. There are kids who love to play and compete, and then there are other kids who just like to wear the uniform and go out for pizza after the game. Dogs are the same. You look at some dogs and they look back with that “I came here to win” look. Then there are others that have a different look. Sort of “hell, it’s a week in New York. Did you bring any doggie cookies?”

Meanwhile, New York is the same, yet different. Some of the old landmarks are gone. The Russian Tearoom is gone. They spent a fortune trying to bring it back, but it just didn’t have the magic, and the revival restaurant folded fairly quickly. It’s difficult to bring back the past.

Only my mother seems destined to go on forever. Ninety-eight and still chugging along. So take care of yourself. You never know how long you’re going to have to last.

From New York, adios.