Saturday, September 11, 2010

What’s a Mural? Is It Similar to a Camel?

Does anyone know exactly where any of those big, colorful, semi-famed murals are located in Spanish Harlem? I’ve seen a couple of slideshows of them and was inspired enough to want to see them live. I brought some coffee with me and had been looking forward to sipping away while strolling from decadently decorative building wall to decadently decorative building wall. Trouble was that when I went over to the 106th and Lexington area (per the guidance of 2 different written sources), there was nothing there.

When I sought directions from an older and sure-footed neighborhood resident, she looked at me like I had just asked whether she could hand-feed me some of the groceries in the bags she was carrying. During our 3- to 5-minute Abbot and Costello routine of a dialogue, I had to repeatedly define what a mural was. The next person I accosted thought I was crazy, too. I even ended up approaching a group of cops (and anyone who knows me knows how I feel about cops) sitting in a van after they had just picked someone up. Out of all the parties I stopped, they were probably the most flabbergasted. “Murals?,” they all mused to themselves. The hand-cuffed man in the far-back seat looked like he wanted to get in on the question, but the driver/leader cop suddenly authoritatively directed me to 105th and 5th – which turned out to just be the Barrio Museum, which I’ve already been to and didn’t need at the time. It’s so hard to believe that a cop didn’t know what he was doing or talking about.

Unless some of those terrible establishment types have recently scrubbed them away, those murals have got to be there somewhere, and I’ll more extensively check back in if I ever get a free afternoon this autumn. But I can’t get over how many people who clearly live and work around there don’t know and appreciate the pieces of beautiful public art that (or so I read) they’re so privy to. I had almost been expecting the first person I asked for directions to broadly smile as she said: “Come. I will take you to our murals,” as she proudly ran down the history of the local resistance art movement. Instead, I walked back home through Central Park, visibly disillusioned, drinking my coffee on a bench across from a little boy who was trying to catch a fish in a man-made pond.

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