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Newark USA

A fotojournal about LIVING in Newark USA, New Jersey's largest and most cultured city, by the author of the foto-essay website RESURGENCE CITY: Newark USA.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy Hordes — Who's Afraid of Newark?

Very long post, about 5,100 words, with 45 fotos. This was, as you might imagine, very difficult to organize, and, despite my system for keeping track of things, I got confused as to which fotos I had used and where some of them should go. But this post now gives, I think, a good representation of Bloomfest 2013 for people who were unable to get there.

I took 73 fotos in Branch Brook Park. Deciding the order in which I should show them could cause me problems, so, for the most part, I will just present them in the order I took them. The foto atop this blog, however, happens to be the last foto I took in the park. It just seemed to sum up everything: happy people wanting to record their happy moments surrounded by the blossoms of a weeping cherry tree in Newark USA.

I went to "Bloomfest" in Branch Brook Park's Cherry Blossom Festival yesterday and got stuck in a traffic jam on the park drive for a half hour. Amazingly, I then found a parking spot that may have been less than a quarter mile from the stage.

I took this and the next two fotos from the car, when I wasn't sure I'd be able to park anywhere near the Welcome Center, so might decide simply to drive on thru the park as visitor rather than fotoblogger.

"Bloomfest" is the name given the event held each April, comprising vendors' and entertainment areas near-in to the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. There were a bunch of tents for various functions, including live musical performances; and a bunch of pavilions (open-sided tents) for vendors of plants, jewelry, food, and other things in the parking lot of the Welcome Center and surrounding grounds.

I parked down a hill from the level of the Welcome Center, right near some weeping cherry trees under which crowds of tourists were taking pictures of each other, on a glorious, sunny spring day.

Masses of people of the three major races and many ethnicities of Man mingled happily. There was no racial conflict, nor resentment, nor even awareness that the people around them weren't quite the same. Everybody was there, and felt much like everybody else there, so was glad to be with everybody else. We were all just people, simply human, enjoying the communal experience with other human beings of a beautiful day in a beautiful place: Newark.

Nobody gave a thought to The Bad Old Days. Younger people never heard of "The Riots", or "Uprising", "Revolution", or whatever other euphemism might have been applied to Newark's worst days. Nobody feared for their life, or purse, or camera, or possessions of any sort. It's over. The insane, irrational fear of Newark that we have suffered for decades, in greater or lesser measure, is DONE. Goodbye. Good riddance. Don't come back!

Our annual Cherry Blossom Festival attracts a great many Orientals and South Asians. The cherry-tree varieties planted in Branch Brook Park originated in Japan, and are thus a big draw for people from East Asia (China and Korea more than just Japan) for whom cherry blossoms are a major artistic motif.

Orientals are rare among Newark residents, but every year scores of thousands of Japanese, Chinese, and members of other East Asian groups flood into Branch Brook Park during the Cherry Blossom Festival. So numerous are these 'exotic' visitors, indeed, that the split among Oriental, white, and black visitors to the Park may be about as nearly even as anyplace else in the United States ever achieves.

As with people, there are three shades of tree mixed together in much of the park: white, pink, and a deep-pink that approaches red.

The older cherry trees are very strong, so can sustain the weight of several children at a time. I have never seen a major branch broken off from the weight of over-enthusiastic (and overweight) kids or adults.

Unfortunately, the people who plant the trees don't always seem to do so in a contextually sensitive way. Alternating colors between nearby trees would make the look of each more striking.

Two acquaintances met up in this foto and shook hands. I ran into one Newark artist on Bloomfest day a couple of years ago, but didn't see anyone I knew this year.

In such places as there are buildings, the trees seen near them ought to contrast appealingly against the building's colors.

Further, sightlines need to be the criteria for how trees for specific spots are selected. For instance, how do trees appear, in terms of closeness/distance and altitude, to the bulk of pedestrians on nearby walkways and to drivers and their passengers in cars passing by on the park's drives?

This, which I saw as I got to the top of the little hill I had to climb, intrigued me. Was someone trying to inflate a hot-air balloon to take off from the park, straight up? I would love to see that. There is a major hot-air balloon event each year in Central Jersey, but I have not yet made my way to it.

Sightline criteria need to include height as well as color of blossoms. That is, if there is a strong and pleasing contrast between colors of a wall of trees of one shade behind a group of trees of another shade, the trees behind need to be taller than those in front, but of course with a basic overlap between their flowering crowns.

It doesn't matter whether the trees behind are white or lite pink, and the trees in front are deep-pink or nearly-red, or vice-versa. As long as the trees behind rise above, and visually contrast with the trees in front, the contrast will work to bring out the greatest visual splendor.

I assuredly had not seen this in my prior visit to Bloomfest. How absolutely wonderful this was!

How well-labeled as to color of blossom are the trees as they are sold in their dormant state? Are there well-defined color shades in the descriptions of dormant trees? In other areas of commerce, colors do have numbers for specificity. For instance, food coloring red #3 was drummed out of commercial use because of concerns about cancer. Do flowering cherry trees have well-understood degrees of color?

I loved this, and regard it as one of the most wonderful brief incidents of my 67 years of life. It's not, to be sure, looking up from within a basket carried aloft in a fully-inflated hot-air balloon, but it was wonderful, in its milder, safer way.

Is there a gradation of color numbers or verbal descriptions such that the purchaser knows with fair certainty what he is getting? That is, do we have "white", "pink", and "red" or "dark pink", as descriptors? Or "white #1","white #2"; "pink #1" thru "pink #4";"red #1" or "red #2"? Do we thus actually know, in advance, what to expect from any given tree planted in any given location? Bear in mind that a plant that produces dark flowers in full sun will produce lyter shades in less than full sun.

Shape of tree must also be factored into decisions as to which tree to plant where, with an esthetically pleasing mix of uprite and weeping forms being ideal. As you can see from some of the fotos I show today, weeping trees, in adulthood, can form veritable outdoor rooms within which people can gather for the experience of being surrounded by cherry blossoms and to take pictures of each other within that magical veil of flowers cascading down around them in every direction.

What a wonderful addition that (semi-)balloon made to Bloomfest.

According to Wikipedia, there are over 4,300 cherry trees in Branch Brook Park. The Park, however, is very large, so not all parts are thickly populated with flowering cherries. There are programs to add trees to all parts of Newark, not just Branch Brook Park, but not all trees added to the city are flowering cherries. Why not?

The lavatories within the Welcome Center were nowhere near adequate for the crowds during Bloomfest, so the 'County of Essex' arranged to have Porta-Potties installed on both of the long sides of the Welcome Center. That would have been fine, I think, if only men had employed them to pee. But in point of fact there ended up being massive amounts of used toilet paper, probably from women, who should instead have been accommodated with regular toilets inside the Welcome Center. I was tempted to take a picture, in that I document many things I encounter, but thought better of it and actually managed to suppress my reportorial nature, in this one (unpleasant) matter.

Wikipedia says that the "Cherry Blossom Capital of the World" is Macon, Georgia, with some "300,000 Yoshino Cherry Trees bloom[ing] around downtown, college campuses, and the neighborhoods of Macon in late March every year". I had never heard that until I searched, today, for "Cherry Blossom Capital of the World". Certainly the major media of the United States have never conferred that title upon Macon. Rather, NBC Nitely News a few days ago focused upon Washington, D.C.'s cherry-blossom festival as tho it is the Nation's — if not the world's — premiere cherry-blossom festival.

Vendors' area.

Given the media's disposition to speak only to DC, and given as well the apparent insuperable lead that Macon has, there might be no point to Newark's lining all its streets as well as filling in blossom-sparse areas of Branch Brook Park — and Weequahic Park, Vailsburg Park, West Side Park, etc. — with flowering cherries, such that pretty much every single tree added to Newark's "urban forest" would be a cherry tree.

I looked for, but did not ask as to whether there were celery plantlets at this vendor's space. I should have asked, but only looked. On my way home, I went to the Newark Home Depot to look for celery, tomato, lettuce, and eggplant plantlets, but could find only tomatoes aplenty, even after the store called in two associates to help. Neither could find what I was looking for. Fortuitously, at 6:15pm, there was lots of staff to help out. So not only, apparently, is the Newark Home Depot not one of the stores slated for shutdown, but management is improving customer service. Terrific. I love the Home Depot, and it's one of those big-box stores I want to walk around in for old-folk exercise in cold weather (or very hot weather).

Not all the new trees planted are flowering cherries. So even if Newark were to add several thousand trees a year to its streetscape, if relatively few of them are flowering cherries, we are not ever going to catch up with Macon. Indeed, even if we did add several thousand flowering cherry trees each year, it would take a very long time to catch up with, then surpass, Macon. (There is a question as to whether all those trees were within the original boundaries of the City of Macon, or within Bibb County, with which the city was later consolidated. But as things stand, all are counted as being within Macon.)

Still, Newark is a much more prominent place than Macon, and cherry blossoms go against type for what people think about Newark as against what they think about Macon. A relatively benign mid-size city as against a presumed hard-bitten, violent major city makes a difference in public perceptions. So if the presumed hard-bitten major city turns out to be filled with masses of cherry blossoms, that would, by the nature of news (things that are different from the usual), make a bigger impression.

Sidebar: This rainbow flag decorates an AIDS Walk table. As with those of us who listened to former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey's appearance March 25th on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, we in the crowd of this year's Bloomfest were mistreated to b.s. about AIDS, which has clearly not followed the pattern that any real infection spread by sex and blood would have had to follow.

This sidebar speaks to AIDS and credulousness, but I still need to show pix of Bloomfest 2013, so continue to intersperse fotos with this discussion. My return to today's main topic is indicated by a horizontal rule (bottom border) and a return to this blog's standard, larger font.

AIDS first came to public notice in mid-1980. That is almost 33 years ago. In all that time, it has not just failed to enter the general population but, if a "disease" can be said to refuse something, adamantly REFUSED to enter the general population. That is IMPOSSIBLE for an infection spread by sex and blood. There are 19 million cases of venereal disease ("STD's") in this country every year, and hundreds of thousands of births out of wedlock because almost nobody practices "safer(r)" sex, but we are somehow still to believe that AIDS is an STD, even tho it has NEVER, in almost 33 years, entered the general population of ANY Western country.

That is not just unlikely, nor highly improbable. It is IMPOSSIBLE. No, AIDS is not a disease but a drug injury. THAT is why it remains titely confined, year after year, decade after decade, to minorities soaked in DRUGS. I don't want to hear nonsense from well-meaning FOOLS, who continue to tell us that any time we have sex with anyone, then, for epidemiological purposes, we are having sex with everyone that our own immediate sex partners ever had sex with, and everyone that those twice-removed people had sex with, and on, and on, and on into a vast network of contagion — returning to each and every member of the hugely extended group, right back to YOU. Given hugely promiscuous behavior on the part of the gay men who developed AIDS, how can it be that AIDS is extremely narrowly confined? How is it that Rock Hudson, who died from AIDS, and Liberace, who died from AIDS, had lovers who did NOT die from AIDS? It's all nonsense.

AIDS is now and has always been a DRUG INJURY that happened to people who took dozens of drugs of different types, often without knowing what exactly it was that they were taking, because friends offered them pills, and they took them, without regard to what they might already have taken in the course of the same nite. They were soaked in drugs, many, many drugs. And they died. Big surprise! NO, actually it is NO surprise that people who took dozens of drugs, in unpredictable and untracked combinations, died. What IS surprising is that ANYBODY would think that their deaths were due to anything BUT drug use.

It makes me FURIOUS that gay men are told over and over again that their sexual behavior kills. Oh, Government has altered the message SLITELY to make it seem believable, but that is, nonetheless, what it comes down to: sex kills (but drugs are safe). And there are some very stupid gay men who believe that nonsense, and pass it along in the sincere belief that they are helping to save lives.

I reject the crap that the well-meaning people at that rainbow-flag denotated pavilion at Bloomfest 2013 are almost certainly pushing. Get your friends to REFUSE DRUGS, and they will never develop AIDS. I don't want to brag about my own sexual history, but feel I need to own up to my history. I was, when younger, a reasonably attractive gay man, and had, over 30 years, sex with HUNDREDS of gay men. I did not develop AIDS, despite all the nonsense — which would have been good sense, if AIDS were really an infection — about every single person you have sex with being part of an enormous chain of sexually-connected, and thus epidemiologically connected, partners. So how on EARTH did I and all those other gay men who had sex with hundreds or, over decades, thousands of men, evade AIDS? It's absurd. Completely ridiculous. We would have encountered the so-called "AIDS virus" dozens or hundreds of times in our adventures with hundreds of men. But we didn't get AIDS. The entire premise is ridiculous, and contemptible.

Healthful high.

Worse, some of the medications, especially early on, prescribed to treat "HIV" and AIDS were extremely dangerous, even lethal in the initial dosages. So an unknown number of people died not from AIDS but from the drugs prescribed to treat AIDS. That is, a harmless virus that had no connection with immune deficiency was treated with toxic chemicals that themselves could ravage the immune system, and even killed people stampeded by fear into taking those poisonous prescriptions. What you don't know can hurt you.

Information table about hot-air balloon rides.

Gay men must reject all the AIDS propaganda, and learn NEVER to contaminate homosexuality, which is pure and healthy, and has never produced any malady but your ordinary occurrences of VD, with crazed and defamatory ties to lethal immunological deficiency. Sex does not kill. Drugs kill. Tell the truth. End the lies.

Stupid people will never accept that AIDS is a drug injury, just as stupid people will all accept the comparable Government LIE that this planet is burning to a crisp because of human activity. It doesn't matter if we have blizzards in mid-April in the midsection of the Nation. We could have three feet of snow in Rockefeller Plaza in Midtown Manhattan on July 15th, and
NBC Nitely News would still, just inside that tower, continue to complain about "man-made global warming". The bulk of the human race is appallingly STUPID, and knows nothing about anything, so falls victim to every scam, be it private crime-motivated scams or Government lies. They LEND THEMSELVES to the lies. Con artists readily concede that "You can't con an honest man". But they make a very profitable living by conning the dishonest, because dishonest people LEND THEMSELVES to the lies that scamsters rely upon their believing.

I wanted to step inside the sideways hot-air balloon again before I left, but it closed perhaps two minutes before I could have reached it. So sad.

AIDS has been with us since mid-1980. In the nearly 33 years since then, AIDS has never entered the general population of any First World country, the only places where we have good information. Not Canada, right next to us, which should assuredly have been catastrophically affected by a genuinely transmissible venereal disease in its intimate neighbor. Not France, nor Britain, nor Germany, nor Italy, nor any other advanced Western country whatsoever. How could that be? It couldn't, if AIDS were an infection spread by sex and blood. The premise is wrong — ridiculously wrong.

Unlike earlier, however, no one was blocking the sign about the offerors of that delite. So I got the info, tho that company seems not to operate near Newark as a regular thing.

Even some people who enjoy thinking themselves cynics about Government pronouncements, accept EVERY SINGLE SYLLABLE that the Government utters about AIDS, even tho it makes no sense whatsoever. On this ONE topic, you can trust the Government not to lie. Sure you can.

Thus, if we did focus on making pretty much every new tree we plant, a blossoming cherry, it might well happen before too long, that even the major media who focus on Washington's cherry blossoms will have to concede, at first grudgingly, then enthusiastically, that Newark USA is incontestably the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World. That assumes that Newark's tree-planting and -replacing program produces thousands and thousands of new blossoming cherries each and every year.

Access to the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center itself was restricted. I don't now why. Perhaps the organizers wanted to shunt most people to the Porta-Potties.

Is that a distinction of importance, if we could somehow exceed Macon's total of trees, or of total area filled by, or linear footage of roadway lined with, flowering cherry trees? Sure. Anything that serves to counter Newark's undeserved negative reputation would be all to the good.

I've got a question I've never seen addressed: "Do our flowering cherry trees produce edible cherries?" Anyone?

If there are no edible cherries coming out of Branch Brook's 4,300+ flowering cherry trees, maybe we should endeavor to find and plant, at least along streets in residential neighborhoods, varieties of blossoming cherries that produce actual fruit, for adventurous kids if not for the families along the way. In World War II, the Federal Government encouraged people to plant fruit-producing trees to help feed the Home Front in lieu of farm produce, so that the production from farms could be sent to our troops and allies abroad. It's a valid concept we could embrace today for the trees lining our streets, no?

If we are going to plant more trees along our streets, why NOT trees that produce edible fruit?

This police watchtower has a mini-weather station atop, with spinning cups to show windspeed.

In any case, the display of cherry blossoms this year — and forsythia along the water in the Belleville portion of the Park — seems to me more lush than last year's. And the blossoming display is just about at its height now. If you would like to see these multitudinous flowers in person, do not delay, because the cherry trees and forsythia bushes are likely to be dropping many of their petals by at latest Sunday of this coming week (April 20th).

I was drawn to this display of bows at a Bloomfest vendor. I had a bow (and, of course arrows) for target practice when I was a child in Leonardo (part of Middletown Township, Monmouth County). A friend nearby had more space in his backyard for his target, so we'd play together/compete in his yard. I loved target practice with bow and arrow, and was fairly proficient at it. No great shakes, but not incompetent either.

Curiously, all these blossoms from various trees and shrubs seem to produce almost NO fragrance. I have been sick for weeks with an upper-respiratory illness, so my perceptions this year are not to be relied on. But I do not ever recall having detected any fragrance from the multitudinous cherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park. Why don't our flowering cherries produce any scent whatsoever? I find that very curious.

Branch Brook Park's Cherry Blossom Festival is an astonishment, lush flowering cherry trees along five and more miles of elegant park drives, past the Lions of the Lake, with a great, mid-lake fountain and the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart beyond, all the way past evergreen bamboo and elegant, feathery, reed-filled wetlands, to a tumult of pink, white, and red cherry blossoms on old trees strong enuf to hold five and more kids each, to tender, weeping trees shorter than a teenager.

Free origami instruction.

There is nowhere else you can see such a resplendent display in a a major city. Nowhere. Not the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. Not anywhere in Japan, the land from which we got our first, inspirational blossoming cherry trees. Nowhere else can you see what Branch Brook Park, spanning Newark and Belleville, in Essex County, New Jersey offers for free to scores of thousands — or is it even, now, hundreds of thousands — of visitors from the entire Tristate Area, and beyond.

Macon? I've never been to Macon, but our cherry trees can be seen against the backdrop of one of the great cathedrals of the United States, indeed a basilica created on a visit to Newark by Pope John Paul II.

Climbing wall.

As for that old saw about Newark being dangerous, the touristic areas of Newark are about as dangerous as the sidewalks of Times Square and steps of the New York Public Library at 1pm on Wednesday, or the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 3pm on Sunday. Fagedaboudit.

Trampoline ride with bouncy-cord safety belts.

There are a few more fotos than I had space for even in this very long post, which are, however, accessible in my Blogpix 16 Picasa web album, along with all those shown above, at locations 407 thru 466 (at the end of the album as of today, tho I will be adding to the album up to about 500 fotos).

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