Last Saturday, I sat in a theatre watching two old pros — James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson — in “The Gin Game.” It’s not what anyone would call a great play, but it is, as is often said, “good theatre” — an opportunity for actors to give compelling performances all the same. And that is exactly what they did, drawing on something like 175 years of life experience between them.

Two things particularly struck me that day.

Broadway street sign

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

One, this brought back my memories of having seen Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy perform in the same play in the late 1970s. In New York and all cities rich with culture, what’s old is always new again someday. The history of a place is integral to its present.

Two, enjoying the performance by these two legends, I realize I’ve been fortunate to have seen many great actors on stage — Henry Fonda, John Guilgud, Helen Hayes, Lawrence Olivier, Lynn Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Paul Scofield, among others. There’s no thrill like the thrill of sitting twenty feet away from one of the greatest actors of any era.

This, then, is one of the great gifts that we offer students in New York (and in all our world cities) — the same opportunity to experience culture not in the classroom but out in the world!

Last week, I took time away from the office to visit some of the city’s quietest places​ –​ Central Park, Stuyvesant Square, ​Carl Schurz Park, ​and Fort Tryon Park, all in Manhattan.

New York — especially Manhattan — has an intensity like no other place on earth. I was born here — and after many years of wandering, I can imagine living nowhere else. Still, from time to time, even this native son craves an hour or two of complete stillness and quiet.

​To find true solitude, there’s no place like the Bronx Botanical Garden on a weekday. Here you can see outcrops of Fordham gneiss: the Bronx’s rocky spine that is over a billion years old. You can walk under the only remaining first-growth forest in the city, some of whose trees probably were seedlings when Dutch still was our official language.

This photo is of a restored mill on the Bronx River, the city’s only fresh-water river. It once powered dozens of water mills, ​the power supply for the city’s first industrial age, but now it is largely hidden (though it still asserts itself by flooding every few years). Sitting in the shade, listening to the river, time almost stops.Mill