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Oh, Central Park, what a mess you were during the Seventies and Eighties. Dead, burnt out grass. Overgrown weeds a machete couldn’t hack through. Playing fields choked with dust every time the wind blew. Debris and litter everywhere. By nightfall, you were a shadowy desert roamed by rogues looking for money and trouble.

Daytime safety could be chancy too.  Walking along paths with sparse strollers, I remember checking approaching males to gauge their intent and feeling uneasy when I suddenly found myself alone on a path. When I suggested a walk in the park to first time city visitors, some thought I was kidding, some thought I was nuts and some edged cautiously into the park as though entering a tiger’s den.

Still I clung to you. Yes, Central Park, you were shoddy and sad and barely a shadow of your early glory, horse and carriage days, but you were still my trusty escape from all the noise, racing pace and pressurized demands of the surrounding city.

And then – Magic! With Mayor Koch at the helm, the Central Park Conservancy was born.  True park lovers with big pockets poured in to rebuild, replant and restore you.  And now here you are: adorned with bounteous greenery and exotic flowers, an immaculate graffiti-free zone — a fresh air, knockout beauty.

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You’ve given me some memorable sights along your paths; a purple-bike riding couple who also dressed in purple, a man playing a piano in a solitary spot along the bike path, Pale Male and Lola high in the trees, the Gates — miles of orange flags flapping up and down hills, Mayor Lindsay and family with their bikes hanging out with other New Yorkers Sunday afternoon at Bethesda Fountain and a midnight moon shining on dogs frolicking through new fallen snow on the Great Lawn. And your latest fun: the big bubble blowers: men with sticks and string and soap who can blow gigantic bubbles to charm and astonish us all.  How could I not love you, Central Park? How could I not send you — a place that can raise my spirits in a heartbeat — a super mondo Valentine?

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