What if the park kept going? What if it spread out to the rivers and up to the horse caves? What if it disguised itself as a swamp and kept wild things hidden? What if creatures there were so old, they couldn’t remember being born? What if they were watching, keeping an eye out for troublemakers?
Well, they do, and it did. But that was a long time ago. In fact, our dear Central Park has only been around for 150 years or so. But a blink of an eye to the rocks that lay about, the ones who used to speak. It’s true, I know of a grand stone up near the museums that is guardian of the park. Once a savage beast that would create toil for fun. That was a long time ago and Tun is a much-changed soul. Thanks to some swell friends the Mad Rock has been tamed and now guards over the youngest ones-as promised long ago. A promise made to his friend Ulf for the great sacrifice he made. Oh, you have never heard of Ulf and Tun? The Berserker and the Schist Fiend? Well, settle in, I’ll tell you all about it.
Where should I begin? Well, for starters the stone I’m referring to can be visited anytime so you can see that I’m not lying. It rests just off the entrance of Mariners gate at 81st St and Central Park West. He silently watches over the kids on the playground and the teenagers in the pinery. Few of the school groups at the Natural History Museum notice the massive, smirking stone, 30 feet wide to be sure. Seemingly quiet this beast can screech with the best of them. Have you ever heard a thousand tons of granite gnashing together? Have you ever experienced the howl of stone as it rips apart? If you have than you know the ruckus Tun can summon when put to task. It’s a sound no human has yet to live through. Ok, just one, but she was special, we’ll get to that later.
So how does a rock get so mad? Well, if your feet were on fire you’d be pretty mad too. It’s said that the Mouth Boulder was of such size it pushed into the mantle of earth where the temperatures are horrendous. That’s what we used to think, but we found out the truth a few years ago, thanks to that little girl I mentioned. Turns out it wasn’t because of the heat. Lots of rocks are hot but none were as mad as this one. It was due to a cursed pearl that’d been cast inside him by a wicked shaman 2,000 years before. This shaman had stolen some goods and wanted to keep them hidden. Tun was a friend to all and was well known to the Lanape wiseman.
Summoning the will of the rock he raised Tun’s great mouth and a ragged stone staircase curved into down into the darkness. Into the opening he rolled his bane, the cursed giant pearl. The shaman looked into the staired chasm and kicked the 2-foot curiosity deep, deep into the stones’ depths. He followed with his pelf and tucked it well within the earth, but not even the shaman knew how deep the pearl fell into Tun’s belly. For years and years Tun grumbled and spat and drove away any who came near him and the shaman’s horde.
As most men do, the shaman died. Leaving the cursed stone to lash out. Alone and riddled with distrust the stone gave nothing pause, it was kill on site. Its only saving was his deep sleep the stone would suffer. No bell or yell could stir the beast but the touch of a butterfly would send the schist into fits of fury.
The Trouble, or Turning Point as many consider it, came in 1840. The city of New York was thriving and what was once considered the country was now merely ‘uptown’. Whole swatches of Tun’s kingdom were disappearing by the month and this was no different. A small community named Seneca Village had sprung up on Tun’s west side in the past 20 years. It was a blissful place home to hundreds of natives, Trinis, Haitians, Gunnies, Germans, Kenyans, Senegalese, Ivory Coasters, Moroccans, Nigerians, Congolese, Chinese, Irish, Scotch, Japanese, Koreans, folks of every variety. Churches, graveyards, schools and business could be found alongside the hundreds of homes. All in what we now call Central Park.
Fortunately, Tun was a deep sleeper and many knew not to disturb the mighty menace for fear of ruination. Alas, there is always a new-comer unfamiliar with the local traditions and rules. Terre was that gal.