The Morningsider: A rewilding comicbook (in the making)

When I lived in Manhattan, in Morningside Heights, I fell in love with Morningside Park. This little stretch of land, barely half a block wide and 13 blocks long, preserves the Morningside bluff face that city developers thankfully recognized as presenting too much of an obstacle for road development.

It has a charming history for such a small park on the edge of such a small neighborhood. It housed one of the blockhouses (like the one in Central Park) from the war of 1812 until the city razed the blockhouse and built a school. Coyotes and turkeys have made their home there, and some hawks have started a family. On top of the bluff itself resides the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Columbia University and St. Luke’s Hospital (where my son breathed his first breath).

I had the joy of foraging mulberries and raspberries at the northern end of the park. I would go there to watch the winter solstice moon through the bare branches so that I could feel wild within the City.  I would sit on the rock outcropping that overlooks the pond and smoke a pipe and think on my life.  Morningside Park hosted many of my thoughts on rewilding, since I lived near there at the time when I started reading Daniel Quinn.  It also hosted many of my thoughts on surviving within civilization, as money didn’t flow too freely into my life at the time.  In fact, it flowed out of my life all too easily.

Of course, in New York City, you find yourself in the company of homeless people all the time.  You ride the subway with them; you pass them on street corners; you see them in the parks.  Perhaps the presence of the homeless at one common site within Morningside Park, coupled with my own financial worries and my love for the park itself prompted these thoughts, but I began to wonder whether I could live within the park if I ever lost my apartment.

Fortunately, circumstances never forced me to find out, but the thought took root in my mind and grew over time until it blossomed into a concept: 

A man, down on his luck, having lost his job, takes up residence as a homeless person living in Morningside Park.  He had some knowledge of wild foods, having grown up in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas before moving to the big city to pursue a career in IT.  Now he strives to stay alive–sometimes he can even thrive–off the wilds within the city.  He carries a collapsible camp shovel on his belt that he bought at the Army surplus store on 42nd Street.  He carries on his shoulder an Army surplus rucksack for porting his water and the forageables he gathers.  He sleeps in debris shelters when he wants to stay outside, but he also has underground hideouts that make use of the extensive tunneling under the City’s surface.  He becomes an anti-hero and a guardian of sorts over the places in the city that he loves.  He has no love for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, as those concepts let him down.  But he struggles to keep peace of a sort in his little world.

When I first found Urban Scout’s blog (which greatly inspired the beginning of my own blog) I not only fell in love with the concept of someone charting their rewilding experience, but it also put me in mind of the ideas that had always swirled in my head while living in NYC about going feral in an urban setting.

Eventually, I had enough of a concept of this character that I felt I could mold it into a real story.  My love for comic books began developing at the same time, so in my mind’s eye, this story would take its best form on the graphic page.  I have no artistic skills, however, so I have merely written the story.  Perhaps someday I can find someone with a good sense of graphic style, who knows New York City–and specifically knows Morningside Park–enough to give visual life to the words I have written.  In the meantime, I have written the story in screenplay format, as I think it lends itself to the visual transition that I hope will eventually happen.

I hope you enjoy the first installment of The Morningsider.  And I hope that the pressure of publishing this story in serial format will encourage me to keep writing it.

 The Morningsider (Issue 1 – Act 1)

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