Saturday, November 12, 2011

NEW YORK 11/11/11

It was one of those half dozen days in the city when the sky was that pure blue, the kind of blue that stays blue for as far as you can see. Most days the New York sky has that element of gray that clouds the view in the city. Everything gets dulled down as it moves farther and farther away until it disappears into the invisible. It was a Tuesday. It was four days before my birthday. That Monday Emmy had her first day of kindergarten. They had broken the class up into two groups, one went to school for a half-day on Monday the other half was to go on Tuesday and then the whole class was to show up on Wednesday. Emmy had been in the Monday group. She was home on Tuesday. Rick had left early for the office. I was still at home waiting for our nanny to show up. Our apartment was on the thirtieth floor on East 29st Street. The apartment faced north. It had this amazing view of Manhattan. The Empire State Building was in touching distance. We told Emmy it was her nightlight. Around eight that morning Angelina, Emmy's nanny, got to the apartment. Some time around nine my sister called from Wisconsin. She asked if we had the TV on. One of the first things I do in the morning is turn on the Today Show. That day I hadn't. That day our view north from 29th Street was nothing but blue sky, the black smoke from the World Trade Center only blew south and west that day.
Ever since that day I've had no desire to go back down to the World Trade Center site. I've avoided it. Even when we moved down to John Street. We were only a block and a half away but I still cast my eyes in another direction each time I passed near enough to have seen it. It was my way of preserving those towers and all those who weren't with us anymore. If I didn't look, I wouldn't see that it was gone.
We were back in New York last week, working on a new set of projects. I still think of Manhattan as my home. In my mind I refer to Madison as our new country home. With the Memorial now in place I thought it was time to face the loss. On Monday I went down to lower Manhattan. There were new spires and glass facades reaching out and starting to form a new skyline for the city. It was time to embrace a look forward and to give up the past.
When the call went out for designs for the Memorial we had made a submission along with over 5000 others. When I went downtown I didn't have a ticket, you need one now to be able to get into the Memorial area, so I walked the perimeter to get a look at what finally came to be. It was decided that a void was more appropriate than a monument. This was not a part of the request for entries but a subsequent piece of criteria added by the architect so no new building would compete with his designs.
Our design fed off the iconic images of the city and was more interactive for those family and friends left behind. It was a different approach that wouldn't have worked as well with the new structures that are being erected now. The simplicity and peacefulness of what is there is what is appropriate. It is a new beginning in an old place and I no longer feel the need to close my eyes as I walk by.

THE 99%
It was impossible to walk down to the WTC site without being drawn into the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. The constant beating of the drums and blowing whistles was a big cause for rubbernecking. There was a magnetic draw from the music and an equally strong repulsion from the stench once you got up close to the tent city. Temporary structures had been linked together. Little alleyways snaked through the maze of tents. It was Mumbai, India in miniature with the unwashed living in squalor and joy at the same time.

The weather in New York was perfect for the week we spent there. We ended up doing more walking than we would have if the temperature had been the normal briskness of November rather than the pleasantly mild surprise we were given.  We were staying on the upper Westside but frequently had to get over to the upper Eastside to catch the jitney out to the Hamptons, or check up on a client, or roam the halls of the D&D Building in search of missing fabrics. On Friday we decided to cut through the park, Central Park. There in a field were planted two sets of three different sized hoops held up on poles at varying heights. The two sets of hoops were separated by a field about three quarters the size of a traditional football field where about twenty people where running with brooms stuck between their legs, throwing balls at each other and chasing another person dressed in gold. We had stumbled on a very intense game of Quidditch and the gold dude was the snitch.
We had encountered a practice workout for the up coming Qudditch World Cup. One hundred teams from all over the world were preparing for the title of 2011 Quidditch Champs. I'd like to say only in New York but I guess craziness knows no bounds.


View Looking North, Bridge No. 24, Southwest Reservoir, 1984
Photographed by Jet Lowe
For the National Park Service
Available from the Library of Congress, digital ID hhh.ny1583

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