Saturday, May 31, 2014

Top of the world

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I looked over the top of the world from the highest part of the city and felt the wind of change coming.
This is something of a silly concept since each day things change, and we keep looking for omens that will predict some major change in our lives or the world.
This was a cool day with bright skies, like that day now nearly a decade and a half ago when I stood atop of towers in Secaucus and looked across the Palisades to see one, then a second smoldering tower on the far side.
No wandering jets struck anything on this rise to the top in Jersey City this week, but I was struck by a similar feeling, of something passing that can not be brought back, a loss of something valuable that perhaps nobody but me would miss, and even I am hard pressed to put my finger on what it is in the first place.
I’ve been singing old songs from the 1960s, and realize that we had it right back then, and let something important slip away that we also cannot get back, a sense of innocence perhaps, or perhaps a sense of purpose.
When the overdressed tour guides who brought me up to the top of the world told me it was time to go, I was reluctant to leave, not because I felt particularly attracted to the new arrangements they had made in this old place, this magnificent tower among many magnificent towers, but because whatever it was I was losing still resided there, perhaps only a memory, a lingering wisp of something that was slowly evaporating from the top and was about to get whisked away by the wind.
This place, a nursing facility built at the height of rising American power at the pit of American poverty, was always meant to exude the opulence that the new masters had brought to it, the polished marble of its lobby, the fabulous reach it had over the world, the movie theater built into its belly in a tribute to excess. Nothing was being lost here, but rather something restored to what it once was. So this was not the change I felt, or the sense of loss, or even the odd feeling I had come to this place for some purpose and once there, could not discern what it was.
I have wandered the feet of these great towers for several decades, watching them slowly decay, and then watching their face get painted white again, while at their feet the darkness of poverty remains, poor neighborhoods strewn with people whose lives are constantly in struggle, who must once again look up at these towers with envy as the patrons here shuttle in and out, sleeping in the midst of human bondage, but escaping it without seeing it.
Coming down into the luxurious lobby used by movie makers to recapture the gilded age of the 1930s, I felt like an invader – even some of the other guests did not particularly find my torn jeans and denim jacket suited to the occasion in which women wore evening gowns and men everything short of tuxedos. I had more in common with the security guards who chuckled as I came and went, seeing me as an invader, too, but one with an invitation to the ball whose fairy godmother had forgot to sew me better clothing or supply me with glass slippers so I might look and fell the part.

When I walked away to my car (which was had not turned back into a pumpkin, I still felt the ache of change, and it wasn’t even midday, let alone midnight.

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