I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my family here, but my brother Jeff was on NPR Weekend Edition this Sunday, talking about the amazing work that he does as education coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in Lebanon: The Truth About Humanitarian Work: High Ideals vs. Hard Realities.
There are not a lot of people who can say they breathed a sigh of relief when their family member told them they were moving to Beirut, but when it’s after almost a year of his living in Kabul, Afghanistan, we all relaxed mightily.
The twin towers were never considered an aesthetic gem, and it was primarily the means of their absence that caused most people to miss the architecture of their isolating, monolithic frames that sat in a windswept (wind tunnel) plaza that cut off that section of the city from what would otherwise be actual street life. The new one world trade center is, in many ways, an architectural mess as well, a bastardization of what was, at one point, a beautiful form by Daniel Liebskind that was morphed by corporate interests into another generic facade.
Before 9/11, you could always orient yourself in the maze that was “below 34th street” Manhattan by looking up and seeing the towers and knowing they were at the end of the island. I always loved seeing them when driving back from school through New Jersey, because it meant I could know precisely where the vast wasteland of the New Jersey Turnpike ended and the island of Manhattan began. I have a visceral memory of the first trip I took through Jersey (to visit a client in PA) after 9/11, and on the way back just not being able to tell where New York, my home, began, and being so immensely sad at the thought. But I was moved today, sitting in the union square barnes & noble, when i realized that we once again had a signpost to southern manhattan. And it made me extremely grateful that they did build again.
My friend Scott, from up in the Berkshires, has run a local favorite establishment for many, many years. Recently though, he closed caffe Pomo d’Oro in west Stockbridge in order to buy, restore and reopen the Monterey General Store. MGS is the oldest general store in the United States and, except for the months it was closed between when it shut down and when Scott bought it with the intent of reopening it, was open continuously for over 200 years.
…and bonus. Scott’s words when he saw me in the doorway of the kitchen with my camera were something along the lines of “I better not end up on that blog of yours!”
My most recent engagement has me working in the Helmsley Building. Otherwise known as the classic building that sits astride Park Avenue north of Grand Central Terminal that is NOT the horrendously ugly MetLife Building. While I have no view to speak of (sitting in an internal cube), I sometimes sneak into one of the offices to take this view in.
One of my favorite things to note about the grid plan in NYC (and something I learned watching New York: A Documentary History by Ric Burns), is that, despite the tall buildings, we almost never feel claustrophobic in Manhattan because you can stand at almost any intersection and see for miles in at least three, if not all four directions. The prescience of such a decision made over 150 years ago, when few could have foreseen the elevator, much less the skyscraper, is astounding.
The girl sitting next to me at the cafe this morning was very diligently creating her own note cards, so I asked if I could take a picture. We ended up getting into a whole discussion of 365 projects and what she was doing as well, in terms of trying to be creative.
Then, as a bonus, as I was getting up to leave, she handed me a card of my own (with a lovely note inside)! Totally made my day.