New York (part II)
Reilly and I ventured out from Brian’s (Linda’s son) apartment in West New York. Brian lives in a nice part of a mostly working class Dominican neighborhood, not far for the Jersey side of the Lincoln. For him, it’s a good location from which to travel to work in the city.
We waited for a bus to pick us up on Bergenline Avenue a few blocks away. The bus arrived and fifteen minutes later, we were stepping out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal onto 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, directly facing the New York Times building. We’d both been to Times Square, so we walked through it briefly then turned south toward the Village. It was the beginning of a long day of walking, walking, walking.
Somewhere in the Village, we stumbled upon the Parsons School of Design, a part of the New School. The New School is a sort of alternative university spread out through Manhattan and it produces a lot of bizarre “avant-garde” urban intellectual types. As we passed, we saw what looked like a college discussion section through a window on the ground floor. The scene inside looked like a cross between a Buddhist meditation session and urban planning meeting. Odd, intense hipsters sat around on cushions looking like they were over-thinking esoteric abstractions. They looked like they put more than a little thought into how they looked.
I don’t know exactly when we reached the World Trade Center site, but the walk there seemed to take forever. Reilly and I stopped and sat down in front of Trinity Church where old tombstones were knocked down on September 11th. Across the street, World Trade Center 1 was under construction. Two square fountains mark the former bases of each tower and panels along their sides list the names of the victims. It was a quiet place and the rush of the water from the fountains seemed to emphasize the sense of loss; water flowed down toward the center of the monuments in successively lower squares until it was out of sight. I was reminded of being twelve years old and staring at a TV screen in my father’s room when the South and North Towers collapsed, soundlessly vanishing into themselves under a cloud of dust.
I noticed a group of men wearing beards and conservative suits walk by. They appeared to be Middle Eastern and they were laughing. I had the novel experience of being uncomfortable with my own thoughts, the associations I was making. A few minutes later, Reilly and I stopped in front of a memorial in bronze along a wall. Names of firefighters who died in the rescue were listed. There was a jarring engraving of the Twin Towers, one in smoke, the other emitting a cloud of flame, suspended in bronze as a Boeing airliner crashes into it. The same group of men I noticed laughing before walked around the corner and stumbled upon the engraving. Quiet immediately came over them; they stopped and starred.
We walked from the World Trade Center site over to the Hudson River a few blocks to the west. Along the river there is a really nice walkway made partly of brick. It seemed windier there and the Hudson flowed strangely swift and quiet against the seawall. Jersey City’s skyline seemed like a pale reflection of Manhattan across the river. Looking south out over the river, the Statue of Liberty stood out in the distance like a recalcitrant sea green light against seas and skies otherwise black. We decided to start back on the long march to the bus stop in Midtown, half way up the fifteen mile island we were at the bottom of. We turned north and began to notice our aching feet and legs.