By Robert Beck
It’s different at night, and more so when you are twenty stories above the streets, the traffic, and people making their way to where they have to be next. And you don’t.
The sounds are different. The direction of the noise alone makes it unusual. It is down there, and you aren’t in the middle of it, which makes it feel like a separate city. A there and here, which you don’t get when you are on the ground, even in the parks.
There are lights: streetlights, headlights, traffic lights, taillights, and store windows. The flush rises from the streets, stretching up the sides of buildings. Up is the only way out for the light down there, and it washes my face with an underglow as it passes. I can see it trying to escape the canyons in the distance.
I am up, and for a few hours, outside in a breeze of chilled air. Out among a million lights in a million windows. It’s what serves for stars in our city. Looking toward the drive and the river, I chuckle, thinking that Henry Hudson had the stars, but he couldn’t have conceived any of this. I’m reminded of the Steinberg New Yorker illustration and its lack of interest in anything west of New York. Columbus, Amsterdam, Broadway, West End, and the river; that’s all there is. Then some other stuff; who knows.
Down the block, they are constructing a ridiculously tall building that has weaseled its way into the neighborhood against all reason and enormous community objection. That’s a portion of Manhattan and its sky that people who stand here will never see again.
I turn my collar up. A police helicopter heads north over Central Park. A trail of lights string across the Bronx on approach to LaGuardia. The moon is just a sliver tonight, but crisp and awesomely bright in the liquid night.
My attention is pulled toward 66th again as a hollow siren wrapped in flashing lights cuts across an intersection down below, down there, in the other city.
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