Living in Manhattan for so long on the cutting edge of just about everything, it’s hard to imagine how it must have looked decades before I ever set foot in the Big Apple.
Sure, I’ve seen a gazillion Scorsese flicks and I watched all five seasons of Boardwalk Empire, but that’s not really “seeing.” And yes, there’s a ton of old buildings—heck, my apartment building was built in 1924—but through all the years and inevitable changes, the trappings of the 21st century have eclipsed what once was.
For awhile now, when I explore the city streets, I find myself wishing I had a pair of magical glasses that would enable me to see anything I looked at as it was at the turn of the century.
Obviously such a treasure doesn’t exist, but the other day I had a fleeting moment when, I swear, I experienced something pretty close. I was walking to Central Park and as I approached the infamous Dakota at 72nd and Central Park West, I saw it.
The entryway to the building’s courtyard, with its large period wrought iron gate and vintage guard stand, was cloaked in shadow from scaffolding that had swallowed the Dakota whole. The setting sun cut through the metal and netting, casting a shaft of light on one of the guards as he stepped out of his station. For an instant I was back in time. The veil of black obscured all the modern-day distractions on the street and the walls, leaving only the trappings of the old classic Dakota in view—even the flickering gas lamp overhead played its part.
Moments later a cloud doused the light, the guard moved on, and the honk of a car rattled me from my moment of zen. Suddenly I was hyper aware of the modern street lights and taxis and the tourists gawking at the spot where John Lennon fell.
But for a second, just a second, I had magic.
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