Even This Year, Thankful for What Is Easy, While the How Comes Harder
Walking home at twilight in the near-deserted concrete canyons, you recall (for no reason that you can discern) the Old Man teaching you the word “dichotomy” a lifetime ago, and telling you that a coin toss coming up either heads or tails is the only obvious pair of opposites in this world. “All the others are slippery,” he said. “For example, the flip side of good is not evil, but ignorance. And the converse of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Even the opposite of poverty isn’t affluence, it’s justice.”
“And the trickiest one of all,” he said, “is being thankful. Because the opposite of gratitude isn’t ingratitude. It’s fear.” You didn’t even pretend to understand most of this, but rather—in the manner of an erstwhile altar boy who had recently shed his cassock, but found it harder to shake the catechism—made a vow to remember it.
“Gratitude and fear are doppelgängers,” your forebear continued (crowbarring yet another new word into your adolescent brain), “because we all know how to be afraid, but are always trying to figure out what we should or shouldn’t be frightened of. And the reverse is true—we all have a pretty good idea of what we should give thanks for, but are almost never sure about how to do it.”
This came to mind recently when you met a veteran, who had repeatedly stepped into harm’s way (for years at a time) to safeguard people like you, who have never put on the uniform. The obligatory phrase, “thanks for your service,” was meant in earnest, but rang hollow and perfunctory.
“What do I owe him?” you wondered, especially after if it turned out that he recently voted for a candidate to high office for whom you have nothing but contempt, while your ballot was cast for one that he views with grave suspicion.
And you thought: “Perhaps my debt is this: Maybe I should consider the possibility that he knows something I don’t. Maybe all that he has seen and done—and I have not observed or experienced—means that he grasps things that have escaped my notice.” This doesn’t change your mind about the kind of leadership you wish for. But it makes you a tad less certain.
You reflect on fear: the kind you are sure would paralyze you in the face of armed struggle, which the veteran had willingly endured. The fear that your most recent test results will come back positive, and exile you as a danger to your family.
Reaching for the opposite of these, you give thanks that you have never been called upon to pick up a weapon and take aim at a stranger, one who was also viewing you through crosshairs. You breathe a sigh of gratitude that you live in a such a place and such a manner that it is possible to share a home with people you love, and not risk their lives simply by walking through the door.
Another, more recent fear: Neighbors have voiced a morbid dread of finding human waste and used drug paraphernalia in the streets, the predicted detritus that would accompany a planned influx of alms persons. You have been invited to partake in shared outrage over this upcoming assault on your dignity.
But you can’t shake the thought that what’s really in prospect is an affront to your vanity. You are tempted to believe that there’s something fundamentally different between you and a person who is reduced to voiding excreta in the shadows behind a dumpster, and then sleeping on a sidewalk grate to gather warmth, while rats scurry over their back. The skin-deep contrasts are countless: Dress and speech. Priorities. A litany of consequential choices.
The only verifiable difference you can identify, however, is a streak of luck that began decades before you were born, and is likely to persist (redounding to the benefit of people you love) long after you leave this world.
The fear again: If I commingle with such people, will the luck that has defined my life come to an end? Will I be stricken with their contagious misfortune, and become like them? And also, the fear of fear itself: Why should my family walk these familiar streets with newfound apprehension?
These familiar streets are cold now, and dark in a way that always seems strangely vivid and new with the coming of each winter. You may grow old, but this feeling never will. The chill braces you, and has the familiar effect of clearing your head, at least for the moment. “Enough,” you conclude with a shrug that banishes fear and allows thankfulness to cascade inward. In this year of anxiety and despair, you realize that you have experienced a bit more than your accustomed share of the former, but almost none of the latter.
Reflecting on every catastrophe that might have happened (and may still happen), but hasn’t yet placed its hand on your shoulder, you resolve, “the way I can give thanks this year is to fear fewer things, and fear them less.”
Nearing home, you remember how the Old Man loved those exchanges (years later, he would teach you the word “maieutics” to describe them) but reluctantly drew that one to a close, fearing that She Who Must Be Obeyed would sense the violation of your bedtime curfew, and respond with a spasm of vitriol. But he couldn’t resist one final query.
“What do you suppose is the opposite of simplicity,” he asked with a gleam in his eye.
Instead of stepping into his trap by answering, “complexity,” you replied, “I don’t know,” and he beamed with pride.
Leaning forward to kiss you on the forehead, he whispered, “it’s wisdom,” before turning out the light.
Downtown Restaurants Brace for More Closure Orders
As New York wades deeper into its second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, some local restaurants are trying to get ahead of the curve of anticipated closures by voluntarily shutting down both indoor and outdoor dining.
Among these is Blue Smoke, in Battery Park City, owned by legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, which is also taking similar measures at the company’s Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern.
Distressed Downtown Real Estate Indicators Point South
The first Baron Rothschild is said to have advised, “the time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets, even if the blood is your own.” If he was correct, this may be an auspicious moment to purchase real estate in Lower Manhattan, where the distress is acute. To read more…
Trinity Church Offers Food to Those In Need
Trinity Church has launched its Compassion Market to aid New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity during this economic downturn unleashed by the pandemic coronavirus. Although Lower Manhattan may not seem like a community where very many people suffer from need, it is. In addition the hundreds of local homeless men who camp out beneath the FDR Drive every night, one of out every five elderly residents City-wide (a total of more than 200,000 seniors) relies on soup kitchens and food pantries for at least part of their nutrition, while three out of ten veterans are dependent on the same outlets for sustenance.
The National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Cinema Showcase is an annual celebration of the best in Native film. This year, for the 20th-anniversary showcase, the museum presents the full program online, streaming new films, fan favorite classics, and conversations with filmmakers. The showcase provides a unique forum for engagement with Native filmmakers and stories from Indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere and Arctic. Free
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The Tale of the Ticker Tape, or How Adversity and Spontaneity Hatched a New York Tradition
What was Planned as a Grand Affair became a Comedy of Errors
New York’s first ticker-tape parade erupted spontaneously from bad weather
and an over-zealous stockbroker.
While the festivities in New York Harbor didn’t go as scripted that afternoon, the spontaneous gesture it generated from the brokerage houses lining Broadway famously lives on more than a century later.
On October 28, 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World was to be unveiled to New York City and the world as it stood atop its tall base on Bedloe’s Island. But the morning mist had turned to afternoon fog, blurring the view of the statue from revelers on the Manhattan shore and the long parade of three hundred ships on the Hudson River.
What was planned as a grand affair-with President Grover Cleveland as the main speaker-became a comedy of errors. The fog prevented efficient communication between the dignitaries on the island and the ships awaiting orders to fire their salutes and blast their horns at the given signal.
Even the dramatic unveiling moment itself went awry. To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
1343 – A tsunami, caused by an earthquake in the Tyrrhenian Sea, devastates Naples and the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, among other places.
1487 – Elizabeth of York is crowned Queen of England. The new consort of King Henry VII travelled by barge from Greenwich to the Tower of London, whence she processed the day before the ceremony to the royal palace, and on to Westminster Abbey for her coronation, which was conducted by John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury.
1491 – The siege of Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, ends with the Treaty of Granada.
1667 – A deadly earthquake rocks Shemakha in the Caucasus, killing 80,000 people.
1783 – American Revolutionary War: The last British troops leave New York Citythree months after the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
1833 – A massive undersea earthquake, estimated magnitude between 8.7-9.2, rocks Sumatra, producing a massive tsunami all along the Indonesian coast.
1864 – American Civil War: A group of Confederate operatives calling themselves the Confederate Army of Manhattan starts fires in more than 20 locations in an unsuccessful attempt to burn down New York City.
1915 – Albert Einstein presents the field equations of general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences.
1950 – The Great Appalachian Storm of November 1950 impacts 22 American states, killing 353 people, injuring over 160, and causing US$66.7 million in damages (1950 dollars).
1963 – President John F. Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
1963 – Lee Harvey Oswald is buried in Fort Worth, Texas.
1986 – Iran–Contra affair: Attorney General Edwin Meese announces that profits from covert weapons sales to Iran were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
Karl Benz in his automobile
1666 – Giuseppe Giovanni Battista Guarneri, Italian violin maker (d. 1740)
1835 – Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist (d. 1919)
1844 – Karl Benz, German engineer and businessman(d. 1929)
1881 – Pope John XXIII (d. 1963)
1896 – Virgil Thomson, American composer and critic (d. 1989)
1914 – Joe DiMaggio, American baseball player and coach (d. 1999)
1924 – Paul Desmond, American saxophonist and composer (d. 1977)
1865 – Heinrich Barth, German explorer and scholar (b. 1821)
1885 – Thomas A. Hendricks, American lawyer and politician, 21st Vice President of the United States (b. 1819)
1968 – Upton Sinclair, American novelist, critic, and essayist (b. 1878)
1974 – U Thant, Burmese lawyer and diplomat, 3rd Secretary-General of the United Nations (b. 1909)
2016 – Fidel Castro, Communist leader of Cuba, and revolutionary (b. 1926)
Court Rules That FiDi Condo Buyers Can Recover Damages from Developer for Shoddy Construction
More than a decade ago, real estate developers in Lower Manhattan were performing a feat that seemed akin to alchemy. Buying up unglamorous office buildings (abandoned by financial firms that had decamped for Midtown after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) and converting them into high-priced residential towers, such developers rode the wave that was transforming Downtown into a chic residential district.
One example among many in this narrative was 90 William Street, a 17-story back-office facility constructed in 1967, that was rebranded as “Be@William,” a 113-unit condominium in 2008.
But residents began to notice problems with the building within weeks of plunking down a million dollars or more per apartment. To read more…
A Victim’s Vengeance
New Sculpture on Centre Street Inverts Myth to Send a Feminist Message
In a caustic counterpoint to the “Fearless Girl” statue that attracted worldwide attention after it was unveiled at Bowling Green in 2017, a new feminist icon is calling Lower Manhattan’s streetscape home.
Standing in the center of Collect Pond Park (bounded by Centre, Lafayette, and White Streets), “Medusa with the Head of Perseus” makes a stark statement about violence against women. The bronze depicts the Medusa of Greek myth holding aloft the head of the hero who is said to have slain her. To read more…
Contract One, Station One
The Jewel in
Just below the surface of City Hall Park sits one of New York’s architectural gems. Built during the City Beautiful movement, its design sought to uplift the spirits of New Yorkers on their daily commute.
City Hall Loop station—Contract One, Station One—was the flagship of New York’s first subway and the focus of the international press on October 27, 1904, when Mayor George McClellan connected the Tiffany-designed motorman’s handle to propel the first train north to its endpoint on 145th Street and Broadway.
The design of the other twenty-seven stations it stopped at that afternoon was dictated by the practical needs of subway efficiency—the architect’s only role was to choose the tile work that would cover the structural columns and walls. But the station below City Hall Park is different. Here, design and structure are one in the same.
City Hall subway station, was designed to be the showpiece of the new subway system with its elegant platform and mezzanine featured Guastavino tile, skylights, colored glass tilework and brass chandeliers.