Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Got Any Change?

I was leafing through the New Yorker at the cafe, when I turned with interest to an article subtitled "A Frank Gehry apartment tower," about a new structure that's been built at 8 Spruce Street in downtown Manhattan. I was unprepared for the photograph taking up the entire second page of the article, which depicted a beautiful high-rise building with twisting patterns of steel climbing up its side, giving the entire structure a sense of motion and fluidity. And standing just to the left of and behind this thing that was completely alien to me was the once-familiar Woolworth building.

I'd like very much to be able to comment on the historical significance of this new Frank Gehry work, the tallest residential apartment complex in the Western Hemisphere. I'd like to talk about it as the mark of a breaking point in the usual tendency of developers to eschew form for the sake of function and short-term profit. I'd like to talk about my admiration for Gehry's goal in design this to revive the bay window. But when I look at that picture, all I can think about is the fact that I left New York only three and a half years ago, and in that time, this has sprung up to make a profound and distinct impact on the city skyline.

And meanwhile, where I am nothing much has changed. Not my life and not my so-called home. Very little has changed in Buffalo since I was a little boy, save for the gradual changes of job loss and population decline. And there have been salutary changes, as well. I doubt I could ever be convinced that they outweigh the negative ones, but that's neither here nor there. What is of issue for me is that there have been no changes of dramatic stature, and that reminds me not that I'm living in a terrible place, but that I'm living in a fundamentally insignificant place. Not only with regard to region, but with regard to station in life, nothing changes enough to have an impact on me. I feel as though I'm in limbo, and though I'd most like to see a marvelous work of art ascend from the streets of my town and paint the sky with its radiance, I'd rather see a portion of the city fall down than have nothing change at all.

So despite my intent to focus on the social, political, and cultural, the breaking point that I'm looking forward to right now is purely personal. I'm wondering when the time will come that my too-long pent up affection for a metropolis of bustle and constant alteration and dynamic purpose will swell my heart so that it breaks its cage of reason, and I get myself free from where I am, regardless of the cost. And that is the way it will be, if it comes. I will either stay here, dying by stages, or I will disregard the cost of leaving, which may be my life.

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