February 25, 2014


My Walkabout—Part III

Somehow I seem to have passed through a portal to another planet—perhaps another dimension entirely.  I stand in the middle of Times Square, slowly turning in circles, gazing up as thin, sexy models 8 stories tall walk toward me purposefully and all manner of goods are paraded around the square from screen to screen, building to building.  On the ground there are hawkers of wares and beggars and food vendors and painted people; even the Smithsonian is running a game show.  Traffic rushes by on all sides of this little plaza I wandered onto.  Horns honk, police whistles shriek, an ambulance roars by siren screaming.  People are laughing and shouting and talking and walking; high heeled boots clip clopping like the horses on the cobblestones 20 blocks north.  Two men spray painted like twin Statues of Liberty, one green the other silver, are passing out advertisements.  I watch another 8-story model parading her bajillion dollar ensemble for us all to marvel at and think of Lindsey and her thin, shabby coat and her dirty duffle bag and her tired face.

I try to play the Smithsonian game show and might have won except no one told me to tap the green key on the pad after selecting my answer so all my answers come up wrong.  The woman smiles and tells me to try again, but I decide I’ve had enough.  Dizzy from the giants on the buildings I head down 42nd Street for the Library.  There’s still time to wander through before it closes.

Next to the Library is Bryant Park and another skating rink filled with hundreds of people, all of them skating clockwise, around and around.  What would happen if someone fell?  Pile-up!

The Library reminds me a little of the St. Paul Library across from Rice Park back home.  Just bigger.  I wander in and find the children’s section immediately.  It is large; about the size of the entire main floor of my library in Duluth.  But I am surprised that it is not more colorful and inviting.  There are some posters, a lot of books, little tables and chairs.  That’s it.  Nothing about it makes me want to stay and get cozy in the corner with a stack of picture books or a new YA novel.

The hallways are spacious, the stairways grand.  I get lost and find myself returning to the same spot from 5 different directions and as many staircases.  I finally settle down in a little coffee shop to eat my dinner.  It’s still hot and delicious—something with rice and kale and mushrooms and other vegetables and a sweet and spicy chili sauce.  After I am sated I go in search, once again, for the famous reading room.  I pass a display about how the library was built.  Other displays tell about all the magnificent treasures stored there.  I pass incredible paintings and murals and finally see the reading room.  It is all very grand and old and antique.  Like a museum.

The library is about to close.  It is dark outside now.  I walk the two blocks to my hotel, stopping along the way to investigate Grand Central Terminal (Station).  The  last thrill of my walkabout:  standing in the great, cavernous main concourse, imagining what it might have been like 100 years ago when the current building was only a year old.

Finally, nearly five hours from when I left, I am in my hotel room.  It is quiet, warm, cozy.  I look down at the street still funneling cabs and cars and buses and people between the towering stone and brick and glass and steel buildings.  Tomorrow morning my conference begins.  I have the feeling I have entered a world from which there is no return.  My feet may walk again the snowy, frozen paths of the Northland next week–but they won’t be the same feet that walked there this morning.

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