Dim morning light is falling through the glass door. I step outside and the buzzing sound of the heater is replaced by the sound of the city: honking cars pass by; garbage trucks collect the last memories of the day before, and cabs fight their way through the streets. The grey tarmac is intermixing with the face of the buildings and the colors blur into the cloudy North American sky.
The ice-cold air brings me to life. I can see my breath as it vaporizes in clouds in front of me. As soon as the clouds appeared, they disappeared and blow out into the urban scenery. I am here – finally – in the Empire City. The city life swells up. People shout in every imaginable language and the smells of the city rise: hot dogs and grilled chicken intermingle with heavy, luxury perfumes and the indefinable smells that a big city has to offer.
As I cross the street and turn left, more and more people are filling the streets with life. They hurry on their way to work, papery coffee mugs in their hands, disregarding red lights and discussing their upcoming meetings on their smartphones. White headphones are everywhere, not to mention the tiny, little Apple logo. Dressed up girls walk their poppy dogs, decorated with accessories, diamond collars and coats to protect their furry bodies against the cold. Black-suited men alight their polished town cars and exude the redolence of old money nobility.
The rush of the city pulls me in and I drift through the streets. Red brick buildings turn to grey, elegant skyscrapers that edge the streets and make me feel small and insignificant. Hip, artsy shops change to glamorous stores, which reveal the luxurious parts of this place. On the right side of the street, a building ruptures the architectural unity: it has a maximum of three floors and its front is lined with columns and the lions Patience and Fortitude in Beaux-Arts-Architecture style.
Further down the street, roadwork fills the air with dust. The atmosphere is translucent and the colors are sallow, the air smoky and dry. Clouds of dust enveloped me and befall my respiratory systems. It makes it hard to breathe. As the last dust vanished, I reached my destination.
I push the heavy Art Deco door and glide into the building. The lobby is built up of sprinkled grey, black and brown marble, decorated with golden details. As I look up, I recognize the ceiling mural of the celestial sky in 23-karat gold and aluminum leaf. Red velvet ropes guide the visitors and lead me to the stairs. A sign announces the visibility upstairs: “zero”. So what, I am only here for today and no other tourists.
A labyrinth of ropes directs me straight towards the elevators. The compulsory tourist picture is taken and I have the possibility to buy it afterwards. The marble floor changes its color from dark grey and black to beige nuances sprinkled with brown. The elevator doors open… It is small and full of light. The marble décor continues and the emblem is embedded in gold letters in the ground – the 1920s architecture continues even in here. The elevator is fast. I fly up the floors and the red digital display speeds across the numbers. 22…36…48…57…62…73…Bling! On the 86th floor, the door slides open and I step outside.
The wind freshened up and I pull my hood over my head. The morning sky is pinkish and clouds are intermixing with the haze of the city. Dimly, buildings are recognizable as the sky blurs with the rising sun to a vanilla sky. And there she is, standing unreal in the water: she welcomes me with the same constancy she has for thousands of immigrants. Awestruck, she steps back for all the other attractions. She is permanent and always there, guiding the way with her green coppery body.
The two rivers extend on both sides, and further forward the island is connected to the mainland with the enormous, rocky bridge. It is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the whole country and was already completed in 1883, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
The gash in the heart of the city is currently under construction. Soon it will be patched-up and gleam in new splendor. It represents the pride and courage of a whole nation, but will never neglect its role as a memorial. Letting my eyes wander, the wedge-shaped building in front catches my attention. Daniel Burnham designed it as a vertical Renaissance palazzo in Beaux-Arts design. At the bottom, the façade is made out of limestone and transitions to glazed terracotta from Staten Island above.
Deep down in the city, life starts swelling up as the sun climbs the sky bit by bit. The skyscrapers shimmer and play with the light. It is reflected on the glassy façade and is illuminating the steely roofs. The buildings are trying to out-beam each other and let their selves be enveloped in the early dawn. But this one and only glittering Art Deco building displaces all other skyscrapers. Its stainless-steel roof reflects the sun more than the others and its corners are decorated with eagles and replicas of the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps. The glamour of this city is perceptible in every building, every street of houses and every historic detail.
The morning fog vanishes little by little and the park – lying enchanted and dozing in the north – is going to be uncovered. Lined by its eternal brick-lined companions, it exudes majesty and seems like a haven of peace – even in winter. I close my eyes, play with my necklace and clasp my hand around the tiny, silvery pendant, a heart with an engraving on it: Return to Tiffany´s.
And here I am, standing on the Empire State Building, the most popular attraction in New York! New York! and enjoying the morning sun. But in this moment, the calmness is over and the tourists pilgrimage up in droves. The morning haze disappears, as the sun clambers up the sky. The noise of the people is implacable and intrusive. The smells and sounds of the city rush through the urban canyons and engulf the last rest of morning peace, even 320 meters up.
I walk inside to escape from this hectic place and step into the elevator – a last bit of tranquility before hurling myself into the pulsating life of the Big Apple. Even with its annoying and brutal sides, it is still the one and only. So I am sorry LCD Soundsystem, but New York I love you and you are not bringing me down.