I went to New York City a couple of months ago. No, not to
visit Ground Zero; I've got my own explosions to mourn. I
went to New York City last week to visit my estranged and
dying father. You might ask how your father can become estranged,
unless you're like me, and you already know. Didn't Tom Hanks
play a scene like this in a Garry Marshall movie? Oh, never
mind that now.
My father's a cross between Woody Allen and Rudy Giuliani - he's
got Allen's good looks, and Giuliani's cancer. Only my father's
appears to be terminal. The good looks or the cancer? I don't
know, maybe both.
So I flew into JFK, looking for answers. Standing in the
cab line, wearing a scarf in an unseasonably warm January
evening, I only found questions:
How was my father going to react to me? What the hell was
I going to do to take my mind off of all the negative energy
surrounding me? Where was I going to shop for shoes now that
Century 21 was gone? And why couldn't I see Ground Zero from
the air? The last one I was pretty sure I could answer. My
guess? The pilots skirted Ground Zero like it was a drunken
uncle lying in the middle of Manhattan's living room during
Thanksgiving dinner. (I've got a lot of experience with evasive
I jumped in the cab, and headed off to Mid-Town to meet up
with some college buddies. They had a surprise planned, and
a great one at that: skating in Wollman Rink in Central Park.
As I walked through the crispening night air, passing Central
Park horse cabbies and marveling at Trump Towers, I reflected
on the grandeur of a New York night. Sure, most out-of-towners
or the bridge and tunnel crowd might prefer Rockefeller Center,
but I liked Wollman. Crowded, bustling, and noisy, with rings
of child skaters, mostly girls, holding the wall and teens
backwards skating in fabulous loops, the rink personified
what some of us call "a New York moment." It teemed
with people, everyone intently skated in circles, no one looked
up, and occasionally a few of us fell.
After my second or third fall, I sat on the rink and looked
around. Teens hot-rodded, lovers clung, children gripped,
and writers - like me - observed. The first four lines of U2's
song, "Stuck in a Moment" came to mind, and then
all of a sudden it hit me. I shouted inwardly, "I am
not afraid, of anything in this world, there's nothing you
can throw at me, that I haven't already heard."
And I soared.
Purists may say that I waddled around that rink, or shuffled,
or even crawled. I say I soared, and that's all you need to
know. Which brings me back to Ground Zero, and New York, and
For me, the three are somehow conflated in an inexplicable
mystery. Of course, it took me three falls to see it. But,
as I sat there on the ice, I realized that I had been so afraid
of falling that I wasn't having any fun. Now I had fallen
three times and what had happened?
So what did I learn? Once you've seen the worst, there's
nothing more to fear. (What was it FDR once told us? We have
nothing to fear but fear itself?)
New York City stands, and so did I. I met up with my Father
the next day; it's anti-climactic to tell you the details,
so I won't. Skating around that glorious rink, I knew that
everything would be "beyu-ti-ful," and it was.
When you get the chance, go to New York and don't visit Ground
visit the rink. It's best if you go in winter, and
especially good if you go alone. Don't worry about the line;
there'll be one. Don't worry about falling; you will. Go for
the moment when you stretch your hands out flying, look up
at the hotels in the distance, and just for a New York moment,
transcend your own Ground Zero with the exuberant courage
of an American who believes in liberty and justice for all.
From Alex Weinberg