I look out the window of my midtown office building at the ornate skyscraper next door: the Metropolitan Trust building, with its rather strange-looking spire (like a folded umbrella on a café table),
seems to be leaning. Then I’m on the tower, walking around on the “roof” that surrounds the spire. There’s an acrobatic feat happening on another skyscraper across the way: a daredevil is attempting to “dance” on the façade. She’s dressed like a circus acrobat, in a short, spangly outfit, and behind her stand her attendants in tight formation, dressed the same. But something happens: she slips off façade, and it looks like she’s going to throw the stunt and allow herself to die, but then she spots on a piece of construction equipment (it used to be called a steam shovel) and deftly lands on it. The steam shovel deposits her safely back onto the street, and everyone is impressed with her quick, creative thinking and physical agility. Then the spire of the Metropolitan Trust building droops over and finally breaks off. I run to the phone to call “311” and at the same time Google the building online to get the address. I can’t type “Metropolitan Trust” — there’s something wrong with the keys, they won’t go down all the way. I hit them hard, and break them: they rest on a little stack of staples, and now these staples are broken off. But somehow the address of the building is made known to me: 300 West 30th Street. The 311 operator comes on, and I can hear other people describing this disaster, so I hang up on him (plus I’m more interested in learning about the building now, and all the different versions of the tower and spire over the years). When I look back outside, I realize the building is only one story above the street, under an El, and somehow the tower and spire haven’t fallen, in fact the building seems to be nothing but the tower and the spire, with space enough for only one floor — if even that — below.
I take a closer look at the building because of the mysterious and very ancient-looking carvings on it. There’s an “OXO,” and Latin words, and gnomish caryatids:
The whole thing is reminiscent of Roslin Chapel in Scotland, with its Masonic and Grail connections encoded in stone:
There’s even a carving of a ship that recalls the coat of arms of Lutetia, the ancient name for Paris, and seems to be dedicated to the architect’s life-long love, a woman named Levitra:
As with Roslin Chapel, all the carvings have meanings of their own, and cumulative ones as well. I wish I could “read” them.
Then I’m with my friend Barbara DeVries, barefoot on a wet avenue near the building. I’m enjoying the feeling of the wet cement, but I’m also afraid of getting glass in my feet. Against a building, balanced on a broken sidewalk, are two small white buckets with an amazing array of treasures in them. I first notice pieces of polished turquoise, and then some raw unpolished bits like the kind I once found on the Mediterranean beach near Mojacar, Spain. Other gems and beautiful bits of stone are there, as well as mod Sixties-looking plastic bracelets and other jewelry. In the other bucket are scarves, blouses, etc. Barbara and I are going nuts over this stuff, taking pieces out, setting them aside. We can’t believe someone would leave these things out, and also that no one has been going through them. Then the guys to whom all the stuff belongs show up and begin setting up a stand. The prices are good, everything is “10% off,” and so I decide on some gems and a knock-off Fortuny scarf. Maybe it’s real.