After scouting new walks around Midtown East today, I made my way back to Grand Central Terminal to catch a downtown train home. When I entered the terminal I noticed that the light looked particularly theatrical. While I did see a cameraman setting up a tracking shot (that's his foot on the dolly to the right), a telltale sign that the terminal would make it into yet another motion picture, the light beaming down on the floor came not from artificial spots but from the spring sun beaming through the massive windows. Whoever stepped into that bright spot today, like the people above, cast themselves in their own drama.
In designing the next themed walk for this website, I wanted to focus on a literary character important to New York mythology. I couldn't decide whether to follow Lily Bart, the central character of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth,* or Mame Dennis, the fabulous eccentric of Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mame. Both books open their New York stories at Grand Central Terminal. The House of Mirth begins with Lawrence Selden catching a glimpse of Lily Bart. After their joyful exchange of flirtatious witticisms, the couple walk up Madison Avenue. In Auntie Mame, the orphan, Patrick, and his nanny, Norah, travel by train to New York and arrive at Grand Central. From there they catch a taxi to 3 Beekman Place to meet his new legal guardian. Patrick doesn't know much about his late father's sister, only that she is "a very peculiar woman."
Walking helps the decision-making process. In the end, I decided to leave Lawrence Selden and Lily Bart in the terminal spotlight and pick up their story another day. The story and walk I'm about the pursue, I also thought, promises to bring some subtle complexity, with its tension between autobiography and fiction. So, soon I will take Patrick Dennis to Beekman Place, and a new walk begins.
*The House of Mirth self-guided walk begins with this post.
Photo by Walking Off the Big Apple. April 3, 2008.See related posts:
Classic New York: A Walk, and a Map
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis: A Coda, on Bank Street
Classic New York: 59th and Fifth: A Slideshow
Classic New York: The Algonquin
Classic New York: Times Square
Classic New York: A Visit to Macy's, in April
Classic New York: Henri Bendel
Classic New York: The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis
A Walk in Turtle Bay: Beekman Place, the U.N., Tudor City, and E. 42nd St.
The Liberation Theology of Mame Dennis