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In Light of the Holidays, a Walk Downtown in Darkness and in Art

I hadn't walked downtown since the hurricane, but I often thought about setting out for Lower Manhattan since the storm blew through the city. I wanted to see what it looked like, having read the reports. Unwilling to play the role of disaster tourist, I suppressed my desire to witness the effects of the storm in this part of the city. After all, people had to do hard work there in the cleanup effort, and I thought that if I didn't volunteer myself, I should stay put.

Yet, I am a journalist, after a fashion, at least in the spirit of the etymological origins of the term in French - the word for "day" is "jour" - and though I don't write or take pictures every day (or, at least publish them), I consider myself a diarist of everyday things. The French call this "la vie quotidienne." I also believe in the power of witnessing - to see, to give an account of events first hand.

walking south on West Broadway with One World Trade Center in the distance

Last evening, as I leaned out my balcony and gazed downtown, I saw the towering figure of One World Trade Center in the distant mist. The building was fixed up in holiday lights, and low clouds obscured the top floors. The night was mild and humid, somewhat reminiscent of the time of the storm, and a light fog cast the city in a somewhat flattering haze. I suppose some people would find this weather rather dreary.

Tribeca Tavern, W. Broadway near Beach Street.

But I like to walk to improve my mood, and while I am not altogether lacking in melancholy, I tend to be the sort of person who looks outward rather than inward and looks for beauty of some sort in the external world. As a young girl, I was raised to love writing and art. As an adult, I still carry this temperament inside me, and therefore I look at New York City as writings on blank paper and paintings on stretched canvasses. When I do think in an inward fashion, it's often to reflect about what other writers and artists have made of the world and how their visions have influenced my own wanderings and imagination. Sometimes, this gets me in trouble with people in everyday situations.


Jeff Koons. Balloon Flower (Red) in fountain. 7 World Trade Center. W. Broadway, Greenwich St., and Vesey St

Looking at the lights of One World Trade Center in the distance, I impulsively wanted to get closer, like when a visitor at a museum walks up to a painting to look at the artist's brush work. So, I set about on my long-awaited walk downtown, first via West Broadway, a street that runs in a straight line from Washington Square Park, near where I live, south to the World Trade Center. I walked steadily, with determination, through the South Village and Soho and Tribeca. I saw stores and banks and corporate offices decorated in the lights of the season, and I saw people cozy up in restaurants and bars.

One World Trade Center. Liberty Street and Church Street.

Arriving at the base of One World Trade Center, a spectacle with its highest floors in the fog, I felt the need to push on - through Zuccotti Park, pretty in lights but lonesome without occupiers, and past the sterile corporate buildings. I arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Near there, I saw the busy work of recovery. All up and down Water Street and nearby streets, I saw disaster recovery trucks and utility company vehicles and great industrial tubes still pumping out water. I saw many more machines than people operating them. The air was filled with the sound of generator motors. As a rider of the 1 train, I knew the South Ferry station was still closed, but even with my mind full of fiction and art, it helped to actually see it.

Zuccotti Park

One Battery Park Plaza

Staten Island Ferry Terminal, 4 South Street

Disaster recovery vehicle on Water Street

Whitehall St. and South Ferry Station

I had one more thing to see - the Battery, the farthest I could go on foot in Lower Manhattan. It wasn't perhaps in my best interest to walk through Battery Park on a deserted Monday night in the fog, but in my art-addled mind, the sight of the Statue of Liberty, one of the finest public artworks in the world, made a fine subject for a James Whistler-esque nocturne.

The Battery, with the Statue of Liberty in the distance

The return home took me up Broad Street, where a handsome holiday tree sits outside the Stock Exchange, and up narrow Nassau Street and over to Broadway near St. Paul's.

Broad Street, outside the Stock Exchange.

Nassau Street

St. Paul's Chapel, 209 Broadway

Though beginning to tire on the walk home - this roundtrip walk shockingly totaled five miles - I couldn't resist venturing into the gaslit City Hall Park. While beautiful and romantic sights often fail to materialize for people inclined to be easily disappointed, apparitions of beauty almost always appear to those who imagine them anyway.

City Hall Park, 131 Duane Street
     

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Monday, December 10, 8:50 p.m. to 10:35 p.m. Made with the iPhone camera. The square ones are made with the Instagram app.  A map showing the route.
Related post: After Being Tossed About, the City Dresses Up Again (November 24, 2012)

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