December 1999. A month filled with portent and pre-millenial tension. We were in New York, after a week in Boston in which I’d seen a red moon rise while we watched the sun set on the observation deck of the John Hancock Tower. TLC had suffered through a brutal bout of food poisoning, and I had an eye infection that had fused my eyelids shut. The red numbers of the signage at the old Marvel building on Broadway merged in my head with the posters for the new Schwartzenegger movie. 666. End Of Days. It had been, by any definition of the word, a strange holiday.
But it was our first time in the States, and New York was everything we’d imagined and hoped. We did all the tourist things, giggling like loons at the sheer sensory overload of Times Square, braced in the brutal cold at Battery Park. The towncar from Newark into town had been like the Sopranos titles in reverse, complete with a motormouth driver called Vinnie, who asked us if we’d heard of this chick called Madonna. We were two blocks from Grand Central. It was, just as everyone says, like starring in your own Woody Allen movie.
And here we were, on the brightest day I’d ever seen, standing on the roof of a 107-floor tower, gazing at the whole city spread out before us like a strange, magical carpet. Behind us, a school party chattered, peering unconcerned over the barriers, looking for their school. Even in winter, Central Park was green, and the sky around us (it felt as if we were so high that it could no longer be above our heads) an achingly flawless blue. Our breath froze, and I swore it sparkled in the clean air. TLC took my hand, and we lost, momentarily, the capability for speech. There was no need for it, in this still point of beauty and joy.
This is a memory I cherish, and it can never be tarnished, never be changed, never be corrupted. I choose not to reflect on the events that came after, or note the arbitrary anniversary of a lunatic deed. There are plenty of other places that will. Today, I choose to remember happier times. I choose to celebrate the gifts that we have been granted, and a city awash in light.