Friday, November 24, 2006

Greetings from New York


A late night Thanksgiving greeting to one an all. We're in New York City as the Manhattan sky line in the background demonstrates. Typically, we think of going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house for the traditional Thanksgiving Day feast. In this case we've migrated pretty far above the Mason-Dixon Line.

In our prowlings around Manhattan we've found the usual sea of people rushing everywhere. Unlike the tourists who frequently pause to take in the sights in downtown Charleston, these folks keep He who hesitates is likely to be flattened. We tend to think of New Yorkers as hustlers, bustlers, but not so much as traditional folks. That, however, would be only a surface observation.

New York has many historic landmarks, countless older buildings and significant places to which we enjoy returning. Like most visitors we feel somewhat sentimental toward these special places and take for granted that they will always be there. We were shocked to see the famous Plaza Hotel covered in massive pink signage announcing that it will no longer be a hotel, but will become ( very, very ) expensive condos. It seems close to a sin for this storied hotel to fall from public lodging into closed hands. It's a place which is known to many who never visited the city. It appears in books, plays, movies and television shows. Beyond all that, we wonder how many personal adventures have come to its many guests.

It is a sorrow to see it go and even more regrettable that it portends a dark trend in the Big Apple where we discovered several other legendary hotels will fall to the same fate. It is apparently a matter of the exponential increase in real estate values which has brought this about. It is certainly not for lack of guests as almost all of the hotels stay booked. In Charleston we always took the Peoples Building for granted and now it's taken the same turn as the Plaza. The Francis Marion Hotel is about the closest thing to the Plaza which remains standing in Charleston. We had better not take that or any other place of character in our city for granted.

New Yorkers and indeed people from all over the world took for granted that the World Trade Centers would continue to loom over the skyline until the lords of commercial real estate decided to build something else. That decision, of course, was tragically not for decent human beings to make as it turned out. Today New Yorkers seemed thankful to still have a city, to still be alive. Even the NEW YORK TIMES called upon citizens to keep this day one of thanks and not simply the precursor to obscene excesses in shopping.

They and we are losing the Plaza and we've lost the World Trade Centers for good. These are consistent with the frequent messages by which fate often warns us to take nothing, nothing at all for granted. We should likewise take note that our survival is never assured, but then neither is our doom. We regret the hits we've taken large and small, but we most clearly have so very much for which we should be thankful.


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