While in New York City for work last week, I had an opportunity to extend my business trip and enjoy a mini-vacation, so I took it.
I stayed an extra two days, spending the night at a friend‘s apartment near the Queensboro Bridge. It’s a marvelous place, modest and cozy and full of light, thanks to the living room’s wall of windows overlooking 59th Street and First Avenue.
Whenever I visit, I love to just sit and observe the motion of Manhattan through those windows.
From my perch on the 16th floor, I watched cabs streaming down First Avenue and 59th and across the bridge. I saw a fabulous thunderstorm creep in from the southwest, slowly and ominously filling the space over the skyscrapers with darkening billows of blue-gray. And, best of all, I had a front-row seat to the comings and goings of the Roosevelt Island tram.
Because it’s a commuter service, if you’re watching during morning or evening rush hour, you’ll see it pass back and forth quite often, every 5 minutes or so. Of course, for a shutterbug like me, it provides an abundance of photo ops. But wouldn’t you know it, the one time I didn’t have a camera handy, I spied something unexpected. Because I didn’t rush to find my iPhone or little point-and-shoot Canon, I don’t have a record of what I saw. Well, except for what I wrote about it.
ABOVE THE FRAY
against hazy Manhattan morning,
the tram glides into view
two dozen stories above First Avenue
and I’m startled to spy some guy
propped atop it —
blue-uniformed, one leg perched
on the big-riveted beam holding cabin beneath cables;
Washington crossing a river of cabs and commuters.
He looks brave to me.
But as the tram passes I see
he’s simply standing there on the rather wide roof,
catching a ride, I guess, to the other side.
He must just be doing his job,
checking mundane mechanisms,
gears and belts and wheels,
ready to find and fix
any glitch in the system.
I happened to look up and spot him,
but did the passengers know
he stood guard over them?
Island to island,
a solitaire sentinel,
arms left loose at his sides–
heroic enough for not holding on,
this Manhattan mechanic.
Probably I alone
witnessed his sureness
for those few minutes
on the Roosevelt tram rooftop
when he was King of the World —
or at least
the Upper East Side.
©2014 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz