From my bed I can see the Chrysler building through my bedroom window. What a magnificent structure. It seems to blend the best of the old with the new and I’m struck by the paucity of words that I have to describe the beauty of the building. As I look at the buildings around the Chrysler building I realize that there are other beautiful buildings that I know nothing about. I don’t even know their names.
Interesting. My window affords me this wonderful view of one of the greatest cities in the world, and after two years of looking through it I know no more about the buildings that I look upon than on the day I first looked at this view.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
I now know that the apartment building just off to the side in line with the Chrysler is called The Vanderbilt. The Croatian beauty that I met at the party at the Turkish embassy last Friday night told me she lived there. I had just told her that I lived at the High Point and she offered that she lived at the Vanderbilt in a way that suggested I must know her building.
Of course I should have, but I didn’t. I knew enough to know that it was one of the buildings close by, but I was ashamed to admit that I did not know which one the Vanderbilt was. I had asked the doorman of my building which one the Vanderbilt was and he pointed it out. Just obliquely opposite my own building.
Right across the street.
From my window I wonder how many other buildings, beautiful or interesting in some respect, do I still not know.
Almost all of them.
My eyes look but they do not see. Isn’t this somebody’s famous saying? Very appropriate to me it seems.
I am only now awakening to discoveries in waiting. Right before my eyes, and right outside my window. Is this a metaphor for my life? Why should I care? What does it matter that I don’t know anything about the buildings that I see through my window?
What does it matter, for that matter, that I don’t know anything about the people that I see every day? The guys that work downstairs in my building, the old guy that sits in the Starbucks that I frequent, the Chinese lady in the dry cleaning establishment around the corner.
Perhaps because their stories may enrich my life. As an example, I can use the old guy that I see at my favorite neighborhood Starbucks. I actually do know something about him. He’s been in the neighborhood for a thousand years to hear him tell it. He knows everything about the neighborhood and he’s constantly being greeted by passers-by.
Often I’ve seen people pass by the Starbucks and turn around and come inside when they see him. He’s very pleasant. He certainly has his opinions but he’s got that certain sensibility that some acquire with old age which he displays by sharing his opinions only within his circle or upon solicitation. I’ve enjoyed his company and he’s made my neighborhood and particularly this Starbucks feel like my hood.
His name is Jim.
Jim lives just across the street from the Starbucks we frequent in a landmark of the neighborhood. It always struck me because it’s most defining aspect is its windows. The building, one of the Kips Bay Towers on 2nd Ave and 32nd St. in midtown Manhattan, has more windows than any apartment building I’ve ever seen.
Designed by I.M. Pei it is one of two towers that are these gigantic rectangular buildings that is unremarkable (to my untrained eye) except for its windows. Windows cover almost all of it’s exterior surface area.
Jim is sitting right next to me now as I write this and it occurs to me that Jim lives in one of those windows. One story among thousands of stories, all wrapped up in the giant story of the building itself.
Every window in every building is a story. One of the windows in the Vanderbilt is the story of that Croatian girl I met the other night. My own window that I look out every day is a story for someone else looking in, but for me looking out it’s thousands of stories.
It’s kind of like a library that holds thousands of books that I will never read, but I have the choice of picking any one of them at any time and by my experiencing the story my own story becomes more interesting.
From now on, I’ll be more observant of the stories that are right before my eyes, my own windows to the world.