The Streets are Not the Same II

Monroe (2006). Oil on Canvas. Artwork and Text copyright Danny Grosso.

There was once a restaurant here that was open for a hundred years, and a cantilevered sign on the corner that predicted the weather. Across the street, the sloping building with the Chagall mosaic on the outlot still attracts those worshiping a certain aesthetic deity. Sometimes people pray there.  A generations-old tale tells of a little girl who called the sloping structure “The Skateboard Building”, after musing about the feasibility of gliding down its curves on those little wheels. Over time, with the discard of several generic corporate re-namings, the nostalgia of the tale took hold, and now everyone uses the little girl’s name for the place. It used to be a big bank with thousands of people working inside, milling about with customers, sipping coffee in the interior promenade, and reading newspapers in the atrium. Such a quaint notion in these times of remoteness.  Banks are still around but they no longer need to employ so many people, certainly not for person to person servicing.

Before buildings became fortresses against outside threats of violence or contagion, they were open, even welcome meeting places with their own personalities and charms. If they were thought of as shelter, it was from the from the elements only, and, indeed, in inclement weather, workers would commute though a series of building lobbies to their destinations, thereby limiting exposure to the wind, rain, cold, or snow. Building security personnel did not carry weapons and did not turn away the uninvited. They were instructed to greet the public with kindness. It is said that nobody thought twice about freedom of movement back then, before the great walling off,  before the eyes in the skies, the surveillance web, and the personal chip that connects to all that. Apparently, they had no such infringements back then to clutter their minds.


-Danny Grosso

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