Remember my post about flexibility? Well, here it is in action . . .
I’d planned to write about writing consistency when it comes to being a writer (irony!), but I’m pivoting this week to talk about something that inspired me over the weekend. We took a quick trip up to New York City as a birthday gift for my soon-to-be sixteen year old. She’s been wanting to visit The Big Apple ever since we zipped past it on our way up to Maine seven years ago, and I’ve been promising a trip. This was the year we fulfilled that promise.
My daughter and her friend had an absolute blast. We didn’t get to see and do everything we wanted, but we packed a lot into the weekend: Times Square, Top of the Rock, Central Park Zoo, Little Italy, the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square again (post-blackout), and one of my favorite spots in all of New York City—Grand Central Terminal. As we entered the main concourse, the girls stopped and stared—eyes and mouths wide open—as they took in the grand ceiling, imposing windows, ornate chandeliers, and the iconic nature of it all. And through their wonder, I relived the utter joy that coursed through me when I saw it for the first time twelve years ago.
For those who live in the land of the five boroughs, I imagine the shining spectacle of Grand Central Terminal quickly dulls to a perfunctory patina. After all, it is at its core a transit station, designed to move large volumes of people from one place to another throughout the region. Much as I no longer “ooh” and “aah” at the deer that wander through my lake-bound neighborhood, I expect the verve and beauty of the terminal becomes mere background noise to those who navigate it daily to get to and from work. (Okay, so I still “ooh” and “aah” at the deer, but you get my point.) The novelty of Grand Central for me has yet to wear off in the handful of times I’ve seen it.
I still find it exciting, and that excitement extends not just to what I see, but also to what I hear and feel when I sit and soak in the tempo of the building. The din of humanity chatting, laughing and hollering as they rush about. Train departure announcements that echo off the cathedral-like ceilings, rendering the information nearly indiscernible. The screeching brakes and huffing engines of the long, metal beasts that crawl to and away from the station platforms. The experience reminds me of George Bailey’s line from It’s a Wonderful Life: “You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are? Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”
I think this gets to the heart of why I adore Grand Central Terminal. It’s a place that speaks the language of travel and adventure, of movement and pacing, of rhythm and beats. It evokes good storytelling. Just think of the train station or airport terminal scenes in your favorite movies or shows, and chances are they showcase hilarious openings, bittersweet interludes, or riveting climaxes. Writers know that places like Grand Central are both logical and dramatic ways to open or end scenes, or to introduce or bid adieu to characters.
The writer, reader and movie lover in me picks up on this, so when I visit Grand Central, I just know that something crucial and lifechanging is happening to someone, somewhere, in that building. Poignant goodbyes. Passionate hellos. Exciting beginnings. Tearful endings. Missed connections that launch unexpected trajectories. Coincidental meetings that lead to unforeseen opportunities. Writers can’t ask for a better gift than the ability to include a bustling harbor, airport, or bus station in their story.
While Grand Central Terminal runs on schedules and dependency, it’s filled with the promise of possibilities and chance. It’s a place where anything can happen, and I’m almost certain it does, on a daily basis. That speaks to my writer sensibilities in a way a handful of neighborhood deer simply can’t.