Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What Would Washington Say?

I found myself in lower Manhattan this past Saturday—about as low as you can get on a warm and humid morning. I walked among the caverns of Wall Street—a labyrinthine maze of streets—and through the memorials for 9-11. Tourists from all parts of the United States and the world were everywhere. A big police presence, too. Prior to 9-11 the very same terra firma was—as I recall on weekends—relatively quiet. But that was then and this is now. It’s 2017. The next anniversary of 9-11 will be its sixteenth.

An old friend and I now refer to four-year spans as “Spellman cycles.” We both attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx from 1976-1980—four interminable years from our perspectives. I hadn’t yet turned eighteen on graduation day. So, four years in time amounted to almost twenty-five percent of my life in toto. Right now, four years represents just a shade over seven percent of my existence. I guess this explains why four years go by in a heartbeat nowadays, and how four Spellman cycles have just about passed since that awful day in 2001. And nine Spellman cycles have come and gone since my high school days!

Speaking of the passage of time, I chanced upon the historic Fraunces Tavern in my recent adventure. Located on the corner of Pearl and Broad Streets, it’s the hallowed spot where General George Washington, upon the British surrender and evacuation of New York, bid farewell to his officers. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable,” he told the assembled. The date: December 4, 1783—fifty-eight-and-one-half Spellman Cycles ago.

If he could return today for a visit, I wonder how the Father of Our Country—the man on the dollar bill—would feel about things in the here and now. Esmerelda on Bewitched brought the man back to life for a spell, but that was in the colorful and contentious early 1970s. Armed Forces of Puerto Rican National Liberation  (FALN) detonated a deadly bomb in Fraunces Tavern several years later, But more than ten Spellman cycles have run their course since then. What I would like to know at this moment in time is what General Washington would make of the Subway franchise located right next to Fraunces Tavern in 2017? Seriously, is this what New York City has come to? When only a stingy-portions sandwich chain—apparently—can afford the astronomical rent in that historic part of town. The hair and nail salon above it likely gets a better deal. I don't know exactly what Washington would say about it all. Perhaps the hair and nail salon might intrigue him. A place he wished existed in the eighteenth century to powder a wig on a whim.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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