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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter's Tale

I was reading Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale on the train coming into Manhattan when I reached the end of the tale. The story merged time and space together in the snow-filled mythic city of Manhattan with its darkness and white lights. Those who had passion to punch through time had a pursuit that spanned through space and somehow the mechanism that produced the New York Sun had something to do with it all. The New York Sun, the popular newspaper founded in 1833 was a central part of the story. The main character, Peter Lake was The Sun's master mechanic at the turn of the 20th Century and he is there again a hundred years later bringing back life to the old press. His obsession to stop time and bring back the dead plays an important part in the story. I was thinking about The Sun when I departed the train and walked through Penn Station. I wondered what it would have been like to work there in the 1800's. Outside the station, the air was crisp, the sky was gray, and the smell of chestnuts roasting tugged at the memory of the novel I had just finished.
Ending a book is like living in a remnant of where I just left, the author's world created in my mind. I stay there for a day or two as I go about my reality.
Once I left the station, I decided to stroll through Macy's on my way to work. I longed to continue my nostalgic sense of Christmas. I passed the men's department, climbed the stairs to the heart of the store, then moved swiftly through the perfume counters with their fragrance hucksters, and swept through jewelry, making it to handbags and finally the Broadway exit. Perfect, I could see the windows. And there they were entertaining tourists and fascinating children. They were dedicated to "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Macy's "Believe" theme was based on the popular front page story printed in The New York Sun in 1897. There it was right in front of my eyes, the newspaper! One of the windows showed the editor, Francis Pharcellus Church composing the piece at his desk in the office of The Sun. The remnant of Winter's Tale merged with my reality, the two worlds collided, just as it had in the book. The Sun was the connection. As I stood there mesmerized, something came back to me. I could hear my Uncle Al's voice from a Christmas Eve long ago as he recited "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." It was a magical night as the winds howled, and the snow fell. I am the only one left to remember that night since my family is gone. Just like in the book, they must exist somewhere, I am not that different from Peter Lake who only wants to stop time and bring back the dead. Tears filled my eyes as I studied the windows and thought of my sentimental state at 34th Street. But hey, I can give myself a break to be nostalgic, after all, I thought, "Yes, everyone, there is a Santa Claus," and at that moment a Michael Jackson impersonator passed the windows and waved to us with his white glove.

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