Once back in the summer of 1974, I spent the night right in the center of Spanish Harlem in New York City. The marimbas were playing all through the night, and people were singing, dancing and cooking, because it was a Saturday night. There were screams of joy, and a few of pain. I slept well that night, with the smell of the spicy food creeping into my dreams and making me famished for breakfast.
We had been to the site of the newly built, soon to be opened World Trade Center earlier that evening, and had been invited to go up part of the way in an elevator by a construction foreman. There were four of us young men: a long tall Texas boy, an African American former college football player from Kentucky, our bespectacled New York native Peace Corp member…in whose apartment we were staying, and me…the backwoods Georgia boy.
We rode the subways, visited the harbor where lady liberty stood, and got hot dogs at Coney Island. Nobody had a bad word to say to us, never disparaged our little mixed group, or even looked at us funny. We went about the town fearlessly, never anticipating any harm or trouble. Just three out of towner’s getting shown the ropes by the city boy.
Those lights, music and smells from that night still bubble to the top of my memory from time to time, and I wonder how the world has gotten so much more callous and hateful in forty short years. I’d like to go back in time once again and look out over the lights of Manhattan from those soon to be opened, ill fated towers and yell out to the people below to stay the same as they were.