New adventures in Gotham

“You can’t park there,” says a voice from nowhere in particular.

“Where are you?” I ask from the empty street next to a grand building without apparent entrances.

There’s no answer. Behind us on the street where we’ve parked a shirtless man growls as he walks in our direction.

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“You’ll have to move on,” the voice says.

We get in the car to do as he says. We’ve recognized the place as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, famous as the holy grail of caper movies. It holds ten percent of the world’s gold reserves in a vault that stretches several floors deep until the building bedrock.

“Thank you,” comes the discombobulated voice as we move on, the growling man passing our car as we stop at a light.

The next morning I head blocks down Broadway to walk the dog on a stretch of lawn in Battery Park. Every ten yards or so there’s a bronze strip with a once-famous name and a date. It takes me several to gauge what’s being commemorated. These are the recipients of ticker-tape parades, which reached a peak of 15 to 20 a year in the 1950s. I’m surprised at the recipients: foreign dignitaries, winning athletic teams, aviators, Jesse Owens, the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. A canyon of heroes.

Later I’m speaking with friends down by the great bay, a breeze cooling the 96-degree heat. There are yachts tooling around. A diverse array of families. We’re hearing stories about the beauty of the quiet that was everywhere a couple of months ago. People are trying to figure out what comes next. What’s going to last?

The discussion is different from what I’ve heard in the Hudson Valley, or where I live in downtown Albany. Nothing’s going to be certain until after the election. Until then and after then, systems we’ve set up will do all they can to protect themselves.

And the economy? Not cash versus credit, but the whole magillah represented by that building we tried to park near which talked to us.

Bigger things will give. “They” have known this for a long, long time, which is why we have such vaults, such fears, in the first place.


Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.