Nick & Nora Charles Never ComeMonday, January 15, 2018
One of the loveliest books I have ever read is Jerome Charyn's 1986 Metropolis - New York as Myth, Marketplace, and Magical Land. Charyn's chapter on how he relieves his melancholy in the Chrysler Building is superb and touching. Alas! This time around, in January when Rosemary and I visited the Chrysler Building we found that there are special turnstyles if you want to go up the elevators. No permissions are granted to tourists. And panoramics photographs and video are prohibited (for sercurity reasons, etc). I did manage to take some panoramics after I sweet-talked the Puertorican security guard in my Argentine Spanish. My memory of going up the Chrysler Building in 1987 is a blur. But then there is Charyn's, account a pleasure to read, below.
Madness, Myth, And Melancholy
Whenever that melancholy hits, the rub of New York, the realization we that we’re a town of such cruelties, with the relentless rise to fortune as our biggest theme song (we’re all mafia men), the grasping, the clutching, the hundred little dances we do to keep alive, from eating Stresstabs to showering and shaving, shrugging off the ghosts of sleep, the dread of the girlfriend gone…I put on my shoes and walk to the Chrysler Building. The whimsy of that steel top, a witch’s hood with a host of triangular eyes, is enough to shake the sadness out of me. It’s a reminder that New York once had an element of pure play, the belief in its own modernity. The building is slightly mad, with hubcaps in the walls, gargoyles borrowed from old Chrysler machines, and futuristic cars trapped in a design of brick. Chrysler has an innocence, a total trust in the passion and good of industry, that’s all but gone. Its entrance looms like a church celebrating the dream of the automobile, and its own breathless future, as Walter Chrysler saw it.
But I didn’t put on my socks on for an automobile show. The lobby of the Chrysler Building is one of the great hidden spectacles of New York. It’s not a tourist attraction, a hangout, a home for shopping-bag ladies. It’s a spa for melancholics like me. You enter into the softest light you could imagine, as if bulbs had suddenly become quiet worms under glass and you’d gone into a land of burnished red marble that bore no resemblance to the streets. It’s like one of Roxy’s movie palaces: a dreamscape with elevators, a clock and solid chrome. The clock is set in a dark wall, and its illumination is almost the drama of time itself – as if the dials were inventing each moment, and Chrysler caught you, held you in its sway. Nothing jars. Nothing hurts your system. Elbows never bump along those walls. You’ve fallen into the design and you’re cradled there, crazy as it seems.
There’s a letterbox with an Aztec eagle, and the most beautiful elevators in the world, with laminated wood, green lights on top, and the picture of the pharaoh’s plumed hat staring at you out of another age. I can imagine Nick and Nora Charles in those elevators, or Hammett himself, the original Thin Man. I wait but Nick and Nora never come. Not even their toy dog Asta.
Chrysler cured me, as it always does. It’s my private sanitarium in a public place. I can walk downtown again, go about my business. But the idea of sanitariums sticks in my head. Where do the melancholics go when they haven’t discovered the resources of the Chrysler Building
|Jerome Charyn - Melacholy Man - January 2018|