At times the conversational centerpiece of an introduction hinges on a loose claim to a city airport or main train station. Even well-known friends update you on their layover experiences; Atlanta and their business class shower at Hartsfield, Zürich and their discovery of the Luxemburgerlis, JFK and the no need to see jiggle of middle management businessmen on the massage chairs.
JKF International is probably the one terminal where going directly to your gate is advised and desired. The carpets are stained, the ceilings are low, the business class massage chairs huddled in the middle of the duty-free about as tempting as sewing a scarlet letter to your chest, showing all the markings of an executive team that realized no matter how run-down, people will come. This is what greets the number 1 hub for international passengers in the U.S., many coming to experience the Empire State of Mind, an interior reminding one of a giant bodega.
Welcoming and bidding farewell to those who greet and leave the city daily, for the commuters the blow of transition is cushioned with a cleanliness surprising by American standards let alone the City. Restoration and upkeep, arcades of glimmering, shiny stores tempting you with breakfast delights and Cartier (there isn’t one but it feels like there is), it’s painted gold star constellations all-around from the marble to the arches to the softest of muffins. When E.B. White writes that he once lived in Grand Central, I not only want to write like him but envy the idea that he once lived there too.
Endemic of most structures inspiring awe, Grand Central does not photograph well. Low lighting plagues the ceiling, the marble reflects light with too much glitz, and the natural light coming in from the windows will just about ruin any shot other than a streaming light photo. Under these imperfect conditions, aiming my iPhone upward was like making a prayer to God, I didn’t know how my request would be answered.
When I needed to ask a question, I hurried over to the one city worker leaning on a bannister above just watching the morning commuter traffic. He was conspicuously obvious standing against a throng of people with places to go. Reading up on Grand Central after the fact, I had missed so much more than having the time to properly capture the appealing ceiling. It held all kinds of genesis stories, engineering mysteries, and beautiful bars for the working man and woman. If only (Jackie K. Onassis) Grand Central could properly greet all international guests.