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February 15, 2003
Not very Subway 52-53

This is a bit of the opposite of a Subway drawing. It is the roof of the Winston Towers in Miami, Sunny Isles. I was not really expecting to write it down in this context, but I really like to go to roofs. No, I love going to roofs of places. It is an obvious passion, isn?t it? Especially for somebody who lives New York, this seems pretty obvious.
And yes, I went to the roof of the World Trade Center, the outside observatory, which was not always open. I think I must have spent 8 hours there, staring at the bay, the planes, the ships, and then, of course the city. The big, tidal wave of concrete and glass and metal. It does sound like a cliche, doesn?t it? The difference between the view from the World Trade Center and the view from any other roof in the city was its feeling of being removed. The World Trade Center was by far the tallest kid in DownTown, the other obviously tall buildings are in Midtown. So standing on the roof of the WTC was like watching New York in a really gigantic movie theater.
The Empire State Building is a completely different story. This gracious and solid friend is right in the midst of it all. The default observatory is outside and it is just right there, right in the city, between the large avenues, not far away from very recognizable places. It is the loud view as well. The city is really loud, obviously, but it becomes much more clear out there, on the 86th floor. The Empire State building has one more observation eagle nest, and it is a very tiny, very intimate space. I was only able to visit there once, at night, I will have to go again.
But these are the obvious roofs one can visit. When saying that I like going to roofs, these are not the roofs I mean. My best roof so far must have been the one of the Woolworth building. It was not really the complete top of the building, because this was guarded by cameras long before September 11th, but one of the shoulders of the building, the neck, the collar of the tower. It was a thrill. I think I had to walk up 40 floors or so to get to this door with an alarm and warning signs and all. I could not take the elevator, of course, as there were cameras in all of the elevators. The elevators usually do not go go to certain places, so I really had to walk. I used the wrong stairs several times. I would end up at a door that was supposedly a fire escape, but really looked like a fire trap to me. Steel doors to the roof, locked. I would not have liked to be there in the case of any emergency. It felt claustrophobic as it was. Fire exits are not designed for glamour. There is no air conditioning in the bellies of the sky scraping friends, the staircases have often not seen a paint-job for 50 years (or more.) The Woolworth building had several staircases and it took me three tries to find the right one. I do not regret taking the others before. Some were just dark and filled with a musty smell. The south staircase in the tower had tiny windows starting from a certain point, and so the view through them would become just more and more magnificent. And the details of the building itself, fantastic terracotta sculptures in beautiful colors were right there, large, right outside the window, not some tiny specks on the facade of a skyscraper. The north staircase of in the tower was the one I was looking for. It lead me by some open doors of abandoned companies at first, then there were the large air conditioners of the building, right outside the window, then came the tower, with views of down town more and more and more. The climb took about 30 Minutes or so and it was a bit of a sporty experience of course. Then came the door. The door was equipped with alarms and large red warning signs. I believed them all. I believed that I would trigger a syren, and that somebody would come to get me. That was actually a good thing. I had locked myself out on the roof of the Masonic Building just a few years ago. Nobody knew where I was, it was a rainy day, I was out there with a spectacular view all around, wearing a shirt, in the wind. The door just locked behind me. I did not know that it was the only door. I looked for the other exit for a while, but there was none. There were only loud air conditioners, loud enough to drain any of my calls. There was this house, which I climbed to on a rusty ladder, three floors over the roof. There was a door in this "house", and yet it turned out to be the service door for the water tower. I crawled around the water tower, hoping for a trap door to the elevator room. There was nothing. I ended up turning off the air conditioning for the building. They were large switches. Maybe two feet each. Yellow and black icons showed me illustrations of my possible death through electrocution. I had to do something to call for help. Jumping around the roof would have not helped, it was rainy, I was cold. It was not pretty.
I think it took me 45 minutes or so to have my adrenalin rise to the level at which I just ripped out the lock of the roof door. I used my both arms, and both of my legs. The door gave up, and I just went back into the building. The quiet and warm place.
The Woolworth building was different. I was very much aware that a door could lock behind me, that there might be no way back. I did not want to try to open something that told me not to mess with it.
So there was the door, maybe on the 63rd floor?, I do not quite remember. Next to the door was a window. The view was magnificent. I was in a staircase, in this historical structure, had the most amazing view of downtown, it was really wonderful. I could have just taken the stairs back... I opened the window and walked out onto the small gravel covered roof. It was just like that. And suddenly I was one of the decorations of the building. The view opened up. I saw the Twin Towers right there, a ferry was just coming in from New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty was south of me, as was the rest of Down Town. Glorious lit roofs of the Wall Street area. Simply beautiful. I was very careful now. I had no idea what might have been behind the locked door. The window to the left belonged to the space behind the door and I did not want to find out too much about what might be there. I peeked just very carefully around the corner. It was an abandoned, gutted space. There was a chair in it, and some lose electrical wires everywhere, but otherwise, it was as raw and gutted as they get. There was obviously nobody in the space. I was now free to walk around one of the roofs of the Woolworth building. I had unobstructed 360Degree views of the downtown area. It was not a view as removed as the one from the World Trade Center, but it was a much older view. An almost 90 year old view. The Brooklyn Bridge was below me and the Statue on top of the Municipal Building was its golden self. almost 50 blocks up from me the Empire State Building, the Chrysler building, the rest of the pack. It was a very magnificent experience. I returned to this roof many times. I also eventually found another open window which led me into the abandoned space. I would just sit there sometimes, in the chair that was facing the window through which I could see the top of the Empire State building. It was glorious.
Wow, really went off on a tangent here. The drawing below is of the roof of the Winston Towers in Miami. The roof has been locked, so the drawing is not from nature. I just remembered what the roof looked like when I got on there in March 2002. This is when I also took the pictures, which are below the drawing. It is a large building, the roof was a very nice outdoor space. I really like the gigantic air conditioners, the pipes, the air-vents. By looking at the photographs and the drawing, it is very easy to see that drawing allows for a very different dynamic of space than photography. The drawing has a very playful and joyful feel to it. The proportions of the items in the picture and the angles of the lines are set to be descriptive but also very happy and layered. The two air conditioners seem to be friends calling each other, The other buildings are watching this moment. There are so many things seemingly "wrong" with this drawing, but they are the details that make is so charming. There are some edges in objects, but most of the things here are soft and almost huggable. The perspective is off, and bent and very much out of shape, but this helps to tell a story. The page is a jotted down reminder of things. It made me finally write down some of my silly roof adventures. I like the photographs very much, but I do not think they would have made me tell a story. The photographs are so filled with completed, finished, obvious information, they invite to point out details, not to go on and on about memories. Both work, yet both seem to speak to completely different portions of the brain. The drawing could be much more freed from trying to create an illusion of space. It could be much more of a story than it is now, of course. Many of my drawings are much more flat, at first sight. They do not use linear perspective, they are very much translations of thoughts, of ideas, not of direct observations of the world as we are told it looks like by photographs.
Except for the camera lucida drawings, of course, which are photographs, with me as film.
Oh, this is turning into a story I wanted to tell some other time, and I will.

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