Tuesday, September 13, 2011

* Two Feet

Novak Djokovic

and his


Fifty years ago, when I was 16 ½ a teacher in my high school in Hamden, Connecticut, hired me to be the stagecraft counselor at his exclusive girls camp in Vermont on Mallets Bay.  His name was M.W.A. Hunt : Maskell Ware Applegate Hunt, III. His camp was named Buff Ledge  and it competed with a rival camp across the bay, Brown Ledge Camp, especially in their annual musical. 

That summer, 1962,  Mr. Hunt had decided Buff Ledge would stage The Sound of Music, and since he’d seen me act at Hamden High in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, his hidden agenda (which I knew nothing about when I accepted the job) was that I would take the male lead in the musical as Captain von Trapp. He couldn’t get any of the other male counselors to take the role and he hired me specifically to solve that problem. Adults, I was coming to learn, can be sneaky.

When I arrived at the camp I met another counselor my age from my hometown of Hamden, a tennis counselor,  Chuck __________. We became friends , and after the musical which turned out to be a big success, he and I hung out together back in Connecticut,and later in Ithaca where we both attended different schools,even taking our dates to  the Tanglewood festival (Chuck's treat) , a long, long drive as I recall from Hamden.

Chuck was from a wealthy family, and I was not. His father was an engineer and a professor at Yale.  When I would stop by Chuck’s house to pick him up for some outing we’d planned, his father was always sitting in his  Eames  chair, radically modern in 1962, and very expensive.

Chuck’s father wasn’t just any old engineer, he was the one who had designed the Empire State Building, then the tallest building in the world, which it remained  for forty years from its completion in 1931, at 102 stories.

In 1972 it was surpassed by completion of the World Trade Center Towers.

One of the things Chuck told me was that his father designed the building so that it would sway two feet-----  about the length of a tennis racket  --- in every direction at thet top of the building, a necessity to accommodate the rotation of the planet: A rigid building would fall over.

This has stuck in my mind all these years.  Even more so when I read that the World Trade Towers collapsed because the heads of the rivets at each corner of the building on each floor, melted under heat from the fires caused by the jet fuel of the airplanes embedded in the buildings.

I have wondered whether Chuck’s father --- a professor of engineering at Yale --- would not have thought of that.

Fifty years is a long time and next year it will be 50 years since I worked at Buff Ledge Camp, now long gone: a blink of the eye in human history.

The CBS News featured the new world tennis champion, 24-year old Novak Djokvic, on the  top deck of the Empire State Building today holding his victory cup.

The building itself is eighty years old. 

Chuck’s father died many years ago and a fellowship honors his name at Yale.

And while the Empire Building still sways two feet in every direction, the World Trade Towers do not .

They are but two footprints now.

All passes away.
Neither caliphate nor empire will stay.

September 11, 2001

September 13, 2011

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