The Perfect New York Moment
Updated: Oct 24
Over the years, I have been to New York City many times, visiting clients, researching design trends, buying and selling fabric and wallcovering designs. I was frequently sent by my company to attend seminars, visit showrooms and to just walk around and soak up styles and fashions. Usually during these visits, I always managed to do some shopping, to visit art museums, and to see a Broadway show. On one of my very first trips alone, I spent two days working, and then I had an extra day to be on my own. I tried to think of something fun to do and then I remembered that my college roommate’s brother Jon lived in Brooklyn. He was a young, kind of bohemian attorney, living primitively and ruggedly in a brownstone that he and his roommates were refurbishing, painfully and slowly. And, well - okay - I had somewhat of a crush on him. I called him and asked for suggestions of something to do with my free time and he said he would be right over to my hotel on his motorcycle to pick me up. It was the first time I had ever ridden on the back of a motorcycle, and I loved it. We rode through the streets of Manhattan, swerving from lane to lane, dodging the taxi cabs, and simply enjoying life on a balmy September day. Jon took us to Little Italy where the Festival of San Gennaro was in progress, for a dose of Italian culture and some delicious gelato and fried zeppole. We agreed to meet for dinner that evening. Jon suggested Windows on the World, the iconic restaurant on the top floor of Building One, the North Tower, at the World Trade Center.
At the appointed time - 7 PM, I took a cab to the WTC and entered the lobby. There was an elevator which was the size of a small room, and I was the only person to enter. The elevator lumbered heavily up 107 floors, creaking and shaking the whole way. I hung onto the metal hand bars and held my breath. The elevator ride was scarier than the motorcycle ride had been. I finally reached the top floor, and the elevator doors opened to engraved glass doors which in turn opened to a spectacularly beautiful restaurant. Jon was waiting for me, dressed in a white three-piece suit at a table for two. We ordered from the menu, then walked with our cocktails to the huge windows on the north and east sides of the restaurant, to see sprawling New York City views with glittering lights and twinkling stars. (I’m not sure if there were stars but if there weren't, there should have been.) After a very nice but unmemorable dinner (because Windows on the World was more about the view than the food), Jon asked me to dance to the music of the four-piece orchestra which was tucked into a corner of the room. Of course, I agreed, and we took to the floor. The band was playing the ultimate New York song, written in the twenties by Rogers and Hart. I'm sure you've heard it: "I'll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too, it's lovely going to the zoo." As I danced to that song with my handsome, elegantly dressed partner, with the sparkling lights and glorious views stretching out before us, I thought "This is the perfect New York moment." The city, the music, the restaurant - it was all so perfect.
When it came time to leave, and the bill was presented, Jon said "You are on an expense account, right?" Well, my company covered my expenses, but they certainly weren't going to pay for a friend who wasn't a business associate. After all, I was a young aspiring designer, not someone in management. Jon seemed somewhat peeved when he saw that he was going to have to cough up his part of the expensive meal. After we settled the bill, we then took the spooky elevator down to the street and Jon waved a taxi over for me. As he helped me into the cab, he said, "I don't know how I feel about sending a young woman off into the night with a strange cab driver, but - oh well" and slammed the car door. And with that, any kind of a crush I might have had on Jon sort of fizzled and died.
Years later, I gathered with my colleagues around a television in the conference room of the company I then worked for, on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday morning. I watched as two airplanes destroyed both towers of the World Trade Center and I knew that thousands of people were perishing at that moment. I pictured Windows on the World, crashing to bits and burning. As I watched, I thought of the beauty of the restaurant, the spectacular view of New York City, the music, the waiters, the diners, the dancing. And I knew that once upon a time I had experienced the absolutely perfect New York moment, a moment that was gone forever.