Sunday, July 07, 2013

An old friend found again

Many years ago, before I was an entrepreneur and before I was a military sergeant, I was part of the rat race in New York City. I commuted from the suburbs via the concrete tubes with cattle cars carrying others just like me. We all scurried through the streets in the early morning sun like bugs under a flashlight, seeking refuge in our artificial corporate environments. All day long we were surrounded by the clicks of keyboards and ringing phones and gurgling water coolers. UV lights and recycled, conditioned air makes you wither like any small desk plant suffering the same, confined fate.

Lunch was like 1 hour parole from all things contrived. Sometimes, I'd have to order in if I had enough work to keep me on the go. Other days I'd trade bright UV lights and taupe walls for dimly lit bars shrouded in mahogany and brass, amidst a sea of other charcoal gray suits.

Every now and again and as often as time would allow, I'd get food from a to-go place or a street vendor and go to one of two places. One was Battery Park, which was a very special place for me, but I'll tell you about that another time. Mostly though I'd go to Zucotti Park, now made famous by the hundreds of protestors during the height of Occupy Wall Street. Before all that nonsense took place, Zucotti Park and I had a routine.

I'd walk down and stop at the pizza or sandwich places nearby and grab something that came in a white or brown paper bag. I would always go to the same spot on the same bench. And there, I'd find my friend waiting for me. He wasn't a real friend. He was a bronze statue. I had known him since I was a kid. He was a guy in a suit with an open briefcase on his lap. He stared into it, intently, because that is, after all, where all his important business resided. If you look in, you will see an old calculator, half smashed soft pack of cigarettes, pens, pencils, folders and even an old tape recorder.

When I arrived, he'd never stop his work to look up or acknowledge me. Nonetheless, I'd place my bag in his briefcase so he didn't have to work through lunch, like I had to on so many other days. I'd quietly eat, often while marveling at the World Trade Center which was less than 100 yards away. I'd look at him, a businessman like myself but frozen and serene yet harried and busy by the position he was in.

After September 11th, he was gone. He was removed, as to not be in the way, but thankfully undamaged and, by the look on his face, undaunted by the terror. This sounds silly to most people, I know, but it wasn't about this guy. He didn't have a name. If he did, it would just be "business" because that's what he represented. He kept on after 9/11, just like business in NYC did. I heard he was put back to carry on, but I didn't see him because, I of course traded charcoal gray for olive drab green when I went into the military. My friend, "business," was always there for me, so it was time that I was there for him.

Then I heard he was moved yet again. I also heard that people had left flowers and tokens and signs and patches all over him, and that the sculptor took the real versions and affixed bronzed versions of them to him. He no longer is business, but, rather, a tribute to it and the strength of it in that city. I heard he crossed the river into NJ, but that was about all I knew.

After breakfast this morning, Linda and I drove around downtown Jersey City to look at the water and the NYC skyline from our new neighborhood. I pulled down a dead-end street with a 9/11 memorial created out of twisted, contorted I-beams from the towers. As I spun around in the cul-de-sac to park I saw someone sitting all alone in the sun. It was my friend.

I recognized him immediately and all but slammed the car into park and ran over to him. He has so much new, cool stuff adorning him. He is a memorial, but if you look close enough you can see his tape recorder and calculator, and even the same half smoked, half crushed pack of cigarettes.

I quietly, and as Linda was looking around elsewhere, said hello and told him it was good to see him. He kept on with his business, just like he did so many years ago during our lunch visits. He looks different and he is in a different place, but some things remain constant even as they evolve. Just to his left is the new, almost finished Freedom Tower. Downtown looks forever changed.

He's just a silly statue to some, but he was my lunch buddy before all mayhem. Before I left everything behind. He was there when I'd look at the Twin Towers in awe (no matter how many times I saw them), and he's there again. Full circle. I was happy to have found him again. No matter what he is to you, he's an old friend, found again to me.