Scenes from a Statue
Call it an obsession. This business of the Statue of Liberty
and us. We plead guilty.
Have we not written about it frequently on
these virtual pages over the years? The Statue
of Liberty to do a "360"? (APRIL,
2006 MUSE-LETTER) …Up In The
Crown No More (SEPTEMBER,
2006 MUSE-LETTER) …Up In The Crown
Once More (JUNE,
2009 MUSE-LETTER). Is Emma Lazarus’ famous
poem not embedded in this very website? Therefore,
it was a given, knowing we would be in Lower Manhattan at
Ground Zero on September 11th of this year, that we would
work in a visit to the newly reopened crown of the Statue.
Our first in seventeen years.
We well recall that last visit, when we carried
our son—then four years of age— up the entire
354 claustrophobic steps to the crown. The family joke was
that one day we would return, and this time he would carry
us up the whole way. And for sure there would be a next time.
For one thing, he could hardly be expected to remember the
first time around. For another, we believe, that the Statue
of Liberty should be experienced by all, as it is arguably
the most incredible monument ever created by humankind. We
can think of no other that embodies genius on so many levels:
aesthetics, engineering, magnitude, poetics, idealism, imagination.
Perhaps our passion is due in no small part, to the fact that
we grew up with it in our backyard, so to speak, and that
our grandparents came through nearby Ellis Island— a
fulfillment of the promise written upon the Statue’s
It was much different for us this time. No,
our adult son did not reciprocate and carry us up those daunting
steps—we were able to make it on our own steam. But
being there with him at this point in time, did seem like
some sort of rite of passage. Coupled with the fact, that
a visit to the Statue which was once about those “huddled
masses”— a fun touristy thing to do without much
advanced preparation— has now become a somewhat somber
“appointment experience” in a post 9/11 world.
Given the wariness of terrorism, which closed
access to the crown originally, a stringent process has emerged
for going up into the statue, as outlined in these steps:
1. Reservations must be made several months
in advance as only a limited number of people are allowed
up to the crown daily (we believe the number to be 240).
And the demand is great.
2. When buying tickets, each visitor in
the party must be identified by name.
3. One must stipulate whether one will
be embarking for the island from the New York or New Jersey
4. Tickets are held at a “Will Call”
booth, and will only be given to those with a valid identification
that matches the name on the ticket.
5. Before entering the Statue, all items
in one’s pockets (wallets included), must be put in
lockers provided on the premises.
6. To open a locker, one must place an
index finger on an electronic device which records the finger
print. (Similarly, to reopen it later)
7. One is fitted with a colored wristband.
8. One must wait in a vestibule, along with about a dozen other people, until cleared by a guard to begin the ascent.
9. Halfway up the statue, the wristband
is removed by another guard, to prevent a reentering of
10. The elevators from the base to the
foot of the statue are not in use. It must be walked the
11. Upon reaching the crown there are
no less than four guards within the limited space, and just
a smattering of other people (Which is the one benefit as
in the old days, the crown could be packed with many people,
and therefore suffocating)
12. Following descent, articles are retrieved
from the locker, and you leave through a one way turnstile
in a gated area.
In this context, the visit this time around,
almost seemed as if it were one in defiance. That as an American,
we will not be cowered by terrorism. And upon reaching the
summit, we felt as one might, emerging from the booth on election
day. Though this time, it’s as if one has voted with
one’s calf muscles and feet.
As an addendum, this experience was enhanced
by our having dined two days prior, at the River Café
a wonderful restaurant on the Brooklyn waterfront nestled
beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. From there, one has a view of
Lower Manhattan, and can watch the lights of the skyscrapers
across the river, come alive as dusk descends. And then in
full darkness on this night of September 11th, we were able
to see the twin light beams shooting skyward, in remembrance
and honor of the World Trade Center that once stood at that
We can only imagine the emotion that will be packed into these
venues a year from now on the tenth anniversary of that infamous
day. And we would not be surprised to find ourselves there
again among the re-huddled masses.
The spindly legs begin to buckle
as if the first steps of a foal still wet,
then give in the impact of the news
in the hallway of that pre-war flat.
In response to a gasp as to How?
He was shot someone said.
This morning at eight
another voice from nowhere added.
And on this, the Lord-taketh-away
of a day
they made a decision to keep it from him
until his classes that Thursday were done.
As if at that prestigious school
he was learning how to engineer
a new guardian angel on that very day.
One with wings of steel and a cast iron will
that could blacken the eye of any storm;
that could lift him beyond the very last cloud
to the rarified air of a new generation.
Instead this kid just hits the wall
and falls through the cracks in the floor.
Ode to James
We recently received an email from an old friend
and reader of these Muse-Letters that read:
noticed the 40th anniversary of Hendrix' death, and I
know you're a big fan of his. Me too.
my hippie days, it seemed as though every other t-shirt
bore his silhouette (or Che Guevara's). I think of him
as the Patron Saint of Tie-Dye. As a lover of the old
Southern Delta blues guitarists, I was stunned by the
sound he added to those simple blues chords. Only Leslie
West of Mountain and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top (Hendrix'
favorite guitar player) came close, and they were far
How could we, ever so vigilant of anniversaries
large and small (the retirement of the Burnt Umber Crayola
last month for God’s sake), have forgotten Jimi? He
died on September 18, 1970 to be exact.
Actually we did manage to pen this little
ditty a few years ago, so James Marshall Hendrix has not been
totally off our radar.
Jimi Hendrix kicks
his stallion guitar into gear
and it rears back its head
and whinnies and bucks
and gallops across
the eternal summer sky
going up in flames—
air hanging heavy
with the smoke of his time
the explosions in his mind.
And again, he was top of mind in the 40th anniversary
piece we did last year on Woodstock, in reference to his out
of body rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It seemed to re-enforce the general consensus that he is the best electric guitarist in the history of Rock music.
We also recall that we got to see him perform
once at a Peace Concert at Madison Square Garden in which
he shared the bill with a ton of Rock super stars. Although it has become a cliche to say that if you remember anything about the 60’s you weren’t there, we would swear to it that he sang two songs (including Foxy Lady) and then went to sit down on the stage over in a corner.
He was done for the day.
About a year or so later, he was done with his life as well.
Soon to be followed by Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, as Bob
also reminded us in his email, and that would be the beginning
of the end of the “Sixties” as we defined them.
countrymen…lend me your ears.”
The Independent Writers of Southern
California (www.iwosc.org) will have their bi-annual
public reading this month— “IWOSC
Reads Its Own” —hosted by yours
truly at the historical independent bookstore, Vroman’s,
in Pasadena. It will take place on Sunday October
3rd, from 2-4pm.
IWOSC is a group comprised
of nearly 300 professional writers of every type, including
an occasional “Muse-Letter” scribe. (We have been
a member for about seven years.) The mission since 1982, has
been: to hone the literary and business skills of its
members, through continued educational programs and networking.
These reading events afford us the opportunity,
along with 13 fellow writers of all genres and styles, to
read a sampling of our work. We like to think of it as a “wine
tasting of words.” And what makes this event particularly
special for us this time around, is that we are switching
it to a rather unique venue. We are going from the “Goliath”
that is Barnes & Noble, to the
“David” that is the independent known as Vroman’s
Bookstore. And if we have mixed metaphors, then
mixed they be!
As most of you must know, the independent
bookstore is becoming a dying breed not unlike many other
retail businesses that have fallen victim to what we call
“The ‘Chaining’ of America.” We don’t
have the stats as to how many “Indies” have gone
under—including the shocking demise of Dutton’s
in Brentwood a couple of years ago— but do we need numbers
to prove this depressing trend? Yet Vroman’s,
against all odds, continues to thrive. Which is especially
heartwarming given its rich history.
For the uninformed, as we were prior to taking
on this gig, here are a few bits of that history as taken
from their website:
Bookstore was originally founded on November
14, 1894 by Adam Clark Vroman… Born in 1856, in
La Salle, Illinois, Vroman moved to Pasadena, California
in the late 1800s to improve his wife's health. When she
died two years later, he started a partnership with J.S.
Glasscock and opened a book and photographic supply store.
He was a bibliophile with an extensive collection of books
which he sold to open the store. Once the store became
profitable, Vroman returned to book collecting, donating
his massive collection to Pasadena Public Library when
he passed away.
Vroman’s Bookstore holds
an important place in Southern California’s history…For
many years it was the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi,
and it continues to be the largest independent bookstore
in Southern California.
During World War II, Vroman’s
donated and delivered books to Japanese Americans interned
at nearby camps, returning on several occasions despite
being fired upon by camp guards.”
And what was your favorite bookstore doing
during the internment of Japanese Americans?
To help remember the date, time and place of this event…cut
along the dotted lines below. We hope to see you there. You
are in for a rare treat.