A Reflection of the High Line (at West 14th Street)
This leg of the High Line feels like a living frame of some delusional surrealist film. It’s just so strange. Barely visible railroad tracks squash the fledgling green life below them. The rails are prison bars, the grass their victims. Above the ground looms a high-rise with clean glass windows and clean glass doors. It stands like a man on Wall Street, erect in a black designer tux that’s too elaborate, too expensive, too out of place. This sight is a collage of hideously misplaced magazine cutouts. Shattered windows against sleek new buildings, black gravel and trash against spotless paths, fading graffiti art against blocks of new concrete. But in the midst of the woefully incoherent setting is a symbol of redemption. It is a man shaving ice. Inhale, shovel, exhale. Inhale, shovel, exhale. The block of frozen water hides his torso. Only his face and working hand are visible. He is calm, at total peace. Every nerve on his face is relaxed, every ounce of taxing effort his block of ice demands dissolves in his serenity. At first, his presence is almost as displaced as the concrete jungle this High Line has become. He is too human, too real to be standing against such a plastic backdrop. But that very authenticity is what makes the rest of the atmosphere bearable. The contentment on the man’s face is a small but powerful beacon of hope. The broken windows and scattered rails no longer feel like disturbing memories of what was once a beautiful past. The man is still smiling. Everything is in its right place, part of an endless cycle of construction and destruction. Because, no matter how much the urban monster kills the monuments of the past, no matter what knocks down beauty and brings up concrete walls of gray, the man’s face will always be at ease. His art is his spirit, his spirit is eternal.