Last Sunday a vigorous wind whipped through New York City, but luckily it wasn’t too cold. The day before, a large rainstorm had come through town, but also luckily (for me), it had passed by the time my flight touched down Saturday evening.
On Saturday, there were various NY TV news reports involving downed trees and the like, plus one story about how – I don’t remember the details, and I can’t quite work them out retroactively – excess storm runoff had caused a number of manhole covers in the city to pop like campaign corks. Sudden buildup of trapped air pressure, or something.
There were witnesses, but no casualties. I remember years ago seeing the Jack Lemmon vehicle The Out-of-Towners, a story of Midwesterners visiting New York on a one-damn-thing-after-another odyssey, and at one point a manhole cover or two popped near Lemmon, alarming him and his wife (Sandy Dennis). I didn’t know things like that actually happened.
Toward mid-afternoon on Sunday, I got off the MTA 7 train at Shea Stadium station. The doors toward Shea Stadium, above which a sign said BASEBALL, were chained shut. The subway series hadn’t worked out, after all. On the other side of the station, the doors toward Arthur Ashe Stadium, above which a sign said TENNIS, were chained shut as well. Tennis season is over. But I was surprised by how large the facility is; it looks like a small football or baseball stadium. Later I read that it’s the world’s largest stadium just for tennis – 22,500-plus seats and skyboxes, too, of course.
From the Shea Stadium station south into Flushing Meadow Park is a wide boardwalk, obviously built to handle the crowds of a world’s fair. Last Sunday it was handling a trickle of people, though the further I went into the park, the more crowded it became. Off in the distance were a lot of people, enjoying what I guessed was a soccer game. Sounded like it. Sometimes commentators blab about how Americans don’t like soccer, as if it were a character defect. It’s nonsense, anyway. Americans don’t like professional soccer.
Then again, Flushing Meadow Park is in Queens, and very like most of the audience for the game were Spanish-speaking, many from countries that do like pro football. In any case, I soon came to brick structures that marked the Gotham Plaza entrance for either the ’39 and ’64 Worlds Fairs or both, and various inscriptions in the plaza, including lists of the contents of the fairs' time capsules, one interred in 1938 and the other in 1965, both intended to be opened in the year 6939. That made my day. What could be cooler than time capsules with such long-range ambitions?
I’d heard of them before. A good many years ago, I saw a documentary that covered the 1939 World’s Fair, and it showed the lowering of the Westinghouse capsule – looking more like a torpedo to me – into the ground. But I have a more personal interest in time capsules, having buried some myself, following the lead of my older brothers, who used to bury old pill bottles with notes inside and sometimes dug them up later. In the summer of 1974, I buried two or three glass jars wrapped in aluminium foil in the back yard in San Antonio, with the intention of digging them up in the summer of 1979, after I’d graduated from high school. And dig I did that late ’70s summer, but in vain, because everything (I assume) had disintegrated by then.
I did not, ultimately, see the big concrete marker that rests on top of the ’39 and ’65 capsules themselves. If I’d had a little more daylight, I probably would have found them, but my main goal that day was seeing the Unisphere. That can’t be missed if you’re in the area. More about it tomorrow.