This is the latest entry in our ongoing series on the city of New York. You can revisit the archive of that series here.
It Happened In New York
by Rachel B. Glaser
By the year 2004, even my mom used the word "retarded" loosely. Hollywood kept banking on American fears: AIDS/Aliens. New York was spilling into New Jersey. But through it all, The Port Authority Bus Terminal kept getting more and more beautiful.
The poolball sculpture was covered with dust. The 400 gates looked as close to dreams as reality can pervert. Archiac red tiles, dirty 1980s escalators; the bus terminal was a combination of brick and linolium, foggy glass and scratched metal beams.
Outside the abstract limbo of the gates, little kids called each other fags. Late-night cartoons had gotten so nilistic and revolting, reasonable people felt disgusting. No one believed the mad cow articles. They just ate hamburgers.
But classical music flowed through Port Authority. Toilets flushed on repeat. Twenty color-unbalanced televisions were stacked like an Nam June Paik piece, to assist with security.
Does all get redone in the "new" style? Penn Station looks like a titanium Powerbook (so does Newark airport, and all airports?) This phenomenon struck me most when I visited Reykjavik, Iceland and found it reminded me of Windows 97. It was a gorgeous interpretation of Windows. Windy, modern, organized, ducks. Any coldness was from the climate, and the shining reflections in glass.
Since 2004, Port Authority has renovated their 200s gates, doing them up in all white tile, like a bathroom, or a music video, a good set for spilled blood, or Mr. Clean cleaner (or both).
Breaking news: The Port Authority, will, one day, be renovated.
I guess the architects are at it again. Good-bye bricks and browns and yellows. I sense that white and silver will be prominent in the "new" design. What an empty aesthetic trick. Is all architecture parallel to our hearts fated to be replaced with "Millennium Sleek"? See you in the future.
Rachel B. Glaser is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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