|Vol. 19 No. 78||
Thursday December 31, 2020
I am an Airport kid
I grew up at the Marine Air Terminal in New York City. At the time I was unaware of the unique perspective it afforded me—how few children gestated in the belly of a great, round terminal, nourished by ephemera and the hollow, high-topped sound of cavernous spaces carved in marble. I was a wild thing in a civilized cave, hiding behind wooden benches salvaged and meticulously arranged by my father, who recognized their beauty and inherent historical value, and saved them from the garbage heap. Each had a steel propeller inlaid in its sides, as if at some miracle moment the propellers would thrust outward from the wood, rotate frontwise, and the benches would steal away in flight. They lined the rounded walls of the Marine Air Terminal’s atrium, which pumped the people in from the streets and fed them to their flights down ventricular hallways. My father had also placed four benches in the center of the room, facing outward, their sides aligned so each propeller had a mirror image in its neighbor. The negative space they created behind them—a small square of Marine Air Terminal real estate—was my island, and I comforted myself by lying on my back on the floor and looking straight up at the round ceiling, which was tiered with concentric circles leading up to a circular skylight, like some great windowed eye staring at the sky. The iris of that eye was the mural my father saved from obscurity. The great WPA-artist James Brooks painted his earth-toned “Flight” along the upper walls of my cave—it was my very first picture book. If you stood in the center of the MAT and rotated slowly, the story of man’s ascension to the clouds was depicted in vivid detail.
I suppose it was through the
great eye of the Marine Air Terminal that I first saw the world.
The room to the right of
his desk housed a small cabinet with toys belonging to myself and my older
brother, Geoff, and a spiral staircase that ended with a door to the Pan
Am Shuttle. The wall showcased a large piece of art created by my father—a
magnesium stencil silhouette of birds in flight, hung behind glass panels
and backlit by white light. Another of his salvage pieces, my father rescued
the birds from Building One at Newark Airport. The birds had once flown
above the arrivals/departures doorway, but my father discovered them in
the trash while delivering editions of Air Cargo News to Newark Airport.
Building One at Newark was another of my father’s preservation pet
projects. While the Port Authority had initially sanctioned renovations
on the historic terminal—and in the process, destroyed much of the
art and architecture of the place, despite a book my father published
in 1978 in dedication to the building—later, in 1981, my father
was able to halt further destruction with the help of Port Authority’s
new aviation director, Robert J. Aaronson.
I was an airport brat. I thought Rocco’s Yankee Clipper café
was my extended kitchen, and the MAT was my living room. I got free gum
at the newspaper stand and raced at top speed down every corridor, and
when my father lost his office at the MAT—how quickly this world
forgets those people who work, tirelessly and often thanklessly, to preserve
its legacies—I felt like I had lost a dear, old friend.
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Vol. 19 No. 75
Air Cargo Future Full of Presents
Chuckles for December 14, 2020
Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend •
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend • Advertising Sales-Judy Miller
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