Monday, September 11, 2006

Manhattan’s Manhattan

I remember visiting the World Trade Center for the first time as a kid, in the early 80's, on a whirlwind tour of Manhattan with my mom and sister. My mom even took us into Windows On The World for lunch. It was breathtaking.

The next time I went there was in the summer 1990, with a few fellow students from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Being “aspiring artists” Windows On The World was out of our budgets – but peeking inside the famous restaurant was still a thrill for me.

The last time I visited the towers was in 1997. Little did I know that the photos taken from the roof deck of one of the twin towers would come to mean a lot more to me a few years later. Peering down on that glittering city, looking out across an awe- (and vertigo!) inspiring expanse, it was hard to imagine that those crystalline beauties upon which we stood could even be thought of as fragile or vulnerable.

In 2005, I was in Manhattan again. I did not want to go to Ground Zero. However, a girlfriend was visiting from Germany. We were doing the tourist dash from uptown to downtown, and back again. Returning from Battery Park, past Wall Street and heading toward Midtown, suddenly and quite by accident, I found myself there, standing in front the chain-link fence surrounding Ground Zero.

Overpowered with emotion, I got choked up,
thinking of the people trapped inside the buildings that day. I thought of the panic they felt - jammed into the stairwells trying to escape. I imagined the phone calls telling loved ones "good bye" and not to worry. Who would I call first, in the last moments? My blubbering turned to tears as I recounted stories to my friend, and thought about what it takes to seize the last shred of control and jump out of a doomed skyscraper. I marvelled again at the rescue workers, the people blind-sided in the Pentagon, and Flight 93, crashing in the fields of Pennsylvania whose passengers, with their "let's roll" attitude, died heros...

It was still too much to imagine that could happen, standing on that sidewalk, gazing upward into empty blue sky.

I never did get to drink a Manhattan atop the world, but I can share New York’s “King of Cocktails” Dale DeGroff formula for the perfect Manhattan. In addition to founding the Museum of the Cocktail, he also trained many of the bar staff at Windows On The World.

On this somber anniversary, a liquid tribute to one of the most special cities in the world…

Greater Manhattan

2 oz. Blended Whiskey
1 oz. Sweet Spanish Sherry (Windows On The World substituted sherry for Italian Sweet Vermouth, which is more commonly used)
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and stir as you would a Martini. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry. Note: If you prefer a dry Manhattan, use dry Vermouth and garnish with a lemon peel.

Interesting side note: On January 4, 2006, a number of former Windows on the World staff opened Colors, a co-operative restaurant in Manhattan that serves as a tribute to their fallen colleagues and whose menu reflects the diversity of the former Windows' staff.


Metrocurean said...

I'm very impressed with your ability to tie the day's headlines to a cocktail. I'm starting to think you need a whole column just devoted to pairing the top headline of say the NYT with a cocktail ... a challenge! Keep up the great work. =) said...

Well, I guess it pays off to have finally started reading the paper again... ;-)

Maybe DC rubbed off on me a little bit, afterall...

BTW - You know I'm a big Metrocurean fan, too! Where would we eat in DC if not for you, my dear??


Julie Brosterman said...

My experience at Windows on the World has also impacted me on a personal level. I was the assistant to the Director of the Windows on the World Restaurant and worked in various capacitise both above ground (as Assistant Director of Personnel) and below (as Assistant Director of the Receiving Dock 5 stories underground for all 17 restaurants run by INHILCO the company that ran all the food services for the WTC properties). Even 25 years later, I knew that building lack the back of my hand. When 'famous' or important people would come to visit, I was usually chosen to lead the hours long tour through the maze of facilities that kept the heartbeat of the 'city within the City' going day and night. I got my first "taste" of wine education in 1980 pouring at the new Windows on the World Wine School created by Kevin Zraly.
When the towers came down I was living in Los Angeles - and had been here since 1983. I was woken by my sister who lives in NY to tell me that "we were under attack" and that she was not at her office in the WTC which had recently been sublet to Marsh and Maclellan but rather uptown at a client. Together we watched as the second tower was hit - and then stayed on the phone while the towers fell. It was so personal to both of us - yet neither of us spoke.
It will always be a part of me those two twin 'beings' - the memories of the inside out umbrellas while crossing the promenade and the plants that used to slide off of my desk on the 106th floor when we were at stage three of swaying.
The only bad recollection is the day that I got stuck in the elevator that went from 1-74 and up and down we went without the doors opening for about an hour. The other guy with me (a messenger) just kept telling me he was just glad he took a piss at his last delivery. Unforgettable. said...

Thanks for the touching thoughts.