Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper

"It sure beats diggin' ditches," some would say when attempting to push beyond the frustrations and monotony of their everyday work lives.  Random occupations can certainly have an incredible amount of repetition and here in the 21st Century, many are repeatedly using the latest in technology to get through the day.  In retrospect, some may call this industrialism in the grand scheme but I would beg to differ.

It wasn't long ago that truly industrious people littered the streets and buildings of any metropolitan attempting to weave through life with enough money to put food on the table, pay the rent, and maybe go out for a drink or to catch a show once in a very long while.  These folks who helped forged the backbone of this country are often taken for granted for without their toil and efforts, we wouldn't be progressing into the technological age we're in now.

For me, there is something moving about the origins of our large cities and how they came to be.  At one time, entire floors of skyscrapers were formed by the hands of rugged men who would skitter about dangerously on girders, walls, and ledges without the safety of a harness or the convenience of a crane.  Each one would have their responsibility to see to it each brick, each beam, each wall, and each door were put together carefully using rather archaic equipment.  And still today, you can see and enter these creations in New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and many other large asphalt jungles.  The age of the megalopolis had begun and there is a very high probability that if you're reading this, you weren't a part of that growth but may know someone who has long passed on that was.

Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper by Charles C. Ebbets (1905-1978) was taken September 29, 1932 on the intended 69th floor of the RCA Building (now the GE Building) at Rockefeller Center 840 feet above New York City.  A feat just to be able to capture a moment like this--especially without getting vertigo and plummeting to his death--Ebbets was able to nab a shot of eleven men taking a moment out of their extremely difficult and busy day to grab a bite to eat and smoke a cigarette.  Below and stretched out nearly as far as the eye can see is a bustling land riddled with offices, apartments, Central Park in the middle, and the rest of Manhattan sandwiched between the Hudson and East Rivers.

Immediately, I feel small.  I feel as if I am minuscule and my place in this world is rather insignificant.  I'm struck with feelings of being unimportant, minor, and someone who could get lost in the crowd in a heartbeat. But then I take in the height at which these men are lounging.  Quickly, my feelings turn around and begin to sense fear and an absolute appreciation for what they risked in order to further advance our great nation and bring prosperity in a time where few could dream of it.  They may seem to be insignificant compared to the hundreds of thousands of people below them none the wiser to their existence in that moment, but they truly embodied what it took to be a doer and a hard worker.

What few know or may even see is the mix of nationalities being represented in this collection of riveters, carpenters, and masons.  There are two Irishmen, a Native American, and one from Newfoundland sitting side-by-side with Americans all working together, chatting, and ignoring the foibles of their fellow man despite what the press and society may have been and continue to squabble over.  They each had a common purpose and that was to do a job.  What they wore, how they looked, where they ate, and who they had to work with clearly meant nothing when compared to the implied monstrosity of a task they perched upon.  They were hardened men determined to get the job done ... of course, once they had the chance to nourish their over-worked bodies.

Perhaps sorting mail, filing papers, typing a report, moving furniture, mowing the lawn, or any other repetitive occupation could seem insurmountable--a task you don't want to do each day and find to be tiring and above your own worth.  Please don't forget where it all came from.  Don't forget the building that houses your mail, the file cabinet that holds your papers, the computer you use to type, the wood needed to frame your couch, and the mower you push all had to be created, assembled, and put together using machines that were created using bigger machines.  We have a perpetual society of commercialism and industrialism that breaths life into our economy and existence and when you boil it all down, none of it is nearly as dangerous or truly laborious as it was nearly 100 years ago.  If nothing else, be thankful you're able to afford the device you're now reading this on and for the people responsible for creating it.

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