Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Free Association

The Chrysler Building
3rd Ave & 43rd Street

Did you know that the Chrysler Building is my favorite building in New York City?

Well, it is.

Partly because I love all things Art Deco. Partly because I love shiny things.

And partly because it makes me think of that scene from Annie, where the spirited, dancing orphan girls sing "It's a Hard Knock Life" and Molly - doing her best Miss Hannigan impersonation - shouts, "You'll stay up / til this dump / shines like the top of the CHRYS-ler Building!"

Everytime I see it, glittering and looming above me, I think, "The CHRYS-ler Building!" in my best Molly-the-Orphan voice. Every. Time.

I did a scene in Improv class this week where my scene partner and I played two child actors in the cast of Annie.

But that wasn't the first time I've pretended to be in the cast of Annie. At my very first sleep-over party (Kathleen L.'s 7th birthday) we all stayed up very, very late (like, midnight) and reinacted the entire movie. Tara got to be the Molly character, because she was the smallest. I wanted to be Pepper, because she was the sassiest of the orphans, but I think I lost that role to some other seven-year-old.

A couple years later, we moved from Annie to Little Women. Then I did get to be the sassiest - I was Jo. Always Jo. Tara, being the smallest and blondest, was Amy. Always Amy. Leaving Katie and Kathleen to duke it out for the role of Meg. (No one wanted to be Beth. Because Beth dies.)

I'm not sure we ever got around to actually playing Little Women. Mostly I just remember us endlessly discussing role distribution, as we walked to and from soccer practice. (Practice was just down the street from our houses, and this was back in the day when kids could walk places on their own, without cell phones and without fear.)

We may have been too old to be playing, anyways, at that point. I think what was at stake, what was really at the heart of the "I want to be Meg and if I have to be Beth then I'm not participating" argument, was more about defining our developing personalities.

We were figuring out who we were, who we were going to be in life. How did we fit, how did we relate with each other? And how were our lives going to play out? No one wanted to take on Beth's ill fate, not even for one afternoon before soccer practice. We wanted to dream bigger than that.

We didn't want to be expendable; we wanted to survive into the sequel.

I think that's what the Chrysler Building is for me now, every time I catch a glimpse of it: a metal-and-mortar symbol of dreaming big. Of infinite possibilities. Of a Daddy Warbucks, pie-in-the-sky life beyond the proverbial orphanage.

Maybe. Or maybe I just like it because it's shiny.

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