Some of the best views to be seen in this city are above your head. Most people know this, but most people don't think about what that actually translates to, which is this: when you see a blonde girl stumbling around with her head tilted up on a 75° angle, you should probably do the same, even though the natural instinct is to point and snigger. Doing so should show you something different from the everyday. The part of the city that's hidden, but in plain view. The bit that's up.
If you happen to be around Midtown East, in the low 40s, and you see this happen, you should definitely definitely look up, and then quickly find the nearest staircase, and follow your head up, and cross your fingers and hope with all your heart that you've got on the right staircase, and that you're standing in Tudor City, and not in a hotel, or an office block, or any of the other random places you could end up if you just walk up any staircase with disregard for where you're walking to. You'll soon know the difference. Tudor City = amazing. Anything else = less amazing. It's a simple equation.
Tudor City is an elevated couple of blocks just north of where I live. I had seen the signs before, and the Gothic, pointy towers jutting up above the East River, with the old school red sign, somehow neon and faded at the same time, that advertises the Hotel Tudor. I had seen the staircases rising mysteriously off the street, and the strange street arrangement in that part of town, which makes it impossible to get onto 41st Street directly from First Avenue. But I had never put it all together and come up with an elevated city, because who would?
H1 discovered it properly, accidentally ending up there on one otherwise standard walk home from work. As soon as he told me about it, I worked out exactly where it was and what he was talking about, and demanded an outing there forthwith, resulting in us walking the few short blocks one chilly, bright Sunday afternoon before making our way up the mysterious stairs.
Tudor City is only a short distance above First Avenue, maybe two or three stories high, but as soon as you're up there, all the noise off the avenue and FDR Drive suddenly drops away. The air is still, and the streets, which boast such un-Midtown names such as Tudor City Place, are quiet. There is a park and a playground, both of which lay carpeted under a thick, undisturbed settling of snow, and all around you trees rise high into the sky, their spiky branches devoid of leaves. All the buildings are moderately tall, built of a dark brown brick. A couple have ornate rooves, while the rest are plain, but no less imposing and dramatic for that.
The effect should be eerie, but it wasn't. Rather, it was strangely peaceful, in a way borne of transience. On any day other than Sunday, people must fill those streets, walking in that quick, nervy New York stride. In any weather other than calm, the wind must rush through the thin gaps created by the neatly lined up buildings and the narrow streets, whining all the time. In any season other than mid-winter, children must fill the park and the playground, and the leaves on the trees must rustle proudly.
That day, however, it stood alone and solitary, ours for the taking. We walked through it and back down to the street, instantly enveloped in the happenings that constantly happen in New York, and moved on. We kept talking about it though - about what it is, and why it's there, and whether it was built to be raised, or whether it takes advantage of a natural land formation. We speculated, even though all it would take was one of us to look it up on our phone to know. And since that day, despite being in almost constant contact with a computer, despite being a librarian's daughter, who knows how to research, and despite having the power of Google right there, in case I have forgotten, I have kept speculating. Like the Wizard, Tudor City may well be a better mystery than not. I'm happy to leave it that way.