I am 53 years old, and I’m not sure what that means.
When I was a kid, 53 was “getting up there.”
When I was a kid, few people made it into their 90’s.
These days, I may or may not be middle-aged. I’m just not sure. In my heart, I feel incredibly young. Some days, in fact, I feel that I’m just “playing office” or “making house.” Some days, I look around the home I’ve established (an apartment, granted), and I wonder, When did I get to be so grown up? Who told me I should put those spoons in that drawer?
And then there are those other moments – those moments when I arise from the couch – and I hear the noise of my age.
I hear the noise… a noise that says, I’m standing up now.
When did I start doing that?
When did I start providing a soundtrack to my ups and downs?
… Back in 2008, I had the resources and time to take a wonderful trip back east. It began in New York and ended in Virginia. It spanned three weeks.
While I was in NYC, I moved about. I spent the first two nights with some friends in Queens. Then, I cashed in some Amex points for two nights at a Radisson on West 33rd. And I spent the final two nights with some college buddies who always have room for me at their place. (Their place happens also to be on 33rd , but in their case, it’s the east side.)
During one of my Radisson days, I’d made arrangements to hook up with my friend Alyssa – another college buddy. She agreed to meet me at my hotel, and we’d take it from there. I emerged that morning and told her that I had two interests: either the World Trade Center site downtown or our old campus stomping grounds uptown.
Alyssa (perhaps influenced by her own emotions) shared that there was not much to see at Ground Zero. We headed north.
During our walk up Broadway, we had a great time catching up, and the eighty-plus blocks passed by quickly. Before we knew it, we’d arrived at the famous Columbia gates, and we entered College Walk.
The Columbia campus is something to behold. Remarkably imposing buildings. At the south end, Butler Library – with its columns and with the names chiseled into its façade: Homer. Herodutus. Sophocles. Plato. Aristotle. Demosthenes. Cicero. Vergil.
And facing Butler is Low Library, a domed structure that rises above the rest – the campus centerpiece.
Between the two, and leading up to Low, are “the steps.”
Just north of College Walk, there is a group of about seven steps. Then, after a bit of even pavement, scored with a nice brick design, there are probably 30 or so more steps.
Back in the day, that first group of seven was the place to meet.
Those were The Steps.
Back in the day, we’d plan to hook up with our friends between classes.
We’d hook up on the steps.
And more often than not, we’d pass a joint. That’s what the steps were about back then.
… So when Alyssa and I entered College Walk, just three years ago, we each were probably entertaining memories. (I know I was.)
And when we decided to just sit down and take it in for a minute, we were both feeling nostalgic.
We climbed three or four rows up.
Then, we readied ourselves to sit.
As we descended into our positions, we each made a noise.
Once we had settled, I turned to my friend.
“Alyssa,” I said, “I think they lowered the steps.”