Camille Reyes

Posts Tagged ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald’

A Sense of Place

In Culture, Travel on January 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

My Lost City by F. Scott Fitzgerald

From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as eyes could reach, so now I went to the roof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood — everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora’s box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed but that it had limits — from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground. –F. Scott  Fitzgerald


The poem is a melancholy ode, one of haunting beauty.  Yet, I look upon this city with eyes not jaded, hopes not dashed.  When I look down from the Empire State I see no limits.  The booms and busts never cease, no matter how high one climbs atop the masterpieces.  The shore might disturb the urban canyons, but I see endless yearning, the potential of a teeming humanity, the indomitable spirit of New York.  This place is still a universe to me.  And though I remember fondly the snowy peak of Mt. Hood, I do not yet tire of my steel fortresses, the wild energy pulsing through their girders.  I wonder if I ever shall.

If I do grow weary of the roar, I hope I’ll have the good sense to return to the Columbia River Gorge and bathe my eyes in the quiet beauty, the wonder of my adopted home, my Portland.  Sitting alone at the edge of Punch Bowl falls, I decided there, in the middle of Eagle Creek trail, that I would someday drive 3,021 miles to settle nearby, to view it in every season.  I kept my promise, and nature kept hers.

Before I return to the land of impossible green however, I dream, as only a New Yorker can, of capturing words filled with such exquisite pain as Fitzgerald’s.  I want to write Gatsby sentences constructed out of platinum stardust.  This is the place to do it.  This is where he did it.  From his glorious rubble, I will imagine pages on new palimpsests, always holding close his egg, this city, and my Western home.