(james benedict brown) on the road

Clouds scud

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 18 January, 2007

I love the verb ‘to scud’, as in the clouds were scudding by. Right now, the clouds are indeed scudding by, but I’m not sure if anyone here on the seventeenth floor of the Arts Tower has noticed because of the noise. The not only strong enough to send clouds scudding, it’s also strong enough to lift every window in their frames and rattle them violently against the building. A porter in this building once told me he had been on duty here during the night of the terrifying 1987 storm. He described me the sound of the entire exterior of the building shaking and crashing as winds slammed into it. He said that was the only night he had ever been afraid that this miniature sixties concrete skyscraper might come crashing down. Even now, the building’s steel and glass skin is shaking, lifting and contracting. No architecture should be fixed and unmoving: this movement reminds me how high above the ground we are and just how windy it is outside.

Sitting in the ninety-fifth floor lounge bar of the Hancock Tower in Chicago last week, I battled with my vertigo to approach the edge of the room and the floor to ceiling triple glazed windows. Knowing that the glass was super-reinforced did not help (my fingers are slipping over the keyboard with sweat as I recall this). To the south, a cluster of competing skyscrapers all demanded a piece of the sky, and it was to that side of the room that most people were automatically drawn when they entered the bar. For me, however, it was the sprawling illuminated grid of the suburbs to the west and north that caught my attention. Looking off to the middle and far distance was far more palatable to my veritiginous eyes.

It was funny how an irrational fear of heights can affect me. I knew full well that those windows ninety-five floors above ground level were safe, but I was still petrified because it was new and unexperienced, and it was so silent that the view could not be comprehended as an actual urban panorama. Sitting here, the (opening) windows can shift and rattle all over the place, and I’m not in the slightest bit bothered. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been in and out of this building for almost six years now. Or perhaps knowing that the outside world is real (and bashing this building all about) is perversely making me less nervous?

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