Midtown Manhattan isn’t a minefield only for out-of-work actors. Civilians are also under constant threat. I learn this as a teenager walking across 42nd street on a summer morning in 1965. Suddenly a long, thin, black object shoots silently down through my peripheral vision. An impression. A blur. Then I hear women scream and see that a crowd has gathered on the sidewalk directly in front of me. I work my way through to the center of the crowd and wish I hadn’t. A woman is dead on the sidewalk. She has been speared through by a window-pole; accidentally dropped by someone many floors above; dropped by someone who merely wanted to catch a bit of breeze.
The window pole has plummeted to earth, brass-hook first. A javelin. A lance. A guided missile. The dead woman had the worst luck in the world. One step in either direction – she lives. One missed elevator – she lives. But, someone held the elevator door for her. I look down on her obscenely splayed and skewered form, her face now covered by a man’s suit jacket. She was a valued employee. A wife. A mother. A New York woman who went to work this morning in a summer dress with a pattern of small flowers on it. Dead. The police and ambulance arrive. I walk away.