I Dare Say — New Year (1-4-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 4, 1941)

Manhattan Madness
By Florence Fisher Parry

New York City –
This New Year’s week in Manhattan has been an angel child! Never has the sun poured down such pure radium white rays, never has the sky been a more cherubic blue. The buildings stand out with the bold clarity of Arizona cactus and at twilight the city is a jewel.

The other afternoon we circled the city, and had we been on a magic carpet it could not have borne us on a more fabulous flight! It was late afternoon, and the rivers were already beginning to turn to azure. We raced up the East River Parkway to the Triboro Bridge over to La Guardia Airport, watched the silver planes roar in and out from the stratosphere, warmed ourselves with tea, and then took the Grand Concourse, crosstown to the west side of the island, racing up the Henrik Hudson Parkway just far enough to be sure of the sunset over the Hudson on our way downtown.

The George Washington Bridge looked like fine black lace hung out to dry in the fading sun. And the Palisades were taking on their old mysterious indigo. And the river itself was thick molten lead with streaks of red and blue.

Oh, what is there to offer, say, to match the Hudson at sunset! And the great thick towers with their pallid lights, flanking its bank. Down past the great Riverside Church we sped down the eighties, the sixties, the forties. The Empire State Building, the Radio pyramids, the spires, the lighted Spires! Down past the docks, gaping and empty, and the Normandie there in its narrow pocket, deserted and forlorn.

Down to the very tip of the island, sweeping by the great Skyline that first greets the Voyager, down to the Battery, its shivering trees making a lacework through which we glimpse the Statue of Liberty yonder. ‘Round in a wheel of the island’s round snub-nose, and heading now northward on the East River Parkway, past the great Fulton Markets, under the giant shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, up, up, with the lights of Long Island deepening in their dark lanterns.


Now we are home again, just where we started. The Grand Central clock shows locked hands at six. The tour, then, took scarcely two hours, every instant packed with beauty in giant capsules.

Then it was time to dress for New Year’s Eve. Hurry, hurry, Manhattan is getting into its Tails! It is preparing to forget, to forget, it is making ready to greet the New Year. Is it a cherub, is it a monster, is it a chimera, is it Death – or Life? Never mind, never mind, it will get a Welcome! A Toast to the New Year, whatever its guise.

Now we are dining; we know that this is Folly. The food that fills us, we do not taste its savor, we are glutting our eyes with the Setting around us. So spurious, so PASTE, so OUT OF LINE with the duress of what is to confront us Tomorrow! But never mind, never mind, this is New Year’s Eve. It is time to be Fools, there is place here on this Isle for no other breed.

Now it is Theater time. We are in the Center Theater, the Rockefeller Folly of yesterday, the Problem Child of the Theater. Now it is an Ice Revue: It Happens On Ice. The stage is a crystal floor. Fairies, goblins, creatures of another World, fill it, grace it, make it live and breathe.


Now we are on Broadway, we are swept into its maelstrom. A million and a half of us are there. One person in every 75 in the United States is there, in a few packed squares! Seventy-four person elsewhere, but the seventy-fifth HERE!

Nowhere else on earth is there such a mass of souls; each one at other times an entity, with a family perhaps, a personality, a future, a past, a heart, fears, hopes, dreams.

But not now. Not now. We are but a MASS. A swaying feverish mass. Crushing, fighting, laughing, cursing, yelling, our eyes on the great white Ball of Light atop The Times Building…

It is five minutes to 12, it is one minute to 12, the thunder deepens, thickens, mounts and swells like a shout out of Valhalla. At the moment of midnight a piercing noise, like the impact of heaven and hell in a head-on collision, rends the night. The tension is broken. The world goes mad.

It must…it must…now of all times it must. The strain of living has been too great. And let-down must have its way.

And it has its way. Reality drifts away like a phantom, its voice can no longer be heard. Around the band of electric lights licks the news out of Europe, unheeded …Petain speaks to the French people …the Red Cross speaks of its chore….even the voice is Hitler is drowned in the furious din. R.A.F …What do those letters stand for anyway? U-Boat? What infernal machine is that?.. The terrible, the monstrous Present fades away and is no more…

But besides me a voice speaks in German a father to his young son… He says:

Look. Listen. This is the voice of America, off guard. Paris laughed. London mocked. But America celebrates. Look, son, at that Chewing Gum sign. Is it not gorgeous? It cost millions… The American people pay for it. Chewing gum and battleships, they pay, they pay.