Malcolm has only done it the once, about a dozen years ago: made it to the top of the Empire State Building, that is. But, on the flight into Newark, he chooses the port side, expecting to see its iconic shape as G-VHOT (or G-VBIG) comes in. During his visit, he commutes in on the Midtown Direct: it’s the first and last view of Manhattan.
By comparison, he has done the London Eye three times, but excuses that on the basis of showing relatives the sights.
Neither is as scary as the CN Tower, with its glass floor and 1,122 feet of nothing, straight down (Malcolm is acrophobic ever since). Nor possessed of quite the view from Seattle’s Space Needle: Mount Rainier across Downtown, the Cascades, and the sublimity of the Olympic range across Puget Sound. That has to be the prize winner. Whereas Mr Eiffel’s erection always looks better from below.
Malcolm suggests there’s no need to leave your seats: most of that is available by the wonders of webcam.
So what’s your point, Malcolm?
As anybody with a weakness for weepy film romanticism knows, closing time at the Empire State Building’s observation deck was always the stroke of midnight — right? Cary Grant waited up there for Deborah Kerr until the clock struck 12 in An Affair to Remember (1957), and Meg Ryan had to talk her way past a security guard to meet Tom Hanks there at night in Sleepless in Seattle (1993).
But if Mr. Grant was searching the observation deck for true love today, he would have another two hours to cool his heels in the rain: The deck has been open until 2 a.m., seven nights a week, since March 1.
That’s it, really. Except that:
Wil Greenstreet, a jazz saxophonist, has been providing high-altitude mood music Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., and Mr. Greenstreet’s gig, which began as a summer engagement, was recently extended through September.
Malcolm learned from the article that there are now 4m visitors a year, up from
about a million people to visit in that first year  … two million for the first time in 1987. They reached three million for the first time in 1995 and steadily increased, but dropped below that mark in 2001, after the World Trade Center attacks. By 2002, though, attendance was back to 3.3 million people, and then the rise started again.
He also learned that Scott Fitzgerald, who went up in that first year, was disappointed because of:
the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe.
Malcolm barely regrets never having managed the World Trade Center (“2000 — a record year for visitors at the time — it drew about 2.2 million people”). It didn’t draw Malcolm in late August, 2001, though. He looked up; pondered; said “Next time”; and went in search of an afternoon beer.
The irony for Malcolm lies in something else: the best thing to see from the Empire State Building’s observation deck is William Van Alen’s Chrysler Building, especially as the stainless steel catches a golden sun-set.
One of his enduring disappointments is that he has never managed to photograph that moment. When MoMA was decanted out to Queen’s, he took the trip and tried to get a decent image from the 7 Line (or wherever). Didn’t quite work. An unfinished task, then.
And, as the sun slowly sinks in the West, Malcolm heads off, humming to himself Brooklyn-boy Billy Joel’s epitaph on Manhattan:
I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway.
I saw the Empire State lay low.
Life went on beyond the Palisades:
They all bought Cadillacs and left there long ago.