In the eleventh chapter of The Wizard’s Dilemma, Nita attempts her first attempt at universe-altering in a test dimension. I LOVE THAT I GET TO TYPE THAT SENTENCE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
There is a plot-specific reason all this exists, and yes, it is vital that Nita had to undergo this test. I don’t want to ignore that… but I’m gonna ignore it because I want to talk about cityscapes and New York. BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT I DO.
The timing of this is beautiful, especially since I otherwise would have read this in a normal sense. But because of LeakyCon and my upcoming trip to NYC, I actually got to this chapter on October 18. As soon as Duane started describing Grand Central late at night, I had flashbacks. I’ve been in that terminal multiple times as it emptied out from a long, busy day. I was there on a recent trip because Shake Shack has a counter there open late, and the line wasn’t too bad, so I ate my burgers and watched the place close down. It was a surreal experience because I’m so used to Grand Central being nothing but a home of chaos. And when you’re used to a physical place looking and sounding a certain way, it becomes eerie to experience it another context.
That’s a theme that appears again in this chapter, but I’ll get to that second. There’s this really cool image that Duane invokes through Nita that I want to talk about:
That was really bizarre, for even when the station was closed in the middle of the night, the lights were always up full, and there were always some people here: cleaners, transit police, workers doing maintenance on the trains and tracks.
I honestly didn’t understand this until I worked the graveyard shift at a restaurant years and years ago. I had to change my entire sleeping schedule in order to accommodate the job; my daily commute to work involved three buses because the normal rail line I took didn’t run late enough or early enough. But that schedule exposed me to an entire network of people who worked while everyone slept, like those bus drivers who were on the 24-hour lines, or the people who helped with repairs on the LA Metro overnight. There are few cities in the world quite like New York, though, where you can witness this. As someone who once struggled with insomnia pretty badly, and as the kind of person who loves a good adventure, New York City is addictive in this sense. There’s just always something going on. There’s always a restaurant open. There’s always something to do. It’s a cliche, I know, but it’s one of the few rooted in an actual truth!
And that’s why I think Duane exploits this in order to creep us out. Because the idea of an empty Manhattan – even one in the middle of the night! – is really fucking creepy. It hurts my soul! It feels completely wrong! But that’s the point. In order for Nita to locate the “kernal” of the city this universe was designed without the normal distractions. But even in that, Duane references a specific dynamic that I sometimes don’t even think about.
Major cities are loud. Now, I know I’ve written about that before (I can’t remember the context), but GUESS WHAT WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN. The thing that this chapter triggered in me was a realization that the sounds of cities is totally different! Part of that comes from the type of traffic you hear. The roar of the BART in downtown Oakland is different than the MTA, which sounds different than the L in Chicago, which sounds different than the light rail I live nearby here in Los Angeles. Car horns are more common in New York than my neighborhood, but I also live around the corner from a fire station. (Plus, the LAPD just loves my neighborhood.) There are a lot of families here, so that sound adds a different tone to where I live. The voices on the street, the heels on the pavement, the way wind rushes through high-rise buildings… all of that gives Manhattan a unique character.
The absence of that character is what leads Nita to the kernel of Manhattan, which hilariously is in Times Square. Look, I’m still going to recommend that at some point in your lives, you stay up way too late, and you wander out into Times Square, which won’t be empty, but will be a kind of empty you won’t see at other times of the day. It’s unreal. And the lighting is super good for selfies, I’M JUST SAYING.
This chapter, like many in the Young Wizards series before it, has given me that itch to travel, and I love that I get to be in New York for my birthday (which will have already passed by the time this goes up). I’m having this moment of joy because I suspect that this is not at all what is coming in this book. Nita’s test felt too easy, and I am worried that her excitement is premature. DON’T GET TOO HAPPY YET, NITA, THERE IS A LOT OF THIS BOOK LEFT.
Mark Links Stuff
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