Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to whack me over the head with a selfie stick. That is a poem I wrote when I went to visit the Statue of Liberty on Labor Day weekend. A lifelong New Yorker who has never been to the Statue of Liberty is kind of a loser, and I didn’t want that hanging over my head. The ticket to the statue is free, and the ferry ride isn’t much. Security is tight, so everything has to go through an X-ray, just like at the airport. I tweaked my wrist playing tennis, so I stuck my hand under the machine and asked the guy if he could see a hairline fracture or anything, but he gave me a look that indicated that he might hairline fracture my face.
After you’ve been herded onto the ferry by a trooper with a cattle prod (it might have been a pen, but I am easily menaced), the ride to Bedloe’s Island is only about seven minutes, during which you are treated to beautiful views of the downtown skyline.
Approaching the statue, her pose looks like someone leading a tour group, an observation confirmed by looking around at all the people leading tour groups. But when you draw nearer, her beauty is ethereal and hard to define. It’s easy to see why people put her on a pedestal. She looks different from every angle. When you finally get around to her front, her expression has a far-away look, like she’s still carrying a torch for somebody. A woman like that is hard to get close to, especially since that crown would poke your eye out if you asked her to dance.
You could mistake the construction for a solid casting, but in reality, the colossus is an array of copper plates bolted to a steel infrastructure designed to exacting specifications by Gustave Eiffel, a guy who knows about towers. The plates are only 3/32nds of an inch thick, the width of two pennies. So if the Statue of Liberty ever comes up, you can throw your two cents into the conversation with that little factoid. Her toga-style garment cleverly avoids any possibility of body-shaming. “Does it seem to you like the Statue of Liberty has packed on a few pounds over Thanksgiving weekend?” Her figure will forever be statuesque.
She was erected in a direction that was designed to face Europe, as an acknowledgement of France’s generous gift, and as a subtle protest to the country’s mistreatment of its own people, as perceived by the sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. In geographic reality, the statue pretty much faces Bensonhurst, but I think the symbolism still works.
The The pedestal was designed and paid for by the U.S. and sits on the remains of Fort Wood, which was built in the shape of an 11-point star. The surrounding area was beautified by Frederick Law Olmsted, father of the Olmsted Brothers who landscaped Katonah after it was moved to its current location.
Once I had stopped gazing up at the statue, I started looking around at the other people who were there. It was nothing like the somber reverence you see at museums, but more like a playground. People were there with their grandparents, children running around, lovers barely noticed that there was a big green statue there. There were people there from countries I couldn’t spell, wearing clothes that looked really uncomfortable, people of every color in the human spectrum. It was truly a melting pot, and since it was about 89 degrees, some of them had already melted.
This is maybe the one place they all felt welcome at the same time, and there wasn’t one thing anybody was going to say about it. Anyone with the urge to comment had only to look up at that 10-foot scowl to think better of it. After all, she is an immigrant, too.
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