There's a moment on this strip of road, Oh! how I want to write some ballad, a poem, anything classical and outmoded, to this moment. It is a capital "M" Moment. It is north of the 26th exit, but south of the 32nd (I know this because those are the only two exits the space between which I've yet to occupy). All of a sudden, you need only look to your left, and there it is. There's nothing but water and a small building between you and Manhattan.
It's almost six o'clock. The sun is setting behind ripply clouds, facing off inches away from the Statue of Liberty, who stands her ground like a seasoned fighting dog. Ordinarily her flagrant pride annoys me, but here it is apropos and majestic. The sun flashes beams, stripes the horizon with gradients across the spectrum of visible light, and the SoL is all business looking right back at it. And then you look to the right of that, to the center of the huge panorama splayed out along your left side like a nubile woman posing for a portrait, and there is the southern tip of Manhattan, with buildings jutting out of what looks like a thin strip of concrete, floating on the water, and the seaport market is there, and these buildings all have the orange sheen that the surface of the sun itself must bear at sunrise. The buildings stand proudly to say goodnight to the sun, ready to take on the blue, moonlit glow of a night of parties, late-night office hours, and midnight pizza orders. And to the right (North) of that, at the other end of the open air, are the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, stretching graciously across into the outer borough of Brooklyn, rolling out the carpet for commuters.
This Moment. I could say it takes one's breath away, I could say it makes time slow down, but neither of these are really accurate, nor true. In fact, time almost speeds up, because you desperately want to cling to the moment a bit longer, just a bit - like begging your mother to let you stay up a half hour later to watch one more television show - but your mother says no, the BQE says "Aright, move it along, there's traffic up ahead and I'm in a rush to get you there." Because you're going 45mph and the road is clear, if only for a few minutes more.
This Moment. It is like being launched full-speed into the air on a cloudy day in late fall, being launched so fast you clear the Inversion Layer and it's just you and open sky, sun, and you reach the crest of your beautiful arc, you're suspended, feeling that moment of weightlessness like an astronaut-in-training or a birthday-boy Stephen Hawking, and you think, This is what it's all about, this is why people love this place so much. There is that one perfect moment of clarity, the likes of which people spend their whole lives chasing.
And the people around you, they don't see it! By God they just fly past the Moment, because what else is there to do with moments, capital letters or otherwise? And your little capsule starts plummeting back down, accelerating at roughly 9.8 meters per second every second, back into the clouds. They get your windshield wet as you fly through them, back down into the grey blanket below, and you pass under an underpass in the car, and the moment is gone. You didn't get your cellphone camera out fast enough, and if you had, would it have been worth it? Would you have gotten the framing right? Even if you had, you know you'd have spent too much time missing the moment trying to record it, and that picture would be so damn small it wouldn't even be worth making into a desktop pattern anyway.
Sufjan Stevens wrote a symphony about the BQE, thirty minutes without words (gasp) in an age of two-minute pop. He saw that Moment. He lives here in Brooklyn, and he knows all the nooks and crannies, and by God he found the Moment nestled safely under a quarter-pipe rooftop of an obscure hundred yards or so of highway. My hat is off to him. Now it's my Moment, too.