Sinking in scented white sheets and down pillows I peel my eyes open. It is morning, the muted sun peers in through the window, and outside – all of St.Louis stretches beneath me.

Through fate and circumstance Liza and I find ourselves on the 25th floor of the Millennium hotel at the very heart of the city – directly in front of the Arch. Today the clouds are heavy. They blanket the barren trees and stonework as far as the eye can see. The city stands strong and grounded, its red brick walls and buttresses supporting the weight of the late-autumn sky. Smokestacks near and far send puffs of white into the rarefied air. As I trace the thin lines of streets and avenues below, I recall that St.Louis is an old city, in New World time.

It is well over 200 years old. Judging by its architecture, its heyday was in the late 19th and early 20th century. Now even as life here pulses steadily, it stands in humble resignation that its time has passed. This is evident in the dilapidation and ruins of parts of old North St.Louis, in the rust and steel that frame the multitudes of railways and bridges, in the solidity of the major buildings in town.

Below me and to the left lies the clover-leaf highway intersection. Cars soundlessly hug the turns and speed onward. I wonder if they know that someone is watching them from the high tower of the Millennium. Seeing the city scape expand beneath me brings a sense of comfort and of profound solitude. How interesting to see the activity of so many people, the fruits of so much planning, thought, effort, determination. I feel proud of our civilization – that being individually so small, we are able to visualize and realize powerful, lasting projects. And yet, amidst the pride swells loneliness – from above, we are so small. Everyone rushes in their steel vehicle, isolated and consumed by their own worries, towards job or home. And I am also isolated in my ivory tower, watching them but unable to connect.

As I turn my attention from the clover turn-out to the streets directly below, I see the huge empty parking lots slowly filling up with cars. In the distance, along the entire stretch of window, a blackened steam engine pulls a caravan of cargo train-cars. I watch as it too, silently, puffs smoke into the sky. Apart from the omnipresent cars, this city could not have changed much over the last 100 years ago. The lone barge pushing freight up the Mississippi River confirms this.

I take it in for another few minutes. Time up here moves slowly.

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