by Jimmie Vee
I was meandering about midtown when I came upon a curious scene on the plaza at 53rd and 3rd. A sandwich sign there advertised in bold chalk,
Stairway to Heaven
A bulldozer - watching the spectacle unfurl - sat off to one side idling at the ready. A crowd was gathered around an escalator on the sidewalk, the peak just visible from street level. Prompted by a fat man in an ominous red coat and beard, hundreds of people were offering their money and climbing up the unmoving stairs, each claiming a vacant step in turn. Once completely full, the fat man slung a velvet theatre rope across the first tread and released a lever that set the escalator in motion.
Upwards the people went in a steady stream, grinning with delight at one another. After about two seconds the first one fell onto the cement at the center of the plaza from above with a scream and a resounding thud. And then fell the next. As the escalator continued to rise they continued to fall in rhythm, each one arriving no less noisily on the growing heap below until the last landed and then the escalator was empty once again. The crowd stood transfixed as the bulldozer roared to life and began pushing the accumulated pile off to one side.
The fat man unchained the velvet rope once more, smiling devilishly. The waiting line already had reached around the corner. I put my dollar away.