Orange, black and white for Halloween? Red and green for Christmas? Blue and white for Chanukah? Blue and white for the Yankees-Mets Subway Series? Red, orange, yellow, purple, blue and green for New York City Pride Week? Red, white and blue for Independence Day? No matter what time of year it is, we are often reminded of our giant neighbor to the east. We can look from one of West Orange’s many elevated views to see the Empire State Building beam over our North Jersey suburb. One of my favorite past times was seeing that colorful, needle pointed skyscraper from across the Hudson River. I swelled with pride knowing that my home turf was a mere 13 miles from such an epic attraction of such an epic city. Nothing can ever replace the magic I felt and still do feel every time I return home to see this. Nonetheless, I have certainly enjoyed seeking and adapting to newer areas of the world and their own architectural beauties.
For four years I substituted fabulous pizza, the Hudson River and a New York City skyline for fried cheese, bratwurst, and two freezing cold lakes on opposite sides of a sparkling Madison, Wisconsin; the bright white capital building overlooked the town and its residents at all times. After that, it was out to the red chili planted peninsula of Korea, with Seoul’s Namsan Tower letting everyone and I know whenever we were remotely close to the country’s massive, sprawling capital city.
Alas, I have made it to the island of many names- Formosa, Republic of China, Taiwan…whatever this place is, it has certainly caught my attention in my two months living here. How could it not, with its ever-present stench of “stinky tofu” and endlessly scattered puddles of blood-red spit from habitual beetle nut chewers? What about the rip-roaring scooter engines and crowds of Tai Chi demonstrators? And let’s not forget this island’s cloud chasing, capital city claiming Taipei 101 skyscraper.
Indeed, much like my homes of the past, there is a regionally iconic, unmistakably identifiable building that never lets me forget where I am (as if I could otherwise). Besides Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, Taipei 101 is the tallest building in the world. Just under a decade old, its combined shades of blue, green and grey shine in the sun and blend in with the rain. Once the sky begins to grow dim, 101’s night lights morph it into a graceful lean giant who showers this sleepless city in a neon lavender hue.
Such a marvel makes me feel that I have gained a comfortable place in this culturally plentiful country of both agricultural and urban wonders. Whether I stare at 101 from up close or a distant suburb, I feel welcomed through the tower's protective rather than domineering presence. The shadow it casts is one of assurance. It allows both old-timer natives and fresh fish expats like myself to feel a sense of belonging in this globally detached province that has unendingly struggled to gain a respected label of autonomy.
Through architectural emotion such as this, I am always able to acquire a sense of community. Breathtaking buildings provide me with a feeling of warmth when I re-enter my neighborhoods, regardless of how new they may be. From the teenage years I spent cruising Northfield Ave. to the current days I spend shuffling in and out of Taipei, the city lights still swallow my heart.