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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Only Silver

My best friend was very excited and asked if I had a small glass jar. When I asked why, he said that a number of conveyer systems had been thrown out behind the local supermarket and there were mercury switches in them. "So what?" I responded. He said that this was a rare window of opportunity to collect mercury. By breaking the glass vials in the switches, he was able to collect a substantial amount of mercury. He appeared to have been more interested in the adventure than the goods, and he gave me the entire jar. And so this is how, as a young boy, I came to own a jar of pure elemental mercury.

Playing with it always produced wonderment to observe the unique properties of a silvery metal which was liquid at room temperature. I would marvel at the effect the mercury would have while rubbing it on a coin. The jar was left behind when I left my family's home, and sadly, I believe it was discarded long ago.

Perhaps not so sad, since I later learned that playing with mercury is not the most prudent past time. Silver would be a much better candidate for elemental curiosity, and later as a young adult, I became intrigued with silver - here was a precious metal that was affordable and attainable, and although it was not as much fun as mercury, it was at least non-toxic. Unlike gold or platinum, a person of ordinary means could obtain large chunks of it. It is inexpensive enough that it can be used in pure form to fabricate items of jewelry and other commodities.

It has many unique properties and has served as a storehouse of value as currency, dating to 700 BC by the Lydians. Like gold, it has positive connotations, and applying a label of silver to anything, such as the word cream, implies great things. The reflective properties of silver also makes the word synonymous with glitter, glitz, sparkle, shine, and shimmer. So, what better word to use in the name of a skyscraper in New York City?

The day I discovered the buildings in today's photo, they were glimmering in the light of sunset with a look of metallic gleam, like the mercury of my youth and the silver of my adulthood. However, the photo was taken some time ago at quite some distance with no thought of their precise location or future use - until today, when I became enamored of their silvery sheen and wanted to identify them for use.

I often have taken photos of buildings where the subject must be identified at a later time. Fortunately, using online resources - mapping, street views, satellite views, image searches, etc., one can usually positively identify any building in New York City. However, this may require more or less time depending on how distinct its character is, the photo, other nearby structures, and a myriad of other factors.

Today's quest was easy. Here, the first impression that came to mind was silvery towers, and a search for "silver towers" in New York City. It immediately returned images of the buildings in question, conveniently and appropriately named Silver Towers.

I learned that these buildings were in planning for an extraordinarily long time. The property, developed by the appropriately named Larry Silverstein, took 25 years to bring to fruition. You can read more about them here. But what I really wonder about is if Larry ever played with mercury, or was it Only Silver :)

Related Posts: 'Tis a Sight to Behold, Buy Magnesium, Dot My I, New York Rockies, Where Sleeping Giants Lie, One Fifth Avenue


time traveler said...

I remember it well, Brian..It was Mott's supermarket and you also taught me how to climb the trees in the sand lot behind the store..

Leslie said...

I've been hearing about your childhood stories since 1970, and it's so sweet to hear feedback from the kid you fondly spoke of as your best friend during those years.

Those silver towers seem like pretty ritzy buildings...but personally I don't think anyone could talk me into living right next to the Lincoln Tunnel, just down the street from Times Square. Yuk.

Mary P. said...

Best you left that mercury alone. Ever hear the expression "Mad as a hatter?" Apparently hatters used mercury in their work and suffered for it.