“Let’s raise our glasses,” she said, “and wish him a happy birthday.”

Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in a city — a city far more grand and terrible and saturated with light and noise and the constant, electric hum of humanity moving, breathing, pushing, striving than his parents might ever have imagined possible when they had been children themselves, half a world away and decades ago. A city his own children would never be able to imagine or understand other than in the sepia tones of nostalgia and half-remembered names and fading photographs.

But this was his home. A maze of faces and languages, long flights of stairs and shops with sawdust floors. Voices singing, whispering, calling out in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, English, Polish… a riddle of tongues his nimble mind navigated carefully, quietly, as he moved from home to school, to temple and home again, a shifting sea of immigrant cultures blending and colliding and watching with fascinated wonder as Manhattan erupted to the south with bluster and energy, concrete soaring skyward in jagged towers that defied human scale.

A world in transition, as World War II and the days thereafter shifted how the city saw itself, and how it was seen by the world, and for those living deep within its labyrnthine coils a place where the past was never past – Faulkner knew it, and it was as true here as it was in the vastly different place he saw and made his own – and yet the allure, that voiceless lust for the new, the next, all that which was yet to come… it was strong, and irresistable, and in time it found purchase within him. And while those early years were years of silent deference and study, they also proved fertile ground for an insatiable curiosity of the world beyond — beyond the trappings of cultures bourne across thousands of miles of earth and sea to this city, this dream of a better world, and beyond the weight of expectations that these journeys and those who had lived them placed on his narrow shoulders.

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