Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker


October 1994, Park Avenue, a block south of Grand Central. One of Manhattan’s mirrored glass buildings, looked great in the architectural sketches but completely bland, anonymous, vague in the cityscape. Lots of those. Sitting by the window on the twenty-first floor, 11 in the morning, thinking about lunch, a network problem, the tight necktie. A hand grips the window sill on the other side of the glass, outside, high up. Tight, bony, sinewy, thin, chalky hand. Fingerless gloves. A long-haired man in purplish shorts and a white tank top climbs up past the window to the next floor, hand and foot, looking skyward, not in. Who believed me? But there were chalky handprints on the outside sill for proof. Cops roped the street to protect passers-by from the possibility of a falling Frenchman. A caption from the New York Daily News: “A police officer (top) waits as French mountain climber Alain Robert scales the side of 101 Park Ave. in Manhattan yesterday. Robert, 42, was arrested on the roof of the 48-story building and held on a variety of charges.” He’s still active. Sears Tower in August, rescued on a building in Paris in September, heat exhaustion.

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Grant Barrett