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I am flying to area code 212

To stab a Concorde into you,

To plunge a sword into the gangrene.

This is a poem about a sword of kerosene.

This is my 21st century in hell.

I stab the sword into the smell.

I am the sword of sunrise flying into area code 212

To flense the people in the buildings, and the buildings, into dew.

This is a poem by a man called Fred Seidel whom I never heard of prior to this. I came across it in an article in the New York Review of Books and transcribed it. He captures the glamor of 212 as a symbol of New York, and the fascination of destroying it. It’s interesting how much more powerful it is with one level of indirection: “I am flying to area code 212” rather than “I am flying to Manhattan”.

When I first came to New York City all of it was 212 and you needed no area code to dial within it.

New York used to have telephone exchanges too, not just area codes: The John O’Hara novel Butterfield 8 was named after BU-8, the prefix you rotary-dialed a long time ago for the first three digits of fashionable Upper East Side telephone numbers.

I used to notice people wearing T shirts that said ACK, and discovered it was the FAA code for Nantucket airport. People will do anything to feel special, that’s the way it is.

The Istanbul area code is 212, apparently because the people who designed the Turkish phone system modeled it after the USA. Ankara, surprisingly, is 312 rather than 202.

I notice that 212 is isomorphic to SOS on the telephone keyboard, both of them palindromes. Symmetrized (see picture) it looks like a heart split in two.

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