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BREATHING ROOM

On a sentimental journey

September 04, 2003|Veronique de Turenne

When it all becomes too much -- too hot, too fast, too modern, too loud -- there's always Union Station. Enter the double doors and you're in a vast, enveloping space of filtered light, muffled sound and time preserved for decades. The very scale of it slows you down.

Grand archways lead to the waiting room, this room waiting just for you. Polished wood seats, upholstered in leather, more comfy than those at home. Cork-lined walls that soak up the sound, glazed windows to soften the glare. Color everywhere, rich but muted. Texture anywhere you turn -- polished granite, cool tile, carved wood, quarried stone, filigreed metal, sleek chrome, the collected language of the Art Deco, Southwestern, Spanish Colonial and Moorish styles.

People look up in Union Station, at the 52-foot ceilings honeycombed with painted beams, at the chandeliers bigger than cartwheels. They look at one another, impelled to tell what they know about the 64-year-old place. A hatted gentleman in a dark blue suit, an elderly anachronism outside, looks exactly right within these walls. He was in and out of here all the time during World War II, he tells the 8-year-old girl beside him. And she's fascinated, picturing it, the romance and adventure of it all. So are we, sheltered here, safe in the thought that the world as we know it right now may continue at least until the conductor on the tracks beyond pulls up the steps.

-- Veronique de Turenne

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