Off-Topic: Buildering

Grant Barrett gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG
Sun Nov 28 22:13:03 UTC 1999

In October of 1994 I was working on Park Avenue a block south of Grand Central in
one of Manhattan's many mirrored glass buildings (the kind that look great in the
architectural sketches but are completely bland in the cityscape).

So I'm sitting there by the window on the twenty-first floor, 11 in the morning,
thinking about lunch and some network problem, and a hand appears on the window sill on
the other side of the glass. A tight, bony, sinewy, thin, chalky hand. Before I could
really do anything, a long-haired man in purplish shorts and a white tank top
climbed up past the window, not looking in, to the next floor. He wore fingerless gloves
and carried thin rope and various gear.

My coworkers, of course, didn't believe me at first, but there were chalky
handprints on the outside sill for proof, and cops roped of the street below to protect
gawking passers-by from the possibility of a falling Frenchman (as he later turned out to

A caption from Lexis Nexis at the time "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

Robert, known as Spiderman. has lately become more active in buildering, including
climbing the Sears Tower in August and being rescued on a building in Paris in
September after suffering heat exhaustion. These are on top of the other 30 structures he
has scaled, including the Eiffel Tower and the Petronis Towers in Malaysia, the world's
tallest structure.

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