Frankfurt, Germany, 1970
It was a perfect September day when I walked into the I.G. Farben Building in Frankfurt, Germany for the first time. I was told that Eisenhower had ordered that it not be bombed during the Second World War because he wanted it for his post war headquarters. That's what I was told.
It was huge. Like all things Nazi, it was totally and completely out of scale. Of course, I was intimidated by its size. I heard the echo of my footfall in the long turning corridors. Like the Pentagon, it was designed to be impressive. It was.
I was told that Hitler and his cronies had planned an architectural feat to display Aryan superiority. The idea was to make a massive circle – a round building.
The behemoth was in fact only one tenth of its planned size. Never completed, it was intended to be a true wonder of the world; but the war ended that notion.
Then I arrived. And to my surprise and disappointment, all the windows on the sixth floor of the northwest corner of the building were blacked out. Well, actually they were not blacked out; they were whited out with white aerosol spray paint. Shrugging, I asked no questions.
I went through a bleak, featureless winter in that blind workspace, wishing every day to be able to look out. Then, one morning in April I asked, "Why are these windows blanked out?"
Everyone was aghast. "Well, we were told that the Russians could look in!" they said knowingly. It had come down from the "top." Last year we received a delivery of white spray paint cans, and were told to spray all the windows so that the Russians couldn't see in.
Deep down, I didn't buy this.
The next day I quietly scraped away a tiny peephole with my X-acto knife and looked out. I saw Grueneburg Park and all the way to the Cathedral – but no Russians! Emboldened, I scraped away a bit more. So, daily thereafter I chiseled away in true Shawshank tradition. Nobody said anything. Then in May, I finally threw all caution to the wind and flung the window open all the way. The sweet Spring air wafted in.
That was the most beautiful summer in years that Frankfurters could remember. And we all worked at our drawing tables with mirthful abandon. Then, one day we received another order of aerosol spray paint. It came unannounced from "supply." No one had really ordered it, but there it was. However, unlike the last anonymous delivery, it wasn't white, but green. Not OD Army green, but wild bright dayglow green!
What we were supposed to do with this windfall was anybody's guess. But, since I had singlehandedly liberated the entire graphic arts department from the "winter of our discontent," I felt it my responsibility to do something creative.
So, carefully masking around the window so as not to get even a drop on the exterior of the building, I painted the interior around the window casing green. Well, it was great and I enjoyed it for several days. But my nonconformity was short-lived.
A few days later I heard running feet in the circular hallway outside. I heard the frenzied punching of the cipher lock and my supervisor rushing in, door clanging. He flew past the office and through the print shop, into the Bohemian domain of the artists.
He took one look at the green window from the inside and went into orbit. Apparently, from outside straight-on it didn't show, but from an angle outside it screamed, "Look at me ... look at me!"
"My Gawd, you can see that window all the way to Escherheimer Landstrasse! What will the Sergeant Major say? What will the Colonel say? What will the General say?" he sputtered.
Well, needless to say, we resurrected the white spray paint in short order, and the green window was gone – made to match the rest of the nameless, nondescript, numberless other windows once again. How odd, I mused. I always thought that the army was partial to green.