originally part of training/fundraising for the Hepatitis C Trust's Nepal trek. Now, sporadic musings...

Monday, December 31, 2007

City of Wonders

For me, one of the coolest things ever has to be a US immigration stamp in my passport, dated 25th December, 2007. (a momentary flare of anxiety as they imprint our index fingers to run through the database - and then I think, hang on; I've never actually been fingerprinted at any time!)
I can't think of a better way to spent a Christmas day than sipping champagne on a long haul flight to New York with Crysse. Apologies to global warming campaigners etc. - but my carbon footprint is otherwise smaller than probably most people living in the west (not currently running a fridge has to count for some green brownie points) and after all, it was a once-in-a-lifetime special treat...
(Yes, I know I'd love to go back - but will I?)
Much of our journey from Newark to the New Yorker Hotel seems not a million miles away from London's Vauxhall Bridge underpass; at this level the scruffiness surprises us, used to airbrushed Hollywood New York. Likewise the hotel - the stately lobby (below) gives way to tatty corridors in want of a good clean, let alone several coats of paint, little touches like our richly tiled bathroom floor and art deco bathroom suite briefly reviving the sense of opulence that must have pervaded it once. It's like sitting with an ageing actress in her dressingroom after watching a mediocre performance with flashes of former brilliance - there's more compassion than contempt.
It's not until the following day that I step outside our hotel and get the buzz... the buzz I didn't pick up at all our first night, my senses too dulled by exhaustion.
It's as if we've stepped into the film set of New York, the glamour burned away by the reality of the sidewalks under our feet, leaving the real romance of the city to be ingested greedily...
This is our first writing trip where we both focus on digital image nearly as much as writing - Crysse always takes a camera, but pictures have been more a kind of holiday snaps backdrop. Now, blogging has upped the ante on images to complement writing. That doesn't stop me being as self-indulgent with pix as I am with writing (see below left - and actually, I don't care, I think I was right, it is an interesting image, snapped en route to the Poetry cafe in Greenwich village.)


On our last day, considering skating in Bryant Park (the only place in New York where skating is free) I catch a cop (above right) in Bryant Square without thinking to ask his permission - less posed for the tourists and more laconically bored than in Crysse's, I think...
Christmas trees everywhere - hotel lobbies, Bryant Park (below left), the square at the Rockefeller Center (below right), Macy's and Bloomingdales frothy decadence, with shoppers speedy as commuters chasing trains...
New York does Christmas in style. Sure, it's OTT and flamboyant, but there are no tacky plastic cartoon characters (OK, a Shrek above Macy's main entrance, which we didn't see until our last day) or competitions between inhabitants to see who can out-Christmas their neighbour. Maybe it's because New York, and Manhattan in particular, is less residential - in Queen's, returning to JFK airport in a luxury black Lincoln, I did see one plastic bonanza...
The hip-hop (body-popping?) troupe (below) we come across in search of a coffee bar seems to emphasise that the life of New York happens on the sidewalk as you go nowhere in particular, just as it does the world over.
The most precious thing we have is time - and the leisure to absorb these little gems...
We decide not to tour United Nations, but it was worth going there just for the pic below of the knotted gun.
Numerous pictures taken that I now have no idea where I took it, or what exactly it is - I'm pretty sure this one (left) isn't the Seagram Building, which doesn't exactly narrow it down hugely. The architecture of New York is absolutely amazing - and I don't mean just the sky-reaching towers of glass. Little (by comparison) gothic and art deco delights hunker down between the monoliths, even a Gaudi-esque surprise or two...










Grand Central Station, Times Square, the Chrysler Building, the Rockefeller Centre, the Empire State Building... Madison Avenue, Broadway, Central Park, Fifth Avenue...
Being in New York is like visiting a place you've been in a vivid dream, a sense of almost deja vue as we cover familiar landmarks, sampling a culture so close to our our own - and yet so different...



1 comment:

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I began blogging during training for a trek in the Himalayas... several lifetimes ago. Currently working on my novel - in the tiny spaces left by a 50 hour plus working week...