Autumn is in full swing in
New York City. The leaves are all rapidly turning Russet and Golden Brown. This
is most in evidence on the escalator of the 34th Street-Hudson Yards subway station where a small man is toting a medium-sized oak tree down to the platform As we roll up, he rolls down. One man and his tree, both leaning backwards
against the descent of the long moving stair.
This is New York, baby. I’m
I’ve wanted to see New York
all of my life. It’s been a dream, an aspiration, a bucket-list thing. And I’ve
been close a few times. The city streets of Boston seemed to provide an estimation
of what the Big Apple might offer. Likewise the hills of San Francisco and the
endless suburbs of Los Angeles gave me ample insight into the ways of the
American City. But, still, I longed for New York.
And then Paul and Jerry made
their wedding plans. New York, baby. I had hoped to go when I was 60 next year
but to hell with that. I can be 60 now if I want to be. We booked our hotel; we
booked out tickets. A New York wedding of two of the finest people we know,
what could be finer? Paul is Patricia’s nephew and he’s my nephew too because I’m
married to Patricia and I’m claiming him. Jerry and Paul have been a great solid
romantic item for many years now so, sod it, Jerry is my nephew too. I want
them both in my squad. We knew the wedding would be eye-popping and loving and
romantic and it was all of those things and more. A wonderful time was had by
all. But I’m not here to dish on the wedding. Perhaps another day. Today is for
New York City, baby, and finally, finally getting there. Although, before moving away from the wedding, I will say that there will be loads of great memories but the community
singing of ‘Suddenly Seymour’ by Paul and Jerry’s friends, as they gathered
around the piano man late in the evening, is one that will surely remain with me.
We’re staying in Midtown
Manhattan and I get up early and walk the blocks in the area, riding the time
difference for all it’s worth. I love the streets and avenues, how they stretch
endless in each direction, how the sun moves from one to the next, setting it
alight. The buildings are not as breath-takingly tall here as I imagined they
might be. The Chrysler and the Empire State are high but not quite as high as
my mind painted them. Still, they are beautiful and there are other buildings
elsewhere in the city that will be astonishingly, earth-shatteringly tall, much
higher than my tiny mind could conjure. Besides, tall isn't everything. One early morning wander me takes up 3rd
Avenue and into Grand Central Station and the scale of it, the iconic nature of
it, makes me sway on my heels.
In between the many wedding
gatherings and activities, we have some time to ourselves to wander and look. Macy’s
is a time machine that takes you back and back as you ride the escalators up
and up, each one more ancient than the last. Christmas has come to the ninth
floor early and it’s a world replete with oversized nutcracker soldiers and
silver Santa Clauses. We buy one Christmas decoration for the tree, as we do
wherever we go.
A good friend who lived here
for a time has pointed us in some directions we would never have found by
ourselves. A subway to the 59th St Bridge (yes, there is a song) and
the transit system cable car over to Roosevelt Island, which is bright and calm
on a Sunday morning and where the views of Manhattan are cool. A ride on the East
River ferry down below the Brooklyn Bridge and a walk up into Wall Street. A stoic march
past ‘that’ person’s building and up past the Stock Exchange. The streets are
tightly packed together here and the effect is that of a canyon. The Trade
Centre memorial is thoughtful and sad, though people clamour with selfies and
coffee. There isn’t much to be done except perhaps pick out one name from the
thousands carved there and wonder about that and hope that their curtailed life
Our friend also sent us to
the Frick Collection and this is my recommendation to you, for when you next
visit New York. I had expected a nice private collection of paintings to wander aimlessly through but was quite unprepared by the quality and impact of the works contained
therein. Although the security staff were clearly thinking of soup and glue,
there was still a laid-back accessibility about the artwork and the ability to
stand in such proximity, without protective glass, to works by Rembrandt,
Vermeer, Van Dyck, Turner, Constable and so many others was quite something.
On the street, very early,
there is a homeless man with his trolley of early possessions. His pants are
down at his ankles as he bends to some unknowable task on the pavement. His
rear gleams in the sunlight that leaks up the avenue. He is ignored and
passed-by. If he needs some help, it is not forthcoming.
Outside the impressive wedding
hotel, in The Bowery, late, there is a melee for taxies among people recently
discharged from nearby bars. One sporty young man takes exception to a yellow cab
ignoring his fare. He clings to the rear door handle and roars his objections
as the cab pulls out and speeds up the street and towards us. The young man clings
on still, achieving a velocity that lifts his two feet off the ground. Then he
loses his grip and falls and rolls and tumbles multiple times on the tarmac
before arriving close to our feet. He springs up without missing a beat and
grins broadly at us, “Hey, where you guys from?”
The streets smell faintly of
pot and the sirens are always going and the cars are always blaring their horns
at each other. When the white light man says ‘Walk’ on the traffic signal, a
car can still turn and drive over the pedestrian walkway if their way is clear.
That’s why Dustin Hoffman shouts, ‘I’m walkin’ here,’ at the yellow cab. I reckon
he was in the right.
That’s at least a little of what
New York is. It’s 20th Century history and iconography. History
doesn’t have to be old to be great, it just has to be great. New York soaked in
the 20th Century like perhaps no other place ever did, and its image
is burned clearly on its retina still.
I always wanted to see New
York and now I have. I feel like the Jigsaw puzzle that is my mind had been
missing an important piece and now it has been slotted into place. And not just
a blue sky/cloud piece either. No, it’s a dense colourful piece that makes all
the other pieces around it fit a little tighter and a little easier.
If I finally made it there… who
knows what could happen next?