I'm sitting in an apartment in the neighbourhood locals call El Barrio and non-Spanish speakers label Spanish Harlem. Those who've lived here long enough to justify the shortening say "Spa Ha". The incessant tooting of frustrated commuters pierces the room. It's a large apartment by New York standards - the bathroom's so small you have to sit sideways on the toilet to shut the door, but the kitchen's huge and airy and a separate but sizeable bedroom-cum-lounge looks down on a greengrocer, a jeweller and a fish market. We're living marae styles with a friend who's good enough to put up with us for the next nine days. Here is New York!
Is there any other city in the world we all know so well? I've watched it on the big screen (welcome to Gotham city) listened to it, read it, laughed at it (RIP Friends, welcome How I Met Your Mother) and hankered after its fashion sense forever. Walking around it is to experience a bizarre and prolonged sense of deja vu. As crowds surged and police helicopters hummed up and down the Hudson River during the 4th of July fireworks display, I turned to my friend Jack: "this is like a scene from Independence Day." "Ya think?" he replied.
When we got home Ted pleaded with me to turn off my New York soundtrack. It's made up of two tunes and I'd been thrashing it since we crossed into Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge. I pushed the button on the self-proclaimed "new Sinatra" Jay Z as soon as we turned the corner to see Lady Liberty standing regal over her iconic skyline. My eyes welled and my life peaked as the man himself, Frank, led me over the water and into NEW YORK CITY.
I've become addicted to listening to the two of them tell me "if I can make it here I can make it anywhere", while I roam the streets and contemplate ways to rig the green card ballot. Yup, here's another city in which I want to live. I contemplated branching out and adding Lady Gaga and Beyonce to the mix when I gazed at the roof of Grand Central Station, but I decided to remain a purist.
What do you think a true New York experience should be? I reckon it should include shopping (I shall dedicate a post to that next week) and getting mixed up in crazed Manhattan traffic. It's difficult to understand why New Yorkers choose to raise their blood pressure to untenable levels by hopping in a car. New York has one of the best public transport systems in the world, for goodness' sake! But I'd watched enough cab honking, brake slamming and pedestrian bonnet banging to know that I had to get among it. And Ted needed the challenge of driving downtown during rush hour.
When you're tooted at for waiting too long on a green anywhere else in the world, you scream an indignant "patience" or something equally polite (the best call I've heard was from a bus driver in New Orleans was: "use your licence".) When horns blared at us here (multiple times), we giggled at one another: "OMG, we just got honked at in New York City." We'd passed our rite of passage in the international city of road rage.
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