We’re in New York. We’ve been before, for my 40th – just the two of us – and the kids were apoplectic to say the least that we’d chosen to leave them behind with the grandparents while we hot-footed it across the Atlantic like the pair of goggle-eyed tourists we were. This year has seen/will see a number of family milestones – 50ths, 21sts, big anniversaries and the likes, and the kids weren’t letting us away with it this time. So here we are.
The first thing you notice in New York these days is the sickly sweet smell of weed. Now decriminalised (legal?) in NYC, its omnipresent smell overpowers even the heady wafts from the street food sellers that line the streets. The yellow cab driver that delivered us shaken and slightly stirred from JFK was reeking of it, his low-pulled hoody blanketed in a thick fug of the stuff.
“I’ll have you in Midtown in no time, man,” he smiled through glassy eyes, one hand on the wheel, the other scrolling through the satnav on the phone wedged between his knees, and true to his word, he put the foot down the moment we were on the Van Wyck expressway.
“Asshole!” he shouted indiscriminately. “Goddam she-it!” Fingers flipped, lanes were cut, horns were honked and, after he’d cheerfully told us that he’d been “up in front of the goddam judge for two traffic misdemeanours this week – speeding, and maaan, I wasn’t goin’ that fast! – and dangerous drivin’ – that’s fair ’nuff. Two fifty penalty later and I’m back on the roads. Shit! There’s the cops…” (and so on and so forth), the Manhattan skyline gracefully swept into view and, like the boggle-eyed tourists we were, Ramon’s cartoonish patter faded into the background.
On our first full day, we walked 35,000 steps, spent eye-watering amounts of money on (admittedly good food) in diners and pizza joints that, back home would’ve taken us by golden chariot to our favourite ‘fancy’ restaurant and left us enough change for a night in the Crown to wash it all down. You gotsta eat, though, as they say ’round these parts.
The view from the Empire State Building at night was spectacular, a movie scene come to life right in front of us. All the neon lights are bright on Broadway, indeed.
The endless walking…the people-watching…the snippets of conversation overheard as they bullet their way around the streets in expensive trainers and mismatching clothes because, frankly, they don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks of them…the endless walking… the scene-seeing bus tour…the stiff necks from looking up, down, all around…the endless walking…the Staten Island ferry – just about the only thing in NYC that’s totally free – with its close-up views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan’s iconic photo-friendly skyline kept everyone snap-happy and excitable.
Today we chose to brush aside Ramon’s advice about the subway – full of loonies, with frequent muggings and people-pushing seemingly the latest craze, he warned – and survived to negotiated the complexities of the city’s underground system and make our way downtown. Overshooting our stop (of course) meant a 15 minute amble back to our intended destination at the 9/11 memorial, its long queues forgotten about once inside. It’s a fascinating exhibition and one which brought memories of watching it unfold on TV 21 years ago, with our two-week old daughter being sick on our laps.
This afternoon into tonight we really enjoyed a walk back along the Hudson Park walkway and then on the appropriately-named High Line after eating in Chelsea Market. Sadly, for me, we never found the famous Chelsea Hotel though. On the High Line, a reclaimed railway track that snakes it’s way above street level and between warehouses, commercial units and some spectacular apartments, I was, given how lightly toasted much of Manhattan seems to be, particularly tickled by the ‘Keep Off The Grass’ signs every few metres.
Next stops will be Central Park, a boat trip around lower Manhattan, a visit to latest high-rise tourist trap The Edge, a walk over the Hudson to Brooklyn and later that night a visit to the Brooklyn Nets’ season opener against New Orleans Pelicans (“Go Nets!” as we likely won’t be saying). With luck, I’ll maybe find some spare time (and money) to smoke out the record shops and musical landmarks of Greenwich Village. Pictures no doubt will follow.
Here’s NYC’s Beastie Boys with So What’cha Want; a stroppy and thumping, squeaky-organed racket where each of the 3 Beasties takes their turn on the mic; Yauch gruff, MCA whiny and Ad Rock the epitome of a NYC don’t-give-a-damn cool.
Beastie Boys – So What’cha Want