Going to New York, autumn in New York.
Autumn in New York - that brings the promise of new love. - Ella Fitzgerald.
Sunday, sunny autumn Sunday morning, 10/10/10, I wait on a dirty charcoaled platform in Waterbury, Connecticut, virtually no other passengers around, the pavement is blackened, burnt, someone recently must have set ablaze some fuel canisters, it is a bit early, still so quiet, so blue the skies, I take the train to Bridgeport, now step out on a crowded platform, then take the train to New York, the Sunday lunchtime commuter train is packed, probably as always. It is a slow approach from the north, though the Bronx, then Manhattan and eastern Harlem, then into the tunnel and then I step out onto the bustling packed platform, hustle ahead as everybody else. This is Manhatten’s Grand Central, I am in New York, I find my way outside, onto the streets of New York and I turn and turn around looking up, vertigo sets in and it would even if I didn’t turn around. This is New York, it has this effect.
The deep steel and concrete gorges of New York’s streets usually don’t get much light. Avenues light up at 2 p.m., when the rays of the sun line up with their north-south direction, all is aflush by light and the bright glares are reflected in the dark yellows of the many New York cabs. New York means walking and I walk.
From the Times Square International Hostel some ten blocks south of Times Square, clean and cheap and central, my chosen path leads me south to Penn Station, via Greenwich Village, the Village, cross over to the financial district, Wall Street, east to the waterfront, to East River, simple. There is a pier, tourists queue to take them to Ikea, not for me, I walk on south, there is another pier, time is right, the sun is right, I board the Liberty Statue ship, for a Liberty Harbour tour. After sunset tired I stumble back north, stumble through dark China town for some Singapore style prawn chow mein fun and Tzing Tao beer, I give some change to the woman begging outside, cross Canal Street and start the second leg of my long crawl back, come across neon lit Korean Town, dead and tired in my area I decide to push through another ten blocks and head for nightly Times Square. This is NY and this is what I do. Just think 10 years ago it was less tiring.
Monday back to Times Square I have an awful Lasagne in a cheap corner fast food place, fearing food poisoning I leave more than half, go next door and spill it down with a Guinness then relax in Bryant Park on 7th Avenue, is relaxing indeed while the city rambles on. Later I tour a little tour around Central Park. After dark thunderstorms and lightening rage while I head for the Irish Rogue Pub on 45th Street. Brooklyn Ale is a delight. The pub is packed; Monday night football on so many screens draws the fans, the crowd is a big mix, blacks and whites. This is New York.
Tuesday morning I take no risks. There is still a fair chance of rain, tells me the Chinese reception lady when I leave home at 7.45. With a latte at Starbucks on Times Square I make my way north then cross Central Park. 8.45 only 45 minutes till opening I stand in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I am first. I didn’t want to take much risk after the queuing debacles in Rome. The skies have turned sunny, at 9 the rays line up with the streets and I get a full splash while I wait in front of the Met.
The first one in and I could have been the last one out, but after 6 hours I end half in delirium in need for knee transplants. I start in the Antique quarters of the Met, the Egyptian and Roman and Greek wonders, after my visits to Egypt, Greece and Rome this year this is a special refreshment of memories. After that in an effort to establish where I ended up I effortlessly jump 2 Millennia to Warhol and Pollock, yes the whole thing seems unorganised to me, then I am pushed back to Titian and Rembrandt and Rubens and everything from Matisse to Van Gogh to Klimt and virtually tons more. I skip all Asian, Chinese, Japanese and Oceanic and African and American Art, run through these halls in search for the old masters sections, also skip all furniture and weapons galleries and whatever else there is, there is too much to see, in too many small sections, I should have come to spend a week. The funny thing is here are no crowds, completely unlike in Italy.
After dark I find myself back not far from the pub, on 44th Street, in Birdland, New York’s legendary jazz club, John Abercrombie performs, is nice, not for free but free. And Birdland has no draft beers, I settle for Brooklyn Lager in a bottle, a lady with eyes that speak talks to me, she loves Abercrombie, next day she sends me the NYT-review.
Wednesday I take it easy; after an Indian take-away lunch relaxed in Bryant Park I meet Hasim, a friend in the CPJ headquarters.
Thursday I get up at 6, it rains and I take the train then take a flight out 5 hours later.
New York is New York, is what it is.
How did I get here? This is not my beautiful wife...
So this was Rome, my 21st capital this year, a loaded history and arts tour, a quest to tame the bird called love, a constant thrive to escapes intermediary pizzas, a wild of boozy talks and nightly arguments in Pignieto; it makes Rome another perfect split. I take flight, another final one, when I board that train after lunch to Fiomicino, leaving C. behind on the platform. Never again or soon again, who knows? While checking in I turn my back to my cart, in my back it falls; the weight of my laptop and camera brought it down, leaves me my laptop with a cracked screen. I wonder the strange beginning! H., my boys’ mother, calls to say she’s changing jobs, lost her job, quits her job, all at once, at once the accumulation of events comes about strangely? Once in London I realise I have failed to do my ESTA registration, this sinking feeling creeps in, the universe with its darkest voice calls for my surrender; this time it’s too hard! Frantically on a public internet that works like old style main-frame terminals I type in my credit card number, type it in so many times, extend sessions, reload the registration process, pay the fees, the application shuts me out with error codes like "Unable to establish your status, try later!", I reload/repay/retype, my fingers tremble, at 1 a.m. from heaven the "Authorisation Approved" appears; I clench my fists silently, cold shivers run down my back, the energy is still with me; I can still pull it. Next day I am on a plane, I can’t complain, headed for something, which I don’t know what it is, but ready to find out.
I come to Hartford, CT or better near-by. It is hot and dry here in New Hartford or better near-by, I am with old Austrian friends, I am in a wooden house in the woods. Next day I get a first taste of America on a private party where we go, our host is a guy who owns or owned one of the more successful internet start-ups, I am jet-lagged, a band plays The Stones really well, a tall weirdo with a grand glass of whiskey talks to me "so you’re on a US-women-f@cking tour?", I don’t know what to say, I am not quick enough, not anymore, have found myself quickly hooked by some draught amber delight, nobody told me beer was any good in the US, all Europeans know is Bud/Miller/Coors, and we know they’re damn toxic. But this Amber; Samuel Adams Octoberfest, is TASTY, FRESH, NATURAL.
Sunday, so hung-over, we climb up Bear Mountain which is part of the Northern Appalachians, woods, ridges and lakes are all around and leaves have turned slightly coloury. Farmers complain about the missing rains, forget the Indian summer this year, once it gets cold leaves will just fall. I have thoroughly enjoyed this intro to America.
Later in the week it rains here in New Hartford or better near-by, the cats and dogs type of rains that arrived after a long hot and dry summer; it is Nicole, the hurricane, tells me Nicole, daughter in the house with a proud smile on her face. I sit here, wait for money to be transferred from London, American banks talk ABA numbers, Europeans SWIFT, a question of language, language the issue why Americans don’t understand Europeans, or the other way round? I found a car; seems like have found one, seemed it talked to me, a 1997 Audi A6 wagon (kombi), white, white leather, I think why not travel in style for a change, sleep in the back. Just how register it? Connecticut seems sticky. Outside the rains come down in torrents.
Another week it is cold here in New Hartford or better near-by, so much colder than a week ago, even freezing at night; winds have changed direction since Nicole. We go for a bike ride, we paddle around a lake in kayaks, is peaceful and I ponder how will I register this car? Connecticut is more German then Germany, rules are rules. I still wait for the money. I know these periods when nothing moves, it then usually just lasts a little bit longer before all issues evaporate into nothing or changes the plans completely.
Later in the other week it is cold and rainy here in New Hartford or better near-by; it takes the leaves away, just like that. I keep under the duvet, read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (wiki). I wait for money and I have no concept of how to register the car! Point final! I am frustrated.
And then, one afternoon money comes, on the phone to the mechanic at the same time I realise I can get out of the Audi deal, maybe the car had not talked to me after all. It’s easier to get registered on the West Coast they say, so let me try my luck there. Now even the sun shows up again.
In these last days in New Hartford and near-by, by incredible chance, I have the pleasure of visiting the Ovation/Guild guitar factory nearby, an American boutique guitar manufacturer (now owned by Fender), mastering beautifully hand-made guitars by those and for those who love them. I happen to have owned an Ovation for almost 15 years, I still own and love her; she was on all the African trip with me, last time I played her a bit more was in Ghana, she is in Vienna now and I miss her!
I am happy while on the train headed for New York.