Sunday, April 26, 2009

Being a Part of It (New York, New York)

I didn't come to New York to do the tourist thing, but I suppose it was inevitable that one or two 'attractions' would wangle their way into my itinerary. It's hard not to feel a certain sense of alien wonderment when you are confronted by iconic buildings and legendary road names at every corner; and then there's Central Park, slap bang in the middle of Manhattan and impossible to ignore.

I arrived during a heatwave that everyone was calling the start of summer, a noticeable seasonal spring in everyone's step. Strolling through Central Park yesterday, I felt as though I'd stepped into a parallel universe in which jogging, cycling or blading was the natural way of getting about, and I was unusual for merely walking. Passing the Metropolitan Museum, I thought about going in, but deterred by the huge noisy crowds, carried on South to the ferry port and did the only vaguely intentionally touristy thing on this visit - a boat trip to Staton Island. I'd been told this was a free way to get a seaward view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline, and the idea of a sea breeze appealed on what was a meltingly hot day. The boat was absolutely rammed full of people, all craning to get exactly the same photo of that legendary green goddess. Why not just buy a postcard?

Apart from this one excursion, the rest of my (short) time in New York was spent just people-watching, eating and hanging out with friends. The blissfully air-conditioned subway trains are a million miles from the London Tube, and a great place to witness the melting pot of people that reside here. We went to a couple of bars, had a classically hearty American brunch, sat in a secret cherry blossom grove eating almonds and laughing at people with ridiculous dogs, celebrated the 1st anniversary of Harlem's only yoga studio with its adorably cute gay owners and their sausage dog, and generally just appreciated the clement weather and its affirmative effect on everyone.

My favourite New York moment of all though was last night, sitting on the roof of Erika's apartment block with her lovely flatmates - sipping beer, eating tacos, playing guitar and singing Woody Guthrie and Cat Stevens songs. To me, this was much more 'being a part of it' than any number of Statue of Liberty snapshots for the holiday album.

Photo of Central Park (c) Rowan Stanfield - more pictures from my NY trip at: www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar/sets/72157617698561432
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