Hasty compensations by James (5 comments)
After an initial few days of hect, I’ve now found a few moments to bring you up to speed on my meanderings in the Big Apple.
Flying into JFK airport was an unforgettable experience. Having chased the sun since our departure from Heathrow, we soared into New York airspace as it was setting. Our destination reached, the celestial orb was free to retire from its 8 hours of hot pursuit and disappear over the horizon.
Below, spindly beaches reached into the distance, arms pulling a blanket of darkness over the city. Yet this metropolis was far from ready for bed, the twinkling twilight embers of its monstrous grid fluttering with life.
Thinking it strange for the landscape to appear so flat, I wondered whether we had taken a wrong turn or it was my perspective that fooled me. And then the titanic mass of Manhattan’s familiar skyline loomed, floating on a sea of regimented lights, reminiscent of the opening scene from Blade Runner or a gargantuan theme park.
From the terminal, I made my way on foot through suspicious neighbourhoods and onwards by bus till I arrived wearily at the doorstep of one Miguel Chavez, an Apple consultant living in North Queens. I was cheerily greeted at the door and shown down to my basement lair before being abandoned to the night. It was midnight after all, and I didn’t have to work the next day… That said, I soon flopped into bed and dropped my defences to the ravenous hordes of Dreamland.
My first real day in America! Mein kind host dropped me in Harlem in the morning and I slowly made my way downtown. Looking at my watch, I realised this was the day Tessa and Strat were flying into New York. Finding myself in the neighbourhood, I altered my course for the West 98th Street apartment where they would be holing up, on the off chance of cutting them off at the Kaiber.
After a brief yet intense encounter with Al Wattley, I found the apartment devoid of any Caldecott presence. So I introduced myself to Leslie Garis and we made ourselves comfortable in front of New Pope TV and awaited the arrival of our travel-worn pilgrims.
When the pious pair graced us with their presence, and after they’d recovered from New Popeness, we set out for Central Park in style and abundance to bask in glorious sunlight. We eventually split our efforts and I strolled through the Park to admire Frank Lloyd Wright’s fantastic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum before hopping back on a bus and joining the gang at casa Kopit for munchings and anecdotes.
It’s a genuine blessing to be welcomed into a family environment when you’re visiting foreign climes, and I had a wonderful time engaging with New York’s intelligentsia. Probably too wonderful as I missed the last connecting bus on the way home and was forced to take a taxi the rest of the way back. I see it as compensation for the excellent value 7 day unlimited Metrocard—a week of unfettered travel on any bus or subway for $24 (about £12.50.)
This was Strat’s last day in New York so we naturally had a mother dose of culture injected into our itinerary. First up, the fantastic Nicholas Roerich Museum, whose walls boast tempera paintings inspired by mythology, religion and some of the most serene spots on Earth. Gorgeous.
We then proceeded to amble down Riverside Drive to our next port of call, the Museum of Natural History. We had limited time before the museum closed but I got the chance to give closer scrutiny to the anthropological and taxidermic wonders on display—I had even less time on my previous visit to New York.
Sufficiently exhausted from trapsing around museums and down streets all day, we confirmed details for our reunion on Saturday and headed our separate ways. I got to Flushing in time for my bus and was even able to get some grocery shopping done. Yay me!
Despite my early return the previous night, bed time was… somewhat delayed. As a result, rousing myself from slumber in the morning proved tricky. I eventually got out of the house just after 1pm and headed back to downtown Manhattan. After a short rest outside the New York Public Library, I headed to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) where I killed a few hours wandering through swish, newly refurbished galleries of design, architecture, photography, drawings and paintings. I even found some of the pieces I’d seen at the MoMA Qns temporary museum last time around.
Unpeeling myself from Pollocks and Warhols, I headed downtown to the Flatiron building to rendez-vous with my friend Mark Levin. We arranged to meet at the district’s eponymous tower and went for a hot chocolate and a chinwag.
Mark works at Freeverse, a software developer on 23d Street and I’d met him online in the days when I was an active member of the Bungie fan community. Picture a couple of geeks cheerfully lamenting “the good old days” of video games and sharing in jokes that must sound like code to all around.
I soon had to pull myself away, and made my way North up 3rd Avenue to 82nd Street where I was to sup with the Coulier family, French friends of ours from Hong Kong. The evening provided much convivial discussion, flitting seamlessly from English to French and giving me a much need chance to practice my bilinguisticity.
We were joined by Laetitia, another French ex-Hong Konger living in New York who had stayed with the Couliers when she got hit by a car in February. I discovered that she knew my brother Richard through mutual friends in Hong Kong and again I found myself talking about “the old days.” She’s studying Photography at Parsons School of Design so we soon got on to ‘camera-talk.’ I discovered she even owns a view camera. [in best Napoleon Dynamite speech: “Lucky!”]
Not wanting to miss the last 15 bus again, I dismissed myself and hopped back on the Subway. On the way home, I considered what makes travel so exciting; new experiences and the people to put them in context. I’ve been so blessed with the friends who have welcomed me into their homes and given me their own perspectives on this wonderful city—I’ll truly be sad to bid New York and its wonderful inhabitants farewell.
I’ll probably be incommunicado over the weekend but please continue to stay in touch, it’s been such a joy to retain this link with the rest of the world.
Until next time. <3
1: matt says:
Wow James, you have a magnificent grasp the English language! That summary was more prose than anything else. Beautiful pictures as well! Let me know if you guys swing closet o Sacramento. ;)
2: Tessa says:
Poncy soandso :P Showing up the plebbiness of my logging style! Tsk.
3: matt says:
Simplicity is an art form too, Tessa! ;) Yours was a good read as well. That’s cool your dad wrote that book, I actually heard of it! I would love to have dinner with you guys is San Fran when you arrive there.
4: Tessa says:
Thanks Matt. I like you. Hey you heard of my Dad’s book?! That rocks!
5: Sophie says:
I hate to interrupt… must give James a BIG cyber hug. HUG! there you go, miss you madly, love Sophiexxx