It occurred to me that this week is the 10th anniversary of my first trip to New York. This very night ten years ago, I were staying in the Chelsea Hotel. Swanky birthday present from my then-girlfriend. I say swanky, but, y’know, it wasn’t swanky inside, just kinda cool and lots of history-ish. That trip was full of sight-seeing: Empire State Building, World Trade Centre, photos outside the building where John Lennon got shot; that kinda stuff.
This trip, though, has been the exact opposite. This time I think I’ve got quite close to what being a resident is like; as close as a visitor can get, anyway. No musems, no art galleries, nothing but doing New York versions of what I’d probably do in Berlin.
I’ve enjoyed the luck of walking six blocks in Manhattan and not hitting a red light once. I’ve enjoyed have a three block chat with a random old guy about dog-owning etiquette. I’ve enjoyed having a haircut in a very lovely 100-year-old barber shop, by a guy in his sixties who sang along to the 1950s music the whole time. I’ve enjoyed being stopped by an ACLU canvasser, having a little chat, and as I walked away, seeing her raise her hand and say, “high five for freedom!” All in all, it’s been great so far, and my trip is only halfway through.
The one thing that has been a bit odd is the general feeling – or “vibe” for want of a better word – I get when I’m smoking. Now, I have no real problem with smoking being banned in bars and stuff. It’s a tad frustrating, but not the end of the world. One of the side effects of this ban, though, seems to have been that it kinda gives those pinched-faced non-smoker bigots the feeling that open hostility to us smokers is not only acceptable, but somehow obligatory. Surely you’ve got what you wanted? We can’t smoke anywhere that’s got a roof anymore, do you really need to show your disgust and try and make me feel guilty for smoking on the pavement near your house?
Anyway. It’s mostly been ace so far. And of all the opportunities in New York to see places that have been in films and TV shows, the one that I’ve enjoyed the most is seeing the very corner that’s on the cover of one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, Paul Auster’s “The Brooklyn Follies.”
It’s just a block away from where I’m staying, and every time I cross the street on that corner, I feel a little bit of joy seeping through my blood.