New York, New York

Here I am in the city that never sleeps. And I’m not sleeping either. I’m looking out at the lights of New Jersey shimmering across the water and at Lady Liberty. At last we meet.

New York skyline from the Staten Island Ferry

New York skyline from the Staten Island Ferry

New York has been everything that I hoped for and more. The crowds, the noise, the skyscrapers. It sounds so fake when you hear people saying that it’s a place where anything is possible but it’s true. There’s something about the energy of this place that makes me believe that anything could happen and that everything is possible. It’s a mix of cultures, languages and people that is hard to find anywhere else, a frantic pace that is breathtaking at times. People even do their grocery shopping at full speed, as witnessed tonight in the local supermarket where a woman in a suit nearly knocked us into the cheese display in a bid to lunge for the grated gorgonzola without stopping her trolley.

I discovered New York as a child through Home Alone 2 – Macaulay Culkin gets lost in New York, checks into the Plaza Hotel, gets lost in Central Park, saves a toy store. It’s been really exciting to visit those places and take photos of things I had discovered on screen all those years ago. Mixed with landmarks of beloved shows like Friends, Sex and the City and even animations such as Madagascar: in Grand Central station, all I could think of was Melvin the Giraffe from Madagascar slipping and sliding across the floor before getting his head stuck in the iconic golden clock and pictured the scene where the little old lady kicks poor Alex the Lion in the privates… in a way it feels like I’m visiting somewhere that I already know, even if through a Pixar film. It’s half disturbing, half exhilarating; that has never happened to me before.

Visiting Ground Zero was first on the list. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you look into the pools which mark the location of the twin towers. The water gushing down towards the centre of the earth is at the same time a beautiful homage to the people who lost their lives that day and a dark reminder of the fall of the towers themselves. The area has a haunted feel about it that I suspect will remain for a long time yet.

As a whole, I wasn’t expecting the grid system to be so… mathematically gridlike! You can see the Empire State building for miles away, you can see forever down 5th avenue – to think that your appartment is 100 blocks away down that same street but that it will take you 40 minutes on the subway to get there is a bit surreal. Times Square was a little smaller than I imagined, luminous but a bonzai version of the strip in Vegas.

A 20 segment panoramic image of the New York Midtown skyline as viewed from the Empire State Building at night.

A 20 segment panoramic image of the New York Midtown skyline as viewed from the Empire State Building at night.

Central Park is so big it’s hard to imagine it’s in the middle of a city. On a cold winter Sunday it was filled with tourists, joggers, walkers, horse drawn carriages and families with sleds whizzing down the snow-covered hills. On one side, a choir was singing under a bridge, on another a bunch of girls with placards were jumping out of bushes screaming to surprise their friend who had just got engaged at the entrance to the park. On the main steps, a frozen model was bravely posing in a backless wedding dress for a photo shoot that lasted well over 20 minutes despite sub-zero temperatures. Outside the park, a crowd of protesters was shouting angrily against cruelty to horses being used as a tourist attraction in the park. We even saw an old arthritic dog, dressed in his Sunday best – a padded coat and red collar – being wheeled around in a push chair with a smile on his face.

Oh, and the Rockefeller centre. My dream had been to visit the Rock centre during winter and ice skate there under the Christmas tree… well the tree isn’t up anymore but the centre and the rink are and it’s even more beautiful than I imagined. It’s dark, encased between high rise buildings just off 5th avenue but under the beam of the big golden statue and in the twinkling lights it somehow becomes cosy and inviting. And it’s right beside a Lego shop. That’s right, a shop where they sell lego, from floor to ceiling. Say no more…

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About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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