I arrived at my apartment and was immediately put to work on my story of why I was in the building. I figured you’re not really allowed to let your properties as I had to pretend to be a friend of the owners. Like a true thespian, or more accurately a compulsive liar, I spun a tale of how I knew the owners and was visiting as I was approached in the foyer by a charming lady. Her look was a mix of “what a thoroughly believable scenario” or “I wasn’t born yesterday asshole” I’m going with the latter.
I quickly unpacked and decided to get stuck in right away and explore the neighbourhood, I was thrilled to immediately be accosted by a true New Yorker when I sparked up a cigarette. “Hey man, sell me a cigarette, I’m drunk” It was 3 in the afternoon so as impressed as I was I gave it to him on the house, “as long as you don’t mind a British cigarette” I added as I passed him a Royal, “it’s what the Queen smokes” I ad-libbed, my head obviously still swimming with lies after my apartment encounter.
I circled the East Village taking in the atmosphere, quite disbelieving I was finally here after so many years. Feeling peckish I stopped off at a lovely looking Thai cafe. When in New York and all that…
The food was easily the best I have had outside Thailand, and plentiful and such lovely people working there.
For my first full day I decided to get the poignant part out-of-the-way before I descended into debauchery. So I set off to visit the 911 memorial.
With comfortable shoes and an umbrella as the heavens opened, NY trying to hamper my plans but not taking into account I live in London, rain we can handle.
I set off waving to the Tompkins Square Park hobos and was accosted by a guy asking for $8. I was not very convinced about his business strategy. My thinking would be to ask everyone for a single dollar and more people are likely to supply this and he would reach his goal far quicker. Fishing for a dollar bill is far easier than looking for $8 in change. Or maybe it’s best to reach for the stars, either way he picked the wrong miserly Brit to ask.
I’ve drawn a line in giving money or cigarettes to most people (New York guy previous day aside – after all he earned it for getting drunk) When I lived in Camden Town I would be asked for cigarettes at least 5 times a day, because of this the whole world must now draw a blank from me. And unless you’re a cat you’re unlikely to get any cash off me either.
I continued on my path, weaving my way through the Lower East Side, through Chinatown – a proper Chinatown. If anyone has bore witness to London’s poor excuse for one then you’ll be amazed by NY. I eventually arrived Downtown at Ground Zero after assuming One WTC would be a guiding point but most of it was lost in the clouds and the heavy rain made it impossible to navigate that way.
I wandered about the memorials, stopping to listen to the gushing waters remembering the atrocities of that day. Even being there made it hard to imagine the horrors, maybe the low clouds disguising the height of surrounding buildings made it difficult to imagine the scale and picture the events or maybe they have just done a great job of altering the perception of the site from a reminder of the horrors that occurred to something more contemplative. I tend to think of the latter as the waterfalls cascading is the only sound you can hear and you become transfixed on this and the names etched into it’s surrounds.
The museum had queues snaking around, and as with the rain, queuing is something us Brits know. But I declined to join, the memorial was enough. Serene and poignant as it was.
I retired for a few well earnt beers, which was a trek in itself trying to find somewhere. After refuelling I hopped aboard the Staten Island ferry. I couldn’t tell you if there is anything worth seeing in Staten Island since I disembarked the boat I went round and rejoined it again for the trip back. Great that it was free, I can’t imagine that in London since to take a cable car across a short stretch of the Thames costs about £6 and you don’t get views of the Downtown area as you head away and chug past Lady Liberty (she’s not that close, this is just the zoom on my camera phone)
Arriving back at the ferry terminal my feet had given up for the day and refused to walk any further. Waiting to hail a cab, I was accosted again (three times in two days, how blessed was I!)
This time two young women with a young child asked for my cell phone. I made some excuse of not having a phone as I was foreign, so she said a cigarette would do instead. Not impressed by the fact she clearly wasn’t drunk at 3pm I didn’t think she had warranted a prize. I say she wasn’t drunk, on crack maybe, but not drunk. My friend relented and gave her a cigarette which she chugged over her child, she tried one last tactic of getting money from me along with a tale about losing everything, only to then to grab the next cab and hottail it outta there.
That first guy who got the cigarette should count himself very lucky, I had just landed and was day dreaming. A day later and I was hardened to it all. I felt right at home.