Sunday, September 21, 2008

New York (second half)

And here’s some more ramblings about my travels. I think this will probably be my last, as if you keep going on about foreign lands too much you start to sound like a boring gap year student (there’s one at every party).

The reason, incidentally, for the sprawling tone of these posts is that that is how it’s arranged in my head—I really can’t remember what happened on what day. I didn’t have time to sit and write down my day’s experiences at the end of each day; I took some paper, but generally I was either doing something fun or passed out asleep, so I never got time to write any notes. Without them, it’s all blurred together. An effect which the 24 hour cityness of New York exacerbates*--after a few days which go on for more than a day you completely lose track of time. Anyway, on with the rambling.

The Staten Island Ferry was the source of both good and bad experiences in our time staying in NY. The first time we got on it was an impressive experience—we arrived on Staten Island over the bridge from New Jersey in a cab** so we hadn’t yet seen the harbour and Manhattan island properly. It was at around sunset when the ferry set off from St. George ferry terminal when we got on it on the first day. The sunlight was a vibrant orange colour, bathing one side of the boat in a lovely glow. It was at that height where it reflects off shiny surfaces all over the place, you get shimmering lines of orange on the curved glass of the downtown skyscrapers and little crests of glowing sunlight on the top of the waves around the boat. That first evening, we watched—slightly dazed with the time difference (we’d all been up for about 20 hours)—as the sun lowered and dimmed, silhouetting the Statue of Liberty as we chugged past. We were all left a bit speechless by that, we weren’t expecting New York to announce itself quite so dramatically.

Due to our lack of knowledge of the timetable we probably spent a good few hours sitting around in either the Manhattan or Staten Island ferry terminals waiting for our boat to turn up. Most of the time this was fine, it was good to have some time to sit and talk, just to pause and mull over the day’s activities, or to plan what would come next. The ferry trips served the same purpose too, once the initial awe had worn off—they became a time to talk and plan. There were two particular occasions though, when the time spent in the ferry terminal wasn’t welcome.

The first came when we missed our 3am ferry home by a few minutes, having all had completely knackering days--walking miles, eating loads, and going to the top of the Empire State Building—we were all just too tired to have patience for it, and just huddled in a corner of the terminal like refugees listening to the endlessly looped Staten Island tourist promotional video and thinking longingly about bed. The second occasion was on the weekend, me and Kristen had been enjoying the company of hurricane Hannah, who got me the wettest I’ve ever been. I think more completely soaked than you get when you jump in a pool. When we were running from awning to awning and hiding out in hip cafés in the village it wasn’t too bad—despite the rain it was still warm, and there was a sort of mad hilarity to the whole thing. Once we were stationary in the chill, air-conditioned air of the ferry terminal, however, it went from fun to really fucking cold. There was water literally sloshing around in my shoes, my pockets actually had little pools in them, and everything in my pockets, bag, and internal organs was completely saturated. My headphones were annihilated and the book in my bag became very, very soft and bendy.

So far I may have given the impression that I spent my time in NY being super cool and hip--hanging out in Greenwich Village, wandering off the beaten track, etc--but that’s not really what we were about most of the time. We spent a lot of time on Broadway and wandering around Times Square. Rather more time wandering around times square than I think I ever want to do again come to think of it—it’s like oxford street, but with fewer Hare Krishnas and more ticket touts. I appreciated the fact that everything was cheaper in New York than it is in London, but I don't like shopping—which rather kills the fun of times square. On the second day (I think) we spent our time wandering around in the melting hot sunshine in Central Park. I think we went there just to tick it off the list, but I feel like if I had someone to lay around in the shade with and to talk to, I could easily have spent the whole holiday there. It was just so green and landscaped; no less man-made and artificial and planned than the rest of the city, but with more of a sense of fun and whimsy. I expect we only saw a fraction of the strange and interesting things that there are to see inside the park, but there was a sneaky feeling that we’d be sort of wasting our time if we spent our visit to NY in the bit of the city where you can almost forget that you’re in the city at all.

I haven’t really mentioned much about the people I was with, because I feel like that would be impolite. They were probably the most fun aspect of the holiday though, or certainly the factor that made it fun. I did write considerably more about the trip, but looking at it a few days later, it all seems pretty dull. I think I’ll keep the rest to myself.


*Not a word I would have even attempted without a spell checker.

**well, limousine actually – it would seem that there’s not much work going for limo drivers during the day on a Monday.