Out of the tropical sea breeze, a quick flight landed me in the snow breeze. New York City. I had seen movies taking place in this big city. But to be frank, I do not know I’ve seen a movie that showed this city like I saw it. As I picked up the suit case with priority tag (thanks to my colleague who was travelling business class), I followed the sign for taxi and stepped outside the door. It was freezing out there. It was pretty late, and the wind was strong and very cold. The queue for taxi was not long but there was no cab in sight and everyone wore the tired expression on their faces. More than a few left the queue before the cabs started to arrive. They were all typing some messages on the mobile, then they were on the phone with somebody talking about where they wanted picked up. Then each and every one of them walked up to a shiny black car that pulled up in the pick-up lane. Later I realised that’s the service I’d heard of before – Uber. Fortunately my cab pulled up not long after, and I walked into an apartment on the W33rd and picked up the key from the smiling guy in uniform behind the desk in the foyer.
The next day was Saturday. I put on my full winter gear and set out for a walk towards the Lower Manhattan. 24 hours before, I was still sweating in the shade sipping sparkling water. It felt like such a distant memory.
Soon I came to the Hudson, large 1-metre-square ice pieces filling the surface. People were jogging along the snow-covered path wearing their lycra but warm top. Spoke to a upper-middle-aged man who looked like an expat, with a nice road bike, taking a break by the water. People are friendly here. They seem to love their city and appreciate visitors who like it, too.
I was not going to spend half a day going out to see some statue. But I could now say I saw it. You see her there in the photos?
There are so many police cars here, I thought it was some kind of VIP protection. But asking one of the officers by the cars, he told me it was just what they do every day since 9/11 – they gather here and set out to their patrol duties. This reminds them, each day, what they stand for. Ford cars look pretty cool here in this city. Reminds me of the days I used to look at their car pictures every day as a part of my day job.
More walk took me around to the eastern shore of the Manhattan Island – facing Brooklyn in the lowering sun.
So many artists of all trades, from painters, writers, photographers, musicians, so many of them headed to this city, looking for the inspiration, looking for a chance to ‘make it’. Now that I walk across this city, I began to appreciate the energy and the feelings that exist here. It is not as ‘raw’ as I’d imagined it to be. I thought it would be even more ‘ethnic’ or strongly cultural, but it is actually rather controlled or keeping external-facing ‘face’ to those outside on the street, the way it is in Japan, for example. Maybe if I had come here before 9/11 I might have seen something very different.
Still, I couldn’t help feeling; hey, this is all right. I could totally imagine living here. Maybe, maybe.
As the darkness fell, I took my tired body back to the flat on the 33rd street. I watched the Uniqlo store in the street in the back, and pulled close the curtain to sleep.
Next morning, I looked at the map in the morning to realise the Grand Central Station is just nearby. So I walked in the snow that just started falling again.
Grand Central, or the space available to public at least, was actually pretty compact. Nothing like a massive terminal that I’d imagined. Then the snow started to fall, again.