The sad part about the passing of time is that some fragments and images always remain with you, while the memory video-tapes inevitably thin out, break or just turn into dust.
I can merely guess that any visit to New York can only be a load full of impressions. I have had two. The first one was so exciting, I had talked about it for over a year afterwards as if it had happened just last week and people would actually listen to me and catch the bug of my enthusiasm. I don’t think I could have made specific places or experiences so appealing, it was just the way I loved it that got them.
I remember the apprehension before the trip. After all, I’ve seen movies with people murdered on the subway, on the street, in hotels, in stores, in cabs…hardly a place without spilled blood on that battlefield of a narrow stretch of land.
But, there we were, flying for only an hour, through a bad and bumpy storm and then… – I can’t imagine pilots ever getting tired of stirring their metal birds over the city, tilting them just so that every side can get the full impact of the view, because they must know that there will be at least one person on every flight that had never seen Manhattan before.
And that first glimpse shows you the magnificent beauty of a gigantic city rising directly from the water. (Don’t they have tides there?) It looks as if a giant outstretched palm had been offered to carry the weight of people’s imagination gone crazy with loads of money to feed it and ever more souls to add to its eternal fires. In a thousand years, if a curious traveller wandered back to this time, he/she would still find this city contemporary. Looking at it from above, it is the epiphany of future, yet it appears timeless. I could imagine a nutty bird falling in love with it from time to time, forsaking the migration paths and spending its winter and summer seasons in the crown of the Statue of Liberty, just admiring its beauty.
And the Statue of Liberty… aaah. A grand, powerful and commanding woman – need I say more?
We stayed at the Carleton Arms Hotel on 25th and 3rd. We found it in the Rough Guide on N.Y. and it was described as a bohemian place where local artists have painted the rooms in different ways, frequented by Europeans and very affordable. It sounded great. And it was. The first night we spent in the Japanese black & white room, the bathroom wall painted as an entrance to an underwater cave, the boat floating away in the distance.
The next night they gave us a „honeymoon suite“ (we were obviously still very new to each other and the walls were thin, plus the staff had a sense of humour), where we stayed for the rest of the week. The large bed was a centrepiece, on a raised platform, with columns and draperies, walls painted in warm, cherubic colours and shapes, with shimmering golden splashes…sense of humour and fun abundant. This place was not an ode to any of the Louis periods, just a little capsule of N.Y. craziness, at least that was how it looked to us. We glimpsed some of the other rooms too. They indeed were all different and one could imagine that there were plenty of artists in that city who would want to flex their creativity. And do it again from top to bottom every year.
Then, we just walked. And walked, and… New York is a wonderful city for your soles. They get tired and wear out, but mine were excited just as much as I was, and no body parts put in complaints. We walked all of the many Villages, across the Brooklyn Bridge, up to the Central Park and the Museums, where the obscenely rich try to immortalize themselves by leaving invaluable collections of arts and artefacts for the enjoyment of the masses, around Soho and Tribeca, up and down the magnificent buildings with ever more majestic views from their tops, through the street markets and little shops, seeing the dirt, the beautiful and not-so-beautiful-anymore people, breathing the air thick with fresh and broken dreams, the architecture that began as an imitation (although good) and grew into its own and unique grandeur, pulsating with life and its passions anywhere you step. I didn’t quite see the grit that the city was infamous for, but New York played all around us without a moment’s pause its millions and millions of impromptu Hellenic tragedies of these postmodern times.
The clashes of overabundance of money and the criminal lack of it must be most obvious in this city, but I haven’t seen enough of the world to know that for certain. New York feels as the centre of the world and it shows it; it is claiming the title as a proud trophy. As a result, the city and its people are different than the rest of America, and the rest of the world for that matter. It is a Mecca for those who are crazy or want to be; misfits, hopefuls, greedy, lost, lustful, ambitious, dreamers…everything and everybody straying away from the average…. and it will never run out of fuel.
Now, the second time I went, my baby was almost a year, I was out of my mind from lack of sleep and life in general. And New York was the wrongest of wrong choices for the state I was in. I hated it! I couldn’t stand the furious tempo of people anywhere you looked; I kept asking myself if they were all mad and couldn’t see how pointless and crazy it all was; I saw more dirt than before and it bothered me, people looked kind of funny too, weird beyond any acceptance level, I hated the hotel, hated my company… – everything. I needed a golden cage where I would have had massage, fruit bowls of treats, leisure to stuff myself past the bursting point…and get a glimpse of that crazy town only for a moment or two.
Yet, that time I met Sanda, her husband and little daughter, and the three of them came up to us as messengers of a day so bright and sunny, I had looked at them for a long time, mesmerized by their harmony. She and I had an instant recognition when we saw each other. At their suggestion, we went to the Cloisters and set for hours in the inner courtyard of a peaceful place, with our two men looking after the little girl and keeping the distance from us so that we could talk. Talked we did, and I had finally relaxed. And so I forgave New York for not being gentler to me that time, but seeing me at different stages of my life, and I knew that I would go back. Always.