If I was asked to make a recommendation for a city like New York, visit it at night. The magic is real, the sights authentic, at least as the movies have fed us over time. At night, Manhattan is always full, swarming human traffic all night long, thanks to its fair share of tourists.
Everywhere we visited, there were people competing for photo op turns. From the Seaglass Carousel to the Charging bull, the Trinity Church to the new all white soaring bird themed World Trade Centre PATH terminal Metro station.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the air got cooler and out of the towering sky scrapers,we’re surprised by a heavy downpour. The sudden rain brought memories of childhood, as we danced and sang in the rain with or without umbrella; the famous musical;
“…I’m singing ‘in the rain
Just singing ‘in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughing ‘at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart…”
As we walked under the rain, drenched through to the shoes, I was in the mood of this song : happy. Happy with my visit, Happy with my day. Contended. My initial worries, gone. I lived just in the moment and took advantage of the enchanted scenery, of the highest buildings I have ever encountered. They seemed taller than anything I have seen. Larger than life. All brightly lit. Seemingly in congregation, watching over us, minions, dwarfs, as we sat by the curb of the famous O’hara’s, waiting for the rain to pass.
I looked back at the last few steps we had taken. The walk past the money chasers haven, : Wall Street and the spectacular bronze sculpture of the Charging Bull. The sculpture represents a huge bull all charged up to attack and in front of him stands a little girl in defiance. Legend has it that touching certain parts of the bull would make one rich. Obviously, this has led to some funny and unusual shots.
Our goal, on this trip was to visit and pay our homage to the National 9-11 Memorial & Museum, they were, of course, closed at that time of night but you could see how the United States of America commemorated 17 years after, this dark page of its history. We spend quite a while on this site, a while longer gazing at the heavily damaged but not entirely destroyed Fritz Koenig’s Sphere, the iconic bronze and steel sculpture that stood in front of the World Trade Centre’s twin tower. In silence, was recalling this 11th September 2001 and the media images that we all kept in our memory.
Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, the World Trade centre stands majestically, towering above any other tower.
After our soul searching and mourning episode, we made a beeline for the other bucket list worthy location popularised by many movies and some classic Xmas movies like “Home Alone” ( I watched it again this year). Have you guessed? Yes I am talking about Central Park.
The trip to Central Park was a welcome break to recover from the walking and the memoirs. At that ungodly hour of the night, it was eerie and thus we did not dare venture deep into the heart of the park, despite sight of numerous reassuring police patrols. We kept our venture to the West Drive through the Strawberry Fields and found a bench on a nice spot just past the Tavern on the Green where we sat and watch the park entrance illuminated by the sprawling city beyond: From here, we witnessed the underbelly of New York City, some homeless wandering rummaging through garbage cans, two benches away there were a couple that seemed to be settling some sort of argument and from time to time small groups of young men a little tipsy crossing the park. It was peaceful, homely.
“Park closes in One hour, start leaving” a police patrol announced via a megaphone as they passed.
We walked down to the Pulitzer fountain, gawked at the Gold plated Trump Tower as we found our way down 5th Avenue connecting to the 6th Avenue to pay homage to the Got Talent finals arena, Radio City on our way back to city’s heart, Time Square where we got to take in the brilliant light sights away from the milling crowds and quietly enjoy a McDonalds meal. There were few people still there; a group of young dancers did their little show and filmed what seemed to be a music video.
All in all, for this half day New York experience we spent just on luggage storage, short connecting trips and food. Most of the circuit was done on foot. In reality the sites are a short walk of each other, and walking in a small group, we did not feel tired at all. Good deal, right?
After the overnight once in a life time leisurely rich discovery tour, it was time to head to the La Guardia airport for our respective flights. We had spent a total of 11 hours in The New York City and we fell in love, with the city.
We headed back to get the luggage we had deposited at the baggage storage near Penn Station. It was a stark opposite of what we had experienced earlier on. Here, in the late afternoon the station and surrounding area were crowded with people, at 4 am it was a different. Almost empty. There were homeless people lying on cardboard or even the ground in front of almost every door building: men, women of all ages. I thought about the sudden rain and what it was like to have to sleep in the rain or puddles. How was it during the winter? During the festivities? It was so sad. The behind the scenes of these cities, that attract millions of tourists every year is the precarious livelihood of some segment of the population.
Just as it has started, my lifetime most anticipated visit drew to a close. On our Uber ride to the airport the Senegalese driver played tunes from the golden voice of Africa, the Malian maestro Salif Keita as a beautiful concidence, lining up my favourite sounds of the Mandingo Singer. I was pensive and melancholic.
The Empire state that have been sung so many times had totally contradictory facets.
The first was the face of a dream world, that inspired, make you want to sing and dance, This face give the impression that everything was possible in New York. As in the Empire State of Mind chorus of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
“….In New York,
Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made of
There’s nothin ‘you cannot do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York…”
The second facet was much darker. The precarious living plaqueless in certain populations, homelessness, delinquency, drugs, gang wars and insecurity prevailing in some area.
As my early morning flight soared over the New York borough, a smile escaped my lips. I looked down at the towering skyscrapers surrounded by the calm blue North Atlantic waters and chuckled. I felt alive. Mission accomplished. As Frank Sinatra said “I want to be a part of it, New York, New York”; “I want to wake up, in a city that never sleeps”; I had done it. Lived it, Loved it.
They say you live only once, but what is certain is that I could relive that day and a dozen more without even get bored; explore the nooks and crannies of New York; order a meal in one of its famous restaurants; watch a Broadway musical; climb Empire State Building; visit the Bronx; go to Brooklyn……
As romantic and beautiful as it seemed, I was certain that the daily reality was quite different. New York in a word is a JUNGLE; and in jungle we do not live; one survives.
😘😘😘😘 A. Adventurer & L. Umbanyak