Thursday, August 06, 2009

Uptown, Downtown...

Originally uploaded by Flasher T
The next morning I head out into NYC, armed with a Lonely Planet guide. I gawk at Grand Central and take pictures of the United Nations building before walking through a street fair on Lexington Avenue. I go up to the Apple store, and purposefully sit there for half an hour, browsing on their free WiFi with my Nokia. I meet up with a friend and we go into Central Park, managing to walk straight into a giant public party sponsored by the Israeli tourism board (complete with Palestinian protesters and, curiously, Israeli counter-protesters). We have a look at the big lake, spotting the occasional turtle and the biggest fucking goldfish you have ever seen - the length of my arm, and I am not kidding. We double back and head down to the Village, for a meal at Yaffa Cafe, where I get my full, proper dose of hipsterdom and irony (and more free WiFi) over a surprisingly reasonably-priced couscous. Jetlag and a carbohydrate coma lead me to suggest an espresso, and we walk through Chinatown into Little Italy. It's inevitably excellent.

Monday comes around, and I make a point out of doing the tourist thing. I take the subway in a vaguely downtownish direction, walking down Broadway from 6th street all the way to City Hall. The World Trade Center is a big fence, but eight years on it's still palpably creepy; perhaps because you know that an empty space this large is really not supposed to be there. I find Wall Street and have a rest in Federal Hall, now a museum, just across the street from the NYSE (no public access). I buy an organic drink at Pret-a-Manger and chat with the girl at the counter; maybe it's just that I'm not used to people being randomly friendly, or maybe she's bored, or maybe she's happy to see a real person without a suit and tie for once. I don't imagine much of her business is made up of people who say "thank you", not in this neighborhood.

Wall Street itself, by the way, is short and narrow, and feels really opressive.

I find the bull statue and have my picture taken. The line for the ferries to the Statue of Liberty is ridiculous, so I consider taking the Staten Island ferry instead - it's free, a commuter route, and doesn't lead anywhere interesting, but the view of the Manhattan skyline is supposed to be wonderful. It's too rainy though, so I walk over to the TKTS booth. This is the place that sells last-minute Broadway tickets for cheap; my Lonely Planet book really paid off, as most people only know of the booth in Times Square, which is naturally always packed. This other one is completely empty, and I get a pair of tickets for that night. The show is Rock of Ages. That is also the point where my phones stop working properly. I had two handsets, my N85 and an old Ericsson T39 that I got off eBay for thirty bucks. The N85 was roaming on AT&T, while the Ericsson was running a local T-Mobile prepaid SIM; now the Tele2 card stopped working completely, the Ericsson would not find a network on either, and I could only use the T-Mobile in the Nokia - but I was also using it to navigate, and the license for the GPS software was coded for the Tele2 SIM. Unpleasant.

1 comment:

Jim Hass said...

Yes, ground zero really is creepy. Everytime I am in New York, I make a point to stop by there. Overthe years, the scene has changed a bit, but the pall remains.

Back in 2001-2 there were crowds, reverent and prayerful. Now it still is eerie, if only because we remember some of what happened there, like Auswitz, yet more current, and less remote.


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