Wednesday 12 September 2012

US 9/11 = NZ 12/09

Today it's bright and sunny, sharp and clear, with a cold wind blowing up from the south where there's been a big dump of snow. It was a sunny spring day like this 11 years ago when I strolled into work across the road, all unknowing, to be met by shocked faces; and it was sunny and cold and spring just like this when I went to New York five years later, for the first time.

It was so exciting to be there: so strange and yet so familiar; so scary by reputation and yet in actuality so friendly and safe. I had such a great time exploring Manhattan mostly on my own, trusting to serendipity and the kindness of strangers and being repaid in spades: nice locals helping me out with directions ("I want to you enjoy my city") and sorting me out on the subway ("I never usually get to help people"); scoring a cancellation ticket for Spamalot; happening across CSI:NY being filmed, complete with dead mermaid on the jetty underneath Brooklyn Bridge heartlessly kept wet in the icy wind by someone with a water spray; the friendly FDNY guy who let me try on his helmet and amazingly heavy jacket; the choir and orchestra rehearsal of Bach's St John Passion in a church with perfect acoustics.

I was dismayed by the expense and uncertainty of tipping, and irritated by all the bossy notices. Everything else, though, was just as it should have been: the continuous whistles and sirens, the policeman writing up his notes on top of his imperturbable horse in Times Square, the five ear-pops on the way up the Empire State, the yellow cabs and absurdly long stretch limos, the ice-skaters at the Rockefeller Centre, the incidental foot-massage I got from the shoe-shine guy, the young man in a beanie doing tai chi in Central Park... I even went to see the Blue Man Group [Homer Simpson: "They're a total rip-off of the Smurfs!"] which was lots of fun; and today's tenuous connection, since I'm writing about Berlin, where they were also playing.

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