This time next week… I’ll be on the plane. New York bound, with nothing more organised than a couch to crash on. It’s been coming for so long it feels surreal that the departure point is finally almost here – particularly from my current perch. Manhattan feels like a different planet to the broad, jacaranda-lined streets of the George. Have been reading the sporadic journal from my last trip though, which helps to get into the mood. My first entry, from new year’s eve 2008, reads pretty smitten, and I only proceeded to fall further in love:
“New York is incredible, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. People seem to sense that I’m not from around here – could be my willingness to make eye contact, or the squealing at the snow, or constant grins and disbelief that I’m actually HERE. Everyone on the street is friendly, with a ready smile and the occasional whistle. The doormen all tip their caps as I pass down 86th Street, and the coffee vendors are always up for a chat.
“I arrived in darkness on Sunday night, after a death-defying ride on a shuttle bus from JFK with some similarly white-knuckled fellow passengers. New York roads are a chorus of discordant horns blaring and hand gestures; the clichés were accurate in this respect. En route I chatted with a Norwegian exchange student and her Californian friend, as we picked out the profile of the Empire State Building from the skyline, Manhattan nightlife twinkling into existence around us one bulb at a time…
“New York makes me feel like a child, in the best possible way. Everything is slightly dreamlike, in that I’m constantly surrounded by things I’ve seen before, suddenly made real. There are echoes of déjà vu everywhere, and not just from my current Gossip Girl obsession (the Met steps are still under construction, and it was too cold to attempt a yoghurt there anyway), but an entire lifetime of films and pop culture.
“No sooner had I reached Central Park than I was met by a squirrel – delightfully exotic to me, but I suspect more dime-a-dozen here than possums are at home. I passed a children’s playground and soon found myself on the running track around Jacqui Onassis Reservoir. Of course at this point I could no more put a name to the body of water than I could join the joggers, but with my iPod on what proved to be a mostly fortuitous shuffle, I followed the path around.
“There were ducks and picture-book rushes and the whole scene was quite picturesque, my runny nose aside. That familiar sensation of starring in a life-changing montage in the film of my life began to kick in… and then “Khe Sanh” came on. It changed the mood a little, but by clinging to lines like the last plane outta Sydney’s almost gone, I got through it. Soon enough the crisis had passed (gloves negate one’s control of the iPod clickwheel, you see) and I was on Fifth Avenue….”