That was a nice, unusual, most undisturbed 11-hour sleep catch-up last night. Jetlag is contradictory, it wraps its soft arms around you and pulls your eyelids down so you just can’t stay awake any longer, but then it shakes you awake at an hour you’ve never seen before and stops you in your sleep tracks. The difficulty of adjusting seems to depend on what direction you are flying and how far. Frankfurt – New York isn’t so bad. Waking up in New York, I wrote the blog and showered and we were all out of the house mid-afternoon on the way to Manhattan. We said goodbye to Jeanne at the Path (that’s the train from Jersey to Manhattan). Getting a Metro card wasn’t so easy, no humans, just a machine that wouldn’t accept the cards, we had to go out to an ATM to find some cash, and even then if the notes are slightly crumpled, the machine doesn’t like them. Finally, it worked, and then we had trouble getting through the barriers, there was a cop, I asked him to help, he said, “Officer Hindley has a broken ankle and won’t be here today,” out of nowhere, very strange. He was bloated, red, and had a strange vibe, always a hoot when hanging off the belt of a worrying character is a revolver, he told us how to put the metro ticket in the machine, step by step, like he was talking to a recruit, it wasn’t like we didn’t know how, it just wasn’t working but finally it did and we were out of his orbit – thankfully.
The New York trains always have a very varied clientele, a couple from the Indian continent opposite us, a dark-haired woman with her bag on the seat that I asked her to move which she did without a sound, and the whole trip two transport police, a black guy and a white guy, chatting, guns, you become very aware of guns in this country. At 33rd street we walked up the stairs and out of the door onto the street. Immediately a guy made a comment about my t-shirt, Television – Marquee Moon. He was a music fan, a restaurant inspector called Adam, we stood in the street for a quarter of an hour talking music, lastly about Blue Oyster Cult playing a show in NYC and performing their debut (1972), their second, Tyranny and Mutation (1973), and their third, Secret Treaties (1974). Music nerds, gotta love ‘em.
We walked up to Times Square, buzzing with people as usual, as it obviously would be. There were street performers, NYC cops, Spiderman, scantily clad ladies, and even the naked cowboy, thankfully clad in something. There were many Mickey Mice and a small Incredible Hulk. We ate Thai with Noelle from Canada at 48th and 8th and went back to Times Square for a coffee, a sit-down, and some people-watching. People-watching in Times Square is something of a sensory overload: there were Brazilians with flags, chanting “federal intervention”, there were multiple Disney and comic book characters, tourists from all over the world, locals, weed, police, the woman next to us was from Nigeria and wanted a photo. A whole lot of teenagers came and sat by us, skinning up and asking Olivia for her Instagram. There are the flashing Bladerunner billboards, beautiful giants in beautiful graphics parading all around you, clothing, jewellery, watches, films, TV shows, shoes, and huge advertising budgets, imagine the cost of promoting your product here.
We took the train downtown and walked to Union Square realising that after four years things have changed, coffee shops and diners gone, restaurants gone and even Strand Books opening hours shorter than they used to be. We still managed to get half an hour in there and I found some great titles in that short period, the only older Ian McEwan novel I hadn’t read (The Innocent, 1990), a hard-to-find Zola (The Sin Of Father Mouret, La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret, 1875), Strindberg’s The People Of Hemsö (Hemsöborna, 1887), Les Enfants Terribles (1929), a Cocteau novel I’d read but with a different translation and title (The Holy Terrors) and finally a signed first edition of Ian McEwan’s latest book, Lessons (2022). All hardbacks but one, I have a damned return flight weight problem after just one day.
In Union Square, the expensive Whole Foods psychedelic psupermarket was still open so we nipped in for the bathroom and a night picnic on the steps of Union Square. There was a pack of rollerbladers, we got talking to one of them (Isaac) before walking back to the Path train where on the platform we met Celeste in her super stripy flares and talked to her all the way home, as you do.