On first impressions, it seemed to be less alien than I imagined. When you sit and think about how different our two countries are, you tend to imagine there to be guns visible at every glance, patriotic nationalists bombarding you from all forgotten angles, and a pale green cat... A cat bigger than any building you've seen before, just there... Towering over the city... With dollar signs for eyes and a laugh that you just can't seem to run from... A cat that has paws bigger than clouds, that boom together when he makes that money rain... But, to my disappointment, he wasn't there, and neither was the rain... Neither were the anti-abortion activists spouting their brainwashed hypocrisy, neither was the young African American man who was shot and killed before my very eyes, and all the other people on the street who trivially walk by... Just me, and my eyebrow raised.
Where was everyone? You'd imagine JFK to be all hustle and bustle... Wouldn't you? Maybe they were all in taxis... That classic line that you always see in the movies... "TAXI!" as someone stands at the side of the road, with one arm up and the other holding some kind of expensive bag. The amount of taxis that you'd presume could never exist. Just lines and lines of them... With none of them going anywhere fast. Honestly, it would be quicker to walk. 15 blocks to anywhere... It was difficult at first, but then you begin to get used it. It's pretty much like reading the coordinates in a game of battleship. Up and across, across and down, across and up...
You get the idea.
So far all you've heard about is my disappointment, but I assure you it's not all the sensation I felt. Small talk. Small talk in exchange for money. Money in exchange for services I do not care for. Anybody who knows me well knows that food is my first great love. So when visiting any great city food must be sampled as standard. But what I don't care for, is when your waiter makes it his business to try to get to know you while you order your meal. I know I speak for many people when I say, I'd rather tip a person on their service and attitude of me being there, rather than the fakeness of the scenario.
Although I have many more cities I've left to visit, I personally believe you will never find another city in the whole, entire world where you feel more contently alone. Not even the homeless bother you, unlike they do along your local High Street... Which reminds me... Neither will you find another more unexpectedly clean that this one. You imagine in your head for it to be dark and dingy, and there to be damp residue in that 90 degree space between the sidewalk and the street, but it wasn't there... It was clean.
Times Square isn't like it is at the beginning of Vanilla Sky, and I'm not even sure why it would be... But, it was jammed. Packed like a draw of unmatched but clearly not salvageable socks. Are you like me? Just stand in an area full of people absorbed in their own selfish lives, and wonder what it would be like for all of them to just vanish and for it to just be you, alone, in your own hectic silence?
Unlikened to the silence I observed at the 9/11 Memorial.
This silence was like no other silence, and not of the kind I had dreamed of in Times Square, this silence was made of something else. The kind of silence that makes you hairs stand on end, and your eyes well. Which is only amplified with the knowing that every other person to stand in your place has felt the same.
To begin my conclusion of this great city, I felt sadness. Not just for the lost and forgotten, but for my own sentiment. Making my way across the top of the Empire State Building, wading through the selfie stick jungle that was the crowd, I found myself stood beside the edge looking across the city. I was awash with woe, and for what? The truth of it was that I didn't want to go home. Back to the place I'd longed so long to never be alone in, but that I'd, in fact, travelled all this way to realise that being alone never meant being lonely.
As for the iconic phrase, "The city that never sleeps", this great city is awake enough for everyone.
My head will forever be the long lost friend to those American feathers, and sleep will never be as deep after a day in any other city.