Jamie – 26 November 2011
I’ve been to New York City quite a few times in my life. I ran the marathon here twice in the late 80’s and have travelled here on work and holiday several times since. I still get a big kick every time I come – it has an energy level and uniqueness about it that I’ve not experienced elsewhere. I love walking the streets and being re-acquainted with the smell of freshly baked pretzels and roasted chestnuts from the street vendors, the steam coming up from the subway, and the hustle and bustle of eight million people marching to their own song. I’m told NYC is the safest it’s ever been and nothing I saw this visit contradicted that. It apparently reflects the good work of a recent police commissioner who started keeping very detailed crime statistics by postcode and would immediately flood any area where there was a crime “blip” with large numbers of flying-squad police teams. The criminals were effectively removed before they could get established and everyone seems a lot happier!
This 10 day visit was all the more exciting as we had close family and friends in abundance – something that our trip has not had for a few months. Bec’s lovely cousin Sarah insisted that we live in her three bedroom apartment in Front Street, Manhattan for the first seven days while she and her daughter Lucy relocated for “some fun” in the Standard Hotel. Not only that but Sarah had also arranged for our last three days to be spent in a two-story Penthouse in the Upper East Side which belonged to some great friends of hers who were elsewhere over the Thanksgiving holiday period. We felt like we had won some fantastic competition as we lit a roaring fire in our 34th floor fireplace and settled back to dine on our turkey with a view for miles in every direction.
Another of Bec’s cousin’s, Matt Baker, is thriving as a jazz pianist over here and he joined us for a number of outings including some ice-skating at Bryant Park (where the children had a very successful lesson), yum-cha in Chinatown and of course our Thanksgiving lunch. I also had the pleasure on my last night of watching Matt perform at a wonderful wine bar on the Upper East Side. New Yorkers love their jazz and it is not hard to see why Matt is over here – he is loved and followed by many.
We visited two of our favourite friends – Jim and Eva Blanshard in Brooklyn, and Robyn Lea and Tim Hunt in Scarsdale (a very picturesque village half an hour by train from Grand Central). Both have young children who immediately bonded with our own – sight unseen – and we loved being able to spend some quality time with old friends, and to hear of their lives in the Big Apple.
At Sarah’s suggestion we saw two broadway shows – each very different to the other. First up I took Foster and Mylo to a musical, “Spiderman – Turn off the Dark” which closely followed the original story of how Peter Parker became Spiderman. The music (written by Bono and The Edge from U2) was fantastic and the show had amazing circus-like stunts where the performers literally flew all around the theatre just above the heads of the audience. The boys loved it and were still “wired” as we caught the Metro home just before midnight.
Sarah, Bec and I then thoroughly enjoyed “Other Desert Cities”, which has had outstanding reviews and starred our compatriot Rachel Griffiths, alongside Stacy Keach and Stockard Channing (who had a stand-in the night we went). It was a fun night which saw us inadvertently go overtime on our pre-show dinner and have to run in pouring rain up 15 blocks (as the traffic was gridlocked with people escaping Manhattan for Thanksgiving). We arrived a little late but were let in and were on such a high that wet clothes were quickly forgotten.
We did some shopping, including a visit to FAO Schwarz (New York’s most famous toy store) where the children danced on the giant keyboard (which will only mean something to people who have seen the Tom Hank’s film “Big”). We even braved the famous “Black Friday Sale” which falls the day after Thanksgiving. Unsurprisingly this completely blew our four suitcase capacity out of the water but we have been saved by Sarah and husband Rob who have kindly volunteered to bring back our excess luggage to Australia in a few weeks time as they will be in Australia for Christmas this year. Where would we be without Sarah and her magnificent family – she has given so much of herself to our enjoyment of the last ten days and we will be forever grateful!
It is ten years since the World Trade Centre towers came down and we visited Ground Zero, as it is still known. While the two original towers took just three years to build, the area remains a construction site as five new towers get built around the original two “footprints” which will forever remain memorial sites and never be built on. We visited the tribute museum which displays items relating to that terrible day – aircraft windows, messages on scraps of paper from loved ones who were never found, strange shapes of metal that you slowly realise were once forks and spoons, etc.
There was none of the footage of planes going into buildings which usually dominate the media. Instead there are photo’s of the almost 3,000 people who died that day and a selection of personal items which belonged to some of them, donated by their families, which made it all very real to those of us who did not know them personally. It was a very moving experience for both Bec and I.
Ona lighter note, I awoke this morning a little hung-over from watching Matt at the wine bar till midnight, and suddenly thought I should confirm today’s flight to Washington DC. This proved fortunate as at some point in the last four and a half months our 12.30pm flight became an 11.10am flight and the cab I had booked would have seen us arrive at the airport just after our plane had left. Anyway – all good, we somehow managed to wake the children, shower, pack, and reschedule the cab in just over half and hour and ended up with time to spare at JFK.