Mark Tanner - Adventurer, Writer and Amateur Beatboxer

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The Big Apple

20 July 2000

 

For as long as I can remember, as early as the days of Hill Street Blues, I have always wanted to wake up in the city that never sleeps.

 

New York was everything I expected it to be and more. Unlike most places, it was exactly how it is portrayed on TV, in fact walking around the grid streets of Manhattan was like walking around the set of movie. The city felt like it was alive and buzzed with activity, with something going on at every corner. Honking, construction, and yelling noises echoed through the building-lined streets, providing a constant hum of background noise that never seemed to calm.

 

I was straight onto the subway when I arrived in New York, laden with my huge pack. The lights flickered as the train shook through the underground network of tracks, transporting people from every walk of life from stop to stop. My stop came in the Upper East Side, just after I had nearly flattened an understanding black woman on the train with my pack after the shaking train threw me off balance, so I got left pretty quickly, hoping not to be liable for negligence. Upper East side was a snooty part of Manhattan where the apartments all had door-men and people made a good living from walking the locals' dogs.

 

I was staying with Ursala, a fine lass from Tauranga, who was friends of Lorna and Craig from DC. She was nannying for an affluent family, and got all of the perks of the job including her own bachelor apartment in a block with a friendly doorman, who seemed to think I was Crocodile Dundee. Ursala's apartment turned out to be a full house, with Kate, another good kiwi girl, who came to stay a night after myself.

 

Everything in New York is done on a grand scale, and this is best appreciated from the lookout on top of the Empire State Building, over 100 stories above the hundreds of yellow cabs bumper to bumper in the streets below. I really got an appreciation for the size of the city, with block after block playing host to some of the tallest buildings in the world.

 

The shops around 5th Avenue and 42nd Street were also on the same impressive scale with the enormous outlets, often spread across a number of floors, having themes and props that would even make shopping with the girlfriend enjoyable. The Disney shop was my pick of the bunch and blasted me back to my childhood with interactive activities and all the Mickey Mouse accessories you could think of.

 

In the centre of the concrete jungle was the oasis of Central Park, which fortunately was only a couple of blocks from Ursala's apartment, and provided the common route into town. The park itself plays host to a hive of activities and is the playground for the 17 million people who reside in the Big Apple. The backdrop of tall buildings rising high above the leafy foliage was quite the setting for the baseball games, running and rollarblading, but I was more entertained by the other patrons of the park - the Dog walkers, as they tried to negotiate with their band of canines tangled in each other's leashes, and the parties of housewives, who spent their mornings doing aerobics-type exercise, while pushing around their prams.

 

New York has a feast of fine museums, and although I was all museumed-out after Washington, DC, there were a few that I had wanted to see such as the contemporary architectural masterpiece, the Guggenheim, which provided the perfect home for the fine art within its curved walls. Ursala and I had a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which had everything from retro bedrooms to coats of armour, but it was the Egyptian artefacts that blew my hair back. The rules of the house were no photographs, but we managed to negotiate a snap of a naked marble Greek dude from a gullible security guard. There I was thinking how clever we were, but upon having the photo developed, I realised the zoom had been utilised to focus on our two heads and his bits, I think the guard had the last laugh. We also spent some time at the Museum of Modern Art.

 

The best way to see New York is by foot, to get a full appreciation of the smells, sounds, sights and activity and Ursala, Kate and I certainly clocked up some mileage. Everywhere we seemed to walk there were decorated cows, hundreds of them dotted around the city, each with unique artwork by a local artist, and commonly the topic of conversation.

 

One of the nicest walks to go on is next to the water in Brooklyn, where the promenade offers some of the best views of the breathtaking skyline of Manhattan, followed by the Brooklyn Bridge crossing.

 

We wandered around each of the unique neighbourhoods including China Town, Little Italy, East Village, Soho and Downtown, including the disappointingly short Wall Street. And while on the site-seeing charge, caught Grand Central Station and its whispering walls, Pier 16, Washington Square, Battery Park, a couple of large churches and a Synagogue, which was interesting to me as the Jewish make up a large and influential portion of the population in New York.

 

The ferry ride over to Staten Island also provided a nice perspective of the city, and we got kind of close to the Statue of Liberty.

 

Night time is also a terrific time to see the city, as the locals empty out of the skyscrapers and full the bars. I managed to see a few, but the bar on the 112th floor of the World Trade Centre overlooking the city's lights and harbour was my pick of the bunch. The bar had a fantastic live band, dancing, a good atmosphere and a marble bathroom complete with one of those guys who wipes your hands and sprays you with perfume after dunny visits. I also caught up with Michael there, who I had met in Vancouver.

 

There is plenty to do other than getting drunk after dark. Summer bought with it a host of outdoor activities including an outdoor movie in a city park in which everyone had bought along picnics. It was a classic old movie and the viewers were singing along and dancing to the scenes, it was quite a night.

The walk around Times Square was awesome, in which the square was lit up with advertising from every angle, including an advert for soup where the soup was steaming. We did the tourist thing and had some cartoons drawn of us, and I think it ruined Ursala's night when she was drawn on a witch's broomstick.

 

I was lucky enough to catch up with Olivia Skinner a few times, a friend from High School, who was had been living in New York for a couple of years. And Robby also came up for the weekend from DC, and we went to a street market, had a few home made margaritas and then visited a few licensed establishments.

 

I could've hung around New York for another year or two, but being a travelling man, it was time to move on, so I had my last hotdog from a street vendor and was back to the same Greyhound station I had arrived in and headed North through Connecticut to Rhode Island.

New York and New England

 

 

 

 

 

 


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