“… Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome...
… “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!””
Emma Lazarus (written in 1883 & later affixed in bronze to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty)
Every immigrant to East Coast America from the late 1880’s to the mid 1900’s, landing at Ellis Island for processing, sailed into Hudson Bay under the steely gaze of this ‘New Colossus’. Though she was not in fact intended as a symbol of liberty for refugees and immigrants, weary travellers reported feelings of awe, wonder, relief and freedom at the sight of this bronze lady measuring 93m from ground to torch – henceforth her symbolism of ‘liberty’ & ‘justice’ (interesting visit to Ellis Island & Liberty Island).
According to a client of ours, an Englishman living in New York, it takes 10 years to become a New Yorker.
Woody Allen suggested it takes just 10 minutes to fall in love with the city.
I was hooked when I first visited New York in February 2004.
As bizarre – even arrogant – as it may sound to real New Yorkers, I now find myself somewhere between tourist and local. I began as a tourist: puzzling over dimes, quarters & nickels; trying to make myself understood when ordering ‘water’ (apparently ‘murder’ is what they heard instead); wading through the crowds in Times Square; standing in the queues (American translation: ‘lines’) for the Empire State Building; eating shrimp at Bubba Gump’s, and belting out Broadway tunes at Ellen’s Stardust Diner.
Several visits later, I now find myself avoiding the crowds and having a go at being a local – this time, in Brooklyn. We watched an informal game of ‘soccer’ on a Saturday morning in Fort Green Park and a rather more competitive game at the Brooklyn Bridge park with the backdrop of the Manhattan Skyline; ran up 3 huge flights of steps like in a scene out of Rocky; attended a service at Redeemer Church on East 59th street and wondered aimlessly in Central Park.
I tried not to stare at the huge, tattooed men walking tiny Chihuahuas (I’m told these dogs are referred to as “Taco Bell Dogs” – Americans please explain!). We made a rapid retreat from an escalating shouting match between three women on Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn (nicknamed ‘murder’ avenue). We munched a yummy punnet of plum tomatoes while wandering through a veggie market (um… what exactly is a ‘fiddlehead’?) and I devoured a bag of Cheetos on the subway (nearest thing to Niknaks in the USA) – they now come in jalapeño cheese flavour – yummy!
Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway
I loved the music. I loved the Jewish in-jokes, though I really didn’t understand many of them. I loved the characters. I loved the If I were a Rich Man song. I loved that Hubby endured a musical with me and enjoyed it!
The United Nations
In the steaming New York heat, we walked from West 81st street to West 72nd street, sipping a Starbucks and catching up with an old friend. At 72nd & Amsterdam we stopped for some fresh papaya juice at Gray’s Papaya (that’s pawpaw juice to South Africans). Then we walked to Grand Central Station, and over to 1st Avenue for a tour of the United Nations. Ever since watching Nicole Kidman in The Interpreter (2005), I’ve wanted to visit the United Nations. The world’s nations working together for peace and justice… what a wonderful aspiration. Educational. Multinational. Inspirational.
The World Trade Center Memorial and Museum
The World Trace Center Memorial surpassed all my expectations. It is located in two floors of the original underground car park in the foundations of the twin towers. The array of artifacts, information, footage, photography, audio recordings, historical news reels, recorded testimonies, facts, messages, lost&found personal items, investigations, individual and community stories is literally – correct usage – too much to take in, in terms of mental and emotional capacity. I found myself close to tears – often. I found myself back in Fourways Mall in Johannesburg, where I was the moment I witnessed the second plane crashing into the second tower on a TV monitor in a shop window. It’s impossible to do this museum dispassionately.
Madiba Restaurant, Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn
On our final night in Brooklyn we ate at the Madiba South African restaurant. The menu has a perfect choice of South African delights from bobotie to chakalaka to umngqusho (samp&beans) – it was a home-cooked rather than a restaurant spread – and absolutely delicious! We NEED a Madiba restaurant in London… need, not want…
P.s. From the United Nations we ventured to 10th Street to walk the ‘High Line’, an old train track which has been transformed into a raised garden walkway. It runs from 34th to 16th streets. On that day we recorded 27,000 steps on Hubby’s pedometer.
P.p.s. Sadly I developed an allergic reaction to, we think, soft-shell crab. I got a rash all over my body and my face swelled up. Not at all funny at first. But when my face returned to normal, Hubby regularly burst into laughter recalling my opening line one morning: “What if it stays like this?”. He still thinks it’s hilarious that I bought a £3 data bundle to look up the symptoms of Elephantiasis!
P.p.p.s. If it was the crab, it will be sad news for this life-long seafood lover 😦 … controlled tests to follow when I’m back in London.
P.p.p.p.s. Coming soon – Boston and Salem.
P.p.p.p.p.s. Thanks to my good friend G, from upstate New York, see below, the funny food allergy scene from the film Hitch (2005) … go ahead, laugh at my expence 🙂