For the one day I was an American.
That one day I was walking on SoHo and watching the mannequins with my eyes wide open, I was riding on the Wall Street and observing with disbelief how true is what they say, “slow down” said noone ever on the Wall Street.
I was eating a creamy chocolate ice cream of the size of my two fists together in the Central Park and laughing at the tiny dogs struggling to follow their jogging owners along 8th Avenue, five minutes walk from Broadway.
I was smiling to the massive billboards on the Times Square, and they were smiling back, and while listening to the Nat King Cole singing Smile, what’s the use of crying, you’ll find that life is still worthwhile If you just smile I thought,
the life is great.
This journey has started a bit different from all the others.
Once a year I have a reserve month. This means that I get no roster for the following month and have basically no idea where am I going next, how long for, and whether I’ll sleep in my own bed or in the one thousand miles away.
I suppose it does sound exciting, but believe me, it costs a lot of nerves too. My bag is lying on the floor packed: half filled with sweaters and jeans, the other half with bikinis and flip flops.
I pray that once I’ll pick up the phone the voice in the speaker will say “hi Emilia, you are going to San Francisco”. Or something like that. Or at least somewhere with grass. And trees. After all these days spent in melting Dubai, that is more than enough to keep me happy.
So I’m lying in bed, watching Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco and feeling like a proper New York gangster. I feel so much like an American wise man that if I had a cigar I would be sitting there smoking it in my bed. If you know what I mean.
The phone is ringing like stupid and when I pick it up mechanically what I hear is that in four hours I’m going to the New York city. It feels great. It actually feels so great that I put Louis Armstrong’s What a wonderful world and we sing together when I’m putting my clothes on.
It is okay that I’m tired,
I’m leaving today
I want to be the part of it
New York, New York
The first thing I remember is the view of the old cemetery. All the concrete crosses looking the same, a bit too tall and a bit too grey, set into the long rows measured with mathematical precision contrasted with the background of all the tall buildings in any possible shape and size you could imagine, smiling to you with the promise, if you make it here, you can make it anywhere. This view had something powerful in it, the contrast of the dead cemetery and the city more alive than anything I have ever seen in my life kept my eyes wide opened for the whole New York morning traffic journey.
And the New York traffic is the real deal, I’m telling you.
It hasn’t even crossed my mind to get into the bed after twelve hours flight. The New York city is not a place to sleep. It doesn’t matter how tired you are: every street forming another square filled with another high building, carrying another yellow taxi that sound merged into one melody with thousands of others will call you to come and become a part of it.
The thing about New York is, that the moment you get there, you don’t feel like a tourist or outsider anymore. You are a part of it. It doesn’t matter whether you are black, or white, or Asian, or whether you wear funny pants, or your dog is wearing funny pants. It makes you fit.
The moment you step out, you become the part of the picture.
As much as I like going out and exploring with others, I couldn’t wait to be in New York by myself. When you are on your own, everything gets more vivid. You know where you want to go and what you want to do there. Strangers are more friendly. Shop assistants and homeless people talk to you, people on the streets smile when you’re passing by. The possibility of getting lost makes your brain draw a map, and constantly fill it with new nooks and crannies. This is how you make friends with a place.
And I really wanted to make friends with New York.
I think a lot of what makes New York, is what you have already seen and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been there or not yet. If you have a little bit of imagination and you’re able to see Frank Sinatra singing in the old style jazz club on Broadway filled with a smoke from long, thin cigarettes, or a man playing a solo on his golden saxophone from the little balcony above the street on SoHo, if you can see with your eyes how Jay Gatsby crosses the Brooklyn bridge in his car, how Marilyn Monroe presses a dress to her knees on the Times Square, how Al Pacino walks down with Johnny Deep on the streets of Little Italy wearing dark glasses and heavy coats, it doesn’t matter whether you’re there for a day, or forever, you will feel like the happiest person on the globe, just like I did.
So that would be all that I wanted to say about the New York.
And if you are wondering whether Downtown and Central Park look the way they show them on the movies, and all that fuss about America is there for any reason, and if you’re curious whether it’s worth to fly around the North Pole to see it all, I suppose I’m too much of a dreamer to give you the right answer.
Unless you are thinking about selling your fridge and buying a plane ticket.
Than listen, sell your fridge and get a ticket,
if you know what I mean