Coming into New York City in the middle of the night. To the City That Never Sleeps.
Passengers on the plane applauded as we touched down in JFK International airport. The nearly nine-hour delay leaving Berlin had been wearing. It meant arriving in New York City well after midnight instead of at 4.00 pm as planned. After border security, baggage claim and customs into the airport that was quiet at 2.00 am. The extremely long taxi queue looked too daunting so the only other option was to catch the train into the city. Two trains in fact: first the air-train to Jamaica Station and then find the way onto the right subway platform and catch the metro into Penn Station.
Traveling for three months through different latitudes and longitudes and various climes chasing the northern Spring through April, May and into June, meant experiencing a range of weather from very cold (even with hail and once snow – remember Findhorn?) wintery weather through the full range of spring to sun-burny hot summer. Travelling means being out in it a lot and it also means carrying luggage to cover all needs – in this case sufficient for three months.
So getting from JFK into central Manhattan after that long, tiresome delay leaving Berlin, meant manhandling cumbersome luggage as efficiently as possible on and off platforms, in and out of lifts (avoiding the long sets of stairs) and, yes, just missing a train which meant waiting (a whole eight minutes!) on an almost deserted Jamaica Plain platform in the middle of the night. A high sense of vulnerability prevailed but was somehow quelled by a trust that proved sound. A series of really helpful people along the way were forging first impressions of Americans at home.
Alighting at Penn subway station at that time of night meant dragging suitcases past quite a few homeless people sleeping on train station benches – some tidy some not so, one sleeping with sheets of clean newspaper underneath and a new cardboard box holding their few possessions, another on the ground covered by a grungy sleeping bag. Boys or girls, young or old – it would have been intrusive, impolite to look.
A really big policeman in true New Yorker style, was only too happy to help, and took the time to explain the best exit from the station and the route to the hotel emphasising “At 30th turn left. Do not turn right. Turn left”.
It was only a couple of blocks. The night was warm and there were a few people around and some services being looked after, some municipal and some possibly illegal. Focussing on dragging suitcases over uneven sidewalks, past another street person asleep on the pavement, ignoring the car load of young men, the hotel was not far. Crossing 7th Avenue, down there, those tantalising bright lights, what’s that?
Following the policeman’s instruction New York City opened up and the hotel was right where it was meant to be. With the New York Police department right over the road.
Checked in, dropped bags, but those bright lights had beckoned – maybe a quick look? It’s so late now what’s the diff? So a little trip at 3.00 a.m. just down into the city that never sleeps. Past Madison Gardens down to Macy’s with a glimpse of the familiar silhouette of the Empire State building, 7th avenue, 34th Street but Times Square could wait – it was time to get some sleep.
New York was amazing. Loved it – the buzz, the buildings built to impress, the architecture and beauty, the noise, traffic and sirens
And then all quiet on a Sunday and on Memorial Day public holiday –streets empty of cars. Amazing?
On impulse one day, discouraged by the rigmarole involved in getting to the top of the Rockefeller building, I decided to take a breather and get a manicure instead. Climbing little steps and stepping into the upstairs salon, with its huge window looking across at the incredible view, was full of women receiving beautifying attention from other women who clearly loved their work. Sitting down to wait I absorbed the talking, much of it in Russian, laughing and the general hubbub. The manicure tables were all full so I was easily persuaded to have a massage while waiting. Would I like wine or vodka with my massage? I declined. The massage and the setting were intoxicating enough. ‘Ana’ came from Uzbekistan and told her story with few questions of interest while she helped my luggage pulling muscles relax and revive. Then the manicure and now pedicure and the second offer of vodka was accepted – why not? Now more relaxed and part of the general laughter, settling in to new York City, the magic and allure were making more sense.
There were lots of experiences in just a few days – too many to write up.
But let the photos speak of some of it.