New York is a drug and the come down is brutal. It took me 16 hours for my body to get back to Cape Town and three weeks for my head. For a boy who grew up in a South Coast surfing village it was a smashed windscreen in the accident of life. Eight days on the sleepless carousel of crazy. A week before we fly I take visit the shiny grey bomb shelter in Constantia called the US Embassy for my first real interaction with the myth called America besides clicking auto-renew button on a New York Times subscription. Three hours wait at a concrete wailing wall with queues of families who’ve flown in from Port Elizabeth. Afrikaans farm boys from Struisbaai in velt hats joke about drunken crop-sprayer stories in Arizona. There’s no shortage of security checking. A nation at war. The last interview with the actual American is a disappointing 30 seconds wrapped up with ‘looks like everything is in order’.
The inflight screen’s pixilated plane crosses the Atlantic in a slow yellow line and I start to cut my own New York montage. Opening scenes in black and white with a Woody Allen voice-over. Cut to limitless with Bradley Cooper pushing an index finger into Robert de Niro’s chest on the Upper East Side. Pan left to Natalie Portman anxious on a railway overhanging in her dance rehearsal track-suit. There’s intersections of B-Roll NYBD cops jumping over rooftops and the bar scene from How I met your Mother with Barney Stinson serving pick-up lines over pizza. I imagine my first moments in the city as a powerwalk out of a midtown subway with steam rising from the streets and the Woody Allen voice-over still self-deprecatingly narrating. The reality flirted through it’s own romantic cliché’s including an arrival thunderstorm and hauling luggage up narrow wooden stairs to the overture of a bass guitar noodling through the drizzle while the metallic tracks of trains echo across Manhattan Bridge. On a sleeper couch that could double as a medieval torture rack I think about the neighbours within a handshake. Then their neighbors within a handshake. Neighbors and handshakes for 250 blocks.
New Yorkers were unexpectedly friendly, look-you-in-the-eye, open and engaging. I didn’t sleep for 10 days but Guinness Book of Records explained how a nut had survived a rocking a chair for 17 days straight. Flashbacks and hallucinations of names. Dudleys. Dresden. Saturdays. Balthazars. Mighty Quinns. Lost NYC. Saxon + Parole. Ralph Lauren Vintage. Williamsburg market chicken, waffle and sideboob. Temper 8 Trap spilling tunes all over hot crowds and cold beer. The city sticks it’s fingers in your eyes. Constantly trying to grab your attention. Even the construction workers digging up the road have a cool logo. In the Meatpacking District there’s an expensive polish to the curated decay and you notice Google and Apple making an effort signature on the street. Celebs spin past in chrome-wrapped supercar under the urbanists bookmarked architectural references, the Highline gardens. A smooth warping Scary Red Guy sculpture blossoms in the centre of dollars to the power of tech. The evening beer garden I was thrashed by the Ducati motorbike design legend while girls dance to G6 something about my G6.
New York feels like a right of passage with it’s rites of photographs, stories, cards, badges and slices of stories you half remember about sipping Brooklyn’s best, mingling in Manhattan mad and burnt both sides of a three dollar hotdog. Climbing up four floors of fire escape at four in the morning to find our passports was a suitable denouement.