Monday, 6 September 2010

NYC for NYE - January 2010

You most certainly know something about New York, even if you’ve never visited. The skyscrapers, manholes and bright canary taxis would make anyone feel as though they’re walking through a film set with the notion that they’ve somehow been there before.

The senses are overwhelmed in The Big Apple. Steam billows out of the sewers in thick white clouds, cars honk in competition and thousands of lights are distorted by the raindrops on misty mirrors and windows; it is a truly dizzying experience. Frequently a police car would skid around a corner, lights ablaze and sirens screaming. Aromas of garlic and basil waft out of the pizza takeaways that line the streets, which are met with intermittent punctuations of sewage odours. It’s a city of celluloid clichés and contradictions; swanky yet dirty, crowded yet derelict and chemist shops sell tobacco and beer.

To say that New York is a gritty city is an underestimation. The 24-hour subways are rarely fully staffed, making night journeys thrillingly uncomfortable, with the groups of teenagers on their way back to the suburbs and the sleeping homeless who are resting for the night, for in the winter it is too cold outside and the wind is sharp. Eccentrics wander around Downtown in their fancy garb. One approached and asked, “do you have any idea which way it is to hell?”, as if it was a normal question like "do you have the time?" or "can you spare any change?". There is a possibility that “Hell” is a club or a trendy bar, but it could really be taken either way. Busking is a measure of survival for some; it is rare to pass through Union Square subway station without hearing and witnessing a saxophonist, a break dancing group or a tap dancer, sometimes all at once.

Being New Year’s Eve, we decided to head to Times Square for the legendary celebrations that we heard so much about. Ear-muffed cops barricaded the roads to the "square" (it's more of a triangle), so we walked the long way around, trudging through snow, sludge, and treacherous ice. A white 4x4 car pulled up blaring out commercial hip-hop and was crammed with over-excited teenage show offs who shouted out to pedestrians for attention before accelerating and screeching off. It was impossible to get through to Times Square so we decided to huddle around the Central Park side where we had a view of the famous illuminated Times Square Ball, which drops to meet the bottom of a pole at midnight. A line of joggers bounced past; the "New York Road Runners" group. We stood there for half an hour, shivering and shuffling, until a build up of cheering and Mexican waving started.

A screen, inevitably sponsored by a globally well-known drink company, counted down to one. Then from nowhere streamers, glitter, balloons and confetti rained down with the sleet. Couples kissed, friends hugged and a loud booming voice was heard saying “okay, Happy New Year guys, now please, let’s go back to Florida tomorrow”. 

I wouldn’t blame him, it was arctic.

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