I’ll put this out there. I completely fall apart when I’m in a new city. I like to portray an image of a slick, streetwise, well travelled young go getter, but the reality is I’m a bit of a country bumpkin. I remember myself and my wife losing our minds in London when we saw a multi-story Supermarket. Michael Palin I ain’t.
So the idea of spending two days in the city that never sleeps was a daunting one.
Driving over the Brooklyn bridge toward Manhattan for the first time is one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I know this city so well, I’ve swung through it hundreds of times with my web shooters, I’ve witnessed a monster terrorise it through a shaky camera, I’ve watched it succumb to a meteor shower and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched the sea engulf it.
I know it so well in fact that without looking at a map I managed to find Times Square using just my sense of smell. OK maybe not, but there was a familiarity I couldn’t ignore.
The entire island is a piece of popular culture. I used to bemoan the fact that Hollywood seemed to use New York as the go to place for mayhem, but I understand it now. It’s entirely iconic, every inch of it recognisable. I can’t think of any other place in the world that can boast so many landmarks, especially landmarks so densely concentrated within a (relatively speaking) small area.
I travelled with five friends and we each had things we wanted to see. One wanted to see the famous Rockafeller Centre. My wife wanted to see “The World-Renowned Plaza Hotel: New York’s most exciting hotel experience. For reservations, call toll-free etc…” because that’s where Kevin McCallister stayed when he got lost. We all wanted to see the Friends building and stand Borat-like in Times Square gazing slack-jawed at the pretty lights.
Me? Well truthfully I wanted to see it all, but first stop was The Empire State Building.
Standing beneath the Empire State it’s impossible not to imagine the eighth wonder of world scaling the front of it, I would have scaled it myself had they let me. Kong’s legacy endures within as the building’s unofficial mascot (perhaps a little too much, I actually had to search for some souvenir that didn’t feature him), the building is magnificent at the best of times but with King Kong atop it the image is legendary. (On the subject of iconic buildings I caught a glimpse of 55 Central Park West and was almost disappointed not to see a giant Marshmallow man sauntering past… such is life.)
Can’t you tell just by reading this what a small town boy I am? When the best your home town can boast is a Dr Who spin off, a 102 story building might as well be the tower of Babylon.
Of course, reality hit home and hit hard when we came upon Ground Zero. We spoke briefly with someone who told us that the majority of New Yorkers dislike the name due to it’s connotations with the bombs dropped in Japan. Calling it eerie is an awful cliche and does it a huge disservice but the word is apt. From the ground looking up the Towers are visibly missing from the sky, in their place two pillars of ghostly emptiness amongst the clouds.
It was a sobering moment and I admit made me ashamed about getting so worked up about a giant fictional gorilla. Hollywood’s fingerprints are all over New York but it isn’t a film set, it’s not a studio, and seeing where the two towers once stood is a very sharp reminder of that.
So, a whirlwind of emotions in just two days. Glee, awe, fear and sadness. You don’t get that with a weekend in Barry, South Wales.
As a visual aid for perspective, here is New York’s Time Square…
And Barry’s King Square…
One point for Barry though, Manhattan has 121 Starbucks and Barry has none. Not one. How do you like them apples, Big Apple?