Photo by garretc (flickr)
Worked in Manhattan this morning. Came in on the G to Williambsurg then transferred to the L to the City. The L train packed, even at 7 am, with long queues for the escalators. Just like London. The L creaked along in the tunnel, even with the seven minute gap between trains.
You get on the G train and it’s all working class Brooklyn faces, of a kind you rarely see in London anymore (I forget when I’m away, about New York’s basic working class character. The iron bridges, the brick housing projects, the tenement buildings with the iron fire escapes, the brutal crashing of the subway cars into the stations with the iron pillars, the unadorned concrete surfaces). Black, Hispanic, white. Polish or Russian, heavy Slavic consonants just audible below the roar of th etrain. Big black guys with tattoos and hard Brooklyn faces. I see them and wonder how working class people hang on in places like Bed-stuy or anywhere near Williamsburg, since the rents have gone up so much.
Nowhere to have coffee around Stuyvesant Square – the cafes and the single Starbucks are full up (in London you’d have like five Starbucks in the three block radius around Stuyvesant Square – London has more Starbucks per capita than anywhere else in the world – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given how awful British coffee was a few years ago). So I sat on a bench in the Square, a block away from the Hotel 17 where I lived in a narrow room (bed, dresser, sink) for a couple of months when I first came to this city – 17 years ago. Warmed by the morning sun, drinking bad deli coffee with too much cream. A pack of kids had been in the deli, swarming around the counter. A few black, some Asian, mostly white. Happy-looking kids, saying sorry for standing in the doorway when people were trying to get in and out – a lot healthier and happier than equivalent kids in London who tend to be spotty and ill-behaved.
On mornings like this, it’s hard not to love New York. Stepping out of the cauldron of the 1st Ave Subwa into the bright Manhattan morning, the great metal spire of the Empire State rising up behind the golden dome sparkling in the morning sun. The Chrysler building, the other hi-rises that become almost background until they jump out at you one bright morning, when the whole world seems to be out there in the Manhattan sunshine with the big trucks and yellow taxis hurtling down the potholed streets, the crowds jamming the sidewalks with everyone rushing to work. Not even the women with their pinched, surgery enhanced faces walking their dogs in the park – New York, whatever it’s glamour, has always had more than it’s share of unattractive people – can take away the feeling that this is a special place, hallowed ground of a sort.