Friday, March 18, 2005

This Goddam Big Suitcase

This Goddam Big Suitcase

I am, somewhat unashamedly, something of a hoarder. You name it, I've probably got it saved in a drawer somewhere. Napkins? Check. Giant 'Central Park-lands' sign*? Check. Tickets, programmes, posters? Check. Hundreds of boxes of free matches even though I don't smoke and don't spend my free time starting fires? Check. And because I perceive some sort of emotional attachment to them all, they're all destined to remain in drawers, boxes and bags for eternity. Except the sign which is clearly far too large to go in a box and lives behind my desk along with a Griffin placard, my college Matriculation photo and the complete set of Bloomingdales's brown bags. And usually all these bits and pieces stay there, not to be looked at until I have to move them somewhere else because they're taking over the room and my father is convinced that the floor will give way if I don't move them.

Today, spurred on by my current notion that I'm going to go to New York again at some point this year** I got out the box of assorted momentoes from the last time that I went. And I realised at once why I'm someone who needs to keep all of this stuff. That a napkin from the Jeckell and Hyde restaurant immediately brought back memories of the most inept, but hilarious, waiter I've ever had. A packaged cylinder of destroyed $20 notes from the federal reserve had me remembering the feeling of complete and utter boredom that set in about ten minutes into the talk at the bank. And more pleasantly of all the gold I saw there. Numerous receipts reminded me of clothes that I've long since relegated to charity bags or dusty spaces in the back of cupboards. Most potently, however, was the diary I found. I can vividly remember buying it ftrom a somewhat fancy stationary shop, immediately seduced by its gorgeous gold cover, with new york streets written across it. And in the days after returning from New York I wrote the story of my trip in it in black and silver pen. This wasn't the sum total of the book - there are photos, postcards, ticket stubs, metro cards and quotes from my favourite New York set books. I'd even named it, in deference to two of my great NY obsessions, Breakfast at Bloomingdales***. And as I read it, I loved that my 18 year old self had thought to write it. Just because it swept me back, filled me with the wonder that New York filled me with at the time. And because of subsequent events, one section - "The One With The Almost Vertigo" - particularly moved me: was hard not to notice the view. New York looked tiny.
While it would be easy to be cynical about the "concrete capital of the North" I have to say that it was somewhat humbling. A little reminder perhaps of our
insignificance, the bigger picture and of course the fact that I'm a city girl
who is moved by giant grey slabs.

I wrote that paragraph some time in Feburary 2001. Of course the view now is utterly different, and the particular giant grey slab that I was standing on when these thoughts hit me is no longer there. But in that diary the memory is still strong, and suddenly those feelings of surveying the city, of the wind hitting me and it being so cold that it was difficult to breathe were back. And I remembered.

And I think that this notion is something which I'll keep coming back to as a writer. I want to capture these moments, put them down and express some incredible feeling I had at the time. In SSoB Kate got what is still the most potent memory of my early teens - of standing, at midnight, opposite the Effiel Tower. If I think about it I can still smell the moment, the memory is so vivid. Harry got some of my memories of Scotland from two years ago, me attempting to pin down in writing what it felt like to be awed by a very different sort of landscape to the one that moved me in Paris. And, I suspect, someone somewhere in the future will get the feeling I get every time I step out of Kings Cross station and into London, the utter contentedness of sitting opposite the Rad Cam at night, the chill of walking through the Jewish Ghetto in Budapest, the overwhelming happiness of sitting with my feet in the fountain at the bottom of the Spanish steps in Rome. Because I suspect that these moments may be the reason that I write. And in turn these moments are the reason that I'm itching to travel again.

*This is not quite as odd as it sounds. I attended a school named Parklands and for the Christmas sketch show I wrote a Friends spoof - hence the sign and my holding on to it as the memory of when I realised that I did rather love hearing people speak my words.

**This is based on nothing more than the fact that I've got it in my head that I'm going to New York.

***Which of course is fiction since you can't have breakfast at Bloomingdales.****

****Though as all fact fans will know, you can't - and you never could - have breakfast at Tiffanys.

1 comment:

Ketsuban said...

Now I know who to ask if I ever need to borrow a match to start a thermite or similar.