Friday, February 02, 2007

ABL: That Goddam Big Suitcase

After Birthday Letters: That Goddam Big Suitcase.

This blog comes from January 2001 [with a little help from the travel diary - named 'Breakfast at Bloomingdales' - that I wrote in the weeks that followed]. For my 18th birthday my parents - to my eternal delight - paid for me to go to New York. I spent the five days I was there almost entirely breathless as I hopped from one iconic image to the next. I hope in the next few years I will return, if only to add to my collection of Bloomingdales bags.

Of the things I did during those five days the subject of this blog is one of the much smaller moments but it chose itself simply for what it says about me; I realised at this point of the trip something fundamental about the person I was becoming. To this day I adore wandering through cities on my own, I find it hugely liberating.

Two days earlier I'd held my breath and waited. And it had appeared - rising upwards, the Manhattan skyline greeting me with an assault of a thousand images. Singing homage to itself through all those films and tv shows. Making me think of Gatsby and Daisy, of Holden Caulfield, of John Lennon, of Chandler and Joey. I hadn't wanted to miss a single second, unwilling to lose anything as we drove to the hotel and I mapped out in my mind all the places I recognised. And then I'd gone to the hotel and watched the episode of Dawson's Creek that was premiering some months before it would appear on Channel Four.

Now, however, I've started to get a hold on my surroundings. I've been to the top of the World Trade Centre which served principally to show that I am a city girl, moved by the sight of bricks and mortar and that New York can almost engulf you with the realisation about how small you are. I've been to the Federal Reserve where I got strangely excited about being given a mashed up packet of old dollar bills and where their lift made me feel incredibly motion sick. I've walked down 5th Avenue, managing to find the time to pose outside of Tiffany's, albeit with shopping bags rather than my breakfast. I've even been to the Jekyll and Hyde restaurant that featured potentially the most comically inept waiter and potentially the most bizarre entrance almost-ride that I suspect I will ever encounter. There's been pictures in Times Square and the biggest breakfasts of my life in the local diner. Tomorrow I have a full schedule - a boat ride out to the Statue of Liberty, more shopping and then a meal and the Empire State Building in the evening where I intend to fully pretend that I am in the closing scenes of Sleepless in Seattle.

Tonight, though, there is no plan. New York is mine for the taking.

Due to my own restlessness and impatience at waiting for my friends on a whim I've got on the subway on my own, arranging to meet them later. If I'm honest I'm longing for some time to myself, to wander aimlessly with my own private movie playing.

It's 7.00 o'clock and though the winter darkness has descended the streets are still busy, lights blazing as the shoppers are out in force. I join the throngs of people, making my way through the shops, buying a DKNY top from Macy's and a fantastic necklace from a tiny jewellery store.

I stop at a crossing, joining an already groaning crowd at the edge of the pavement. The lights change and I start to cross.

As I move over the road, bags swinging, going nowhere in particular but looking to the rest of the world like I am it strikes me - I am alone. For a brief moment I am not a tourist, I am simply another person in this city, owning a little piece of it as I tred the streets.

And though I know only five other people in this huge sprawling city - and at this moment have no idea as to where they are - it doesn't bother me. I feel liberated; powerful; alive.

Mostly importantly, though, I realise with a start - I'm not scared.

NB: The title is taken from memory - and therefore might not be direct quote - but in spirit it comes from The Catcher in the Rye from when Holden Caulfield describes a suitcase being dragged down a New York street. Should you be wondering, The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favourite American novels and the book I think every teenager should be made to read.

1 comment:

Nik said...

Worringly I really do think we are one person. I love big cities and I love wandering round them and admiring all the buildings and I know what you mean about feeling liberated. It's a weird feeling but it always makes me smile, which no doubt looks rather mad to passers by.

Also, I'm not scared of NY either, this coming from someone who was wandering through Times Square alone at half 12 at night and stopped to direct tourists...