26th August 2016
The last time I was in New York City, a blanketing snowstorm stopped all incoming traffic, including snow plows, and you could walk right up the middle of the street with no fear of being run over. New York City for one day fell silent. But it is the height of summer now and about 100 degrees (200 degrees if you venture down into New York's bowels to take the subway.)
I am staying in someone else's apartment with only the brick walls of other apartment buildings out every window. Across the fire-escape and down to my left, a fat half-naked man sits at a table, through the window of an apartment higher up, kitchen utensils, wooden spoons and spatulas, stand up in a pot. No birds in this land of brick walls, nothing living in this apartment, but an ant that wanders around the bathroom, and in the middle of one night on my leg. Tiny Ant cheers me up, though clearly his days must be numbered. A sign down in the lobby tells me to expect the exterminator, and my midnight friend will not escape that.
I find it hard not gawk in New York City. Being a writer, I naturally create worlds around the characters I encounter: the sleeping black giant on the subway who takes up two seats, the affectionate Asian couple as skinny as rails, the woman who all day folds other people's clothes in the heat of the laundromat.
People here seem so strange next to their Aspen counterparts. They have no back yards, no views, no money; they live on the brink. Hardly anyone speaks English, and I wonder if they, like me, left their hearts in their homeland. I step gingerly along the pavement to avoid old gum pressed into black splats and gobs coughed up by old men sitting on chairs outside their hole-in-the-wall businesses. Men in hard hats spread tar on the road from a truck that reads "God Answers Prayer" on the side, even though it seems He hasn't answered any of their's. Water spurts out of fiberglass flowers onto filthy playgrounds. An old guy sits outside on a chair in a T-shirt that reads Wink If You Want Me, scratching away at a lotto ticket. If only the Lotto answered prayers.
And then the sirens, the sirens, the sirens. Every minute a person gets rushed to hospital in New York CIty; every minute a flashing police car elbows its way up a choked intersection.
I think too often Thoreau prattled on pretentiously about the healing qualities of nature, but after even one day in New York it is into flights of his kind of fantasy that I fly. I think of woods and colourful birds as I sway around the next subterranean bend on the Q train or the 1,2,3, train, snaking in the devilish dark to places I don't want to visit and will try in my dreams to forget.