Having taken a wrong turn on the lower West Side, off Broadway, I blink twice. Firstly because of the dimness of the alley and secondly, because I cannot believe my eyes! Confronting me is the sight of five limp bodies, their eyes popping. As if in worship, they carefully pass around a vial of smoky liquid. No this isn’t an excerpt from the TV series; ‘The Walking Dead’, but a crack den, one of the many alternative attractions in New York.
A quick about turn out of the alley into the August heat and the seething streets ofManhattan, with its rushing yellow cabs. There are street vendors everywhere, selling roasted pretzels the size of your hand, hot dogs and giro’s (kebabs but much nicer.) African’s in long robes sell scented oils and Gucci rip-offs of watches and handbags. On hearing my accent, New Yorkers coo loudly, “Are you from London” (pronounced Lon-den) and the ubiquitous statement, “have a nice day,” is the mainstay of the language.
New York has a rubbish problem. Bin liners, line the streets everywhere. You cannot leave a drugstore (corner shop), candy store (sweet shop), or street vendor, without them supplying you with a brown bag, straw and paper tissue. And all of this for just a can of pop, or soda as they call it. The main story for a week on CBS and NBC News is about the two barges of the city’s rubbish held on the Hudson River, because the city has nowhere to dump them. The cockroaches, New York’s other environmental problem, must be having a field day.
Forget about English etiquette here when waiting for a bus, it’s whoever gets on first. As I found having been brushed aside and trod on by two pensioners. So some things do stay the same, whether you’re at home or in New York!
This city is a juxtaposition of crime, drugs and killings, mixed with hospitality, corn dogs and apple pie. As the song goes; ‘New York, New York, so good they named it twice’, or was it because they couldn’t believe it the first time! Whether you ‘have a nice day’ or not, you’ll never forget it.
Written by José Forrest-Tennant (Freelance Artist)
© José Forrest-Tennant