There is an incident at the end of my street. Thirty firefighters, three trucks and two cops on walky talkies standing around a small triangle of yellow tape in the middle of the night.
‘Wassup?’ I ask the police officer standing outside the deli across the road from my place.
‘The manhole’s hissin’,’ he said. ‘Just makin’ sho dere’lll be no incident.’
I nod. Thinking ‘in-ci-dent’. And smile to myself as I remember a thought I’ve had many times today: American men don’t speak English.
It’s late. It’s been a loooong day. Dressed up and skipping out the door into a grey day, first date happy. Brooklyn is tired and glum. Rubbish is all over the place. The footpaths are dirty and damp from last night’s rain. The battered silver roller doors of the small shops are closed, making the place look like an industrial area on a Sunday. Am I disappointed? Not at all. Mine is the anticipation of a reality beyond first impressions. Besides, it reminds me of Europe. I laugh. Everywhere in the west reminds me of Europe. Why would New York be any different; it’s who we are. The settlers. The colonisers. The adventurers. The displaced from previous ages.
Here we are. Not in Europe. Recreating crowded lives in vaster spaces, believing our worlds to be new.
The Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Regional Fiction Australia/NZ, for Hymn for the Wounded Man.
The photo’s a bit blurry, it was taken by a young man who did me the honour of recording the moment.
It was beautiful to witness so many people in love with their own work, applauding and clapping themselves and each other. And then I took myself out for dinner. At Tratoria d’something. Across the road from Carnegie Hall. God only knows what I was doing, whether I was ordering, sitting, breathing correctly, but I seemed to attract the somewhat amused stares of the city’s confident and comfortable. I raised my glass to my difference. To the wide open spaces of an Australian heart that puts me at ease wherever I go.
And to New York.
To an orange, fennel and melon salad that nourishes me with the first fresh food I’ve had in three days and a flat noodle eggplant and tomato dish that for a few precious moments fills my world. I am eating New York style. It is delicious.
As with public spaces just about everywhere, the dominant energy is masculine. Suits and otherwise. I am reminded of the only two exceptions I’ve discovered: Barcelona and Dubrovnik are women’s towns. I am surprised New York is so . . . but of course. How could it be otherwise?
Eventually the last of my sparkling white is drained and I no longer have the concentration I need for eloquently eavesdropping on the conversations around me.
I spill into the street where bitter cold shrouds the tops of the skyscrapers in white mist and hail my first yellow cab. (The airport doesn’t count.) And I raced through the Monday night of a lively world, wishing I was walking, knowing my foot still swollen from fast dashes through miles of international airport corridors needs to rest.
And so do I.