Phase One, Tick
She’s a squirrel who lives in Washington Square Park, you know the park, it has the fountain that’s in all the movies. Only the fountain is fenced off and unrecognisable even as a fountain at the moment.
You know one of the funniest things about New York? The buildings aren’t very tall.
Of course, compared to Byron Bay they’re massive. But really, it’s just another big city filled with tall buildings. Even the Gold Coast has one really really tall building and New York might have a couple more that than that.
Which is to say two things:
- I have been forced, arm twisted behind my back, to examine closely the New York of my imagination and haha the city in there is sky high and very shiny; and
- the fun is on the ground.
To make a mockery of my statement, here is a tall building.
Today I feel like a kid let out of school for the summer holidays – woop!
Phase one of the journey is complete. Book Expo America has swallowed three days of my life and the foreign rights publishing seminar another whole day and now I’m free – free to hit the subway minus bags of heavy books and free to trail the streets of New York. You never know, that publishing deal might be found in jazz club in West Village, on a ferry to pay homage to Liberty, in a crack in the sidewalk.
The place is one big movie set and everywhere I go is a song. My subway station in Brooklyn is Clinton/Washington Ave and I wonder if that’s Leonard Cohen’s Clinton Street. Every time I get off I start to sing ‘music on Clinton Street, all through the evening’. Yesterday I realised East Harlem was Spanish Harlem, yep you’re already crooning ‘a rose in Spanish Harlem’. It’s usually the chorus. Every morning I hum Grace Jones ‘just the apple stretching and yawning, good morning, New York’.
GOOD MORNING NEW YORK!
Which just goes to show, life is a song.
Or a movie.
I am in a serious minority here in Brooklyn and I love it. Maybe that’s why the place reminds me of Damascus or Amman. It’s not just the city landscape that plays like a continuous movie before my eyes, it’s the interactions of the people. The rapper voice in my head goes off any time I see just about anyone and I have to be careful not to let him out.
The sad thing is I am expecting these small everyday movie moments to explode any second into encounters of violence. These are the black images of Hollywood and the black people of this city must hate the consistent stereotypes. And I can hear the voices of the brave ones who lend their voices to a different world protesting about the absence of acting roles for black people playing everyday people, rather than black people. As a woman I get it.
As a woman, I wish the purposeless black men on the street would get it.
And now it’s time to solidify my time at the book expo. My little expedition is gaining momentum with serious referrals and fun follow ups with publishing front people who had the privilege of me shovelling my books into their hands.
At the end of the last day I had one book left. I glanced up to see the Harlequin banner circling above the expo stadium. I beelined for their stand and shoved the book into the hands of a young saleswoman.
‘This is a bit outside your usual stories,’ I said. ‘It’s an adventure love story that women adore. How about you read it and if you think it’s good pass it onto your editors.’
She smiled. She took the book. I smiled. And thought ‘why didn’t I think of that approach earlier?’
Because you know what? There’s nothing like nothing left to lose to blow away the last remnants of self-doubt. I didn’t want to carry the book. I wanted her to read it and pass it on. Simple.
And then I spent the afternoon in West Village, roaming around the good vibes in Washington Park, stuffing my face on iconic falafel at Mamoun’s and having a glass of wine on a vibrant village corner. A group of sailors in spickest white wandered by and one smiled and saluted me. I nearly cried, it was such a beautiful gesture. And these days such men remind me of my soldier son.
And by the way, all the squirrels who live in Washington Square Park are called Fluffy. The pigeons are called Cocoa.