Mar 242012

28 May, 2011



Here’s the thing about New York City.

‘Hey, wanna have dinner with me tonight?’

‘Love to, but I’m going to see kd lang at Madison Square Gardens.

‘How about tomorrow night?’

‘Oh, nice thought, but I’m taking in Lion King on Broadway.’

‘Next week?’

‘Oh, next week I’ve got tickets to the game! Yankees are playing Red Sox.

‘The weekend?’

‘Oh hell no, this weekend I’m going to Deep Purple with a full symphony orchestra. Week after that? Hmmm, oh that’s right, opening of Cirque du Soleil’s new show at Radio City Music Hall.’

What’s not to love about New York City? Especially when tickets start at $35 and you can just about name your own price all the way up to about $350.

AND for the first time in my life I saw an ad on a bus and raced home to my computer and bought a ticket. Cirque du Soleil, opening night. I’ve wanted to see them since they inspired me to start a women’s circus, about 10 years ago on the Gold Coast. I called it G-COW – Gold Coast Old Women’s Circus 🙂  We had a lot of fun AND the basic administration was too much for one woman. Most of the women hated the name. I thought it was funny. Haha.

Yesterday was a lot of fun. It all began with a train ride downtown where just like that, bowling out of the subway at a station called Bowling Green, I came upon many sudden surprises, starting with the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of the American Indian and . . . well, read on! Fans of Temperance Brennan will be impressed (hi Dirk!). Here’s a photo of the roof of the Smithsonian inside at the entrance way.

And the statue outside.

The Smithsonian is also the old Customs House – and the National Museum of the American Indian. Here’s the statement engraved in the stone outside the building.

The exhibition inside was a tribute to the relationship between the American Indians and what they called the Horse Nation. And while I knew the Spanish introduced horses to America, what I didn’t know is that horses originated here x thousand (or so) years ago,and became extinct. The Spanish re-introduced horses to America. I love this sign at the entry.

After the Smithsonian I tumbled out into the light, right into Memorial Day celebrations in the park by the water. American defence force personal in all sorts of uniforms were scattered among crowds of appreciative people. Americans are beautiful. They are mostly simple and kind. I had to laugh out loud at the scenes in the park – mainly because Australians would have been outraged. Here’s an example.

That’s right, it’s me and a marine posing proudly with a Squad Automatic Weapon. I could have lined up for a grenade launcher and all sorts of other bigger but not blacker weapons, but I settled for the SAW.

Here’s a girl who went for the big guns.

There was a gorgeous young woman belting out old war tunes, my favourite being (not a war tune, as far as I know) Summertime . . .  and the livin’ is easy. I laughed again. Not for the first time this week feeling as if I’ve stumbled onto a movie set.

And the brass band boys were a hoot.

For this part of my day I walked with Ben awhile (hi Ben!).

I turned around and wandered down to the water. And squealed.


She’s little.

She’s close to the mainland.

She’s green!

Hey, doesn’t this photo look like a painting?

The Liberty of my heart’s imagination was to be revealed to me over water. I would be sailing along on a ferry and out of the mists would rise a giant white woman holding high a flame for freedom. And I would fall to my knees and weep for the majesty and brilliance of the human spirits that inspired such beauty, and bow in awe to hope and noble intent.

Give me your tired, your poor.
Your huddled masses, yearning to be free.

I grinned. I must find time between Cirque du Soleil and Deep Purple to pay a visit to the green woman who holds a torch for the free world.

After Liberty I wandered up Broadway and voila! Just beyond the park, a bull!  The Wall Street bull surrounded by Saturday crowds wanting photos.

And then my day was felled by sadness. Without warning I came upon the gaping hole that was the World Trade Centre. A construction site of ordinary proportions and overwhelming sorrow.

I was unprepared for my feelings. Really, the whole 9/11 thing had been an imagined tragedy for a woman in a foreign land so very far away.

Here is the beauty and the gift of Americans – they might act out their emotions on the world stage under an umbrella called their Foreign Policy, but they are forgiving people.  I am trying to think of anywhere else on Earth that would have moved on as easily as the people of this city so clearly have  from an act of such unspeakable horror as what they witnessed that day.

Americans are deeply into symbolism and therein lies their power and their fragility.

The men who wielded the swords of terror on September 11, 2001 struck at the symbols.

It could not have been personal.

Because the real targets were their own hearts.

What the perpetrators of that horror did not know is that  New York City transcends culture and geography. New York City is global. New York City is all the modern world in one place. Enduring. Stateless. There are women in black robes and headscarves riding the subway just as easily as those in jeans and t-shirts. The mosques of Islam open their doors to the streets, as do the churches and synagogues. All the languages of the world ride the warm wind that blows with the late spring.

I wonder, could the gentleness of this city be the legacy of the tragedy, the gift of unspeakable of horror.

Photographing the site felt like photographing the homeless – sometimes you do it and you’re never really comfortable about it.

Another time, perhaps.

From the financial district I rode uptown to Central Park and a wander through the marble hallways of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The photo at the top of the blog was taken from the steps. That’s Fifth Avenue, by the way.

I started with the shop, because I’ve learned, as one who’s not really that interested in art, that the best of the museum will be in the shop – and then I’ll know what I’m looking for in the museum!

Another wonderful surprise – Monet’s Waterlilies. Monet always reminds me of my mother (hi Mum!).  So this one’s for her.

And that, friends, is where I called it a day. The museum borders Central Park and I sat for a while on a bench for no other reason than I was at Central Park and of course I must must pay my respects. And then I carried my exhausted feet home on the subway, calling by the yummy Japanese restaurant a few blocks from my house for a bag of Edamame, strolling home in the early evening sucking the guts out of salted green soy bean pods.

I love New York. You can stuff your face on the go. You can make noise. You can rest amid the bustle in the smile of a stranger.

New York.

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