Last night I was treated to New York City from the rooftop of a building on the fringe of the financial district.
Liberty, in the distance.
Gabrielle is the friend of a dear New Zealand friend. We hit it off over oysters (Gabrielle) and Maine lobster roll (me) by a waterfront marina that laps the shores of Battery Park.
Battery Park, said Gabrielle, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Queens, was created from landfill dug from the earth when the World Trade Centre was built in the 70s. Bloody hell, I thought, that is a LOT of dirt.
And then I thought about how clever it is to not only conceive of these things, but to enact them. Imagine claiming land from the sea so solid that you can build a community of 60 storey buildings on it.
Imagine, while we’re at it, imagining the subway. Imagine telling a community of people you’re going to build an underground railway, a spider web of tracks and trains running around underneath them?
Imagine the disbelief! Imagine the naysayers! The doomsayers! The earth is falling! The earth is falling! Fortunately for the visionaries they didn’t live in a world of mass media, so the voices of gloom were kept largely confined. I imagine.
From Gabrielle’s rooftop, the World Trade Centre site is just below. Imagine, living in this building when those buildings came down. Imagine, living with the horror right outside your window those first days.
Here’s the newly reconstructed hole.
Gabrielle said she lived with the grief for a year. And on the first anniversary she decided enough was enough. Life, she said, goes on.
Yesterday I got brave. I prepared my book and submission. I rode the subway up to Fifth Ave. I was going to march up to the office of an agent referred to me – ‘the best’ – and I was going to leave my submission and book with the woman at the front desk.
Only I chickened out.
I stood outside 156 Fifth Ave, leaning on the solid grey brick in the sunshine, watching the lunchtime crowds come and go, and baulked at my mission. It felt intrusive. It’s what Americans do in the movies, creating all sorts of human intersections, ups and downs, laughs and tears. Entertaining, but not me.
Besides, my envelope, so crisp and white when I left home, was crumpled from the ride into town.
So I turned on my heels and walked on, criss crossing town on the subway over to Battery Park to sit on a bench by the water, while I waited for Gabrielle.
At Fulton St station, a young man asked me directions.
‘‘Scuse me ma’m, which side of the platform is Bowling Green?’
I hesitated only a moment before I realised I could help him!
‘The other side,’ I said with a knowing smile, pointing him across the tracks.
This was a moment to behold. I was confident. New York City was mine!
My train pulled in. I sat down.
‘Next stop Bowling Green,’ announced the man in the speaker.
Uh-oh, I thought, and laughed sheepishly. I guess that’s the price of taking directions from a stranger with an Aussie accent.
Hey, check this out.
In case you miss it, it’s a crocodile coming out of a manhole cover grabbing a creature.
Out of the blue on the station platform.