A Young Lad in America #3 December 4, 2007Posted by Rambling Man in A Young Lad in America.
Tags: A Young Lad in America, J1 visa, memoirs, new york, projects
Part 3 – Rambling round Manhattan
We pick up the tale as the J1 visa company left us to our own inexperienced devices in the city that never sleeps …
It’s hard to put down on screen what goes through one’s head when you are, really and truly walking through the imagined places of your childhood … to the outsider I was like the usual star struck tourist wandering about Manhattan looking like prime robbery real estate but to me I was coming across places and images I had kept in my head as a child and watching in awe as they came to life and sucked me into them !
New York is iconic – it’s the scene for so many great movies and books and TV shows and all the rest of it … we knew more about stuff like Diff’rent Strokes and Friends than we did about the shows in our own country … and here we were on the greatest movie set in the world. So it might not come across in a piece of writing but to say that we were as comfortable (and yet not !) in New York as we would’ve been in Dublin kind of explains it …
Anyway – there were tourist things to be done and a whole city to explore before we and by that I mean ” I ” set out on our own. We went to all the usual places, punctuating our couple of days only to rest a little and eat and drink a lot at Manhattan’s plethora of Irish bars – cringe ! God why do these places attract exPats ? most of them are about as Irish as Skippy the Bush Kangaroo !
I remember being dumb struck in Wall Street as the bell gonged and mayhem ensued on the floor – how in the hell they all knew who was shouting at who and what they were saying was beyond me … we were worried that by us waving our arms they would think we were trying to sell shares in some frozen orange juice company in Namibia or somewhere … so we kept quiet ! I was reprimanded by a bum for taking a picture of another bum asleep on a park bench – again this was something the folks back home would never believe – people sleep in parks ! We also went to Liberty Island and Ellis Island and over and back on the Staten Island ferry to see what we could see … and that metal bull at the end of Broadway, just before Battery Park – yes, we had to get our pictures taken in front of that because it had the biggest you know whats we’d ever seen ! Find a funny statue of a bull with its balls out and click – God we were such kids !
I saw my first hypodermic needle on the ground under a bridge in Central Park – we were sheltering from the rain and while staying in the NYU run youth hostel on Amsterdam Avenue I came within an inch of being murdered – ruthlessly so … by a guy who was actually just trying to sell me a radio ! But he was dark and 7 feet tall so in my naivety I thought I was doomed … those kinds of fellas were always bad news in the movies !
One of the more real “head pictures” * I have still is of some cops on Amsterdam Avenue and the hot pursuit and top secret job they surely found themselves in. Two plain clothes officers ran from block to block, walkie-talkies in hand, in pursuit of a no doubt serious criminal while I just stood on the corner, looking for my youth hostel, and watched in excitement. I think I might even have had a meatball sub in my hands – I mean come on …
And so I asked them for directions ! in the middle of an obviously very important police chase – a life and death matter no doubt about it. And the fat one just looked at me in disbelief and muttered “Throo the praaajects ’bout 3 bloacks – and watcchhit in dere kid !” as he threw his head in the general direction of a series of tower blocks heading west.
As far as I knew a project was something we were given in school like a science project but I found out what that particular term meant in relation to low cost housing soon enough. On my trip through “the praaajects” was where I met our radio toting friend mentioned above … my pace needlessly but instinctively quickened and I delighted in my close shave when I met my friends later at the hostel …
* Head pictures are pictures that immediately jump into your mind’s eye when someone/somewhere/something is mentioned and is my brain’s profile pic, if you will, of that person, place or thing !