Friday, 2 May 2008


After 27 hours on the train from Miami, I had a three-hour stopover in Manhattan and everything was flung into fast-forward.

I visited three information booths, walked through Madison Square Garden, bought a bus ticket from Buffalo to Toronto, stopped by Madame Tussuad's and Ripley's, photographed Times Square, bought a black-and-white cookie bigger than my outstretched hand, went through Bryant Park, climbed three storeys of the New York Public Library and photographed the interior, bought some water and soda at a 99c store, stopped by three electronics stores, bought a memory card, strolled down Fifth Avenue, jaywalked blatantly without seeing the cop beside me, saw the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, photographed the Flatiron Building, wandered around a Duane Reade, ate a huge slice of New York pizza, bought a postcard, and went back to Penn Station.

I still had an hour to kill, so I bought a New York Times and stood around in what seemed like a Zen-like state of stillness.
The train station had police every twenty metres, plus store guards, Amtrak security, and two guys with huge sidearms, dressed in Army fatigues. They didn't want to be photographed. There was also a sniffer dog and nowhere to sit, anywhere, in a place where people routinely wait for hours at a time. I sat on the second rung of a ladder propped up by a wall until two men photographed me and a maintenance guy told me to get off. The train was delayed by 20 minutes but boarding occurred at breakneck speed, to my surprise and delight.

I liked Manhattan. Everyone is thin and young and has stuff to do and places to go. There's a natural staccatto rhythm to the city and an utterly indifferent tone; crossing lights are suggestions, not commandments, and dawdlers are aware that they are in the vanishing minority. They glance carefully around when they drop below 5km/h, all too aware of the rapidly-moving packs of hipsters and cellphoneniks.

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