We had barely touched the ground at Newark last week, when the pilot got on the microphone to boldly proclaim that we had, in fact, reached our destination: “Welcome to Newark Liberty International Airport, United State of America“. The pride in his voice ensured that there was no trace of doubt that I had, at last, arrived in the country where “at least I know I’m free”.
I hadn’t been to the US in about three years— which, considering that I used to be pretty obsessed with it— is a long stretch. And not having been there for such long a period of time had made me forget about the ambiguity of a place that is both so lovely and so completely over the top. So was my trip though; a rather spontaneous 7 day visit to New York City, that was devised in such a random fashion that it had my poor friends driving across the country without much prior notice. In the spirit of this, the main phrase of the first days was “you know”, at time accompanied with a snobbish noise of breathing out loudly: “Just, you know, going to New York City tomorrow”. “You know, I was still in Amsterdam yesterday”. It was overwhelming, but in the face of ridiculousness you can either be puzzled or just full-out embrace it, which is what I eventually did. I would walk through Manhattan, with my head tilted back and try to get accustomed to a country, which an overzealous Canadian had once described to me as “bigger and better”.
My mission had been to spend as much time with my friends as possible and simultaneously get a feel for how it must be like to live in New York City. I had been there once before, and at the time went ahead with eating a bad chicken sandwich, which had rendered me a sick, whiney, yet determined tourist. The kind who might have cringed while laying eyes on the Statue of Liberty, but had seen it before. So I was agenda-free for the duration of my stay, save that idea of soaking up the feel of the city.
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone on my quest- Anneken had been to NYC for half a year and showed me the way around, in her trademark sense of self-awareness and tough love: Picture me with large eyes, still transfixed by the skyline. Meanwhile, Anneken, still in business clothing from her internship, would take me by the hand, tell me that all of this was normal and shove me into the subway. “Einfach mal Sushi essen gehen”. So the New York experience was right there when I met her on Union Square. “You know, just meeting my ex-housemate on Union Square”.
Furthermore, I got to see my friend Pete. We go way back in our conspicuous attempts of having “the best time ever” and it was great to catch up with him. Not only let he stay me at his, you know, 25th story penthouse apartment over Manhattan, but when returning from work every night we’d sit down at his balcony together and discuss the state of the world over a few beers or random Icelandic drinks. Peter is the most well-connected man in the world, the type who almost gets you invited to spend an evening barbecuing with Björk and Sigur Rós. And that is not even a cheap analogy, it almost happened and continues to break my heart. In the mornings we would then go out for breakfast, where I could indulge in everything the “Anything-you-want-culture” had to offer.
To complete my Rochester crowd, Beth and Lisa came down to New York and we proceeded to be stuck in 2005 together. The fun part with all my American friends was that we could just get back together without having seen each other in years and reconnect as in the good old times. Before I knew it, I was walking along Beth and Lisa towards destinations such as “yogurtland” and Coney Island, accompanied by the picture of two chickens that seemed to make a statement nobody was quite sure about. Needless to say, these journeys were perpetually documented with our camera. And so time flew by, we took the subway to places we knew nothing about, ate mango and ran through sprinklers at the pier in Coney Island, we carried a piece of pizza through all of Soho, fell asleep at central park and all of this to a heat and humidity that made everything seem even more bizarre than it might already sound. It is a patchwork of events, but all of them did give me the impression of catching a glimpse at the city and the impact it has on you and the people living there.
All in all, the pictures of my week over in the US speak volumes— it was great to be back, see my friends and shake my head in disbelief about the things that make America great and those that boggle my European mindset. I love America’s little perks- the over-easy eggs at the diner in the morning, where they call you “dear”, whilst giving you free refills of coffee; talkative salespeople who dance to the Spice Girls in their shops; bookstores bigger than anything we have, valley-girl accents at the park and convenience products at CVS/pharmacy that address needs you did not know existed. New York is massive, noisy and crowded, packed full of stuff to see. But with the right people by my side it was also a great place to visit and explore. I can’t wait to see those people again.
All the photos are on flickr, but if you want, you can see them right here from the comfort of a flash slideshow.