NEW YORK : POVERTY IN THE SHADOW OF A ONE-AND-A-HALF-BILLION-DOLLAR BUILDING.
This building – ‘Yankee Stadium’ , in the Bronx, an area with which we are familiar from previous visits to that borough in the magnificent city that is New York. The five of us stayed for a week in an apartment in the Bronx, an area that is trying to hold itself together in the face of a political administration which gives the impression that it simply doesn’t care enough or, if it did (or does?) , then not often enough or for long enough.
The people in the Bronx are fantastic : completely down-to-earth, no false airs and graces and, for the most part (there are exceptions in every city and every walk of life) , will not only not give you grief but will intervene when they perceive you to be in trouble, whether you are looking lost or seemingly being accosted in the street. We actually were lost, occasionally, but never felt threatened or in danger whilst trying to get our bearings, and only twice in the week did a couple of lads approach us looking for money and cigarettes, in a manner which could have been interpreted as menacing had it not being five Irish girls they were trying to deal with!
Incidentally, another massive building which, in our shared opinion,looks out of place in that lovely area is the Bronx Mall , another big-spend institution which would have been better suited to a 5th Avenue-type area. The Bronx is pure working-class and long may it stay true to its roots!
Hail Mary to the city, you’re a virgin
And Jesus can’t save you, life starts when the church end
Came here for school, graduated to the high life
Ball players, rap stars, addicted to the limelight…..
MDMA got you feelin’ like a champion
The city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien….
The five of us, as pictured by our driver and friend, Joel. God Bless the man and his patience (and his Chrysler People Carrier!) The reason three of us are wearing those full-length black gowns is because it was 85F (about 30C) during our three week holiday and, believe it or not, we only wore swim suits under them!.
Our second week was spent in Hell’s Kitchen, in a beautiful apartment gifted to us by our dear friends Liz and Susie, two sassy native New Yorkers who are married to two lads we have known for years. Both girls had each taken two days off work and brought us around the neighbourhood, (re-)introducing us to old (and new!) friends whom we now wish to apologise to as we partied in two Hell’s Kitchen bars as only the Irish can and when you have five ‘newly liberated’ (albeit only temporary!) Irish girls on the rip in New York it tends to make jaws drop and eyes pop! But great craic , and the atmosphere, the music , the company and the location all combined perfectly to prove that we were indeed in the city that never sleeps!
For our final week, Joel moved us (and two trips for our luggage!) to a beautiful apartment in Harlem (East 101st Street at Lexington Avenue) thanks to Keven and Mal (and of course poor Joel!), a fantastic location which we knew from before : our neighbours welcomed us back with a get-together in one (or more!) of the local bars and, for better or worse (!) , even the neighbourhood cops remembered us but this time, they asked us would we pose with them for photographs which, of course, we were delighted to do! Harlem, and where we stayed (East Harlem) in particular, has a reputation as a rough area and, as with certain areas in any city anywhere, it is a deserved reputation up to a point – it is a neighbourhood populated by a people that have been practically abandoned over the years by the ‘powers-that-be’ and left alone to deal with its problems as best it can. Without exception, morning, noon or night, no matter where we ended-up in East Harlem, we never once felt threatened or concerned for our safety, and got along famously with everyone we had the pleasure to meet, whether in a bar, club, church or a basketball court in one of the local parks.
I fully recognise that we seemed to have had an ‘advantage’ , if you like, in that we were five Irish girls in East Harlem and word of our presence had apparently spread throughout the neighbourhood : we lost count of the times that a group of lads and girls outside/inside a bar or park etc approached us (as happened in the Bronx, too!) with a very cheery “Yo! My Irish lady friends, how y’all doin’, all good? , you doin’ ok, gettin’ ’round alrigh’….?” , followed by a half-hour of chit-chat and an invite to join them!
I could go on. And on. All five of us had an unbelievable three week sight-seeing, shopping and ‘meeting and mingling’ holiday, which came to an end far too quickly. Josh left us out to JFK Airport on Sunday afternoon , 29th June last, with our other friends following in another people-carrier. They helped us with our luggage (and, considering that between the five of us we took more than one thousand pics, you can imagine just how many luggage cases we had!) and all stayed with us until we had safely passed through all stages of check-in and security. Then we roared crying, finally realising that this was indeed ‘it’ , the point of no return, the end of our great American escape, the beginning of our return to ‘normality’. We didn’t want it to end.
Anyway : here’s a few pics from some of our many outings, but the majority of those keepsakes are for our eyes only, to be studied and admired by us during the many reminiscing nights we just know we are going to have. During which we’ll cry again.
Sleeping rough on a New York street : unfortunately, not unique to New York, but unacceptable wherever it’s encountered.
An evil looking queen, pictured in Greenwich Village. No pun intended….!
The ‘Welcome Desk’, Jersey Gardens Shopping Outlet, New Jersey. We knew we were in trouble when the staff greeted us by name!
Jersey Gardens discount booklets and assorted reading material. The former were overused but we never found time to open the latter!
Shopping aids – barely enough of them for one of us, never mind five….
…..New Jersey style!
And the last pic, from one of our favourite places in New York – Union Square , in Manhattan :
The Garda making sure we stay ‘Forever 21’ in Union Square. If only they would make sure we could stay ‘Forever’ in NYC!
The only silver lining in being back in Dublin is that we are back with our partners, our kids and our Irish friends. But we sure do miss New York and our New York pals and the atmosphere and the sight-seeing and the noise and the smells and the steam from the subway venting out through the ‘sidewalks’ and the streets and the avenues. And the nights we shared with locals in Hell’s Kitchen and the Bronx and East Harlem on the rooftop of a bar or block of apartments, sipping beer (and cider!) and chatting. A concrete jungle of all human life. We’ll definitely go back – we have to, as we all left a part of ourselves over there.
Anyway : all going well, we will begin posting our usual material here, beginning next Wednesday, 16th July 2014. See you then, and thanks for checking back with us. Appreciated!