…and we feel as if we have ‘lived there’, it feel’s like ‘our home’, and, yes, we have ‘learned to eat and walk at the same time’! The five of us holiday there, each year, if we can all manage it, but sometimes life intervenes and if one of us is ‘injured’ by that intervention then the five of us are voluntarily grounded, until such time as all of us are available. That’s how much we value each other’s company and how much we treasure our shared NYC time in a city that encourages us to express our dependence on each other and our near-dependence on the city itself. Yeah, we got the bug and we got it bad!
But OMG!! (as they repeatedly say over there and, unfortunately, here, too, in a ‘Friends’-type accent..) – what a month we had ; landed in JFK on Saturday, 21st July last, early afternoon according to their timepieces, and were nearly mobbed in Arrivals by Joel, Kev and Malcolm, who insisted on catchin’ up on the gossip by going for something light to eat and a few drinks (we didn’t argue!) and we spent a very enjoyable two hours or thereabouts in ‘An Tigín’ in JFK : I had the fish and chips and two (small-ish!) bottles of cider and what a brilliant start it was for us : eight of us having the craic, fantastic company, lovely food, a few drinks and great conversations all round ; no better cure for the jet-lag!
And then – eventually! – out to the two JC’s that were going to take us to East Harlem for our first week, and what a week that was : street (and roof-top) parties with the same neighbours and their friends that we party with on all our visits to that beautiful neighbourhood, visits to the Harlem River Park and the Art park, shopping, pubs, clubs, shopping (!!) and evening chats on the ‘sidewalk’ with the locals, who were as interested in hearing about life in Ireland as we were in hearing about their life in East Harlem. But all good things come to an end…except, in our case, thankfully, the good things were to continue in the Bronx, for our second week : Joel, Shay and Emma collected us (and our shopping – two cars needed again, two trips required, as we hadn’t got our purchases properly packed, far too busy to be doing stuff like that at the time!) and, after very many hugs on the Street, we were whisked off to a spare 3-bed apartment they own in Allerton, in the Bronx, where the locals threw a lil’ surprise (!) to welcome us back to their area and the party continued : took the five of us (and Joel, God Bless the man’s patience!) and Emma a few hours to move our gear in and sort of sort it out…we had things to do, people to see and places to go and we just couldn’t be bothered ‘putting our house in order’, and then we were let out to explore, again, that part of the Bronx – the shops, the parks, the buildings, the pubs and the restaurants and the many bodega’s where we had made friends and had the craic with the owner and his/her family during previous stays in that beautiful neighbourhood and where, this time, as usual, we were loudly welcomed back with high fives, handshakes and BIG hugs! And, again, the five of us settled right in because, I believe – among other shared attributes – Bronxites (and Harlemites) and us Irish share the same outlook on life and a shared sense of humour to match : we value and treasure every second we share with them.
But, before we knew it, in what felt like hours instead of a week, we needed two people-carriers again, as our time in the Bronx was up – took us the best part of a day to leave ( loads of ‘slán go fóill anois’ rather than ‘goodbye’) and we were whisked off to Hell’s Kitchen where Liz, Susie, their husbands, family and neighbours were out on the footpath (‘sidewalk!) waiting to greet us and that mad crowd don’t do things by half – there was about 25 of us still outside the three-bed duplex about an hour after we arrived when a cop car pulled in, having noticed the crowd, and asked was everything ok : we asked the two officers to call back at the end of the week to check with us again, but to leave whatever warrants they had for us behind at the 18th Precinct!
And then we explored – the buildings, the Streets, the Avenues, the basketball and handball courts in the local parks, the kids playgrounds…and a few pubs and restaurants and, of course, the shopping centres and street markets and, between the Annex and Lexington street markets and all the other places we shopped, we were hoping that Joel also had a mini-bus in his garage! That was our daytime activity – retail therapy (!) – then, at night (and into the wee hours!) we let rip in ‘Clinton’ (Ha!) with Liz and Sue and their husbands and their kids and the neighbours and their kids and Goddam! if the same two cops didn’t pull in besides us on one of the night/early morning rampages we were prone to and asked were the five of us okay, enjoying ourselves etc etc and enquiring about Ireland! We were over an hour on the side of the road/street/avenue chatting to each other, having the craic, and we have the pics and video* to prove it…but they’re ours to treasure!
And, again, before we knew it, it was time to say slán go fóill anois to Hell’s Kitchen and the crazy mob (with whom we had partied one night in Union Square Park, pictured – about twenty of us, dancin’ under the stars…!) and the operation to move us and our ever-increasing baggage to the last stop of our 2018 NYC Tour – Queens. We needed four vehicles this time (!) and, because Joel and the two hubbies and Kevin and Mel and the neighbours helped us to load up, we managed the transition in one go. Bit tight, but we done it! And Heno, Larry and their lady friends were waiting for us at a gorgeous apartment in Murray Hill – it took us the best part of a day to leave Hell’s Kitchen and get ourselves settled in
Queens but only took us minutes to get out onto the street and start exploring. We called into our old haunts, high-fives and hugs all round, visited the parks and the shopping centres and the bodegas and the pubs and clubs and made it our business to meet and greet the various different groups of locals that we had last shared company with in 2016…and it was as if we hadn’t been absent. Old friends, some unfortunately missing, new arrivals : part of their world, and they were part of ours.
And, yes we made it to Jersey Gardens (twice!), pictured, visited Staten Island and Governors Island, and Liberty and Ellis Islands and, two days before we left for home, about fifty of us ‘took over’ a pub in the Bronx and partied from early afternoon until mid-morning the following day. And we enjoyed every mad minute of that ‘lock in’, and vowed that we’ll do it again, next year. I won’t detail the absolute chaos on our last day, the packing, the tearful farewells, the amount of vehicles we needed for the five of us and our baggage (!) – but things worked out ok for us, among all the madness, even if we did almost collapse, emotionally, in JFK, as we sobbed our little hearts out as we finally prepared to board the flight back to Dublin.
On a serious note, the five of us were in agreement that times and things have got tougher for the locals than they were during our last holiday there, in 2016 – poverty is more visible, people are more worried for their future and there has been a noticeable increase in the number of abandoned/boarded-up properties. We were surprised, stunned, even, by some of the people that approached us on the streets and/or in the subways and on the trains and busses that would ask for a few minutes of our time to listen to them, apologising every few minutes for delaying us as they explained, politely, why it was they were in such a bad financial situation.
‘Falling Down’ anywhere brings burdens other than (just) financial and requires a State ‘safety net’ to ease, if not ‘cure’, the cause and the symptoms and, in our opinion, that assistance is not suitably available in New York (or Dublin, for that matter). We gave cash, hugs and food each time, as we do here, in Dublin, and wiped a tear from our eyes. And that’s one of the contrasts about New York ; turn a corner from 5th Avenue and you could end up in a completely different environment and, while that’s possible in Dublin, too – or any city, actually – the contrast, the economic contradiction, is way more pronounced in New York than in Dublin or any other large city we’ve been in. But still – we love the place, its people, its attitude, its colour : it’s rude and polite in the same breath, caring and careless at the same time. And we’ll definitely be back!
Thanks for waiting for us, and for reading – we hope to be back to normal next week. And, talking about ‘normal’ (!) we have been entered into the 2018 ‘Blog Awards’ competition and will no doubt emerge from the other end of the competition as an ‘also ran’, as usual (aahhh..!) : the decision will be made by three judges, there will be no public voting, so we’re off now to bribe a judge or two…!)
Have a nice day, y’all…!
(*Talking about holiday videos, here’s one taken by visitors to Buckingham Palace, London : those tourists captured the true nature of the British ‘royal’ family and how they spend some of the taxpayers money they leech from the public purse – on what appears to be a ‘rent boy’. Just try and ignore the girls laughing as the poor young man tries to escape – the two ladies probably thought it was part of the ‘show’.)