New York is a dangerous place. The danger it has to be said, no
longer lies on its streets and avenues, Mayor Giuliani's zero tolerance
policy towards crime has seen to that. Rather it resides in the
fact that New York's sights and sounds are so familiar to us all,
via the medium of film and television that the first time visitor
is imbued with a misplaced sense of knowing.
It's the pace of New York that catches the first time visitor off-guard.
I remember well my first visit, stepping off an overly warm 747
and joining the torturous queue at immigration, the familiarity
of the routine lulling me into believing, that this was going to
be a city much like many others I had encountered. Only to have
my senses assaulted as I made it out to the taxi pick up area. The
warmth of the terminal was replaced by an icy November breeze. Then
being confronted by huge men with shrill whistles marshalling the
taxis, that stretched as far as the eye could see. The same men
turning on me and shouting like drill Sergeants, ' Where u go-in
bud-e' and then repeating the question to the man behind me, when
I hadn't replied in the nano-second of time allotted for my response.
College kids hustling amidst all the confusion for fares, like scavengers
at a kill, with one eye on a potential customer, the other focused
on the taxi controllers. You had to admire their verve though; those
kids were true survivors, instinctively knowing when they could
risk an approach and when to blend into the background. I briefly
felt as if I'd entered a world gone mad and that sanity, lay somewhere
behind me back in the terminal.
||I can only equate the experience to jumping into
an icy plunge pool after sweating up for 40 minutes in a sauna
or perhaps to a person making their international debut at sport.
Everyone tells you what the experience is going to be like,
but unless you've actually experienced it, you can't truly grasp
the realities of the situation.
My first weekend in New York, like the first game of a new cap,
passed in the blinking of an eye, it was only with the benefit of
hindsight, that I realised what had actually occurred and that the
bug had indeed bit. New York hadn't merely got ' under my skin'
it had also got on my clothes and in my hair as well. I look back
at that weekend as an induction weekend, a full body baptism of
sorts. Instead of being filled with the Holy Spirit, it was the
spirit of New York that I had been plunged into and pulled back
out of, so that I could go out into the world and spread the word
to the uninitiated of the wonders that it beheld.
Over the last 10 years, I have made many pilgrimages to New York,
to renew my vows and have been rewarded each time for doing so.
I've been in the city to see Joe Torres's Yankees win two World
Series, witnessed Wade Boggs an ex Red-Sox hero turned Yankee, astride
a New York Police Horse, being paraded around Yankee Stadium, in
front of the Yankee faithful after their '96 World Series win. Witnessed
the same teams' ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes where
they were greeted by over a million ecstatic New Yorkers.
I've been to the home of boxing, ' The Gardens', as those in the
know refer to Madison Square Gardens and witnessed Lennox Lewis
take on - and beat in everyone's estimation apart from the judges
and Don King - Evander Holyfield. I've even been out to the Meadowlands
in New Jersey, home of the New York Giants and seen my name up in
lights on the main scoreboard and returned home with the photo to
All in all, New York has repaid me many times over for my devotion,
but all of those moments pale into insignificance in comparison
with the awe I experience every time I walk down 5th or 6th Avenue.
I am always at a loss for words and totally blown away by the sheer
scale of Manhattan. The enormity of the buildings as you approach
Manhattan crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge, let alone walking amongst
them down its avenues, give New York a magnificence that is simply
|To witness the sunrise on Manhattan and see the
first rays of dawn catch on the sky scrappers is a humbling
experience. It also gives a perspective to the architects and
construction workers achievements and offers reason why New
Yorkers have a confidence in their city that borders on arrogance.
Just when you think a city can offer no more, you stumble across
the things you went in search of in the first place. The Empire
State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Tiffany's,
The Rockefeller Centre, the Chrysler Building, Times Square,
Broadway the list is almost endless. These are all sites known
throughout the western world and used as scene setters in countless
films and television shows, but somehow reduced to mere bit
players in the whole New York story, when you actually tour
That is not to say that any are unimpressive, indeed quite the opposite
is true. I am always moved when viewing the Statue of Liberty, my
mind plays funny tricks on me and I often imagine myself as an immigrant
aboard some ship, spotting
'Lady liberty ' in the distance at last believing that the end of
my journey and safety is close at hand. It is just the vast number
of landmark sights that New York offers somehow seems to diminish
the individual effect and you run the risk of merely ticking them
off the list of places you have seen, instead of savouring each
one for its own merits.
New York although sold as a weekend destination and a thoroughly
enjoyable one at that, deserves more time. It is not a city that
should be rushed; rather it is a city that should be savoured. Which
brings us back to why it is so dangerous for the first time visitor,
who gets caught up in the city's frenetic pace. My advice is simply
this, let the locals run around like headless chickens, whilst you
calmly almost serenely walk the streets and avenues of the most
walkable city in North America and give yourself time to soak up
every thing it has to offer at your own pace.
I can probably best explain the attitude required to fully appreciate
this city by borrowing a line that Robert Duval said to Sean Penn
in the film 'Colors'.
"Two bulls are standing on a hilltop surveying a field of cows
below. The younger bull said to the elder one ' lets run down there
and fuck one of those cows ' the elder bull replies to the younger
one, ' hold on son, lets just take our time, walk down there and
do the lot!"
New York is a city that promises much but delivers even more, if
you take your time. Happy hunting!
©DAVID RUTHERFORD 2000