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Weekend In Manhattan
Jayne Sharratt
Fat cops in Dunkin Donuts- reassuringly New York

It must be stated that the famous Staten Island ferry is not a tourist vessel, it does not offer temperature-controlled comfort where you can watch iconic New York sights pass by from behind the glass. For one thing the windows are too dirty to see out of, and the musty humidity reaches the back of your throat and hums in your head. You have to step out to the stern of the boat into the wind and the bitter cold to watch Manhattan’s perfect skyline recede until it no longer fills your camera lens. Still you can’t quite tear your eyes away as it becomes a further distant object; but then you turn to your left, to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty – faded dollar green against ice blue ozone.
The familiarity of the images does not diminish their impact. From the flag poles of Wall Street and Fifth Avenue, the car radio aerials and ferries, it is the star spangled banner of the song, which waves over the free and the brave; vital, alive, mutable. Most memorable, however, is the static banner, which in Grand Central Terminal cannot be stirred by any breeze. It hangs, vast and stationary, from a roof painted with silver constellations – designed to be awe inspiring, in this most awesome of railway stations. The sense that we are standing at the heart of an empire is inescapable. A memory is stirred of a giant hammer and sickle once seen, carved into a dam in a river gorge in Romania.

(still from Woody Allen's ' Manhattan')
After the first visit, it is difficult to differentiate the things you already knew about New York (because you are sure that you have always known New York; and you are certain you can never know New York). Even from new knowledge gained by first hand experience, didn’t you know beforehand that you would find dog-walkers at dawn in Central Park – and joggers by the reservoir? That the Empire State ascent should be made in the early morning in order to avoid queues? Wasn’t the restaurant on the upper-east-side where you ate lunch (and were certain the Great Gatsby was sat at the next table – hair slick, tie straight, and sweater-vest so divinely Ivy League), the one in a film you saw once?
You play I Spy NY and collect points: Fat cops in Dunkin Donuts; steam rising from grates in the street; melodic bands in the Bowery ball-room; and a loquacious bar man in the Dublin Castle.
The discordant note in this love affair is the still flag. In almost every apartment window is a reproduction, pinioned at each corner and displayed behind glass, preserved and trapped. ‘Now more than ever’ added since September 11th to the famous souvenir slogan.
It is unnecessary – 'I love NY' is enough.

© JAYNE SHARRATT November 2002
Jayne Sharratt

Jayne Sharratt

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