New York, man.

What can I say that hasn’t been said?

I doubt I’ve gone more than a week in my life without hearing, or seeing, a reference to that city.

They say it’s the greatest city on earth.

The Beastie Boys and checking your head. Seinfeld and no soup for you. Woody Allen and purple roses. Ghostbusters and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man. Sex and the City and Samantha getting fucked ten ways from Sunday every week.

The Statue of Liberty and your tired and your poor and your huddled masses.

Madonna and $35 in her pocket.

Ellis Island. JFK International. Jonathan Safran Foer. The Big Apple. The Son of Sam. The Brooklyn Bridge. Jay-Z. The Yankees. Don’t look up; they’ll know you’re a tourist. The Giants. The greatest city on earth. The Mets. Steinbrenner. Hell’s Kitchen. The Empire State Building. The greatest city on earth. The New York Public Library. Hot pretzels on the sidewalk. Mariah Carey. Madison Square Garden. Martin Scorsese, and the Gangs of New York. Brooklyn, Manhattan, Harlem, and rumbling in the Bronx. David Letterman. The greatest city on earth. CBGB. The Gramercy. September 11. The Guggenheim. Central Park. Giuliani. Times Square. Fuck you, I’m walkin’ here. Battery Park. Eric B and Rakim. Living Colour. The New York Times. Stay out of that neighbourhood.

Kimberly Wetherell and Shya Scanlon and Will Entrekin and Kristen Elde and Greg Olear and Tao Lin and Rebecca Schiffman and I’m sure, I’m sure, more who I’ve forgotten.

The greatest city on earth.

Whatever else, NYC is embedded in the Western public consciousness like no other place on the planet.

LA? Yeah, people know it for Hollywood.

London? Yeah, maybe back in the glory days of the British Empire it was the same thing.

Moscow? Yeah, it’s where the Ruskis come from, right?

Sydney? Uh… didn’t they start in Sydney on Lost?

New York? People know it for being New York.

Also, we now know it for being a difficult city to drive in if you’re just coming in from the outskirts and you’re used to driving on the other side of the road.

That was some handy work, Zara.

We came in on bridge after bridge, and hit peak hour as half of Broadway was shut down for a anti-Wall Street protest.

Wall Street.

I can’t believe I forgot to mention Wall Street earlier. But then again, it would take a longer piece than this to detail everything from the five boroughs that might spark recognition in the collective consciousness.

Everything about the waves of humanity in that city is true. We were swept up in it, caught in a river of cars on the roads, and floods of people on the sidewalks. It was light and sound and late afternoon, early evening warmth, and the overwhelming backdrop of the city that never sleeps.

It’s New York, man. This is Mecca for tourists. We made a beeline for Times Square and let ourselves just be tourists.

It was Zara and Lenore and I, two Australians who had never been to New York before, and a Los Angeleno who would marry that city, if she could. We navigated our way through places and signs that seemed familiar to me, even though I had no business laying claim to any kind of familiarity.

[Editor’s Note: It has since been brought to my attention that Zara Potts is not, in fact, Australian. She is from New Zealand. Two different places]

We walked from the neon scatter of Times Square to meet Lenore’s friend Keiko; we caught a cab to Chelsea and ate and walked back through the evening streets, we sat on the steps of the New York Post Office and talked about what we wanted in people we loved and we talked about people we’d loved. We watched people stream from Madison Square Garden, and we walked through the crowded air of New York City back to the hotel.

Lenore and I took a walk so I could buy razors and took in the city at night. It was warm, and thick, in the night. Near the theatre district more signs flashed garish, and as we passed under them I thought New York. Huh. Here I am. The first person in my family, that I know of, to be here.

Eat it, chumps.

As I waited just outside the foyer to make a call, rain exploded from out of the night sky and roared down from holes in the ceiling to wash the concrete free of cigarette butts and ash and dirt. As the phone rang, I counted fourteen cop cars, sirens blaring, race down the street, past the hotel entrance.

And I thought, New York. Huh.

Here I am.

TAGS: , , , , , , ,

SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

35 responses to “TPAC 2010 – Day 17: New Fuckin’ York.”

  1. Tawni says:

    I never have any comments that seem worthy of writing after these interesting and entertaining TPAC posts by you and Zara, but I just wanted to say that I love reading them. Seeing the different parts of the country I’ve in which I’ve grown up through the eyes of someone new is absolutely fascinating. It reminds me of the way my son can make me completely reassess something I take for granted, as he sees it for the first time. Thank you (and Zara) for the fresh perspective. (:

    • Tawni says:

      Scratch that “I’ve” after the word “country.” Need mor coffeees, plz.

    • Gloria says:

      I feel the same way – the country I’ve in which I’ve grown up as well. And he makes me see it through new eyes and it fills me with an almost debilitating wunderlust.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Aw, shucks, Tawni! Thank you.

        It’s OK re: the type. I wrote ‘owner’ for ‘honour’ the other day.

        Yikes.

        @Gloria: Ah, you guys. You’re making me blush.

        Next time, let’s get a tour bus, huh?

  2. Simone says:

    I’ve loved reading about your TPAC adventures. It inspires me to go out and get some adventure myself.

    One day, Simon, I’ll follow in your footsteps and be there as well.

    New fuckin’ York. Indeed.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      So go do it! Do it! Do it do it do it do it!

      Let’s hang out at the Empire State. We didn’t make it there.

      This time.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    Ah. New York, New York.

    That was seven levels of hell driving through the centre of Manhattan. I liked the bit when we ended up way downtown and I finally screeched the car over to the side of the road and said ‘Fuck this! I’m not driving anymore!” Lenore took over, and my God, was she amazing.

    I walked the soles of my shoes out in this city. Couldn’t help but be a tourist with me head up in the air. The city was beautiful in the early morning light -the shadows on the buildings were like artwork.

    I loved sitting on the steps of the post office with you and Lenore late at night, in the warm air, talking about love, with my green statue of Liberty headpiece on. Love. Love. Love.

    AND I LOVE that shot of you and I, looking overwhelmed in Times Square, brew. I would think it staged if I didn’t know it was utterly for real.

    And thank you for not getting us killed when we went to buy those Rolexes. That could have been a totally different ending for our story.

    • Jude says:

      You two look sooo cute in that photo. I love that photo!

      And BTW, when did you become Australian…?

      And what’s the story about the Rolexes – I don’t think I’ve heard that one…

      • Zara Potts says:

        We are cute! I’ll leave Simon to tell the Rolex story.
        OH MY GOD. I DIDN”T SEE THAT BIT ABOUT AUSTRALIANS.

        BREW!!! BREW!!! What do you think you are doing?? ONE Australian. ONE Kiwi. ONE American.

        Man. Australian’s. They always trying to steal the good NZ’ers.

        • Jude says:

          Pavlova: PharLap; Dragon; Split Enz; Crowded House; Russell Crowe (although I think us Kiwis are unanimous in the view that Oz can have him); AND NOW YOU!

          It’ll be a tug o’ war over the Tasman Simon…before you can have our Zara!

        • Zara Potts says:

          OUTRAGEOUS!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Lenore was sex in a bucket driving through New York. Bad. Ass.

          Sorry Z! Sorry Jude! I didn’t mean to steal you! Maybe this is what happened with Rusty? Maybe Australian media were just tired and wrote that he was from Oz.

          Over and over and over and over and over again.

          The Rolex story will come in the next NYC instalment.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      I assume you meant you were buying Rollexes, or Rolaxes, or whatever variation Queens has come up with this year. If not, uh, can I borrow a $50? (yeah, Megan, I’m stealing your trick 🙂 )

  4. lisa rae cunningham says:

    NYC! No place quite like it.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      No place I know!

      • Simon Smithson says:

        No, wait.

        That’s actually my show business:business ignorance ratio.

        I don’t want my NYC:place ratio is.

        I wonder if there’s a correlation – show business:business::NYC:place.

        That’s right. Algebra, bitches.

  5. dwoz says:

    I had an amazing first driving experience in NYC. first time driving IN NYC, that is.

    It was back on July 4, 1986, the day they were reopening the Statue of Liberty. It was the fourth of July. It was a big reopening of the Statue of Liberty. Ronnie Reagan was in town and would give a speech. there were to be fireworks of the grandest sort. The teevee news was alight with the admonition to stay away from NYC, it would be apocalyptic crowds and sheer terrorizing gridlock.

    And the cabbies went on strike.

    And the locals, rather than face the mass of tourists, got the HELL out of dodge.

    And everyone from the sticks heeded the teevee advice.

    that saturday morning at 10:00 a.m., I drove 30 mph down 9th street from 113th street above central park ALL THE WAY to Houston street below greenwich village, WITHOUT STOPPING.

    I am probably the only person in the entire world that can say that, for any time between sunrise and sunset.

    When we hit Houston (house-ton), At 10:13 a.m., the cab strike ended, and the streets filled up.

    My two passengers that were living in NYC were screaming and grabbing their hair and yelling “I can’t BELIEVE this!”

    And of course, ignorant as I was about how freakishly anomalous it was, I was all “hey, I don’t know what you all are talking about…driving here is nothing!”

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ronald Raygun strikes again!

      “And of course, ignorant as I was about how freakishly anomalous it was, I was all “hey, I don’t know what you all are talking about…driving here is nothing!”

      Fate smiled on you that day, Dwoz.

      So it was the fourth of July on July 4, you say?

      🙂

  6. Robert Vaughan says:

    Last time I moved back to NYC I owned a Ford-F250. It was so huge, I had to get a running start to jump up into the cab to drive the fucker. Talk about Bladerunner, it was the best machine to get everyone the FUCK OUTTA MY WAY!

    The nightmare parking tickets were a whole different story.

    New York, New York, indeed. A fucking great town. I’ll be there for my birthday, an entire week…soon!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      TNB? You heard the man.

      Drinks.

      I was amazed by how true to life the stereotype of New York driving was.

      Those guys are assholes, man.

  7. Joe Daly says:

    As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m genetically programmed to roll my eyes at NYC and lament how crappy and overrated it is. But as I’ve then proceeded to admit, a person’s first trip to NYC is one of the most exciting experiences they’ll have and one they’ll remember forever. You guys certainly seized it with the appropriate gusto, wonderment, and energy to make it such a great success.

    The last time I was there, I was chased by the police on three separate occasions relating to three separate incidents in one evening. Upon expiration of certain statutes pertaining to limitation, I will be happy to revisit these incidents in detail. But in the meantime, I haven’t been back to NYC for about fifteen years. Glad it’s somehow managing to survive without me. Who knew?

    • I was more excited by New York the second time I was there.

      The first time was kind of cool… but… I don’t know, it wasn’t as cool as San Francisco…

      The second time I was allowed to explore by myself/with my brother and we did more than just the touristy things. Which is nothing much, but it was fun. We went to the diner from Seinfeld and there was a guy in there who looked just like Larry David.

      I love New York though. It’s better than London, which always seems to be more fun for visitors…

    • dwoz says:

      did you do something heinous like spit on the sidewalk?

      • Simon Smithson says:

        @Joe: I don’t think it’s something I’m ever going to forget. I could have spent a lot more time there – I’m sure one day I will.

        What is the statute of limitation on pimping, these days, anyhow? Is it longer the bigger the pimping is? Because I doubt you’ll ever be able to tell that story, if that’s the case.

        @Jim: Yeah, SF’s where it’s at for me, too.

        I didn’t get to the Seinfeld diner, unfortunately. Is it Monk’s? Or Drake’s?

        London, some day.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          In the real world it’s Tom’s Diner, which someone wrote an annoying song about in the 80s. But I think it’s Monk’s on the show. The interior isn’t the same— it’s just used for external shots.

          And yes, come to London. Because I can’t afford to go anywhere further, and I need a good excuse to visit and do shitty tourist things…

  8. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Is I’ve already said, I love, love love, adore, love really kinda like that New York drifters picture of you and Zara. I take it Lenore took it? It’s pure genius.

    And I still maintain it looks as if you guys are about to launch into some Matt & Kim action

    • Zara Potts says:

      HAHAHAHA.

      I love that picture too, Uche. It just speaks a million words. You would almost think it was posed. Yes, Lenore took it. She takes the most wonderful pictures. She always gets it just right.

  9. Debbie says:

    NYC, there is no place like it. I hated growing up in the Bronx but I loved Manhattan. There is so much to be said for working and hanging out there – the bars, the clubs, the concerts at Madison Square Garden, the Village, Time Square, 42nd Street, Wall Street; the list goes on and on. Simon you are so right, it would take a really long piece to detail everything. It would probably take me forever to recall everything.

    Riding the trains from Manhattan to the Bronx after midnight was always entertaining (in more ways then one), I just never what I was going to see, hear or need to avoid.

    I learned to drive in the city and never really thought much about it until I moved to Colorado and everyone was so nice.

    New fuckin’ York. Indeed.

    • Debbie says:

      I meant to say I just never knew what I was going to see, hear or need to avoid on the train rides. I really need to stop commenting when the kids are running circle around me.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        There’s certainly that’s even like a microcosm in Australia. Melbourne is like SF, Sydney is like LA, Adelaide is like… uh… Joppatowne…

        But New York is New York and I guess there’s nowhere else like it.

        I could say so much about wanting to hang out and work there.

        NY subway??? I’ve heard of that!

Leave a Reply to Debbie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *