N is for New York City

Nobody forgets the first time they see the New York skyline. I first saw it on a trip to the Big Apple in the 1990s.

As we trundled through the drabness of Queens, we turned a corner and the tall towers appeared. The Empire State Building pierced the afternoon sky like a giant syringe. New York was both intoxicating and frightening.

About half a dozen of us visited New York. My life was falling apart at this stage. We were mostly journalists and we drank too hard in as many places as we can. We stood on chairs in the White Horse, the famous Greenwich Village pub where Dylan Thomas had his last orders shortly before his death.

Mark wore a "Friends" T-shirt but we were anything but friends. The hate simmered down the long boulevards of Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge. In the end, I struck out on my own. My only real friend was my copy of  Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. 

I found the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. It's a fascinating place which relives the hard lives of the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, the Poles and others who scraped a living n the Big Apple in the early 20th Century. This put my first world angst about marital breakdown and the like into perspective.

Later on, I took the elevator up the World Trade Center and felt sick and dizzy looking down at the roofs of buildings far below. I never imagined that a few years later people would be jumping to avoid the flames in the stricken structure. We still don't imagine. We know the details but we can't put ourselves there.

We are prisoners in our own puny frames. Our trails and tribulations can be utterly consuming but they are nothing compared to the bigger picture. So why can it be so hard to see the world from the point of view of others?

Almost two decades later, I visited New York with my kids. The Empire State Building no longer looked like a large syringe but the Chrysler Building was as silver and serene as ever. The World Trade Center is replaced by the giant Freedom Tower. The sky over the tall buildings was a timeless azure from Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The ghosts had not gone entirely but they were hidden well, in dark alley in Chinatown or in the shadows of Central Park as the sun goes down.


  1. Good to read about New York. I visited long back. Keep Blogging A to Z participant Narayana Rao Zero-Based Productivity Management


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