Besides walking hand in hand with a human rush, there were two primary ways we navigated through Manhattan: subs and tour buses. The subways were lengthy in that it took a while to find the correct station, and that was if we were lucky. Every time we thought we found the way back to the hotel in New Jersey, we would end up further in the Big Apple. Sometimes the tickets we bought to board the subs wouldn’t work, and our conclusion on not getting answers over the telephone is that New York has a number of ways to be a money racket. When we boarded a train, we only had a couple of seconds before the doors would chop off your legs. Crowded seats, crowded rows. One time, a Mexican band played bright guitar tunes to entertain people on the way to Penn Station. I even caught a poem from Seamus Heaney posted on the exit doors. But I forget the title; something about construction. That was nice.
We saw most things in Manhattan by way of these double decker, red tour buses. I learned that there is this cool boat called a water taxi, a tour guide for the ocean. It looks yellow like a regular vehicle taxi, except wider and more open. I discovered it a good distance from the Statue of Liberty. Though we didn’t go on a tour of the statue (way too cold), we got pictures of it from a distance. Lady liberty holding her dark green torch, resolutely facing one direction. We stopped at a public library. Much to my taste. I thought it was the NY national library, but was struck by a funny anti-climax; it was just an average public library. My mistake. We passed places like Carnegie Hall and Harlem, through streets full of old, broken down, brown bricked buildings. One moment you saw a rich mall, the next, an abandoned apartment complex. Rockefeller Plaza had some early Christmas decorations, but they were mostly hidden. By the time they would be revealed I would be back in Marion. There was this small corner of Manhattan that’s headquarters for the United Nations. It’s treated as a separate country with different jurisdiction than the U.S. Interesting. And the last thing I remember was an old, grey Gothic Cathedral and a Jewish/Christian seminary. Tolerance is vogue these days.
The tour guides were something else. One looked like the Gene Wilder Willy Wonka, except that he had grey hair instead of golden. His bright smile was so huge it looked flashy. A good number of things in New York are flashy, now that I think about it. Friendly guy. Then there was this dark skinned Creole from Louisiana who spoke very fluent English. My brother told him that me and him were from Asheville, NC. His response was “Ah, the Lesbian capital of the world.”
As I’ve mentioned before, there were a lot of people rushing through each other in New York. But there was this one place where everything stood still and became a little quiet. At least to me. It was Wall Street.
As soon as the tour bus entered the street, pedestrians disappeared. The space around us was not so open anymore. It was as if the buildings on either side were threatening to close in on us and bury us from the world. “The Financial Capital of America.” You saw no one in the buildings. They were closed by white shutters. Like a top secret fortress. Like a futuristic ghost town. I can only imagine what goes on in a place like that. Most likely things that aren’t too good. But that’s just me being suspicious.