Saturday, 4 October 2014

Opening Credits - America Part 8

Penn Station is not the most fabulous introduction to the world's capital, which is a shame as the train from Washington DC to New York City is the most luxurious mode of transport I have ever been on. The station at Washington DC was opulent in mahogany panels and ferns. Screaming child aside, the train to New York had spacious seats and footrests. Wi-fi, air conditioning and little tables for your computer. I can't imagine anyone else saying passing through Baltimore is picturesque but it was, looking at times like the south coast of Britain and others like sets from House Of Cards.

Penn Station is tiled in 80's despair and cramped full of clawing visitors pushing those blue Ikea bags around like refugee discount shoppers. John points out we're under Madison Square Garden and I suddenly feel like that scene in Godzilla with the eggs and the destruction and the end of Matthew Broderick's career.

The escalators push me out onto the street like a messy birth, and here we are. In the oppressive heat and crowded sidewalk, with the billboards promising iPhones and Guardians Of The Galaxy like some sci-fi city of future wonder. The skyscrapers really do go on forever, and I feel equally like the smallest dot of dust in the universe, and the star of my own movie. Here I am, with the synth-heavy power pop anthem and my bag, making my way to the big city to seek my fortune. I am James Dean, I am Madonna, with barely a dollar in my pocket looking for the middle of everything.

This is how the rest of our trip goes. I look out of the window of our hotel at the skyline and see Spider-Man swinging through the sky. We are at a rooftop bar next to the Empire State Building when a thunderstorn hits, and the vision of Thor across the night sky is in my brain.

We visit places I never dreamed I would see in my lifetime. The Chelsea Hotel is on the street behind ours, the place where Arthur C Clarke wrote 2001, Dylan Thomas frequented and Sid killed Nancy. My beloved Patti Smith walked these streets in a leather jacket. We visit St. Mark's Place where Ginsberg and Yoko Ono and Patti Smith gave poetry readings.

In Central Park we sit on a bench and eat lunch and imagine Carrie and Samantha talking about their sex lives. Fifth Avenue looks like an enormous film set. We go inside the New York Public Library where the Ghostbusters captured Slimer. We snatch a kiss at the Stonewall Inn where history was made when a bunch of queens decided enough was enough.

I'm amused at MOMA where dozens of teenage girls queue up to take selfies next to works by Frida Kahlo, and angered at Ground Zero where tourists pose sexily next to the names of 9/11 victims, when they should be peering down into the nothingness of the foundations, where water pours into the black and we reflect on things that should never happen again.

New York is a fever dream of all my cultural desire. It is where I see myself complete as a writer, as an artist, like Ginsberg opening the curtains to look out of the buildings and seeing Moloch towering over the city like a sickness. On my feet the pavements, where the small windows of the basements are where Walt Whitman gathers in secret with gentlemen of his kind and look at my ankles. From the crowded brownhouses, I see a young Jack Kirby, hanging out of a window dreaming of the superhero.

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