Big grapple

Bright lights, big city right enough. Yup, the Big Apple sure is a pulsating, glittering metropolis unlike any other. It’s a veritable feast of 3D technicolour, surround sound, smell-o-vision and taste sensations. It even feels different. Dammit, New York is just so alive!


Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve heard it all before. Returnee tales of pancakes for breakfast with bacon (and syrup), yellow cabs scuttling about like an agitated ant colony, twinkling and towering skyscrapers reaching up towards their starry celestial counterparts in the NY night sky, and shops overflowing with bargains and baubles to match every heart’s desire and crystal-encrusted credit card. It’s a city with its own unique sense of self and yet it’s all things to all men, women, children and tourists too.

The Big Apple assault on the senses is relentless, but riveting too. Sure, it gets overwhelming, but it’s the urban equivalent of crack cocaine – I just can’t get enough of that city’s stuff. A deli lunch spread fit for a king (for 7 wee bucks), a doughnut to die for, and a line up of soft drinks in a dazzling array of flavours, colours and combos; the Manhattan skyline at dusk, the neon and bling, the bright, vivid colours of autumn trees and pumpkins on steps ; the hum of the traffic, the horns and the sirens, the sound barrier-shattering shouts, the voices, the accents and languages from near and afar; the aroma of freshly broiled hotdogs, burgers and bagels mingling with sudden and strong whiffs of vomit or piss; the sticky handrails and poles of the subway, a blazing October sun mixed up with icy blasts of air con, aching feet and grubby, clammy skin brought on by hours of shop ’til you drop.

As for the humans of New York? They’re the most fascinating city-dwelling creatures of all for this keen observer of mankind. And all of mankind certainly is there, right in front of your widening eyes. Every colour, creed and sex. Every dialect, hairdo, body type and income bracket. All playing their part in the cast of a never-ending drama on this huge city stage. The WASPs and the rich decked out in their preppy finery, riding the trains right alongside the disheveled and destitute, garbed in raggedy hems, cuffs and grime. Swarms of tourists splashing the cash whilst tiptoeing carefully around the zombie-like beggars and serried ranks of the street sleepers. I confess, I did it too – the sheer number of those on their uppers in this city of extremes made any other approach pretty senseless – but I tell you, it doesn’t sit easy.

‘Course, ‘cos I’m just as hypocritical as the next affluent tourist, I wouldn’t have missed a week in NYC for the world. But the daily sight of this army of rag tag people who’ve dropped through a seemingly non-existent net has really troubled the conscience of this passer-through. Saving to travel, marvel and splurge is a joy, a privilege, and shedloads of fun, and like everyone else on that Boeing 737 I’ve come back to my charmed existence with golden memories and a bumper bag of goodies. But as well as some natty new trainers, I brought back a sad, heavy heart that the bang for my tourist buck doesn’t seem to extend to those living right on the edge in the Big Apple.

I’ll not bother with a plea to the puffed-up peacock that is Donald Trump, but Hillary Clinton and Bill be Blasio, I beg you. Please, please, please use some of my greenbacks to give a hand up.