New York April 27th 2008
From the interstate New Jersey mostly appears to be an industrial scale service area for New York City – warehousing, processing plants, railroad yards and depots. We emerge from the Holland tunnel into the 21st century Disney-fied and strangely sedate Manhattan. No clamour anymore, no insane rush of adrenalin, no filth except the filthy rich. Successive mayors have expunged pretty much everything that made New York unique and now it’s safer and calmer and a great place for the wealthy to shop and school their kids. I miss the old version, the eighties bankrupt, crazy capital-of-the-known world version. I guess you’d find that buzz now in Rio or Shanghai. In the U.S. everything gets suburbanised eventually, even the vertical. But I’m an outsider scratching a square inch on the surface of a city containing four times the population of Switzerland and New York is still out there, in there, but not right in your face like it was.
It is a fairly leisurely day. Check-in, sound-check and then a wander through the streets around the venue to find places to shoot more pictures with the snapper, Geoff. He has me sit under the awning of a little Korean bar and then asks the petite waitress, Cindy, to take a shot of us both. Geoff’s big Canon camera looks like a cinder block in her two hands but she persists and shoots off a few decent frames.
The gig is in Joe’s Pub which despite its homely name is an upscale arts theatre bar/ restaurant. It’s an early show – seven ten, so not exactly raucous. I think we do pretty well. We don’t tear the roof off, we don’t tear anything except perhaps the corner from a paper napkin.
Unusually for me in New York I have a reasonably early night and wake up to a long, quiet sponsored walk filing past the front of the hotel. After breakfast in the nearest diner I emerge to the now empty street to watch a dapper old dude with dyed hair, bow tie, a sky-blue jacket, navy blue flared slacks and royal blue loafers make some quip to two stout female traffic cops. As they guffaw together a really old guy comes out of the news-stand behind me asking, “What’s happening – are they fighting? Hoo, I’d like to see that.”
So I’m back on the road bound for the city of wholly heterosexual brotherly love and the final date of this short jaunt around the U.S.A. I have fond memories of Philly, meandering through the streets in high summer, admiring the architecture in a post New York reverie. History happened here, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Liberty Bell. But history happens everywhere, they just don’t teach it in school. The city’s dense clump of skyline appears beyond a wide bend of the Delaware and we come upon a tail-back, our first of the trip. It’s symbolic of my slowing and stopping. My momentum will diminish and I’ll soon be marooned again, nothing flowing past the windows but the wind and the light things caught in it.