From a little Wurst to a Big Apple – part 1

For weeks and weeks and what feels like muthafrickin’ YEARS, I have been working on putting together a big map of New York City for us to give out for free in the city as part of our marketing. It has gone through a thousand iterations, none of which has yet been good enough to send to print. The more I have chiseled away at this not-so-masterful-masterpiece, the more I have grown to loathe the city. The street names are so very boring, labelled with numbers and letters like some rudimentary textbook circuitboard from the 1980s; the subway system is complicated and requires a detailed user’s-manual in addition to the route network otherwise you’ll end up on an accidental hour-long direct journey to south Brooklyn; and, bluntly put, the island resembles a big cock. And so do all the major landmarks. I’m not a crude person, but if you stare at something long enough…

Anyway, after several weeks New York had become my life and my nightmare. I was having hallucinations and panic attacks late at night as the pressure grew and I imagined scenarios where I would finally send the map off to print without realising that a computer glitch had written ‘bum’ in large Comic Sans type across Central Park. It was months overdue, for which the full blame was being rested squarely on my head, and I knew in no uncertain terms that the finished product was still nowhere near the horizon. New York Map New York Map New York Map. That’s the sound that my anxiety makes.


And then my mum texts to say that we’re going on a family holiday. To New York. 
We leave the UK at a bracing time of morning and arrive in JFK airport at the same bracing time of morning, thanks to a confusing time travel phenomenon, and with several breakfasts under our belts get a taxi into Manhattan. The taxis alone are mindblowing; they’re teched-up so that the interior resembles a midrange spaceship, with an entertainment screen, four control consoles for the driver and even a camera which photographs all of us as we get into the cab to ensure that the poh-lice can find us if we smack this cabbie upside the head. He’s a born-and-bred New Yorker with the kind of accent you would pay tourist money for, and is so polite and courteous it’s unnerving; he’s so concerned about your legroom it almost makes you feel guilty for having knees. Everyone we encountered was the same: the hotel staff fall over each other to help you, so polite and neatly waistcoated and exactly the right amount of friendly, and even on the streets people randomly stop to ask in the standard NYC volume “DO YOU NEED ANY HELP?” The concierge handed us a map but I was already armed with MY map on my tablet; it was time for this prototype to get some real-world testing.

We walked through the city checking off massively iconic scenes like items on a shopping list: Wall Street, check; Trinity Church, check; Madison Avenue, check; the Golden Bull, check…it’s not that we rushed through, but everything is so closely crammed together and there are so very many iconic parts that it is impossible not to see them all within the first hour of exploration. Eventually we stumbled upon the Freedom Tower, which was quite an achievement in itself since it is so freaking enormous that you’d think it would be visible from space. It’s the biggest building in the western hemisphere, and yet unlike the Berlin TV tower it isn’t visible from more than two blocks away in many parts of the city because everything else is also so freaking enormous that your entire peripheral vision is filled with huge, looming buildings. It truly is awesome, in the original sense of the term ; walking through the city is just a series of long strolls down dark corridors. 

Once we reached the end of Manhattan there was nothing for it but to take the Staten Island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and a very impressive view of the city. Once we reached Staten Island there was nothing for it but to march briskly back jnto the ferry terminal to go back; it’s a deadly dull place, so the ferry ride itself is the only reason for going there, which makes it a perfect metaphor for life or something I guess. 

We saw the MoMA, and the High Line (an awesome old freight train line which has been converted into a floating park), and the Guggenheim – my personal favourite both for the gorgeous, seashell-twisted building and for the art, in particular an incredible exhibition of modern German art, who’d a thunk it. And the entire time I had my trusty map on hand to help us find our way, and I started to see how useful and reassuring it would be to other travellers, and I felt better. And then I noticed something: there on the east side of Manhattan in large pink letters, the text ‘Upper West Side’. And on the west side of the city, in the same lettering: ‘Upper East Side’. And suddenly I didn’t feel very well at all.

Rose T