I’ve been to New York hundreds of times… in my head.
When you start looking, it’s everywhere. Whether it’s Woody Allen walking through Greenwich Village wringing his hands with anxiety or Daredevil swooping between towerblocks it runs like a rich seam of gold through popular culture.
Perhaps that’s why visiting New York for the first time does strange things to your head. From the moment I stepped out of the subway in the centre of Manhattan I felt my brain being stretched between somewhere alien and at the same time completely familiar.
My namesake, the author F Scott Fitzgerald said something about the definition of great intelligence being the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time and still be able to function.
And looking at the crazy towering buildings lancing into the sky, the roads buzzing with yellow taxis and smoke billowing out of the pavements I was aware that I was standing, mouth open – thinking ‘Wow I’ve never seen anything like this’ and simultaneously thinking ‘Wow I’ve seen this so many times before’ – and being a little bit thick it took me a while to recover from the shock. Perhaps that’s why they named it twice?
The place is physically stunning – we did all the usual things that you are expected to do when one visits New York including standing outside the Friends’ apartment – wondering if we might catch a glimpse of imaginary Joey and Rachel peeking their heads out of the window of their imaginary apartment. We also ventured to the top of the Empire State building where we wondered if we might see an imaginary giant ape climbing up the side.
It’s weird, pretty much everywhere you go, you are forced to ask yourself the question, on some level – is this real or not? Even the humble Joe’s Pizza shop has photographs inside of all the famous people who have dropped by to eat their amazing food – from the (probably real) Kiefer Sutherland to Peter Parker (possibly not real) the real identity of Spiderman (also not real) see what I mean.
We also took a swing by Trump Tower – the headquarters of that total buffoon who has a brief cameo in Home Alone 2, Donald Trump (unfortunately real). To the British visitor, this strange schizophrenia is also emphasised by the fact that you are at once a native speaker of the language and also a complete foreigner. As our greatest Englishman Winston Churchill (real, but half American) put it: England and America are two countries separated by the same language.
It’s amazing – and also strange. It’s surprisingly run down (they struggle to comprehend chip and pin payment for gawd’s sake) but also light years ahead.
I’m in two minds about the place – and I loved it.