Kings Cross Station, Saturday morning, 7AM
No Piccadilly line between Kings Cross and Leicester Square. Due to UNplanned engineering works I imagine. A brief heart flutter at the prospect of missing my flight...but no, I can Victoria line it to Green Park and pick it up from there. I suppose the ol' girl wouldn't let me free without some sort of spanner in the works.
But I don't have to put up with that for a while, dear friends! No more old world grubby cramped inefficiency for me this week! No, I'm off to traverse the shining ocean to the west, on a much-needed escape to a mythical city far across the water, with it's tall, shining towers and expansive bridges, where the streets have no name - indeed, the city of my dreams.
Weekend jaunts to the continent have been loads of fun, but this day marked the the first time ever that I would be going to a place I've always really wanted to go. Throughout my years growing up in small town country New South Wales, I remember having four or five separate and distinct dreams, each quite vivid and realistic, about walking those avenues, seeing those buildings (eating those hot dogs!). Back then the Big Apple might as well have been the moon. But not this day.
Recent plaguing doubts of career and future seemed to fade with each tube station passed. And, as the Picadilly line surfaced and I stared out the window at the ol' girl's tired buildings and pervasive grey gloom, the realisation immediately dawned on me that it's not every day you get to fulfil a lifelong dream.....
The flight seemed to vanish in an instant; consequently of course, the bus from the airport seemed to take forever, the promise of that island only intensified by the traffic of the Long Island Expressway. But it shifted, eventually, the brown of Brooklyn cleared and there was that wall of buildings, lining the east side of Manhattan, immediately imposing and welcoming.
An easy meet up with DJ at the fabulous halls of Grand Central Station was followed by my first walk down those grand streets and avenues. Obviously being able to catch a train everywhere, I would have nothing less than to walk the whole way to our hostel near Times Square.
I'd seen pictures, but a real sense of the length and breadth of the streets can't be fathomed until you're there, and you can see all the way up or across the island, all those tall buildings keep your gaze forever skyward. DJ, who had lived on the island for a year, was good to put up with my constant stopping and pointing ("Wow, that's the Chrysler Building!"), and cheesy thumbs-up pics at Times Square ensued.
First stop was the Empire State Building, which took countless security checks and a maelstrom of people to overcome, but the 83rd floor beckoned and it was quite a sight. The stars of a pitch-black sky had fallen upon the lattice of the bridges and the islands towering, glittering domes, with darkened cliffs of the buildings below forming the chasms through which the lava red energy of the avenues poured, raw and relentless into the night.
Compared to how the rest of my week would turn out, we took that first night pretty easy. I think we went to a vegetarian restaurant in Soho (also quite unlike the rest of the food that would end up consuming me) and then some bar just down the road. The girls were all a bit blonde and generic - DJ agreed with me on a certain Essex vibe, and he referred to the local phrase 'bridge and tunnel' (i.e, that's where they all come from for the weekend).
Weary from the day, I drifted off easily to the sounds of constant car horns and sirens, never-ending....