Time changes everything and New York is no different. Two obvious examples: The Village Voice street distributors are now empty, the magazine’s now online only and there’s a new subway line, the Q, descending through Manhattan.
Gentrification, like a rampant plant has spread through the streets I pounded in my younger years, even those where the crack dealers and junkies once held sway.
I first visited New York one summer around thirty years ago. It was hot then with steam rising from the sidewalk grates. It’s been unseasonably warm & humid this October too and the city remains an assault on the senses.
The sights, sounds and smells of this place from Chinatown to Central Station, Top of the Rock to the Met can be intoxicating.
The real reason I keep coming back to this sprawling metropolis though is the dear friends I have living here. My trips giving me the chance to catch up with them and explore my own ageing process as well as the city’s development.
From East Village to Queens
When I was in my 20’s, my Big Apple stays revolved around the East Village with a few forays to Greenwich Village. My days began around mid day and ended in the early hours. I thought Rolling Rock beer was exotic and, very strangely, the locals had a similar view of my south London accent.
These days my lodgings are in the more cosmopolitan and somewhat more sedate Queens. My explorations are daytime adventures and I am in bed by 2230 and up and about by 0730.
Back in the 90’s at 0800 on a Sunday morning we would not long have been to bed and would be conked out, arms and legs sprawling out from under our sheets to catch some cooler air.
This Sunday, as the clocks struck 8 my friend was seated cross legged meditating in a corner and I’m alternating writing a blog post with stretching my lower back.
Times change. But the constant is our friendship and laughter, it’s just that last night we giggled at home at 10pm rather than in a bar at 2am.
More to NYC than Manhattan
As for discovering Queens, I’m loving the journey. My south London lilt is far from exotic here, indeed no-one seems to notice my English accent, it’s positively dull.
Strolling along Broadway – the Queens edition – I’m in melting pot of nationalities and the most unusual thing about me in these appears parts to be my inability to speak Spanish. The other night when Colombia was playing in the World Cup qualifiers I passed innumerable locals sporting the Colombian football team top.
It appears anyone can quickly settle in and feel at home here too. Yesterday, as I walked by a local wine bar just off Northern Bld, the owner waved at me and said, “how are you, Rebecca?”
He’d remembered my name after one conversation over one drink two days before. Now that is hospitality and left me feeling like a queen of Queens.
“I’m great,” I replied, “just great”.