I lit a candle in St. Patrick's Cathedral today, a little ritual I find myself carrying out when I'm in a new place, somewhat adrift and looking for inner solace. It tends to work. On my return walk home along 5th Avenue a woman sporting a super lens camera stops to take a photo of a man begging on the street corner. With a look of disbelieving disgust (and rightly so) he says: 'No photo. Please ma'am, some respect'. I cringe inwardly for the women. A momentary lapse in judgement? Who knows, maybe she felt it her right to point and shoot at whatever and whoever she wanted. But what struck me about this is how this city is forever reaching out and teaching us little nuggets of moral obligations and a sense of humility. Each day brings a surging sense of renewal, growth and possibility.
Here street vendors play Gershwin on stereos from a by-gone era as they attempt to flog old jazz records and neon-emblazed 80s CDs; girls leave coffee shops with Joan Didion under their arms and flatmates dash out at 9am on a drenched Saturday morning to buy a green juice, which although it has to be said smelt rather good in the way that it reminded me of the back-lobby in my house growing up and Mum's ever-present, ever-impressive vegetable basket. You know that greenness has got to be working the inner glow and goodness with all its earthy, elemental scent and taste. In short, this city is everything you want it to be with an extra dollop of New Yorkness on top just in-case you happened to forget for a split second where you were.
Tossing you up to stomach-churning heights, it's as quick to turn around and peg you in your place just when you feel you've got it, that you're a part of it , that every lesson life has taught you up to this point has merely been a means for preparing you for the daily jostle. I received my pegging today while again on my walk along 5th Avenue when I got blasted out of it by what I took for a stationary yellow cab. Needless to say it wasn't and as it abruptly jumped forward only to slam on the brakes in what I considered an overly-dramatic manner, the driver hammered on the horn for what felt like aeons. A tough little New York cookie inches behind me let him have what-for as she let rip a stream of expletives I daren't repeat. Silently I saluted her, this is the quick-witted street-talk that will forever separate the native New Yorker from those merely passing through,, even if you've been passing through all your life.
But what truly affects me most about this city are the footsteps you find yourself tracing on a daily basis. They say it's wise to never meet your heroes. With that in mind I count my blessings that I've never crossed paths with Bob Dylan for fear every song and subsequent experience associated with him would be now and forever irrevocably ruined should he be less than cordial towards me. That same fear however hasn't stopped me from hovering around opposite Café Dante on MacDougal St having once been told he lived there. Is it possible to be starstruck by a nondescript door on an nondescript apartment building? I fear it could very well be for I appear to adopt a most revered demeanour that calls for a hushed approach whenever in the vicinity. Utter nonsense I know but there is no debating one's reaction to a certain image, remark, experience, abode.
New York is a city weighed under many a rock 'n' roll tale and none more prolific than those that played out in the 60s. But who looks for Dylan or Hendrix or Lennon when Hozier is in town. Ireland's current star-on-the-rise, I had the good fortune to meet him amid a crowd of 50 as he leant his support to the Irish Arts at an exhibition showcasing Irish artists, which included work by his mother, at the Arts Foundation in DUMBO (no less! How very cultured). Under the enthusiastic weight of my over-zealous handshake I felt his bones scrunch and that pretty much did it for me. Despite his butterscotch voice, statuesque height, guitar and enticing overbite I'll never find the capacity to swoon over him in the grand tradition of my groupie past. It is beyond my ability to hold any sort of fancy notion for someone with softer, weaker hands than me. His voice will continue to entice the ear just so long as I never ever catch a glimpse of his right hand. I'm a little puce at the memory of my vice-like grip and led to wonder does this make him more feminine or me more masculine? Please god, may this be a case of the former for I've enough to contend with the taxi rage and unsolicited camera shooters. For now I'll continue to ebb and flow in the grand style of the city, retrace Dylan's footsteps again and again, avoid all delicate forms of the male hand and sit in rosy expectation of the next new wonder about to be dished out by NYC.