“An Australian in New York” is a weekly column following, quite obviously, my move from Australia to America. Click the headline to read more.
It’s currently 2.30am on a Saturday morning, but I just got home (the novelty of being able to catch public transport at such an hour will never cease to amaze me) and I simply had to write this down lest I forget it. Not that it would be easy to forget, mind you, but my brain can act like a sieve sometimes. You see, I just had one of those beautiful, singular New York Moments that you hear about. It was the sort of moment that characters have in movies, but which you think can’t possibly happen in real life. Until it does and then it’s like “well, I’ll be!”
Success! I made it through my first July 4th alive. With a mean hangover, but alive. Unlike what Independence Day warned me, there were no suspiciously time-appropriate aliens descending from above to explode cities to kingdom come before becoming susceptible to the common cold. There were, however, lethal margaritas and fireworks. Oh, and cowboys. You can’t celebrate America without cowboys, I guess. We’ll get to them later.
This past week has been a glowing example of at least partly why I was so eager to move to New York. After watching a Texas government break their own law (at midnight!), the anger that extended throughout the country was fascinating. It felt genuinely enthralling to watch a nation’s people make a stand for democracy. That it was in aid of a woman (Wendy Davis, councilmember for Forth Worth) trying to keep her state from enacting a woman-hating law that goes against all sane and rational arguments made the eventually successful outcome even sweeter.
Speaking of woman-hating: Julia Gillard!
As I sit in the living room of my new apartment with a gin and tonic to soothe the muggy spring air away, I can’t help but wonder… how long does it take to be considered a “New Yorker”? I pilfered that famous Carrie Bradshaw line because it was Sex and the City that theorised – that’s certainly where I first heard it, but who knows where it originated – that it takes five years of living in this city to be able to call yourself a local. Five years of dodging its slow walking pedestrians, enduring its humid spring showers, navigating its grid of criss-crossing streets, and accidentally stepping of rubbish-feasting rats late at night in Chinatown. That latter act is, so I’ve been old, a New Yorker rite of passage. Five years and a rat: they should put that on the pamphlet.
When moving across an ocean to a new country and a new city, one has to expect that there will be plenty of situations in which they’re alone. Nobody can do this sort of folly if they’re not comfortable being alone for stretches. Some people, like myself, are very much okay with that, but there are some who aren’t. It’s just a fact of life. I knew people who lived here before I moved, sure, but everyone has lives and I can’t ask every member of my small-ish circle of friends every day to go to a museum or movie, or to grab a bite to eat just because I had the audacity to move here. Besides, I think it was Kelly Clarkson that sung “I’m not lonely when I’m alone”, and that’s a nice sentiment to bring along on this endeavour.
“After several days of one-street towns and small cities that pride themselves on having the jail featured in The Blues Brothers (that’d be the town of Joliet, just a few kilometres away from Molene, which sound an awful lot like the people who signed the deeds couldn’t quiet spell the famous Shakespeare character and famous Dolly Parton track respectively), the rapid shift into Chicago was quite something. Chicago is a beautiful city that sits on the bank of Lake Michigan, a body of water so large that you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for an ocean. The city actually reminded me a lot of New York’s little cousin so much so that there is even a building that looks like a mini Empire State Building.”
“I am … on holiday this week. I’m not sure how the rest of this vacation will go, but it can’t possibly get any worse to the way it began. A debacle of an experience at the unbearable Newark International Airport in New Jersey ended with me becoming one of those people who get a “final boarding call” over the airport PA system. “Mr Dunks to gate 22A.” Let it be known that if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to spend longer than ten minutes within the general vicinity of Newark International Airport, you should just abort and forget about it.”
“It began on Friday, where I spent the day trawling through the rarely navigated northern region of Central Park. With its hidden pathways, open meadows, and lake-skimming willows it benefits from being much quieter than the rest of the park – you know, the one you know from movies and TV. It was such a nice day out that I even took an afternoon siesta, waking up to the sounds of children playing after school. None of them were overweight. The correlation seems obvious. I then rushed to grab a hotdog (or two) at Gray’s Papaya and then headed over to the grand Ziegfeld Theater for an opening night screening of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby in 3D.”
“In America, it’s awfully easy to get déjà vu. Pretty much everywhere you turn in New York looks familiar from a film or TV show. Walking through Central Park I’m instantly reminded of Birth with Nicole Kidman; a stroll through the Upper West Side and I’m in a Nora Ephron film; the fountain at Lincoln Center and I remember Ghostbusters; the Vogue offices opposite Bryant Park and it’s The Devil Wears Prada and Project Runway. And if it doesn’t ring a bell, then that’s probably because they’re filming something there right now.”
“Nestled towards the top of the Sicony Mobil skyscraper on 42nd Street is the Australian Consulate. With the Chrysler Building reflecting upon its shiny chrome exterior, one would hardly expect the centre of Australian operations in New York City to be housed just inside. Then again, I am constantly in awe, looking around and wondering how on Earth there are enough people in the five boroughs of New York – in the world – to fill all of this city’s buildings.
“Today I got asked for directions. Granted, they were directions to Time Square – one of the most famous destinations on Earth; a destination that even a New York newbie could give directions for – but it made me feel somewhat chuffed. Not only that, but I helped a lady on the train who was stumped for how to get to somewhere in Brooklyn. “Take the Q,” has apparently entered my lexicon and I certainly didn’t see that coming a year ago.”
“Why are there so many police around?” I wondered as I took a stroll down 1st Avenue on a break between engagements. I was near the Queensboro Bridge at 59th Street and had just spent a few minutes casually uploading a photo or two of the stunning local architecture to Instagram from a gorgeous spot that looked out over Roosevelt Island, the East River, and the bridge. There was a policeman on every corner, which felt a bit much for what was seemingly an ordinary day like any other. Of course, being unplugged from the world for several hours meant that I’d missed the fact that Monday wasn’t just an ordinary day anymore.”
“I am not even kidding when I say that the first song I heard upon arriving in New York City was Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind. You’d almost assume it was a clichéd “welcome to New York” mix-tape that the jovial shuttle bus driver prepared for all of his journeys with snap-happy tourists, but since the tune was swiftly followed by a radio commercial for pharmaceuticals that included at least 60 seconds of dire health and side effect warnings (just one of the many things one gets used to on this side of the Pacific that are frequently comical, if not a little worrisome) I was convinced that it was little more than a happy accident.”
“By the time this is uploaded and being read by you dear readers of Onya Magazine, I, Glenn Dunks, will be in New York. I’m typing this from a beautiful spot along the North Californian coastline called Pacific Grove; a brief sabbatical from the busy world before I embark upon the biggest, craziest adventure of my life. I’m not in
Kansas Melbourne anymore!”