I arrived at JFK bleary-eyed and dehydrated, far beyond the realms of ‘normal tired’ and just a few hours away from the delirious stage. It was the hopeless kind of tired, where everything seems too much for you, and you start regressing to a child-like state. The higher mental functions are gone, and just the thought of figuring out how much to tip the taxi driver becomes an almost unbearable mental stress.
I passed through customs and immigration with surprising speed, and then made up for it with a long wait at the carousel for my suitcase. I bought an AT&T sim card in the airport lobby, took a glance at the subway map and got in a cab instead. As Emma called her mum, I lay my weary head against the glass. Memories ran through my head. Memories of New York from, what, four years ago now? Can’t believe it’s been so long.
As we crawled down the Van Wyck, I felt like I was in a dream. Sirens, horns and bright lights swirled in my senses: NYPD, Ambulances, the Fire Department. The Jamaican driver deftly weaved through the traffic, changing lanes with one hand and texting with another. He swerved off the Expressway to find a shortcut through suburban streets. Now this is a taxi driver, I thought.
I gazed out at the old houses; small and narrow with paint peeling off the wooden facades and icy dew starting to rust the iron fences. The TV screen in the back of the taxi continued its endless loop in the background, contributing to the dream-like nature of the drive. Snippets of Jimmy Fallon jokes played over and over as the sky darkened in the wintry afternoon.
The driver got us back on to the Van Wyck where the congestion seemed to have alleviated. As we came up to the Triborough Bridge I took a good long look at the city and I felt truly awake for the first time in about 30 hours. That old feeling surged up within me, the same one I felt when I first saw the city through the window of a United Airlines flight in December 2008. The same feeling I’d have again a week later when passing through New York on the way from Boston to Philadelphia. The one I’ll continue to have each time I come here.
How to describe it?
Life. Noise. Excitement. Movement. Cars. Pizza. Shows. People. Culture. Speed. Art. Creativity. Freedom. Choice. Liberty. The American Dream. Power. Pulse. Centre. Heart. Big. Small. Everything. Everyone.
It’s a place where anything seems possible. It represents the best of what America has to offer, and in some ways what humanity has to offer. It’s an amazing, incredible space that highlights humanity’s achievements in technology, in ideals, in culture.
I can’t even explain it. You’ve got to be there. You have to inhabit the space to truly see it, to feel it, and to try to understand it.
I was back in New York City, the only place outside Perth that feels like home.