Tina Ediss finds a city she can love
The busker’s voice is raspy, the backing a simple guitar but the emotion is raw and we’re all moved. He’s singing songs that are known the world over, great songs, Beatles songs.
I’m at Strawberry Fields, New York’s memorial to John Lennon in Central Park. Black and white mosaics are set on the ground in a circle. There’s one word in the middle – Imagine – and I do.
At least I try to imagine what John would be doing now and what songs we would be singing if we hadn’t lost him on Dec 9th 1980. He was murdered outside his home in the Dakota building, just across the road from the memorial.
Love me do follows I saw her standing there follows Instant Karma as we sit on the benches around the mosaic. People pose for photos; mostly they make the sign for peace. I notice that no-one just walks across it; it couldn’t be more revered if it was John’s grave.
All of life is here, every nationality, every colour, every age; fans of the Fab Four who grew up with the songs, young adults not even born when John died; young children, cyclists, babies in push chairs, even a mime artist on his way home from work.
It’s the end of our first day in New York on a Big Bus Hop-on-hop-off sight-seeing tour. It makes fourteen stops Uptown and Downtown and is a good way to get an overview – but bear in mind it can get busy in peak times.
We walk back to our hotel, the Hyatt at Herald Square on W31 St, a good central location. We relax with a cold drink on the hotel’s roof terrace. It’s a minute or two before I look high enough and realise the nearby skyscraper is the Empire State Building, just a couple of blocks away. It looks amazing both in daylight and at night when it’s all lit up.
The next morning we decide to explore on foot and head towards Battery Park. We don’t have a plan, we don’t use a map, we keep the tip of the Freedom Tower, built on the site of the tragic Twin Towers, in sight and kept heading towards the southern tip of Manhattan.
In the Tribeca neighbourhood is a fire station, the 8th Hook and Ladder. If you recognise something strange in the neighbourhood, it’s because the station was used in the Ghostbusters movie. The Ghostbuster logos painted on the building and side-walk make me smile and the theme tune goes round in my head for the rest of the day.
The 8th Hook and Ladder was also one of the first responders to the 2001 terror attacks of 9/11, just a short walk away.
The area that’s become known as Ground Zero is crowded with people who’ve come to pay their respects and the atmosphere is respectful and sombre. Waterfalls pour into the deep, empty footprints, the former foundations, of the North and South Tower. Nearly 3,000 names of those lost are carved on the surrounding parapets.
Freedom Tower, aka One World Trade Centre, opened in 2014. It’s the tallest building in the hemisphere; on the 100th floor is the One World Observatory which has great views of NYC and beyond.
Nearby is the National September 11 Memorial Museum but we haven’t booked a visit, the queues are long and the day too hot so we carry on down to Battery Park for a view across to the Statue of Liberty, another symbol of freedom.
We follow the Hudson River Park. It’s a pretty walk with piers and parks and panoramic views and is so peaceful, it’s easy to forget we’re in New York.
We pick up the High-Line. Once a rail viaduct, it closed in 1980 and fell into disrepair, it’s now been transformed into a 1.5 mile elevated walkway edged with self-seeded wildflowers. It ends just a few blocks from our hotel.
We spend our final morning shopping in Macys Department store on W.34th Street. Then, loaded up with shopping bags, we spend an hour or so unwinding in nearby Bryant Park listening to one of the live lunchtime performances that run weekdays from the end of April to early October.
I decide I love New York. I love its sounds, its excitement, and I love its calm.
I wonder what it would be like to live here; I close my eyes and imagine.
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