In a New York minute

A long time ago, I wrote some essays about New York for local magazine.

I stumbled on a folder of these essays while looking for something on my computer, and I thought I would share one of them with you:


Last night Miss C and I took a late night walk through Manhattan.

As we set off from our minute Upper-East-Side apartment, the air was still warm and balmy. The mid-summer leaves were quiet and breathless on the trees. Swarms of midges squabbled around every street lamp.

They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, but on this night, I felt as though we had slipped into a slightly different reality from the frenetic buzz of the day-time Big Apple. Something in the air was soft, stilled – magical.

We pounded along streets of grand houses. Through curtain-less windows, I caught glimpses of ornate ceiling roses and cascading, twinkling chandeliers.

Pretty soon we hit Central Park. We veered left and speed-walked alongside the darkened, man-made oasis, heading for Midtown. During daylight hours, the sidewalks here are literally crammed with artists. They hang their artworks on the park railings, or set up their own stalls and sit beside them on grubby, tartan-patterned folding chairs. Tourists throng around them like wasps around a honeypot.

But this evening, the sidewalks were empty, spacious and inviting. Grandiose, mature trees soared up all around us and formed a beautiful, green-hued canopy high above our heads.

We passed the Plaza Hotel, a glittering and splendid confection with a queue of huge, sleek cars sweeping up to its doors.

Even at this hour, the tourist-lugging coach horses were still working. They stood at red lights, champing and stamping, tired and impatient to knock off work and get back home. Yellow cabs, liberated from the confines of rush hour, whizzed up and down the roads while honking at apparently nothing.

The famous Midtown buildings were spectacularly lit up against the black night sky. Most of the offices were dark and abandoned, but here and there were lit windows - deadline chasers, burning the midnight oil.

We stopped in at an all-night diner and ordered a couple of hot chocolates. We got ensnared into a conversation about cricket with the young Indian man who served us with a bright smile, but once we had slipped away, we hatched a plan to sit outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. However, we soon discovered the Cathedral's famed steps were heaving with the bodies of slumbering homeless people, inspiring a pang of sadness. We moved on, and sat on a bench further down the street, and watched through our chocolaty steam as a giant billboard slowly and silently rotated its messages of grinning promises.

It seemed like kind of a special moment. It was as if we had snuck up on a city renowned for relentless, boisterous noise and caught it in a more reflective mood. Maybe it hadn't noticed us... we decided to sneak away before it turned around and saw us.