29-30/7/2014: Voyage to the Center of the Universe

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Pennsylvania had been a real blast. It was so nice to be welcomed by so many people that it almost made me feel at home! In addition it was a great opportunity to understand a bit better where Linnea was coming from and it proved overall to be a great experience.

But well, as you probably have guessed, the narrative of this tale is nearing the end. We had a blast at the Engagement Party but it was time to come back to the Old World, and to do so we had to come back to New York City. We saw only very little of NYC when we arrived due to the various trains we had to catch but I was determined to at least get a feel of the legendary city before leaping back on the right side of the pond.

That’s when Linnea searched online for a hotel. She found one: It was conveniently placed not too far from the train station and decently priced. She booked it.

Seeing this sign on the door of your hotel is somewhat ominous.

Seeing this sign on the door of your hotel is somewhat ominous.

Then we arrived in New York City. A noisy city, a crowded city. We walked down the street all the way to the actual address. The building was covered in scaffolding, its transparent glass door hardly visible through metal and burlap.

Another thing was covering the door. A paper sign, signed by the New York City Housing Council, warning the general public that entering this area might endanger your health or your life.

You don’t believe me? Just look at the picture on the side.

We entered nevertheless. Some dude came, and gave us our keys. Thankfully, the room we were given was not condemned and was even far from dirty. But between being far from dirty to far from clean it ranked quite in the middle. The floor felt crumbly, and the room was barely big enough to accommodate both our bags and our persons.

Lyonel posing on a fire escape, apparently because it was something so American.

Lyonel posing on a fire escape, apparently because it was something so American.

Following subsequent research, it was revealed that only one room, on the uppermost floor, was actually condemned so it felt slightly less bad. Still, the place was dingy so we escaped as soon as possible. The night was only beginning and I wanted to see the city.

So we walked out. The choking heat wave that greeted us when we arrived a couple hours before had disappeared and it quite simply felt like a summer night should feel in a civilized country.

We walked down the Eighth Avenue until we reached the outskirts of Central Park.  Not willing to get mugged or worse, we slid on the edge of the park until Linnea pronounced these words I’ll never forget:

“This street’s Broadway”

What?

Lyonel was impressed when we came upon this sign.

Lyonel was impressed when we came upon this sign.

Did you just say…Broadway? Like as if it was some real, substantiated item of reality? Do you mean that Broadway starts just here, on this street corner? If that’s so hell yeah let’s go!

So we walked down Broadway. As we progressed the slim sidewalk turned more and more crowded; the lights, brighter and brighter. Shining ads could be seen from afar while theaters started appearing at our side. At one point, I realized we had just passed the place where David Letterman’s show was being taped. Seeing how stunned I was, a bemused Linnea made me realize something:

“You know it’s Times Square down there, right?”

Then my brain stopped for a second. I had never considered it before but yes, Times Square lies at the center of Broadway. It seemed to make sense but for some reason, my brain refused to compute that information. Was I going to be in Times Square in just a few minutes? Me? Now?

Times Square really is as bright as day even in the middle of the night.

Times Square really is as bright as day even in the middle of the night.

Then I realized the enormity of it all.  It must be hard for North American people to grasp that feeling but it was like if I suddenly understood the fact that all of this, Broadaway, Times Square, was all real, and that it was just a couple yards away, literally within my grasp. For a European boy like me who had never left the Old World and had scarcely visited more than two countries before turning twenty, the fact that I would imminently set foot in Times Square seemed unreal. It was as if all of those images I spent more than twenty years feeding upon, Marvel Heroes, American Cinema, Popular Fiction and Newsreels, in an instant came alive all at once, as I walked into that other dimension I always gazed at from afar.

Suddenly it was real. Suddenly I was there. Suddenly it was…true?

The crowd pushing from all directions, the towers taller than anything else I ever set my eyes upon, the blinking lights and revolving ads. Models taller than a dozen men, walking down a concrete tower, Coca-Cola and the news ticker, shining billboards as far as the eye can see and further even, until your gaze became drowned in flashes.

I felt like I was in the center of the world.

Proof that we both visited Times Square.

Proof that we both visited Times Square.

I felt like I was in the center of the world and I had a thought for all my old friends, buddies and other people I ever hung out with; all those who would surely feel the same as me if they were standing right next to me, contemplating the gleaming sea of light, except that they were not here, standing.

We stayed mere minutes, pushed by the ever-increasing crowd chafing upon itself but simply reaching this very spot, was all that was ever needed. It might only have taken me a handful of minutes between realizing where I was headed until the moment I actually entered that space but it felt like a much, much bigger achievement.

This was the breakfast room of our hotel, an abandoned Subway restaurant...

This was the breakfast room of our hotel, an abandoned Subway restaurant…

Following this rather intense experience, we walked back up this Broad way until we found a Cuban Restaurant where we feasted like kings before returning to our dirty old Hotel.

The following day, the day of departure, we reached the airport on time for one last eat out, interestingly enough, in a restaurant owned by no less than ex Van-Halen singer Sammy Hagar. The portions were huge and the taste worth the price.

Our last taste of the USA at JFK airport.

Our last taste of the USA at JFK airport.

It was upon those tasty final memories that we boarded the plane and left the country. I feel like I can speak for both of us by saying that this has been one of the greatest voyages either one of us ever accomplished but I would personally add that for a first time, crossing America felt like the most gratifying holiday I ever took. So thank you people of America, We’re gonna come back for sure!

 

 


Text by Lyonel Perabo | | Photos by Linnea Nordström

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