My brother and sister have just returned from New York. A good friend has just left for the city.
You see, New York is my favourite place on earth.
But due to my various illnesses – I don’t have the space to list them all – my doctors (there are nine of them) recommend against flying.
The upside of that is holidaying in Ireland every year.
So far, we’ve spent a bit of time in Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Monaghan, Louth and Westmeath. We will visit the other counties in due course.
But if I had a choice right now as to where I’d like to be, it’s New York.
But I haven’t been for almost 20 years.
I’m your typical tourist when I’m there.
I like Macy’s and Bloomingdales and Saks but mostly I like Tiffany’s.
I like Washington Square and Park Avenue and Columbus Avenue and Central Park.
I like Soho and Chinatown and the Village South Street Seaport.
I like New York.
I was warned, before my first visit in 1980, that New Yorkers could be direct. Blunt was a word used to describe how some of them dealt with people.
And I was only there a couple of days when I found proof.
I wandered into Macy’s for a look.
Back then, I had longish hair. And that day I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans.
I strolled around and then a sign caught my eye.
It offered a Calvin Klein valise for $5 with any Calvin Klein male cosmetic product.
Looked like a good deal.
I wandered up to the counter behind which stood a middle aged woman.
But before I could say a single word, she spoke: “The cheapest item we have is the soap,” she said firmly.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or protest.
I bought the second cheapest item – shower gel – and got my valise and left.
I think that was when I began to fall in love with New York.
Or maybe it was the next visit when I stood on Fifth Avenue watching the St Patrick’s Day parade.
Ok, it’s a bit of a bore. Lots of accordions and people in suits marching along. No floats. Nothing of interest really.
Except, well, I thought isn’t it wonderful that a city like New York allows a little country like Ireland take over its main street to celebrate its national day.
Then a voice behind me spoke: “F**kin’ Irish blockin’ up Fifth Avenue. Why don’t they have the parade in the f**in’ Bronx where they all live?”
Then again, it might be way back in those days when I smoked and smoking was permitted in bars.
I sat in a bar down in South Street Seaport where a friend, Martin, was working.
I sat at the bar and had my drink and smoked my cigarette.
Then a woman who had been sitting eating a meal of some sort with a gentleman a full 20 metres away, stormed up to me. “Do you mind if we eat while you smoke?”
I actually blushed, stubbed out the cigarette and fell even more acutely in love with the place.
Like John Lennon. Like Brendan Behan. Marilyn Monroe. Bill Murray.
Can’t go back.
But I can enjoy remembering – standing on the roof of a Twin Tower, stuck in a lift on the Empire State, watching Flamin’ Amy in Lynch’s, drinking beer from a bottle in a brown paper bag in Washington Square, chatting with Madonna (really) in the Columbus Bar, eating corn beef hash for breakfast.
And I’m glad of that.