Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Oh so popular

Touching the Empire State from the Rockefeller

One day, alone in NYC, at 18, I was killing some time in the 'Big Apple' before I flew back to the UK. I spent 24 hours wandering the sky-scraping streets and the tree-lined parks. I walked amongst the glamourous and the quirky, the professionals and the travelers. I let my eyes feast on all the city had to behold. 

Now for those of you who don’t know me personally I seem to have a tattoo on my forehead that states “wierdos, crazies and oddballs here.” This is a message, that seems to have followed me for years, and has provided my friends and I with many a giggle. New York was no different but let me be clear that the people I tell you about may just as well have been extremely friendly gentlemen as crazy-ass nutbags.

The first man to cross my path was a rocker. Dressed in skinny-leg jeans with chains dangling from each loophole and a slipknot tee-shirt, his piercings matched his Mohican hairstyle perfectly. My wholesome tourist appearance must have caught his eye. I was wearing my new “I love NYC” t-shirt, with my camera round my neck and sunnies on my head. Be assured that over the years I have learnt to kerb my tourist ways and blend in more whilst traveling. Not a good idea to flash your valuables and bop around like a city newbie. 

Anyway, Zachary the rocker, struck up conversation. I disappointed him with my lack of Slipknot knowledge but realising I was alone he invited me to an underground club opening that night in Soho. He offered to dye my hair and pierce my nose if I wanted. I took his number but knew I would decline the offer. 

After my encounter with the creepy Zachary, I was colecting my thoughts in Union Square subway station when a man in his late fifties threw his arms around me. “You’re here,” he says. With a vacant expression plastered on my face I finally manage to prise his arms off me and ask who the hell he was. His response was an embarrassed and fumbled apology explaining that he thought I was one of his students that would be lodging in his house. Afraid not, I remark. “But you look just like the girl I’m supposed to be picking up.” Sorry, still not me. He asks where I’m going and I say I am just visiting all the tourist attractions. He practically jumps on that and hauls me onto the subway with him. He says he’ll show me all I need to see. 

All I can think is crap, crap, poopy, crap. I am now at the mercy of a granddad and start to think of excuses to get away. In his button down shirt with his salt and pepper hair all thoughts of the girl he was supposed to be meeting seemed to disappear and I wonder if I’ve found another crazy. Why have I let this man steal me away? 

After a while my nervousness subsides and 'Papa Tom' turns out to be a good tour guide. Born and bred in NYC he knows all the good haunts in the upper east side. He shows be fascinating buildings and famous streets but after an hour or so I think it’s time I get out of here. As nice as he is this is just stepping over the creepy line. I make the excuses that I am meeting friends and he offers to walk me to the nearest metro. Except that he doesn't. We walk and I trust he knows his way but eventually we stop outside an apartment block. “Wanna come up?” he says. Err hell to the no, what have I gotten myself in to? “I have a map you can have, I just need to grab it.”  Alarm bells start violently ringing in my head.  I make it very clear I am staying put and let him run up. I stand there frozen to the spot. Do I run? Do I stay? Is he a nice old man or is he coming down the stairs with his mafia brother to eat me? 

I stay, stupid as it sounds, and he returns mafia-less and brings the map. He walks me to the subway and I breath a sigh of relief. Strange and random as it was, I was safe and had gotten rid of my tour guide. Then I opened the map...inside is a phone number and a message saying to meet him tonight for dinner? Mmmm is this a date? Our clear age difference makes that an automatic no. Once again I decide not to take up the invite and as much as I am sure it is just a sincere gesture I had had enough random men in my life for one day.

However, I had one more left to meet that day . Heading out a few hours later for an evening stroll I am approached by a John Mayer look-a-like. He asks me for directions but noticing my english accent he realises I can't help him. 

He continues to ask me questions and tells me he's in the music business, don’t they all I told myself. He tells me he is in the middle of helping record Nick Canon’s, Mariah Carey’s husband’s, album that night. Did I want to come along later and watch him record? Now I know what you’re thinking...potential murderer here? pimp? or just some sleaze? I could hear my grandmother’s voice in my head saying “Don’t do it Bex!” And she was probably right, dodgy idea. Still, I thought he was a nice guy and again appreciated the offer. I accepted his number but once again declined to take him up on it. Either a wise choice or a missed opportunity to be a Nick Canon groupie.

My point is that 24 hours alone in the city that never sleeps leaves you with new friends and a full social calender. Whether they were all creepy creeps or genuine gentlemen, I could have enjoyed a series of nights out with people who may just have been friendly. One night in the city, imagine one year? So so friendly.

Just one of the reasons I love that pretzel eating, broadway singing,  taxi hooting city.

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