Our final hours in the city (versus the eternity it took to get home) will only fill a couple of paragraphs. I’ll provide that in a second, but what’s more important (to me) is what the experience meant overall–its affect–and if you’ll allow me some grandiosity here I suspect it changed me a lot. Like it or not, culture in Oz is a hybrid of which American customs and social mores feature significantly. So it was enlightening to trace some of my ‘adopted American values’ to their root.
But facts first: we woke on our final day in the US to a blocked toilet. Not blocked by anything nasty we put into it, just blocked. Our plan was to have breakfast, pack bags, grab lunch and enjoy Bryant Park one last time, then check-out and begin the commute home. We didn’t want to sit around twiddling our metaphorical thumbs while they unblocked the dunny, so we left housekeeping a ‘Surprise!’ note, a bit extra by way of final gratuity, and my MetroCard, in case she can make use of the remaining $16. Stepping out, we discovered no desire whatsoever to frantically tramp the streets one last time: we both just wanted to go home. So after a bite to eat, a quick circuit of the Park, and a look through the New York Public Library, we left.
Insert here, if it interests you, a 5.25 hour trans-American flight, a thirty minute transfer at LAX, a 14.5 hour trans-Atlantic flight, one headache-inducing hour in a succession of queues with about fifteen hundred exhausted and bad-smelling travellers at Sydney airport, and then suddenly we were in our car driving home on a bright, bright Sydney autumn day. So good to be home. We stayed awake, unpacking two massively overloaded suitcases, lunching with my daughter, repeating summaries of the trip to different persons. Everybody being kind in the face of our fatigue. But when I got a quiet moment, what I felt was a bone-deep satisfaction. I used to think I wanted a bigger house, but now I’d rather stay in my modest dwelling and save money for more trips. So where next? Italy, Scandinavia, or the British Isles?
I suspect impressions, like waves, never stop coming, with every seventh one or so a complete surprise. I’ve already returned to favourite NY-based books and movies for a greedy fix, but those are other peoples’ memories of the place, not mine. Reading ‘Humans of New York’ on the way home proved one thing, though: I didn’t meet any real Americans. Just as those employed by the French tourism industry made sure I kept out of the banlieus of the Parisian périphérique, I didn’t get to experience the working-poor of Brownsville, USA, either. But, so what? Was I meant to? More offensive, surely, are those bearded, sandal-wearing, bandanna-clad 18-35yo wankers who seek out the shittest locations on Earth so they can update their Fakebook with ‘look at me keepin’ it real in Aleppo‘ selfies. It was a holiday, ffs, not a sociological mission into deepest, darkest America.
Home at last, I’ve indulged myself in an extra week of leave to get over the fatigue, but also to prevent work from overwhelming my thoughts before I finished processing them. From a poetry perspective, expect some. This is some good shit. But I want to give the poetising time too, because I need to work out how the homeless girl with acne-scarring in Time Square relates to the plastic-surgery victim I saw on Lexington. Because they do, somehow, and that’s exactly where my poems are born, in the interstices. And excuse me in advance if I can’t help betraying an now-unrequitable longing for NY pizza and cheesecake.
But you can keep your coffee, aight, it was terrible.