By Antonio Malara
Visiting New York has always been my dream. For the young me who lived in the old Europe and attracted by sci-fi scenarios, the city represented my vision of the future. The tall buildings, the big cars crossing the big road, the innovation that always went from there, all these cliché drove me crazy. Before to went in New York I had a "preview" of all this having been on vacation in Canada in 1997, but I never had the determination to book a trip to USA. What made me change has been the 9/11 events. I don't want to talk about my idea of what happened that day but what I saw made me so sad but not for what you think. I remember it was afternoon and I was under the army, someone said they attacked America, then my fellow soldiers were all inside a room watching a tiny tv, there I saw the twin towers collapsed and there I realized I will never see them. That scene made me sad and mad at the same time but also more brave and determinate. After two years doing some different jobs I've been able to book a trip to New York. It was 2003 and I went there all alone, that was my first time there.
Could sounds strange but at that time the motivation to visit new places was inspired by movies. For example I discovered the ONU Building watching "North by Northwest" or the Central Park thanks to Woody Allen masterpieces. So mainly my first trip it was a collection of the pop-culture I had at the time.
In 2003 my day in New York started every morning at the corner between the 6 avenue and the 42 street. It was there that the bus dropped me, and it was there that I did something that was unusual for that time that made people look at me in a weird way. I remember I bought one of the first phone with a camera available on the market, in that corner I took one of my first selfie with that device. I noticed all eyes on me while I was doing this and I was in a big and advanced city where maybe weird things are normal. It's funny how later in years this thing becomes a common habit for everyone.
I used to walk alone in Manhattan taking pictures with an old Olympus film camera and my phone. I never used metro or taxi, I walked all the time from one point to another. The only place that I visited in company with other people were the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building and Ground Zero. Even if memories are far away, sometimes I can feel the moments I spent there, it has been very emotional the first contact with something I always dreamed, the experience of doing things alone, the sensation to be a tiny point between the tall buildings. I remember that I strongly wanted to see ground zero and honestly it was nothing special because it was just a hole closed by wire mesh, so I haven't feel special emotions there. It was impossible for me to think about the tower there, I accepted the fact that the twins towers were just history for me.
This is the short story about my first time in New York, a kind of preview to connect with my second visit which will be more detailed and with the related pics.
New York round two was a different story, with a DSLR camera and with a big company. The trip was planned by a University researcher and included also Boston, even this time the connection was my sister. This group was full of different people, the average age was high compared to Budapest trip. There were teachers, other researchers, some important figures from the University and for sure some friends of them like I was.
We landed after lunch time and when we reached the hotel we had some troubles with the rooms. We lost a couple of hours to solve the problem so we went out that it was almost dark. That afternoon we tried to form little groups and actually we did. The first thing we did has been to merge ourselves inside Time Square.
I immediately realized that I never been there at night, all that lights, it's impossible to describe the feeling, you must be there to understand. We took lots of pics with my sister, it was like to shoot in the day with those lights, It’s something that photographers really appreciate. Lots of stores, restaurants, hundreds of people plus the lights atmosphere make the place so single, really another level compared to the day version. We had dinner and ended the day there.
The day after, me and my sister split with the others. I already knew the city so I had a plan about the places to see.
We spent really nice days, we walked as much as we could, it was a pleasure for me to see again the place I saw years before and see my sister happy for her first time there.
From Chrysler Building though Central Station to ONU Building, back in the fifth avenue, the pictures in the "Breakfast at Tiffany" style I took to my sister, we tried to enjoy all as much as possible. One day we practically spent an half day inside the Central Park. I noticed that inside there they changed the "enclosure" all around the lake so now you can see it only in some movies.
We also visited new places that I didn't see before. We've been at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the MOMA which confirmed my passion for modern style. The Metropolitan is beautiful even from the outside and it has inside beautiful masterpieces, but there's something in the modern art that inspire me more. The only thing that I didn’t like about the MOMA is that it’s located in a tiny street, the structure is there, hide, you need to be curious to discover it.
Another suggestion inspired by a tv show "Sex and the City" has been the "Carrie's house". This place is located in the west village neighborhood. This is a high class residential zone, with the typical streets with the trees on both side of the street and the 4 step stairs outside the houses. We found out that Carrie house was an attraction, in fact we weren't the only ones there to see it and taking pictures.
The Dakota building was another goal I realized. You can see this building in the thriller movie "Rosemary's baby" by Roman Polanski. But it especially fascinated me because inside there was the John Lennon apartment. Outside the entrance on the ground floor he's been shot to death by capitalism. Of course behind the ritual of pics, I've been angry about what happened, John was at least 50 years ahead of his time, this along with other mysterious death is a loss for all the society.
While I was cruising to the Statue of Liberty I realized I never stopped to Ellis Island, I'll let this thing maybe for my third time. The small trip to the Statue is really cool, you have a nice view leaving manhattan and it's not too long. The small islands it's a peaceful place, you're just under the iconic statue, a view that is a must see. There's a lot of green all around. I enjoyed circle all around, from one side the Verrazano Bridge, then Manhattan then the New Jersey. One thing I suggest if go there is to bring with you a telephoto lens. From the Island the Manhattan skyline is really tiny with the human eyes, if you take pics with an 85-120 mm lens you can play with perspective and have pics with the big building behind you.
This time in Ground Zero I saw the foundation of the new tower, the skeleton of the first floor but now you're able to see all the area, even from some different points. My consolation is that at least I saw the "limbo", the time between the twins towers an the new one.
During the intense days we didn't miss one classic appointment, the Empire. Even in my second trip I went on top by night. The view is breathtaking, the lights are impressive, I think this is the main difference between this view and the others towers in the rest of the world. From the Empire you can see a really big city built in centuries, walking all around the roof, you're really surrounded by something that is bigger that four cities put together.
We (this time almost all the group) didn't miss the chance to attend to one of last performance by Aretha Franklin. We discovered the Radio City Music Hall even in the inside (also my first time) and we enjoyed the show. The performance wasn't bad considering the age of Aretha and her physical limits but she entertained us in a great way. She talked about story of her life with passion and a funny way. We enjoyed songs and tales from a lifetime popular person.
The final day we had a bus to Boston in the afternoon. What I did in the morning was to leave all the group because of a “last picture”. I went in one of another iconic building, the Flatiron. This is another structure that always intrigued me, it has triangle form that is future-like but at the same time the external design is classic. I liked to take pictures from different perspectives, in particular there's one when it seems that the building looks like a piece of sheet, with one side that is really "flat".
Those are the memories that I've been able to write in details but that trip had lot of moments which are impossible to mention in this way. How to talk about the street food we ate just to save time, the moments of rest on the bench because of long walks, the time we wanted a taxi and it was a challenge to get it, and then when we lost an hour to find Soho without knowing we were already there, the shopping time, the thousands pictures and the moments on the bus to Boston when we realized we missed to see the Guggenheim Museum.
New York in my opinion is the first city you have to visit in the USA, this country which has been magnified by movies, is not far away from them and the beauty you see is real, not an exaggeration.
Photo by Antonio Malara
Camera: Nikon D70s