O, the joy of rattling on steel rails across state borders. No interstate rest stop merging filter lane debacles. Just head nodding sweet and lo fi tinny melodies out of an iPod, and Homer writing great tales badly. Odysseus has conquered the rose fingered dawn once again. I'll walk into Heathrow with my fists above my head, expecting cheers, whoops and claps like the most popular character in any given 90s American sitcom. The noises will fade down and I'll pick a pithy wry aside with a smirk sneer smeared on my face.
Behind us the ladies bond over their shared love of Twilight - one is ashamed - too old for this she reckons - she's right - everyone's too old - for books for people who don't like books. A besuited businessman mops his brow on the summerheat of the subway, telling everyone to "get away from me", fiddling with papers, tattered, folded into a creased leather case, zip long broken, half shambling and half jogging away at the next available stop, another neurotic stereotype swallowed up by the swirling crowds.
Rhode Island is full of boats and weekend sailors. Rowing boats are paddled out into reed fringed lakes from weather beaten jetties, a man perched on the bow, topless and muscled, a net in hand, staring down and waiting, sunbathers perched on towels, egrets perched on banks, while the traffic crosses all the iron bridges, all the same triangular girder arrangements, always. We're just skirting little Rhode Island, past the boat houses and the boarded pale blue buildings, into Connecticut. Black boys gather in white T shirts, sitting outside a house to talk the day away. Old abandoned shops and vacant lots are all around - the poor black / rich white social bisection observable from up high on the railway tracks. Escaping the Penn station pillared maze takes time and a clear head, but we weary carcasses tumble it down into a taxi in New York City.
This is the end of the road, where Kerouac began it all, before we all finish - the last city. Yellow cab rides to the hotel, past the pillared Post Office that never closes, and all those skyscapers that draw your eyes up to their teetering turret; blue, grey, brown. The gargoyles are out of site.
A million people line the streets of Manhattan tonight, sweat prickles on their forehead reflect the endless cycling of neon billboards above their heads. It's the shuffle pace that drags you down, sapping energy. Insistent girls foist tickets on me, I protest and they don't listen. This is why no one remembers me at Tiananmen Square. Adverts are everywhere, shops and restaurants and all the horns blaring from the jaundiced ranks of taxi; you must spend to exist, to be. Hustle and bustle are making me tense - to the hotel. Robbery blues and all the accents.
The whole of New York is clogging Central Park, learning to rollerblade, sunbathing in swimsuits in the middle of a city, riding bicycles in lycra shorts and lycra zip up tops - racing machines trapped on leafy boulevards - whishing past bent low on sheephorn curved handlebars, competitive walking with cheeks pumped wide to suck down all your oxygen, so determined for so slow a pace, throwing pigskin or frisbee, watching tourists ride in carriages or pedicabs getting the slickpatter spiel. All this intersects behind in front and side to side of the churning wheels of our hire bicycles, sit up and begs cog wheel spinning fast as we weave through it all. The road opens my brain to thinking, to space, and lying down under trees to stare through the gaps in the leaves to the sky, spearing sentences with a harpoon and saving it all for never. Slack time we sit by ponds and watch a thousand New Yorkers moving away in every direction while reading books as if we were natives.
Brazilians swarm the streets - a national day for every nation, yellow and green cheering purloining from all the stalls. Observable even from up here on the Rockefeller, looking down 65 storeys from the top of a lift shaft, to the Empire State and the Hearst Tower and a million apartments and offices in stone, metal and glass, built by old folks who laid girders and clambered around, posing for iconic photos because it was important, because it was. Trump Tower has trees on the outside, sumptuous like the artwork strung around the Rockefeller Plaza, Art Deco classicist forms elegant and perfect. This is where the ice rink is in winter, that one in all the movies. Grand Central the journeys all begin, in a cavernous hall beneath painted stars, pulses of pedestrians pacing past a phalanx of photographers trying to do the long exposure photo that everyone does, where the people are blurred but the background is still; romance in its open spaces, the couples kissing goodbye, farewells from dampened lungbreaths. Central Park gives breath to the city, an open space of green in all the grey black mass always growing up cos it can't grow out. The Statue of Liberty only welcomes tour groups and cruise ships, just a dot from up here, behind the plate glass on a clouded Sunday, perched eagles on an eyrie. The designer stores don't need to advertise, hide themselves behind smoked glass, doormen ready for the well to heel, stitched up and made up, not the rest, or those with cardboard signs, more weathered and faded than the rest, in a corner, placed there, a model, a statement in the lush waste of Fifth Avenue. We see it all from our eyrie, sweeping away again.