softening hard experience

Archive for travel

I am in a Medallion cab, being ranted at by a millionaire

America really is the land of opportunity for immigrants. I reflect on this as my cab driver – who, in true fairy tale style, has three houses, three daughters, and three Medallion cabs – tells me that he is a millionaire. Of Pakistani origin, he tells me he lived in London for several years, and then moved to New York in the year that I was born. “It was easy to get in back then,” he says, “not like nowadays, after you know what.”

It’s Memorial Day, I’ve just got off a plane, and I am rather tired. But he knows he has a captive audience.

“You can see it in the documentaries, and in the books. The media too. Don’t believe anything they tell you – they’re just working to protect the government. You need to know the truth. I’ll tell you, how can a building collapse when it’s hit halfway up?”

I attempt to offer a plausible explanation, but he’s only just hitting his stride.

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I am waiting for a bus, trying to get home before I freeze to death

So I am in town, clearing the final details before I finally move here, and the city is locked in ice and snow. It has been gruelling so far, with lots of work, lots of socialising with friends old and new, unexpected drinking, and pained long-distance phone-calls from dripping phone booths. I seem to have found an apartment through friends, at least for the first month, which is a relief.

After an impromptu evening – over which I cast something of a pall – with new friends in the East Village, I head back towards Brooklyn and bed. The L turfs me up at Bedford Avenue, from where it is just too cold to walk back to Greenpoint, so I huddle in a doorway to wait for the 61 bus. Another man is waiting a few feet away, and after a few minutes, he walks into the middle of the empty street, cranes his neck, and pronounces to the freezing wind:


He turns to me and says, “It’s fuckin’ ridiculous, you wait 30 minutes and then three show up all at the same time… It’s fucked. Pleased to meet you anyhow. My name’s ******* *******, I’m Basque.”  Let’s call him Euskal Etxea…

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