In the old days, when I first acquainted myself with the boisterous beast that was New York, the city was like a party where everyone was slightly drunk, but no one wanted to go home. Now, post-Covid, it feels like the morning after, where everyone has a hangover and can't find their shoes.
The journey from JFK to Manhattan, once a gladiatorial contest with traffic, is now a sedate affair. The cabbie, a Russian chap with a face as crumpled as a discarded MetroCard, drove as if he were on a country lane. It felt like the Fast and the Furious had been replaced with Driving Miss Daisy.
In the 1980s, Wall Street was a warzone of red braces and testosterone, where fortunes were made and lost before lunch. Now, it's more like a library on a Sunday morning. I could almost hear the ghosts of stockbrokers past, their spectral cries of 'Buy! Sell!" echoing through the quiet canyons of finance.
Midtown Manhattan, once the throbbing heart of the city, now seems to have a mild case of arrhythmia. The avenues, once filled with a river of humanity, now trickle with a sparse crowd. Even the street vendors seem less pushy, as if they've lost the will to convince tourists that a hot dog (that tastes like a boiled bicycle tire) is a balanced meal.
The hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum, once buzzing with chatter and the click of camera shutters, now have the solemnity of a monastery. I found myself whispering in front of a Warhol, as if loud voices might wake the soup cans from their pop art slumber.
A stroll through Central Park revealed a similar scene. There were still joggers, dog walkers, and lovers on benches, but they were scattered, like olives on a poorly made pizza. The musicians were still there, valiantly attempting to resurrect Lennon, but their off-key renditions of "Imagine" echoed sadly off the trees. The melancholic reverb and chromatic wailing made it all sound like some eccentric form of avante-garde jazz.
Uptown, Harlem once pulsed with life and rhythm, a vibrant testament to the power of music and culture. Now, it felt like the morning after a jazz club had been raided by prohibition agents. You could still hear the music if you listened hard enough, but it was muted, like a trumpet with a sock stuffed in it.
In the evening, I found myself in Times Square. The billboards still flashed, the lights still dazzled, but it was a show performed for an audience that had mostly gone home. The energy was like a New Year's Eve party at 12:05 - the ball has dropped, the confetti has settled, but no one's quite sure what to do next.
I ended my journey at a bar in the East Village, once a hub of artists, writers, and other assorted bohemians. The bartender, a tattooed lady with the friendly demeanor of a charging bull, served me a whiskey with a side of melancholy. The neon Budweiser sign cast a sad glow over the empty stools, like a lighthouse guiding ships that had already sunk.
New York, post-Covid, is a city in a state of uncertain convalescence. The party's over, but no one's sure if it's just a brief intermission or if the band has packed up and gone home. It's still New York, but it's a quieter, softer version of itself, like a lion that's swapped its roar for a purr. It's still the city that never sleeps, but it feels like it's started to doze off.
But then, that's the thing about New York - it's a city of reinvention. It's been down before, and it's always come back. It's like a cock
roach, but a cockroach with a fantastic publicist. I have a feeling that this is just another chapter in its story. And like any good story, I'm curious to see what happens next. Article kindly provided by myfavouritehols.com