Thursday, 6 March 2014

An Empire State of Mind

Having recently returned from my first ever transatlantic crossing to the Big Apple I can now evaluate the experience.

The sights are as spectacular as its written about in all the best guide books but here’s my take:

Grand Central station – exquisite architecture for a railway station

New York Public architecture – grandiose and magnificent spectacle on 5th Avenue

9//11 Memorial – water fountains now mark the spot surrounded by plaques where the names of those who perished are inscribed. A poignant reminder of the dark side of human nature.

Battery Park – covered in snow

Skyscrapers – lots of them so don’t break your neck looking at them

Empire State – the view from the 86th floor is not be missed

Times Square – aaah the bright lights and David Beckham running around advertising his undies!

 Statue of Liberty – the lady with the torch and the book. Apparently, Mr Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) had to be draughted in to build the structure. It was a clear day with so the lady looked great framed in blue.

Shops: 5th Avenue & Macy’s will delight those bargain hunters and if you’re from across the pond….they’re irresistible! Love the 50% & 75 % off everything sales.

Eateries: plentiful and cheap. Some exotic finds were giant pretzels and Kronuts

 New York, New York – so good they named it twice! Hmmm… my Asian-European eyes, my particular area of interest is the immigrant experience. After all, surely America grew up to be the super power it is based on that hardworking bunch……so….. they may have a thing or two to teach other nations.

Surely they do but not all of it good. Those poor souls who arrived on Ellis Island were the ne-er do wells and lesser fortunate emigres  looking for opportunity and adventure. Perhaps the combined vision of so many peoples, cultures and languages was a little skewed and so the establishment of a new order brought more controversy than harmony.

New York is not so much as melting pot but more of a giant frittata – it’s a bit of this and a bit of that. This amalgamation of cultures has created a diversified dilemma: how do you preserve unique cultures and human rights whilst building a country? You don’t…….America’s success is based upon a survival…the survival of the fittest…..and the fight to be top dog.

Irish, Italian, Jewish, African, Chinese, Russian –New York is all of this and more. In this helter-skelter new world, the gun was mightier than the pen and it was every man for himself. America may be wealthy but its heart has been ripped out. America suffers from a cultural inferirority complex due to its dubious roots. Slavery and its legacy is the permanent blot on the landscape and third generation African-Americans wear a haunted look.

New Yorkers, as I observed during my brief soujourn, appear to have frozen facial muscles. If you’re expecting a warm welcome, beware……smiles are not forthcoming and politeness may be going out of fashion……except on Fifth Avenue. “Please” and “Thank you” are mostly heard only when spending copious amounts of dollars and I don’t recall too many people saying: “Have a nice day!”.

America is a conundrum that the British relinquished after much bloodshed. It was a beast that couldn’t be tamed and wanted its freedom and independence. Once freedom from the rulers was obtained they appeared to be reluctant to abolish slavery until Mr Lincoln declared all out war on this tyranny.

America did put the first man on the moon and that was an awesome feat along with its other technological developments but it must help improve and care for Mother Earth.  Reducing pollution and recycling its garbage would be a great initiative and I didn’t notice a lot of that.

Big countries have big problems and, with Obama, at the helm there will be progress but the one who follows him will have a tough act to follow.

Every American is not born equal since not everyone’s driving a Cadillac! But every American is born into a gun culture and with no free medical care if you happen to get in the way of stray bullets. Human dignity is a concept that requires interpretation for our bretheren across the pond: the right to be human and be valued and accepted in spite of our human frailties. It’s a global work-in-progress and every country has “could do better” on its report card.

A truly empire state of mind remembers and cares for the impoverished and downtrodden. I was surprised to see TV ads asking for funds for ex-military personnel who have been maimed in global conflict. Every tax paying US citizen must carry the burden of military action or America needs to re-think its foreign policy...and stay out!
  You may throw money at the problem but it’s not a long term solution. America (and the rest of the world) needs to refresh its thinking and strive to make  hearts and minds as rich as their tax havens……and that’s a state I can relate to.






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