I draw in a long, nervous breath. This is New York. I expect to be, well... intimidated.
Although, enroute, the dilapidation, the trash littered along the highway, humanized it. Shrank it from larger than life to ... life.
First things first, New York has characters. Or. In other words. Every native New Yorker is a character. All over. All sorts.
I find that I stop. I stare occasionally. I can't help it. No one minds me.
Also, New York is one big ego, and we have all flocked here to stroke it. This is a city in love with itself. I'm just saying. Not necessarily a good thing. Not necessarily a bad thing. Just a thing.
From now on, in my vocabulary, love of self will be spelt, NYphilia.
And, I understand why New York is so written. It's bulging with stories. They are leaking messily out of it.
I could write New York.
I loved the T-Shirts, razor sharp with sarcasm. Now that's the New York of the movie director's imagination. I however, bravely resisted the temptation to buy one at Time Square. Those prices are criminal. Or tourist. Or both. No way am I going down like that.
Speaking of which, that's a thing this city is highly skilled at. Sneaking its grubby little fingers into your pockets and greedily, gleefully, emptying them.
Ahem. I did not appreciate walking around for circa half an hour looking for a public restroom. (Earth to Mayor Bloomberg. Do your read me?)
Also, FYI, I did not appreciate being stashed into a corner at TGI Fridays.
Gasp. (Is this not the capital city of the Solo Act? C'mon TGI Fridays. C'mon.)
Or is mine a determined case of East, West, Home Best?
(Give me my Nairobi
Give me my Java
Give me my own booth
(imagined to the tune of Video by India Arie)).
People say you can get lost here, but me, I stick out like a sore thumb.
First, someone who looks vaguely familiar boards the tour bus I'm on, smiles and says hello. She sits behind me and we chat a little. She's Kenyan. We know we've met but we can't figure out where, how, courtesy of whom. We run through the list-high school, primary school, uni, neighbourhoods, nada.
Pleasant enough, as conversations in a tour bus with an overzealous tour guide labouring to drown you out go.
And Then. And Then. And Then.
On 46th and 8th, in crowded Manhattan, this guy stops me and asks me if I'm Kenyan. Gobsmackerationization. How how how? He's not even Kenyan. He's, wait for this, Togolese.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I can run, but apparently, I cannot hide.
I'm what Kenyan looks like.
(Once, way back, in Pretoria, I walked into a Hair Salon and one of the hairstylists broke out in animated Kikuyu in my direction.
Another time, in Cape Town, I'm standing at a bus stop in Rondebosch (I think), when all of a sudden this Mini Van Taxi draws to a halt right in front of me and the tout proceeds to address me in Kiswahili.)
Kenyan is a look. And, tag, I'm it.
Sigh. If you can't beat it, you might as well try to milk it for all the money it's worth.
I should probably approach the government to use me as a Postergirl for some Quintessential Kenya advertising campaign. Or some such. I wonder how much I'd get paid.
Something else I love about New York: how it unabashedly imagines itself into being. It will be whatever it wants to be and you can have your cow if you want. And milk it.