I kind of lose it and smash the phone off the press, only it catches her in the side. She lets out this extended scream. One of those screams you hear in movies. No car, no wallet and no violin. I go back to the hotel the next day, but the guy in reception gets real ticked-off when I keep pressing him about the violin. She must have left it, I insist. He keeps up this nasty smile and repeats, in this barely-tolerating voice, how the bill was paid and the room vacated that morning.
No violin was found in the room. The manager is equally unhelpful. Something to tell the folks back home, if I ever got back home. And then I saw them, one on either side of my bag. He and the old bum were engaged in a conversation that sounded like a growling match. I stomped over to them, ready for action. The two old grizzlies stopped talking and watched my approach.
The yanks are right. He held up splayed fingers and moved his hands the way a conductor indicates a diminuendo. I ripped open the zip and started rooting inside, making a real show of it. But immediately I was sorry for my outburst. I reminded myself of her and her hysterics. Instead I shook my head disapprovingly while closing the bag, as though I was still miffed about it being interfered with, and limped away. My water. That filthy hobo had swiped my bottle of water.
Almost full it was, too. Apart from needing to wash away the miniature Sahara in my throat, the bottle was a kind of crutch, something to hold onto when I approached strangers and pitched my story. Made me look legitimate, I thought, a beat-up traveller doing his thing. Now I had to break into the few dollars given me on the street. You could tell that right off. Soon as I had a violin again, I could start busking and make some real money, get myself cleaned up, and maybe even book into a hotel.
After the cop told me to push on, I went to a shopping mall. Two security staff tailed me and openly walkie-talkied each other about my movements. The streets of New York are a maze. In the large shop window the saxophones and trumpets caught splinters of neon and sparkled. My interest lay farther in at the back of the shop where I could just about make out other stringed instruments. I belched. A cloying fishy after-taste from the scampi-flavoured crisps was in my mouth.
I gulped down a mouthful of water. My vision focused on my reflection in the shop window. Weather-beaten, my skin had turned red, almost purple. I moved on into the day. A group of teenage girls I had to walk around giggled loudly after me. I sensed the eyes of other passers-by slashing at me.
I increased my walking-pace. What the hell were they looking at? How many of them had been to college? Did they ever play in an orchestra at a national concert hall? I watched an old woman approaching at a distance. She was shuffling along on a cane and mumbling to a tiny dog she had on a lead. As she came closer I could see what she was doing. Pretending not to notice me, trying to keep her wrinkled old eyes averted, it was so obvious. Who did she think she was with her black headscarf and uppity attitude? Even the dog ignored me. She squinted at me through lenses as thick as a telephone directory, looked me up and down, and then turned into the traffic on the busy road.
Cars beeped and drivers roared at her. I joined them. There was a rawness in it, a deep gravelish sound like a growl. I pointed after her retreating old carcase, rocked back and forth on the balls of my feet, and whinnied with laughter. In Virginia she was a princess, a Southern belle by a magnolia tree. Even the waiter ignored the others and made her feel she was a girl again, Daisy Fay before Gatsby. He said in case she had forgotten there was work to be done.
Now, increasingly tired, they were on a train to New York. Past them sped magic names — Mystic, New Haven. They were in a Scott Fitzgerald story, silent, imaginary, through a glass. They said nothing for a long time. It was not clear that he was speaking to her; it was not clear that speech was required. He nodded, looking down at his folded hands. The words fell into silence: one moment, two. They were pulling into Penn Station. And now a yellow cab drew up, and from it emerged a jovial, homely black taxi driver who told them his name was Arthur.
She looked to see if her companion noted this in the mirror, but his eyes gave no answer. Like a dreamer, he gazed at the buildings soaring above them, meeting in the horizon of the sky. He seemed to have forgotten the presence of anyone else in the world. Arthur meanwhile, downcast, kept his eyes on the road in silent dismay. When they pulled up at the hotel Arthur handed her her luggage with his eyes averted. And somewhere between amusement and embarrassment, she was still thinking about Arthur as they passed through the opaque glass door of the hotel.
When they were in the lobby, they stopped together.
They almost collided. Everything looked wrong, and smelled wrong. They said nothing, but they exchanged glances as, unusually, he took her elbow, lightly, as if they were crossing a busy road. The lobby was cramped and gloomy, its light garish. Apprehension flowed between them as they walked to the reception desk, where a lazy, unwashed clerk looked them up and down. How may I help you? His voice was level, but his hands on the edge of the desk were whitening. There was a long silence. She looked up at her companion, and noted, irrelevantly, that he was a surprisingly tall man.
He is not heavy, she thought, but he is tall. Nor, at that moment, could she read the expression on his face. All she felt was the edge of fear. He leaned slightly forward, and she noticed the hands beginning to form themselves into fists. The fear edged further in. The two men, one small and lithe, the other long and poised, looked hard at one another.
Enrico did not make a move to help them with their bags. Neither did the heavy, silent porter, slumped in a swivel chair, watching him so far with detachment, watching her with something else. She saw this, and picking up her bags with as defiant a gesture as their weight would permit, moved to the lift, which clanked slowly, endlessly, to the ground. She thought fleetingly of Mary Astor, her face shadowed by the crossed bars of the lift, led down to her execution, while Humphrey Bogart watched her, his face impassive but for the haunted eyes and the mobile, noble, sardonic mouth.
This lift reeked of alcohol and other, worse things. Hospital, she thought. Urine and vomit and sickness. They were silent. She could hear her heart, and thought she could hear his. His upper lip was slightly lifted, as if in distaste. The lift was slow and creakingly noisy, the odour foul. He was white, almost blue round the mouth. For a moment she was sure he would pass out in the rancid, cramped space. Then, as it seemed they could endure not one second longer, they thudded to a lurching stop.
Beyond the bars they could see and smell dank walls and mouldy carpets. He left her bags just inside her room. This was hard, because the heavy door was narrow and geared to automatic, immediate closure. He was breathing hard. Do you hear? It flickered, clicked, flicked, wavered and finally flashed into white, pitiless light and she saw grimy net curtains above a corroded, flaking radiator; a lopsided, nylon covered bed with greying sheets.
Looking in the bathroom, carefully touching nothing, she sensed before seeing that the lavatory had not been flushed. On the dark-ringed bath, a small square of scum-covered soap half-lay in a paper wrapper. A used condom, torn, was placed upon the still-dripping shower-head. She thought, rent apart, rent by the hour. The door was knocked. Three sharp raps. Two short raps. She let him in, almost taking him by the hand. His face was terrible, a Mount Rushmore profile. He was utterly white and the thought occurred that he been sick in the interim.
He looked round the room, and shaking his head, like a swimmer shaking water, moved slowly past her. He leaned against the lintel of the dirty bathroom. His back was bent, his shoulders stooped. Even though the room was chilly, even cold, she saw him wipe perspiration from his face with a handkerchief. He tapped his teeth with the forefinger of a clenched fist. He looked so ill that she stopped herself from telling him that she thought the sheets might be alive.
He lifted the phone. From that light and dizzy place she watched as he replaced the receiver, and put his head in his hands. She thought, what does he mean? How can we not be connected? His voice was low, despairing.
Tell him anything. Still looking at her, he put his hand on the telephone. And sitting in the suddenly magical room, she wondered without anything more than mild surprise how it was that she had never noticed he had the face of an angel. Quite unable to look, she turned away and, as from a great distance, heard him speak into the phone, but did not hear any of what he said. Her heart was too much filled.
There was no more fear. The room was music; it was light. Then gradually, slowly, she floated down from the place where she had been and remembered that they were in a fearful situation, that the room was filthy and foul. She noticed, as one who wakes from a dream, that he had stopped speaking. She heard rather than saw him writing, scratching something with a stubby pencil on a dirty piece of paper beside the bed.
He handed this to her The tension broke. She laughed. This looks like Death Club to me. She did not notice the smells in the lift going down. She did not care that they were charged for rooms they did not use. She scarcely paused to notice the language of the boys in the gauntlet they ran from the door to the kerb to dive into the yellow cab. She felt slightly drunk. Safely in the cab, he gave the address, and leaned back beside her on the leather seat. She could feel him breathing.
Their heads were almost touching. She could smell his aftershave, expensive, subtle, and mixed with it fresh perspiration, not unpleasant, quite the reverse, like that from an athlete. The Downtown Athletic Club. Now she heard her own breathing. Just in that moment, they were completely relaxed, entirely at ease. And then, without warning, he leaned closer, and very quietly, almost like a lover, began to speak. Two people get off a train. They hardly know who they are.
They have quite a bit of luggage. One of them has many books. The other one is carrying them. He has a red mark on his shoulder from carrying them, but he carries them willingly. They are in a taxi, going to an address. They have been very badly frightened, and the address sounds good to them. It sounds like heaven, like home. From an anonymous voice on a phone in a sleazy room. Why should they trust this voice?
Maybe not. Maybe this happens all the time — maybe there is a ring, a group who send unsuspecting tourists to lonely places and murder them. How do they know? The financial area? Wall Street? The air is cold. They can smell the sea. They are right down at the tip of the island, at the Battery.
They get out of the taxi, so relieved to have arrived, and wait for the driver to help them with their luggage from the boot. No sooner are they outside than he drives away. Nothing but tail-lights and the screech of brakes. Then nothing. They are alone in the darkness of the New York night with no luggage. It is deathly quiet.
Nothing much happens in the financial area at night. Nothing at all, in fact. And then in the silence, the eerie nothing silence, they see a door opening, a slow door, a widening square of light in the scaffolding. Out come one, two, five, seven big guys. All young. Young guys. Black maybe. Maybe Hispanic. Like those guys who taunted us outside the hotel. You remember? She remembered. Maybe they took their own taxi. They are holding -no, brandishing — bits of hosepipe, and rubber piping and chains.
One of them, bigger than the rest, very good-looking, very threatening, with even white teeth, smiles at the two people on the kerb, wrapping a heavy chain round his big, powerful hand. Red flashing; green. She thought, could we get out? Could we run? She looked across at him. He had leaned away from her again, head slumped upon his chest. His bones were very sharp.
In that second, he looked like the prisoners who survived, or did not survive, Auschwitz. She thought, he means it: this will happen. And sure enough, the air grew colder. They were down by the sea, and she thought: we are going down to the end of the island; we are at the edge of the world, and no-one knows.
Then, with a lurch, the taxi swerved across the road. They looked at each other. Out of the window they could see scaffolding, and green plastic. Her heart began to pound again, but in a low, feeble fashion, like a heart that has died twice and can not make the effort another time. He inclined once more toward her, as if to speak. It was like that moment, but he was not shot. He was not slumping. It was just a moment, and history could here be changed, if they could do the right thing.
She felt between them a final, despairing resolve to rise to the occasion, and to do what had to be done, together, now. His mouth was so neat. And then, as suddenly as it had come, the moment passed. They stepped out of the cab, and standing on the kerb, in the quiet street they had so vividly foreseen, the dark dream somehow dissipated. The quiet street was only quiet. And the driver, sweet and normal as Arthur, did not speed off, but helped them in quiet courtesy with their bags, and accepted their modest tip with some graciousness.
They turned, in near-astonishment, to the door. And they saw it open, slowly, felt themselves bathed in light, and saw a tall, elegantly uniformed doorman came easily down the steps, reaching for the bags which were frozen in their hands. Through a door of glass, they stepped into the thirties, to the home of the Heisman trophy, to an entrance hall as big as a ballroom, to heavy gleaming furniture and soft lights, to a place which was waiting for them.
Momentarily, she closed her eyes, in case. When she opened them, it was all still there. And looking at him she saw, not a tired colleague in crumpled travelling clothes, but a handsome, austere man in a dinner jacket, a man with style and flair and panache, with just a little, a delicious hint of the reckless, the dangerous. She saw Nick Charles. And in that instant, she was his haughty, sophisticated Nora, somewhere in the thirties, one pencilled eyebrow quizzically raised, a slender cigarette holder in her fingers, a single witty bracelet on her wrist. For the second time that evening, he took her arm.
And finally, utterly themselves, they drifted into their club, an elegant pair, looking for the cocktail lounge. The woman is dressed in white: small white t-shirt, long white skirt. Like all good New Yorkers she is polished and brusque. She is not what we expected, although if you had asked us what we expected, we would not have been able to say. Her hair is blonde, and her eyes — when she comes out of the salon and into the hot Manhattan night to survey us, these two Irish girls who are timidly requesting a palmreading — are round and very green.
One of them is a lazy eye, and it gazes out into the street away from us. Inside the salon, a small blonde girl is running around with a vacuum cleaner. Outside, Lucy and the fortune-teller sit at an alfresco table and Lucy extends her palm. I walk a few steps down the road, trying not to eavesdrop. I can hear them murmuring as I wait. Lucy sounds defensive; the fortune-teller has guessed correctly that my friend is a teacher.
Afterwards, the woman stands up and beckons me over: my moment of truth. I do not take in much of what she tells me. She turns over my hand and looks at my palm for the briefest of seconds, then closes my fingers over and holds them. She speaks quickly and does not predict that a tall dark stranger will come into my life, or that I will die young.
That is what you like. These are the things that you like. The fortune-teller scoffs. People often ask us why we got married in New York, when we are both from Dublin and live in Galway. We brought our three kids with us on a trip that would be both marriage and honeymoon.
There was a bomb scare in Times Square the night before we arrived, which made our then seven year old son nervous. When thunder clapped all through our first night he slipped from his adjoining room into ours to feel safe. We were as giddy as mares, willing the morning to come so we could get out and about. Our other two kids were sixteen years and one year old at the time. Getting married in New York is a straightforward affair — you fill in forms online ahead of time and then apply for your marriage licence twenty-four hours before you want to tie the knot.
My something new was a silver peacock necklace. Something borrowed: a bracelet of dark pearls belonging to Marcella. Something blue: a half-packet of Airwaves chewing gum, given to me by my Da before we left Ireland — they had belonged to my beloved sister Nessa who died in I wore a teal blue maxi dress; my husband a dark suit and a peacock tie from Liberty. There were lots of couples there, some, like us, with kids. A cute Japanese couple were dressed Mad Men style in vintage clothes.
Our ceremony took a matter of minutes with a pretty stern and humourless celebrant, but we were married and it felt good. We took a big yellow cab to the Village and had lunch for ten in our favourite veggie restaurant, Gobo. Our friends gave us books, champagne and a silver frame as presents. Afterwards we strolled in the gorgeous evening heat to Madison Square where Marcella took photographs. The day was relaxing, unpressurised; there was none of the usual nonsense that goes along with weddings.
The company was select and interesting; the food and wine delicious. Back at our hotel, I put a vintage bride and groom topper on our wedding cake and we cut it in the hotel library. We fell into bed before 8pm, utterly exhausted by heat, happiness and excitement and, still, jet lag. New York is irresistible: each time we go we stay somewhere different in an attempt to get to know another little corner of it. It has everything we love in a city: the variety of culture; the fantastic food even in the most ordinary diner; the beautiful, quirky shops and galleries in Soho and the Village; the feisty, interesting people who call the city home.
Though neither of us have ever lived in New York, it feels as comfortable to us as home. I have a petty argument with my lover on Kenmare Street in Chinatown amongst the fermenting colours of over-ripe fruit, strange vegetables, and the slick black bodies of eels and dead-eyed fish. We laughed at the sign for Kenmare Street, in white lettering on a green background, stuck to the wall above the shop-sign for Lau M. Son Co. I walk away from him and leave him there open-mouthed with rage, half of a New York city map in his hand. It is October, I throw away my half of the map and walk the grid of the streets, taking pictures as I go.
The people are disappointingly polite. The streets less crowded than I had expected. I spent the days before my lover arrived with Irish friends, ticking off the tourist trail. Increasing weighed down by the emptiness of the tourist pilgrimage. What masochism lies behind the need to visit places we can only pass through but never really experience?
Places put firmly beyond our use, which reduce us to pilgrims without a faith clutching desperately to false relics made up of snapshots and kitsch memorabilia. A picture of my friend, fresh-faced, smiling, her hair lifting in the breeze on top of the Art Deco dream of the Empire State Building. The city below like a circuit board promising order and elusive experiences to make your holiday a dream of a lifetime. A picture of me dressed in black, wearing John Lennon sunglasses and Adidas trainers, at a flea market on the Upper West Side.
A picture of me and my girlfriends, drunk in a seedy bar, being hit on by a pair of beautiful lesbians. I walk and walk, clicking randomly, a series of shots of strangers walking the streets of Manhattan. A photograph of the arrogant, incongruous lion who guards the building, and beneath it a black man reading a newspaper. I enter the grandeur of the building and step into its light-filled atrium.
And then the snapshot I missed, or was too ashamed or too respectful to take. I am looking for directions to the exhibit, The Hand of the Poet, where I hope to see the original manuscripts of poets and writers, the misspellings and mistakes and deletions and stains on the pages touched by Plath and Nabakov and Yeats and Kerouac and Thoreau, and many others.
I turn to look for someone who can give me directions to the exhibit. Through the revolving door comes a figure draped in black. In the archive of my memory he wears a flowing black cape, and his trademark floppy black hat. Face powdered a chalky white, lips bright crimson, eyes lined with kohl. And that smile. He floats past me smiling, oblivious, leaving a trail of perfume behind him. I smile for the first time in hours. New York? Never been. Never really had the thirst.
New York, to me, is a mishmash of words and images that float around loosely in my consciousness, it exists for me in my own way and I can keep what I like, ignore the rest. Names, places, movie scenes, pictures, book titles, authors, singers, song lines; ordinary and extraordinary people, actors, politicians, sports people, events; all of these form part of an incomplete whole. Not to mention the taking of Manhattan. No doubt Barnes and Noble would love to see me coming, but really, that would be like sending an alcoholic into a distillery for a look around. Naming all the books and stories we know of with NY connections could keep us up all night.
Neurosis is a word that springs to mind and goes with New York like cream cheese goes with bagels. Numbers figure, too. Nine, for instance, and eleven, let alone all those streets and avenues. New Yorkers used to have a reputation for ignorance and unfriendliness, but nowadays a different, probably fairer persona is portrayed; maybe they have changed, since the world changed.
Nineteen forty-two, or before it, or even after the war, might have been a good time for me to visit New York, but none of that stuff is there any more. None of the scenes from my favourite movies are going to be there if I travel. New trends in language, food, fashion, music, literature, art and so on are spawned in this epic place, some great, some awful, many in between.
Not everyone knows that The World was a newspaper whose sponsorship gave The World Series its name, or that the man behind that paper was a certain Mr Pulitzer, who was also instrumental in the raising of funds for the plinth on which the Statue of Liberty stands on Ellis Island. Now, those are a couple of emotive words. Never have I felt physically closer to New York than when I stood on the quayside outside the Cobh Heritage Centre and read the story of the emigrant Annie Moore, whose statue stands there and also on Ellis Island.
Never been there for real though. Never wrote anything where every new sentence begins with the same letter either — imagine that. Nothing can be ruled out. Every last word of it. These things really happened. So this story is about a small group of Irish guys who lived in New York in the early s. There were four of us.
I came from Santry on the north-side of Dublin. We all met up while working in construction in Manhattan, and we just started hanging out together in the evenings and at weekends.
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We were all about twenty or twenty one at the time, and all we cared about was making money, drinking beer, and chasing American girls with straight white teeth. I mean Colm was different. Colm took things a bit more serious than the rest of us. No — Colm kept to himself. I think he was a bit too quiet for me. He seemed happy enough to be left alone in his free time, and I was happy enough to leave it that way. Then, one Friday evening, straight out of the blue, and just as work was ending, Colm came over to us and said he had something he wanted to show us in his apartment.
You can drink as much as you want when we get there. And Colm walked over to his battered red Ford, and we followed him, like three blind mice. So we drove up to Woodside — a dishevelled area in Queens with cheap rents and lots of Irish to prove it. It was like a scene from Taxi Driver. And then Colm opened the door to his apartment, and I saw something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I saw something I could hardly believe. A blue helicopter. Colm had a helicopter in his apartment. Colm had a full size two-seater helicopter right there in his apartment.
The front section of the machine was in the kitchen, facing the street, and the tail section stretched all the way back to the living room; and the double doors that connected those two rooms were held open with stacks of books about flying and aeronautical engineering. I think Mossy and I were just too impressed to make jokes. We were stunned. There were a million and one questions to ask — and we threw them at Colm like hot confetti. You just start with the engine — and then you get a new part with each payment. Then Mossy hit him with a key question.
So we had some beers, and Colm told us his plan, and it was nuts — completely bonkers. To be honest, in the beginning, I wanted nothing to do with it. I thought his plan was stupid and dangerous; and I was probably right on both counts. And that was the moment I realised I was sitting in a room with three lunatics and my one vote for sanity was probably never going to be heard. First off, Colm wanted us to cut the front wall off his kitchen and pull it into his apartment.
Then he wanted us to get a crane and lower his helicopter to the street — five floors down. Then Colm wanted us to restore his kitchen wall to its former glory, without his landlord finding out; and then, finally, he wanted us to move his helicopter down to an airfield in Brooklyn. It was that simple.
Then he told us that he had wanted to be a helicopter pilot since he was a kid, and he claimed that was the reason he had come to New York. Trust me. The freezer was the heaviest object we could find in the kitchen and we were hoping it would be strong enough to hold the weight of the wall. Insane — I know. Then I slid the wood out the window and carefully positioned its X in the frame against the outside wall.
Then I just tightened the rope and got some of our friends to hold it; and when everything seemed secure, Mossy began to angle-grind the front wall — plasterboard and brickwork; cutting through it like a knife in clay. Meanwhile down on the street, in front of the building, Tom was blocking off the pavement with some stolen traffic cones — just in case the kitchen wall fell outward.
Colm asked me to go down and check on him, and when I did, I saw he was being questioned by two police officers sitting in a patrol car.
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It was an ominous sight — and my heart stuttered with shock. I briefly thought about turning around and running away, while I still had the chance, but then the police car drove off, and I walked over to Tom with shards of panic in my chest. Why would I do that? Look — if you want to come round and check — come round and check. He was too caught up in the madness of his plan. Drunk on his own genius. Sure enough, when I went back into the kitchen, Mossy had finished cutting through the wall; so a group of us took our shirts off, and, using the rope, we began carefully pulling the wall towards us — bit by bit.
It was a bizarre sight — man against wall in clouds of dust; a surreal tug-of-war with streams of sweat pouring through our skin and running down our backs like warm rain. While Mossy had been working on the wall, the guys had pushed the front section of the helicopter further into the apartment, just to keep it safe and to make more room; so now we just about had enough space to pull the front wall in and rest it against the side wall in the kitchen.
And it was really strange just standing there. Just standing there and looking at the space where the front wall had been. Looking out over Queens and seeing it all spread out before us; seeing the buildings and the apartments, the shops and offices, bars and restaurants; seeing the trees and parks and railway lines, the cars and trucks and people; seeing the orange cones that Tom had placed on the pavement below us — bright spots — like drops of paint on sheets of grey.
And it was strange fighting the temptation to step forward and flirt with death. The temptation to stand on the lip and look down at the ground. Fighting the temptation to tease mortality and run away like a hunted fox. So we had some cold beers and we waited, and eventually a large yellow crane came slowly round the corner, and Colm ran down to the street to help Tom to set everything up.
Then ten minutes later Colm was back in the apartment and his face looked flushed. That guy worked with us a few months ago and he can pick a pocket with that thing. Mossy was right. That Mexican knew exactly what he was doing with that crane. It was like part of his own body. And when everything was lined up — the crane arm perfectly positioned next to the hole in the apartment — then Colm calmly leaned out over the edge and pulled some straps from the crane into the open room.
Then we moved the helicopter forward in the kitchen and attached it to the straps. Then Colm waved a signal to Tom and the Mexican, and the crane arm began to slowly pull away from us. And it moved up and up — inch by inch — and the straps began to tighten. And then we all pushed the helicopter towards the hole — trying to guide it towards the sky; and we all held our breath and wondered if this was really happening. I mean it felt like we were all in the middle of a bad Hollywood disaster movie. And then the helicopter went through the hole, and it swung into the sky, hanging from the crane like a heavy pendulum; and we all cheered and laughed — and we punched arms and slapped backs.
And this was a moment of triumph. This was victory. This was what life was all about. But then I heard Colm curse, and I looked where he was looking, and I saw the helicopter swinging back towards us — and it was moving fast. It was caught in the wind and the momentum of our push, and it looked like it was going to smash into the front of the building — just below the hole. And for one crazy moment I actually thought Colm was going to jump through the hole and try to push it away — or maybe cushion the impact with his body — like a human shock-absorber.
He just stood his ground and stared. And then the others looked up — and they saw what was about to happen — and the celebrations stopped. Stopped instantly. And we waited for the bang. The crunch. The crash. The snap of metal and glass — breaking — like bone through flesh. But there was nothing. Just silence.
Not even a scratch. I mean it came within inches of colliding with the building, but then it paused; and then the hand of gravity tugged at it, and the helicopter swung back into the New York skyline — where it undoubtedly belonged.
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And we all cheered like children. And the arm of the crane moved further and further away from us — and we cheered again. And we were still cheering as the helicopter was lowered safely on to the back of a flatbed truck which Colm had hired for the day. And we cheered because we knew we were on the last lap. Some of us could even see the finish-line up ahead. So Colm went down and thanked the Mexican for operating the crane.
Then Colm jumped in the truck and drove his helicopter to its new home in Brooklyn while the rest of us put his front wall back in place. I mean that wall was heavy and awkward to move — and we had to hold it tight with the rope and the wood. And when it was finally back in position we had it resting on bolts, and that made a gap for us; and, using a grease gun, we squeezed wet cement into that gap like grey toothpaste.
And when the cement had set, we pulled in the wood, we re-inserted the glass, and we plastered around the wall. And while we waited for things to dry, we drank some more beer, and we cleaned the kitchen as best we could — sweeping up dust like sand on a beach. By this stage Tom had collected his orange cones and he was up in the apartment, sitting on a chair, getting drunk, and giving us lots of useless advice.
Then Colm returned from Brooklyn and checked the work we had done on his wall. Colm was worried that his landlord was going to burst in at any moment — so we speeded up the paint-drying process by turning the oven on and leaving its door wide open. And then Mossy had a brainwave. He plugged in a hairdryer and fanned the wall from top to bottom with warm air — and it worked brilliantly. Everything was crisp and dry in no time. And I remember that Tom kept giving out about the strong smell of paint; so Colm burnt some incense, but that just made things worse. I mean it smelt like Mass in a DIY store.
Then we sat around the apartment — laughing — eating pizza and basking in the glory of what we had achieved. And I said it to Colm — and Colm smiled. And that was a good smile. In the mid s I moved back to Ireland with Mossy and Tom. Somehow I ended up working in IT — building servers — and the other two guys set up a small plastering business in Galway. The funny thing is they both made a lot of money during the Celtic Tiger boom years. The bastards. Colm stayed on in America and eventually got his full helicopter license.
He then moved down to Florida and got a good job as a pilot, delivering people and supplies to oil platforms off the coast. I think he was happy then. But sometimes I wonder if it was worth it.
I mean when I think about it now — what we did that day in Queens — it only helped Colm to realise a dream that ended in a ball of fire on a cold sea — in a helicopter crash that killed four people. I wonder if — on the stormy night that took his life — I wonder if Colm thought about that Saturday we had in Woodside — when we were young and high on life. When everything was possible.
The New York Stories
Even the impossible. I wonder. I should be on my way to New York by now. I was his girl. Or was I? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The decorum of public behaviour disappears; people wail and shout. A Belgian semi-professional athlete spending his third night at the airport shows me where to find crates to make up a bed. The ash cloud is going nowhere. Around me people sleep with royal blue blankets like calling cards flung over their shoulders. I rest my head against the box; watch the empty carousels going around, the paternal voice on a PA system-loop telling me not to accept a ride from an unauthorised vehicle.
The airline refers me to the website where I can book flights. I need a real person. I drift; a weary pleasure. She stands by the lift with two luggage trolleys holding huge vases filled with white flowers. I nod, thinking how lucky I was to find a hotel almost in New York.
The humming is so deep I feel it in my blood. She glides off. I run my foot along the mustard-yellow pattern on the thick pile carpet which looks like a remnant. A cleaner passes, bent over, unable to straighten his back from vacuuming twelve floors of remnants. I close my eyes, stinging for want of sleep. I pad over to the refrigerator and pour myself a pre-made tea. The sugar coats my tongue but I finish the bottle anyway. The coleslaw that came with the takeout pizza that I ordered tasted funny. Maybe there was poison in it. Maybe she invited me to the ceremony as a way of warning me.
My heart starts to palpitate and I read the label. This typical refreshing tea has added caffeine. I wonder suddenly if I could stop the waiting. How many red dots on the airplane screen that shows your progress would beep along until death took me? How long would it take for family at home to get more worried than they already were? I flick through TV channels. They talk about circles. Two days later at 3. Safe to fly flashed neon in Times Square the previous day.
I close my eyes with an image of my 3-year-old son waiting for me beneath a duvet covered in red and blue cars. Cars the colour of the flag of the place which is most unlike itself: America. America: New York, to which I will return. Back in the Eighties I lost three brothers to the Recession. Each found their way to New York and over a period of time got the coveted Green Card. Two have since returned from the States and I wondered about that, why they chose not to put their roots down in NYC.
He has little left of his flat Kildare accent, some remnant words maybe that steal through, ghosts hanging on to his tongue. Sometimes I like to tease him about his New Yorkishness, how he holds two passports — touchy point, but hey if you embrace the American dream, be American.
It all smacks of putting the wife and mistress on the same pedestal we know what happens there. Jeanne I. Lakatos By Jeanne I. We would then walk along 5th Avenue, admire the window displays. The children would fall asleep on the way home, most likely with dreams of Santa, bright lights and the excitement of the holidays. Since many of the students had family members who worked in NYC, all schools were dismissed early in this area. My daughter attended Immaculate High School. Our church is St. Since my daughter was a lector, she was asked to do a reading and was assigned to sit in a designated pew.
I sat in another pew on the opposite side of the packed church. When the service ended, I walked over to meet my daughter. Get the backstory on how Rodgers and Hammerstein's smash Broadway hit came to be. Movements and Causes Monday, March 5, Look out for us around the city to get to know some of the extraordinary women that changed New York City and the world. Notable New Yorkers Tuesday, February 27, Known for his unique writing and unwaveringly progressive social and political views, Guido Bruno made a name for himself in the literary and artistic scene of Greenwich Village.
Behind-the-Scenes Wednesday, February 21, Deinstallation of objects takes just as much planning and care as installation. Go behind the scenes with one of our registrars see what happens after an exhibition closes. Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, February 13, Jaiwantie Manni shares her experience as a F. Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at the Museum where she has been incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math STEM activities into our education programs.
Landmarks Tuesday, February 6, Movements and Causes Tuesday, January 16, Take a look at some of the signs from the March that were selected. Movements and Causes Wednesday, January 10, We look back at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Behind-the-Scenes Monday, January 1, The hand fans in the Museum's collection are exceptional not only for their beauty, but also for the rich history behind them.
Check out the fascinating stories of five fans. City Artifacts Tuesday, December 19, Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, December 19, Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton are back home! Follow their conservation journey through behind-the-scenes videos and blog posts. Behind-the-Scenes Thursday, December 7, Sometimes our Collections Department staff come out from behind the scenes to stand guard at events.
See what they learned by experiencing the Museum from a different perspective. Notable New Yorkers Thursday, November 30, Curator Steven Jaffe explains how they shaped the future of both the city and the United States. City Artifacts Monday, November 20, Read about the production, and check out some of the original costume designs from our theater collection. Notable New Yorkers Wednesday, November 15, During her year career, she befriended and worked with many larger-than-life figures like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Irving Berlin.
Notable New Yorkers Wednesday, November 1, Mel Rosenthal—photographer, educator, activist, and friend of the Museum of the City of New York—recently passed away. We remember the life of this notable New Yorker. City Arts Thursday, October 26, Our Theater Collection curator takes a look at how that movement translated and transferred on stage. Behind-the-Scenes Wednesday, October 11, Objects are always coming and going at the Museum. See how our registrars ensure safe travels for art and artifacts.
Movements and Causes Tuesday, October 3, City Arts Tuesday, September 26, Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, September 19, What happens when an object's lender can't be found? Read the bittersweet story about how a registrar tracked down the doll's rightful owner 30 years later. City Artifacts Monday, September 11, Behind-the-Scenes Monday, August 28, Behind-the-Scenes Wednesday, August 23, Education intern Stephanie Luciano describes what she learned about herself while teaching kids at the Museum this summer.
City Artifacts Thursday, August 10, Learn about the effort to clean and conserve the sculptures of Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton. Notable New Yorkers Tuesday, August 1, Before Madonna and Britney, there was Gertrude Hoffman, a dancer who pushed the boundaries of public decency and paved the way for future female performers. Behind-the-Scenes Monday, July 31, Photographer Robert Gerhardt, whose work is featured in Muslim in New York, shares his experiences documenting Muslim American communities. City Artifacts Tuesday, July 25, The Museum is pleased to announce the completion of Illuminating New York City History through Material Culture, the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project to process, catalog, digitize, and rehouse the Ephemera collections.
City Arts Tuesday, July 18, Movements and Causes Thursday, July 6, The fight for healthcare for the most vulnerable is as relevant today as it was in the early days of the crisis. Notable New Yorkers Monday, June 19, Behind-the-Scenes Thursday, June 15, The Museum recently hosted an apprenticeship program with the World Science Festival for kids ages 8—13 to explore the role of parks in cities.
Behind-the-Scenes Monday, June 12, We take a look at how music in the United States was inspired by the war in Europe. Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, May 30, Follow the journey an object takes when borrowed by another institution—from conservation and shipping to deinstallation and its return home. Behind-the-Scenes Sunday, May 14, Behind-the-Scenes Monday, May 8, Come along for the ride as we take a look back at an amusement park that stood on the northernmost tip of Manhattan over a century ago.
City Artifacts Monday, April 24, The subway system opened on October 27, Go back to the beginnings to learn how the underground railway came to be. Behind-the-Scenes Monday, April 17, Learn how conservators brought the story of Harlem fashion designer Ruby Bailey to life. Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, March 21, The oyster is one of over 70 characters brought to life by state-of-the-art interactive technology in New York at Its Core. We follow a group that are working to bring oysters back to New York's harbor. City Arts Tuesday, March 7, Landmarks Thursday, February 16, Behind-the-Scenes Friday, January 27, Photographs in the Museum's collection shine a light on New York City's diversity.
In our I Spy classes school students dive into the collection to learn about photography from the masters, and then head out into the city to develop their own creative eye. Movements and Causes Thursday, January 19, Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem joins us for a walk through New York at Its Core, and a discussion on feminism, freedom, and the future.
Movements and Causes Tuesday, January 17, In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Landmarks Tuesday, January 3, Read on to explore the history of past subway expansions. Landmarks Tuesday, December 20, Here we look back at restaurants that enjoyed a successful run in our city. Notable New Yorkers Tuesday, November 29, Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, November 22, Having just opened New York at Its Core provides us with an opportunity to look back at the evolution of exhibitions here at the Museum over the past 93 years.
Landmarks Tuesday, November 15, City Artifacts Monday, November 14, A close reading of the ceremonial Lenape Club, one of the many fascinating objects featured in our New York at its Core exhibition. In this guest post, Lisa Keller explores how a tragedy galvanized support for labor reform and worker's rights in New York City. This brochure illustrates a contentious and never-realized future for New York City, where the car would rule Lower Manhattan. Movements and Causes Monday, November 7, Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, October 25, A behind the scenes peek into the making of New York at its Core and some of the Civil Rights Era artifacts that will be on view in the exhibition.
Movements and Causes Wednesday, October 19, Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, October 18, One of the challenges in creating history exhibitions is bringing the voices of its featured personalities to life. Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, October 11, Introducing The Future City Lab, a new space where visitors will explore solutions for various challenges the city faces. City Arts Tuesday, September 6, Many of these works have the stamp of renowned artists of the s, but curators are still tracing down the inspiration for others.
Streetscapes Tuesday, August 30, Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, August 9, Jamaica, Queens was home to Rufus King, one of our first senators. Inside his former farmhouse—still standing today—was a medicine chest, and inside the chest…. Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, August 2, Landmarks Tuesday, June 14, Behind-the-Scenes Tuesday, May 31, On a hot August afternoon last summer, I left the office early and caught the 5 train north. My objective was to locate the site of the Ursuline Convent in what had once been the rural village of Melrose, and was now the heart of the South Bronx.
Streetscapes Tuesday, May 17, Explore this history through the Museum collections. Landmarks Tuesday, April 12, In the s Augustus Hepp was commissioned to photograph the newly built Central Park. The Museum retains a collection of 40 large format cyanotypes he made. Movements and Causes Tuesday, December 15, Women have been considered some of the most visible advocates of the temperance movement, but did you know that women were also some of the most active opponents of the 18th amendment?
Landmarks Thursday, November 12, When racing in a cab down West Street trying to make it in time for a meeting, how many people think back just a few decades when an elevated expressway ran down the western edge of the city from the Henry Hudson Expressway to Battery Park? Landmarks Tuesday, August 18,