Monday, November 3, 2008

It wasn't the airplanes

Yesterday, I fulfilled a childhood dream by going to the top of the Empire State Building. It's something I've wanted to do since I was maybe ten years old, first time I saw King Kong. That's been one of my favourite movies ever since, and a trip to the observation deck has been something in the nature of a pilgrimage for over thirty years. Every other time I've been in NYC, I've had only a few hours between meetings and planes, and the queues are huge. But on a cold Sunday morning, you can pretty much walk straight in. So we did.


When I say "we", I should just point out here that Johnnie is severely acrophobic. Even looking down a flight of stairs from the upper landing makes him queasy. So when I asked mockingly if he was coming up with me, I wasn't expecting him to say yes. That takes some guts.


Walking through the stunningly beautiful Art Deco interior was exciting enough, and by the time we got to the 80th floor, I was as excited as a ten-year old when I pressed the button to take us all the way to 86. Stepping out, over a thousand feet above the Manhattan streets, just took my breath away. It really is as amazing as they say. It was awesome. Not just pretty damn cool. As in "I stood there in awe." I kept scanning the skies for biplanes, but there weren't any. There should have been.

Strangely, though, my overwhelming image wasn't of Kong. Everywhere else in NY, movies just leapt out at me. But staring out over New York, all I could see was Sim City. Looking down on skyscrapers, commercial districts, and parks, with little yellow taxi ants scurrying along the streets and the Statue of Liberty in the background, is a view I know so well from playing that game for hour upon hour. I immediately wanted to re-zone things, add in some freeways, and demolish chunks of city to make way for an even larger park.

When I eventually dragged myself away, I had a grin on my face that Conrad Veidt would have been proud of. Before I left, I texted friends and family from the top. They'll know how much it meant to me being up there.

We then made our way down to the Lower East Side where we met up with some people for lunch, and a wander round a few shops, and then walked our way through Chinatown and Little Italy, down Broadway to the Battery for some more New York tourist action. Battery Park was much smaller than expected. Speaking of batteries, by this time, my camera battery was all but dead, so I didn't get a shot of the street performers. But the view of the Statue of Liberty was simply incredible. As in "I could scarcely believe what I was seeing." (See, kids, you can use words like "awesome" and "incredible" in their proper senses.) Johnnie's words say it best, though.

"She was bathed in God's own spotlight."
We stood, dumbstruck, as the late afternoon sun shone down onto the statue, and a path of light blazed across the water from Ellis Island towards us. I don't know if any photo could capture the moment. My crappy old Nikon had just enough juice for one last shot, so I stuck on the night filter, pointed it in her general direction, pressed the button, and hoped. And this is what I got. Possibly my favourite picture I've ever taken.


We wandered off in search of beer, and ended up in a bar just off Wall Street (which is way smaller than I'd expected), listening to blues, and then I got to do something else I've always wanted to do. I stepped out onto Broadway, hailed a yellow cab, and said "Empire State, please." We ended the evening in the bar, right back where we started, before catching the late-night flight back to London.

I haven't forgotten there was a machinima festival I should be blogging about too. But, hell, going up the Empire State Building, after dreaming about it for thirty years, is something I shall treasure for ever.


More pics from New York on Flickr.

1 comment:

Kate Fosk and Michael R. Joyce said...

Amazing shots, not sure I would have been as brave as J. Sim city was my fave game :)K