By Kirk Verner
The air is sticky, not hot and humid, simply sticky. I have never been to New York City before, so I assume this is how it always feels here in mid-June. The smell protruding from the sewer-covers is definitely as awful as I once read a journalist describe it by saying, “Once the sweet sickness from of [the] belly of this city hits your nose hairs, they’re turned to dust and you begin to gag.” It is that ridiculous.
It is great to know that it only took me nine hours on the Greyhound to make it here from Montreal; I am now in a world-famous city. Well, at least that is what “they” say; I will decide for myself; sixty hours and counting.
The bastards at the border patrol office pestered me and singled me out for questioning last night while crossing the border on the bus. The other passengers sure got upset when the questioning of me alone wasted a good hour of everyone’s time. The questions were amusing, “Got any drugs son? What’s with the tattoos? Are you a biker?” I mean really, what a pile of rubbish. But, that was last night; it is now a fresh day in America!
Where to start? So much to see and do; I should get to Battery Park. I heard that from there you can see the Statue of Liberty and it is also close to Ground Zero; must-see attractions. A fine local woman has been kind enough to sketch me out a crude map on a piece of loose-leaf I had in my bag. According to the map, I am destined to take the New York City subway.
These things are actually trains! Loud, obnoxious, and the tracks crawl with mice and rats; the rodents are all big in New York City. This is a lot different than Montreal. It won’t take me long to get to Battery Park, well at least not according to the map.
I made it, without even a knife in the ribs; New York City isn’t that rough. The air is twice as sticky down here in Lower Manhattan. Ground Zero is a sombre place; it’s hard to believe that on September 11, 2001, all those people were scurrying around here like little rodents in the subway tracks. It is an awful thing, kamikaze terrorism. I decide to buy a knock-off New York Yankees hat from a Chinese woman adjacent to the meagre site; I thought my hatred for the Yankees would remind me of this hideous part of town. I place the baseball cap on my head and continue roaming throughout the streets.
I guess my new Yankee hat makes me fit in. Three friendly fishermen greet with a smile as I discover that they are fishing for Red Snapper, directly in front of Miss Liberty herself. I have found Battery Park! Miss Liberty is nowhere as interesting as these three Chinese fishermen. I ask them if I could reel one in if they get a bite. They smile and all speak at once, “Yeah…yeah…you fish!”
It doesn’t take long before the men are shouting and handing me an enormous fishing-rod. This thing must be 10 feet long. The thick fishing-line glistens in the sun as I start hauling in whatever is shaking its head at the end of this massive pole; the test of this line must be high because I haven’t stopped reeling, and the line hasn’t snapped.
The great beast leaps from the scummy water, sort of a last-ditch effort for survival, as one of the men tries to net the angry fish. It takes him three tries to get to the floppy brute ashore. The Red Snapper stares at me with its glossy eyes as the men quickly tackle the task of skinning a 15 pound, greasy fish from the tainted waters that surround this island.
I cross my legs on the grass just beside a garbage can that the two butchers are missing badly with useless red snapper parts. I pour myself a vodka and orange juice from my bag, light a skinny cigarette, and enjoy being in New York City for the first time.
January 7, 2010