USA – New York

28b_161.jpgAlthough my health is going downhill at reckless speed, sights must be seen; the lot of a traveler is not a happy one. In trying to put brakes on my rapid decline, I start flinging Vitamin C, cough medicine, and throat lozenges into my system at an alarming rate. To conserve my strength, we choose the least taxing item on our must-see list, the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). Here I am issued with a headset, and once it is securely clamped on my head, I instantly go into a tourist glazed-eyed trance. The disembodied voice drones on about a series of flat gray paintings, which are defined by a small edge of imperfection at the bottom.

To my brain, which is by now reclining soulfully in a pink puddle of cough medicine …
or maybe my brain is the pink puddle … even the grey painting are taking on a slightly pink hue. The paintings all look identical. According to THE VOICE; the artist believes painting is all about the surface … there should be no breaking through the surface … this seems to me a very practical approach to applying paint to canvas … how this makes him a super-duper artist worthy of wall space in the MoMA is not so clear.

Staring intently at the smooth grey surfaces, I conclude that the artist must have an orgasmic time rolling pale grey paint onto the walls of his house; no chance of him breaking through the surface there, no matter how hard he pushes … I must admit the man has an eye for grey … and he does some pretty sexy stuff with beeswax polish. Apparently the buyers and sellers of fine art simply love this chap. Quite understandably … you can never make the wrong decision when buying one of his paintings, and the galleries can take advance orders for years to come, knowing that the buyer cannot be disappointed, as every painting is exactly the same.

But what do I know … and besides … I am not well. Unable to correlate the voice in the headset with anything sensible on the walls, I drag myself to the nearest available bench, which happens to face a collection of Jackson Pollack works. Staring in halfhearted fashion at the drippiness I see before me, I start feeling a certain warmth and kinship to the squiggly painting … I feel as if I am actually getting it … I am definitely taking too much cough medicine.

Once Alexandra has absorbed her fill of modern art, she drags me away from my Pollack … noo … I like it here, it is warm … and … confusing … is there no escape from the traveler’s lot? I hack and cough my way past Times Square, whine and moan my way to the Empire State Building, cough loudly at the security guard, zoom up to the top of another high building … which also seems to be swinging about. What it is with high buildings, can they not be built to stand still? We look over another city of glass, concrete and steel, watch another pollution-red sunset. I want my bed, where with a final swig I finish the bottle of cough medicine and collapse in a furry pink haze, much to Alexandra’s disgust.

On waking, I notice two things; it is another brilliant blue crystal day, and the sheets are hurting me. Slowly and painfully I retract my hands from under the covers. Things have gone from bad to worse overnight. The pink cough medicine has left my brain, and has settled in every joint of my hands, causing bright red shiny welts that are incredibly itchy, but too painful to touch. As my feet hit the floor I realize that putting on shoes will be excruciating today. A quick glance in the mirror shows me that even my face is afflicted. The lot of the traveler is not an easy one. I gingerly pull on the four layers of clothing that the New York cold demands of me, gently ease on my shoes. Alexandra shakes her head impatiently at my small moans and whimpers, am I to get no sympathy at all? Finally with only my nose poking out, I allow Alexandra to open the door for me, and hobble into the cold.

Today we have a plan, a to-do-list that has been prioritized according to convenience of public transportation. But all that must wait. I now have only one priority; a chemist. I need more medicine, but am prepared to take professional advice on it this time. The chemist listens to my tale of woe, her eyebrows slowly rising behind her fringe, as I run through my self-medication regime of the past few days. Without a word, she hands me a huge bottle of antacid and a smaller dose of antihistamine. She throws in a complimentary glass of water, to ensure I take the medication immediately. The effect is almost instant. In my zeal not to become ill, I succeeded in giving my system a toxic shock, and evoked an allergic reaction. Feeling, but not looking, a whole lot better, I am ready to follow Alexandra down into the grungiest subway system in the world. Post-apocalyptic, spare, cold and draughty, the subways in New York are purely functional. I rather like them; to me they are the most ‘typically’ New York thing I have seen so far.

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