New York State

September 16, 2012

I have a fear of flying. Not of having the superpower, that would be fine. I don’t imagine Superman had any moments of, ‘Fucking Hell I’m high up! This is so incredibly dangerous. What the hell am I thinking?’ No, I have a fear of being in large man-made containers that, throughout my life, in many different media, I have seen smash into the ground or explode. When on a plane my mind is a busy hive of death-bees taking the dark pollen of fear and creating a sickly honey of grotesque fantasies and elaborate metaphors. I cannot sit still for imagining a wing falling off, a sudden fire, a crazed air-hostess grabbing the controls and plummeting us to Earth, or the plane simply ripping open spontaneously and spilling its human contents into the indifferent sky. It’s not relaxing. This fear led me to browse self-help websites before embarking on a trip for New York. That proved to be a mistake. Most were pretty shoddily put together and their lack of thoroughness combined horrifically with my imagination. I happened upon perhaps the most unfortunate erroneous omission of the word ‘not’ in history. In a breezy tone the website confidently soothes the ludicrous apprehensions of the phobic with a list of things you can be certain will not happen, then comes this doozy of a sentence:


‘You can be certain a crazed thief will hijack your aircraft and fly it into another plane.’


            I knew it was a typo, but I still sat staring at the screen for a good 20 minutes, a cold trickle of sweat running down my spine and the death-bees buzzing happily behind my eyes.

            I made it onto the flight though despite the horrendous assurances I’d been given. I was lucky enough to sit next to a child whose jagged little elbows felt like she was desperately trying to write something with a biro directly onto the bones of my arm. After suffering at the hands, or rather elbows, of the little bitch for nearly 8 hours (during which time she inexplicably alternated the entertainment system between Spongebob Squarepants and challenging the computer at chess), and eating a 3-cheese calzone that was like chewing through a biblical sandal, we landed in New York.

            The border control point has posters that say, ‘We are the face of America.’ If that slogan is true then that face is the face of a man confronting another man who has fucked his wife. Brodley was the name of the man who processed my application to walk the few feet that would complete my 3000-mile trip. Brodley. A name so simply and astonishingly funny to me that I wake up in the night sweating about how its existence has eluded me thus far. It is of course entirely possible that it was a misprint of Bradley but if that’s true, then life has no meaning. Brodley looked like a triangle trying to become a circle and, judging from how he spoke to me, thought the UK was suspiciously close to Afghanistan. It’s an unfortunate truth that has probably sent a plethora of innocent men to jail that as soon as anyone, however truthful, is interrogated about actual facts, the body and face go into ‘I’m A Panicking Liar’ mode.

            ‘Why are you here?’ demanded Brodley, as if I would go, ‘You know what I have absolutely no idea. This is an awful, awful mistake.’

            ‘Er…I’m…er…here to do a show,’ I stammered, looking the most like I had 25 grams of cocaine up my arse that I ever had in my life. I imagined Brodley snapping a latex sheath on his stumpy hand and having a rummage in my bum hole. We are the face and hands of America, I thought.

            America shares many things with Britain: language, most shops, chequered history of international relations. Despite our many affinities I stood out like a spear in the neck. I cannot convey strongly enough how incomprehensible to American ears your speech is rendered by the pronunciation of the letter ‘T’. If you say ‘T’ in the middle of a word you may as well be pointing and barking. A man in Starbucks asked me what I would like, ‘Tall Americano, please,’ I said. Immediately he launched into a full throated Dick Van Dyke.

            ‘Sawry mayte?’ he screamed, ‘Whajyer wan’?’ I repeated myself and he asked me my name.

            ‘Daniel,’ I said quite calmly.

‘Danielle,’he triumphantly Sharpied onto my cup. I deduced from this exchange that Americans think Britain is a cartoon island populated exclusively by homosexual chimney sweeps.

            It doesn’t matter if your destination abroad is practically a carbon copy of the place you’ve come from, there’s just something about being in another country that jams the brain. I was once in Montreal and was looking around H&M. It was an H&M like any other, same clothes, same colour walls, same escalators. We have H&M’s in Britain. I have navigated my way through lots of them without a single major incident. But when in Montreal, I tried to walk up a down escalator. Along with your umbrella being blown inside out, this is the most helpless a human being can look in public. At first I managed to maintain a good rhythm, looking briefly like I was satirising the very concept of escalators, but eventually I succumbed to the motion and fell awkwardly and pathetically at the bottom. I looked like a deer being born, and to counter the embarrassment of what was happening, I started laughing quite uproariously. This brought more attention to the incident than I intended and was probably quite unnerving for those looking on. There was nothing different about how these escalators worked; there’s just something about being abroad that makes me a bit boy-with-a-pet-shoe.

            Not to state the obvious but New York is massive. If you compare it to most household items it is absolutely enormous. Like all metropilises (Metropilis’s? Metropili? Metropilots? Who gives a fuck?) the streets are not necessarily friendly. On my first journey into work I went past a couple of people in the epileptic’s death-trap of Time Square dressed as the Cookie Monster and Elmo, handing out leaflets and waving at children (presumably confused at why their beloved characters were now doing basic admin). A young girl ran up to Elmo and spontaneously hugged him. Elmo shrugged her off angrily and wagged his finger in her face. Welcome to New York, I thought. Where even the most cuddly, fun-loving, innocent character in the history of children’s television might tell you to go fuck yourself.


One Response to “New York State”

  1. rebecca Says:

    bless ya 🙂

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