New York Journal

Yesterday I went on a brilliant ‘tower tour’ at Lincoln cathedral with my Mum. I recommend it to any fellow yellowbellies or visitors to the region.

It reminded me of my first year BA photography project on cities from above and my uni trip to New York City in 2006, and I decided to blog the journal I wrote at the time. Here it is!


January 31st – February 4th 2006

Train stops in endless night
lights on stalks and tracks gleam sodium monochrome

Ultraviolet tunnel from station to terminal. Moving walkways and silence, suitcases rolling smoothly. It is the future imagined in the 70s, it is a beautiful space-dream, Martian colony. I travel in slow motion.

It is a grey day in England and it fell away with incredible grace & finally we emerged in perfect sunshine in this crazy machine, this moneyfied war machine

Flying over Liverpool and Alex and the Mersey Ferry, flying over the cold Atlantic ocean blinded by a cloud sea.

Solitude suddenly terrible and desperate trapped in everlasting day
Should be precious minute by minute but instead there’s aeroplane waiting, with invariably dazzling view that sends you numb.

On the map is Canada, Labrador and here is no local time. Travelling this way we’re getting older. I’m chasing the morning and sleep is chasing me. It’s nine o’clock in America and up here is the only place on Earth with fine weather

Plane making its faint siren sound in the wind
Lost in cloud over New York

America is a faint yellow colour with beautiful saplings lining neat roads
Old paint and concrete.
Plastic houses, bare branches, dead ground, toy cars floating along. But the birches will be lovely in Spring
Whole fields of pampas grass…
Graveyard is stuffed to the gills

Coach descends through rainbow industrial masses with flares and robots into a tunnel and emerges in pale grey magnificence Manhattan.
It is silent and graceful, Chrysler impossibly elegant for so many stories of stone.
From a distance, in the mist, New York looks like some kind of post-modern cathedral.
One expects a cathedral air from it, a vague religious terror rising out of the earth
And it is sober and authoritarian and embellished
But not pious, not shuttered and impenetrable
It offers and demands no libations, no prayers, no confession

Steam pours from the ground and it roars like a living thing
What is New York standing on?
This piece of the Earth is human-made to the quick, quarried stone and planted trees.

This is a yellow insomnia night with desperation at the ends of its corridors
It is exit sign loneliness

A guy on the edge of SoHo wanted us to buy, he made his voice bounce like a ball. Another guy looks at my camera, tells me to go down that alley for a million to one shot, Miss.

New York is made for you
like a salad
New York looks silent and complete

The end of the world
Where the lions weep.

But it is not, it is truly carnography

It has a lived-in feeling
It holds you gently
You can’t lose yourself or starve
New York is served up
& there’s no need to dress

Skyscraper canyons
Streets vanish over the Earth’s curve

City of cities
Same wretched, incomplete soul

Ten tongued city, rushing past
Ten thousand souls a second

Tai chi rhythm and espagñol

The way music translates the landscape into Russia by violin, Ireland.

In New York everything has a beautiful name
It has a voice and a long coat
The night sky glows reflected yellow light

Metal plated earth
City under the sea
I am a falling star

I left my heart
I cannot even open my eyes

New York, I want to stay even though the vacuous department store demons
I want to stay, for the smiles and sweet apple accent of Spanish and black in bag checkers’ waitresses’ and store keepers’ mouths
I want to stay because you break my heart
I want to stay because you are big enough to be lost in forever

It’s true that here sleep is worth nothing
You just become tired and worse, night after night
Until your eyes are bloodshot
and your legs are numb
and your heart goes blank
And your blood runs glitter and blackness, fragments of glass

Behind my retina
New York image
Isabelle’s eyes & old Japan
& when I die it will all be lost
Parchments degraded and finally burned.

The New York public library does not feel like Alexandria

Information is light
Information in itself, about anything, is light.

Messages in the pavement 41st East
The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

In New York the worldsoul rocks and sings to itself and can be heard by everyone
In such a high concentration of humanity the general love and pain and holiness is in the atmosphere

In Harlem on the main street (125th) just after dark there’s music and joy

In New York every café is part of the one café & we are all partaking of breakfast in the knowledge that we are eating Christ’s body together two thousand years

New York is one art gallery and one movie theatre
It is a pleasure garden.
Nothing is hidden, it is only not found yet

Pastries, pies, pasta in heaps and stacks
100% pressed apple juice from Nantucket
Natural Artesian Water

I can walk one block to the convenience store for vegan sushi

You anticipate it cold and terrible
Eye windows of dollars and dead souls and smoke pouring from the ground
You cannot enter New York without passing through its graveyards

In the lift to the top of the Empire State your ears pop faster than aeroplane ascent. Beneath the city is not real. It is familiar but clearly a forgery. I have been there and there. Last night Isabelle and I stumbled thirty four blocks for cinema and strawberry chocolate parfait
clattering to the temple in wooden shoes
To say a girl-child prayer
The prayer of the whole heart. The one prayer of a life

And now I am cheating, I can see all the way we walked, to fourteenth and East Village
I can see lights in everybody’s window
Thousands of lives caught in my fifteen minutes that slowly reduce in the cauldron of memory and in years will be flavoursome and provoke tears
Tiny taxicabs and human sticks crawling bathed in godlight
This is the religious ceremony of New York
Climbing up and looking down, empathising with angels.
How many suicides tonight?
How many lovers fight?
How many look out of the window in desperation and remember the taste of cherry?

Taking off in the direction of night
(The world is round, like an orange)
At this point I can never stop crying

Old Spanish busker on the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central Terminal
Plays guitar and his voice is the voice of the archangels
Doesn’t look up from his blind spot in the middle distance as dollars land in his tiny briefcase
The sound goes into my heart and into my bones forever and I still remember the tune, and the brokenheart joy, the gratitude is good for a thousand years.

It is good to know New York
You go there once and you know it, it is mapped out and named and famed with glorious transparency

I have been to Canal Street and Lafayette
Everything is a sweet grid reference, familiar and faint with movie nostalgia already

It is good to know it and know what people mean when they say
we ate at the automat in Times Square
The cable car on 2nd Avenue

Yes. I stood there and felt the barely perceptible tremor of endless subway cars and body heat and human earthquake
garbage and aeroplanes
that feels like it might be cosmic vibration from all these souls in sync

New York is really there, it is not a set in a studio or a collective hallucination or a feverdream
And this is the astonishing thing, one expects it to at least hover slightly or shimmer with desert heat like an unreal thing.

And now afterwards it does seem unreal, how can I trust my senses sharpened and muddled with delayed jet lag and put-off sleep, the sun-through-trees blindness and holiness of first America?

Walked the wrong way around the reservoir and the buildings got rapidly smaller
As if this is the lake at the end of the world, into which all our dreams fall and sizzle and glow faintly at night
“This is America” says Jones “This is my idea of America”
And I wonder who comes to New York for squirrels

I think of Sylvia Plath walking and counting the blocks
Their shadows will cover Canada

Our room in the Y
with its bricks and water tower view
its blue dawn view and twenty four hour traffic soundtrack and its television showing Seinfeld and shit in turn.
Isabelle bent backwards comfortable and how beautiful a girl is, a slim girl lying back on one arm to watch television
a dazzling spectacle of beauty. And how this is tangled in my New York memory, Seinfeld and cereal bars and the accidental intimacy of a small shared room, sleep on the top bunk under sheet, blanket and a pink cover that means GIRLS
Hostel-clean daily, cradling my bones with universal love.

2 thoughts on “New York Journal

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