Saturday 17 September
After a well-deserved sleep in (well-deserved really for Sylvia as she has been in meetings and on calls from early to late all week) we headed downtown on the subway. Emerging at the World Trade Centre I was stunned by the changes here. The last time I was here in early 2002 the rubble had just been cleared from the towers and there was a big hole in the ground in which one could see the trains running through. Apart from the towers many other buildings had gone and some were being pulled down. The skyline is totally different in downtown. These days apart from the main tower there are many new buildings nearly as tall as it. The sites where the two towers were have been turned in to memorial waterfall pools with the names of all the victims around the edge.
The new tower at over a thousand feet high is an attractive nicely shaped building. It is surrounded by many new tall buildings one of which is pretty unusual.
We had a look at the Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street and the bull which was too surrounded by people to photograph before strolling uptown to Spring St. About three years ago out of the blue I got a thank you email from Toby, who had started karate with us in Auckland at the age of fifteen. He trained hard and was always very determined. Several years later he attained his black belt then set out on an adventure to New York. We had agreed to meet up for lunch while in NYC. To see him again after fifteen plus years and listen to his story was to say the least overwhelming.
On coming over one of the bridges into NY back on his first visit Toby decided this was the city for him. Initially he worked as a bicycle courier (an adventure in itself I am sure). Having always had a desire to get into TV production as his father was, he eventually got some work in a TV production studio. Eventually, in 2004, he and a friend, Stefan, went out on their own and started a production company called Eastern TV. THey have production studios in NY, Atlanta and LA and are best known for their show “Love and Hip Hop. At one stage they made a documentary for the history channel, “Cocaine – A history between the lines”, which involved talking to every one from the users to the drug barons and even involved an excursion into the Colombian jungle. Their business has become very successful, now employing some four hundred people. He is now married with a young daughter and has a house in Brooklyn.
After lunch we strolled to Union Square then took the subway back to the hotel. In the evening we visited Constantine and Petra, a lovely couple we had met in Botswana early last year. We ate dinner on the terrace surrounding their Upper Eastside Lexington Ave Penthouse.
Then it was off to the Cherry Lane Theatre, a 225 seat Greenwich Village play house. The ‘Roads To Home’ wasn’t exactly an enthralling play so we bailed at half time. As we were leaving the theatre Sylvia received an alert from her work that there had been a bombing in West 23rd St, about 20 blocks north of us – that probably explained the traffic congestion. We enjoyed the rest of the evening (actually a little bit into the morning) chatting and drinking champagne back at the penthouse.
Sunday 18 September
We headed back to the World Trade Centre, this time for a trip to the top of the new tower. In the old tower, which I went up several times, you got in a huge lift which swayed its way to the top, then got out wandered around and looked at the stunning views. It has now become quite an experience. The lift walls are a 360 degree video screen playing scenes of the history of NYC and the tower as you go up and panoramic views as you go down.
As we left the lift another video played, then the screen lifted to expose the view. Then we were herded through to another gallery where there was a sales pitch on an iPad one could hire to tell you all about what you are seeing from the observation deck. Then we finally got to stroll around and look at the views. The sky was quite hazy so it didn’t make for good photos.
We took the train up to Union Square then strolled uptown. I was intending to show Sylvia where I used to train at karate in NY but 23rd street was closed off at 5th Avenue. Dozens of cameras faced down the empty street, journalists pumped their microphones in front of the cameras no doubt driving maximum sensation from this tragic, evolving story. A woman pestered to no avail a policeman to get in and retrieve her car.
We continued our stroll uptown cutting across to 7th Ave and arriving at Time Square, which as usual was packed as buskers, including the “naked cowboy”, tried hard to extract money from people. Police presence was high with body armour and submachine guns on show.
As we got closer to the hotel there were even more police, I presume as dignitaries were starting to arrive for a big UN meeting.
All too soon the weekend was over and Sylvia was on her way to another meeting in Brussels. Tomorrow I head back to Rio to do some work down there.