Wednesday, 4 January 2012

So good they named it twice

The shiny glam of NYC isn't all this city is about

I have never been a Sex and the City fan, but I can picture the scene; sexy, young fashionistas darting between yellow cabs, Bloomingdales carrier bag in one hand and Starbuck’s chai tea latte in the other. Or girls in sequins dresses stumbling out of cocktail bars into an off-white Lexis and being whisked away through the city while the Empire State building and Statue of Liberty tower over head in a beam of showbiz light.

Those were the images I had attached to New York, but when I travelled there last month I didn’t find the glitzy film set I imagined. The Big Apple, as it turns out, is actually really normal.

I’m not saying my weekend in one of the world’s most infamous cities was bad one – there was no disappointment or let down. New York promises to leave an impression, and for me it certainly did – just not the one I was expecting.

I remember the night I arrived: standing in the middle of Times Square with flashing lights and illuminated billboards standing 50 storeys high on all sides. The whole street was buzzing even though it was two in the morning, with traffic still heaving and shoppers darting from store to store, to Starbucks and back again.

Yet for some reason I didn’t feel the hype you would expect. There were no Gossip Girl cast lookalikes strutting in slow motion down the street and no Jay-Z blaring behind me for background music. I had to constantly remind myself I was actually in New York because I just wasn’t dazzled.

One of the most sobering moments had to be when I was sat in an unusually quiet subway station. While waiting for my train I watched two men that worked there as they brushed the stairways and emptied the trash cans. No shiny black car, no Armanii business suit – but it was real. Real people doing real jobs.

That’s what I came to love about New York. The media has this power to make us believe it’s some shiny Hollywood film set comprised of yellow cabs and Starbucks cups. But in reality, the big ‘NYC’ scene is just like any other. Yes, there is glamour, but that only exists where you look for it. What it gives you for free ollyHDHFOis just a normal city filled with normal lives.

In that way, it’s like New York has a spilt personality – the glamorous culture capital and the slightly more exciting version of reality. I guess that’s why they named it twice.