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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New York the big Apple

When I planned my US visit this time it was for a very short two weeks and I would be mostly in Cleveland ,go for a five day trip to the Canyons and Vegas arranged by my daughter and her friends .
It was stark winter and both New York and Cleveland was in a spell of snow and extreme cold .
But I still decided to make a flying trip to the Big Apple as to be so near I could not miss it .

So on a late night Greyhound I travelled to new York and reached there in the morning .
As I came out of the bus station onto 8 th avenue  I knew walking along the streets as I planned wasn't going to be that easy in the chilly wind .
the cold got into my bones knawed it and came out leaving me a huddled wreck
I tried to fill up all exposed skin with the clothing's I had like muffler cap hood of my coat and gloves of course and now only my face was exposed partly but that was enough .
My plan was not to stay in New York as I would have to wait to mid afternoon for a check in and the next day check out early instead I thought I would get into a hop on hop off and see the most important sites in Manhattan and leave the rest to the next time
After all this was my first time and something told me I would be back again to this city
certain cities have that dynamism in them and you feel its your kind of place Mumbai was one I always felt so ,KL,Hong Kong strangely Not Singapore ,Paris too .
Manhattan island is lined by skyscrapers and you feel deep down in a gully street ,the roads are all perpendicular to each other and designated as street and Avenues ,it wasn't difficult to trace a path because f this grid design .
I had a 10 minute walk to Big bus place and I was already exhausted trying to beat the chill
and then in front of me as if a genie ordered it there was the office of life line another famous hop on company
I went inside forgetting my loyalty to Big bus ,such cold one is allowed to be unfaithful after all it wasn't to your wife
I found a bargain ticket of Down town  middle town with an Empire state building ticket thrown in and took it for 64 $
Empire state building has always been a child hood fascination to me .
I walked across to the waiting double decker went up to its cellophane covered roof and sat in a chair ,the camera picture through this cellophane would be horrible but the cold made it stay
for once I agreed with my children who always ask me to look not with camera but with my eyes .

Big Apple is a label that New York city carries amongst many , like city that never sleeps Gotham city , etc. .
The famous journalist Fitz Gerald in 1930 heard this as a slang talk by two African American jockeys in a New York race course when they said
"I wud go to the big apple again "
Fitz used this label whenever he mentioned New York in his posts and thus big apple became its acronym
Aptly labelled
For there's that something that makes New York different
Something very palpable
Very alive
The city is like a being
One can feel its beats
We do have such cities with such magic ,
Mumbai our own has it
Hong Kong
Paris !
Many more as I havent been to so many cities yet .

New York never sleeps
Its a seething mass of concreted forests an example of mans ingenuity in building places of stay .
In the thirties New York was in a mad rush to build higher and higher towering iron and steel staccatos that changed the face of the city .

Those spires would dwarf the streets of Manhattan .

It was nicely represented by the Manhattan cocktail I sloshed in a downtown bar the vermouth blending with the rye whisky on loads of ice .

Sitting on a high stool listening to slang around the men the women the waitresses the bustle I  was reminded of all the Hollywood films I had watched .
Now I was part of one !

A character in a live Hollywood set ,
All around me were the very scenes I  had seen
And as I sipped on the bitter cocktail I felt New york was best seen in the bar.

 It was free
It was unobtrusive
A man is left alone to ruminate to himself sipping his drink lost to his thoughts and no one is bothered as long as he keeps to himself
They are polite but non interfering .

And as I people watched them I felt the ethos of New york was you carry on , life carries on and I liked that ethos a lot .

The only thing I wished  wasnt true on this 12 hour run to the big apple was the weather.

That hampered me

It was not cold alone but bitterly so !!

The wind would sneak its way through any gaps and reach my soul licking it with cold fire and the spirit of my looking feeling was all lost in searching for some warmth !


The downtown point covered all the iconic points like the legendary Times square .
This is actually a city junction with neon lighted brilliance happening crowd and a living example of that magical realism of the city
It was like living in the pages of a Salman Rushdie .

The milling crowds were crowding on the pavements
Selfies were taken in hundreds
A bride and groom had come for their photo session
The tall neon tower blinked its preferences
I heard the tower was otherwise empty and earned its keep by being in the costliest space on earth .
The very cradle of capitalism the likeable decadence of consumerism the Times sqaure had it all .
The place was safe despite all this crowd .

The landmark iron horse skyscrapers were dutifully detailed by our guide in the bus the millionaires row
Trump the present American President hails from New York where he raised its fortunes
The Presbyterian st Pauls church loomed near the 9/11 memorial and as I walked into its vast space of memories I felt that the disaster struck on the soul of Americanism the Trade centre itself symbolic of the hatred of fundamental fanaticism the very opposite of the spirit of the city of freedom and goodness.

I went into the church too for a peep and walked on to the famous Brooklyn bridge from where I got a good view of the island .

But it was from the 86 floor of the Empire state building I really got a glimpse of the miracle Manhattan was ,no is , and will be forever .

Getting into the building itself was tedious with long depressing ques and security but was worth the effort .
I skipped the uptown tour and so missed out central park ,several universities ,etc but for a daytime roaming of such a big city I saw parts of Manhattan that justified it to be the big apple .

Maybe I will be back another day to sip my cocktail sitting in a bar high above its concrete towers
The symbol of man and his making

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Cleveland in Ohio state on the side of Lake Erie is one of the three big cities in Ohio the other two being cincinnati and columbus .
I had landed in Chicago after a direct 14 hour flight from Delhi India and was suitably jet lagged ,Ii wasn't brazed for the chill in the air as it was winter .
I did not feel it in the airport or in   the RTA Blue line metro that took me more than 1 hr to Clinton station for my further travel in a Greyhound bus .
But when I wheezed my way up the steep stairs ( strangely no escalator which I hardly expected in USA )and came out of the station and faced the elements the cold hit me as a blast ,I  managed to scurry quickly to the icy pavement and fluffy snow to reach the greyhound station around 300 meters away and managed to get into its warmth .
I traveled in the Greyhound reaching Cleveland by 8pm ,
Cleveland too was covered with snow and its pavements glistened with ice .
My daughters apartment was in downtown and not very far from the Greyhound station another 300 meters ,and i slept like a log with my melatonin all in a mess !
Cleveland was the 51 st largest city in the US with a population of around 400000 founded in 1796 near  the mouth of the Cuyahoga river ,it was known after General Moses cleveland who was the leader of the group of surveyors drafting the city
its also known as the forest city and its residents called Clevelanders .
It started growing after the completion of the Erie canal and thus its connection to the Atlantic
it grew all along till the sixties when there was an exodus of population to the suburbs a general trend in the US
at the advent of 21 st century Cleveland became known in the medical field and health industry and also in Arts
the public square was the major downtown area which included financial district ,theater area called playhouse square ,
Me and my wife plodded through the snow to the public square and went into a memorial of the civil war where I rightly answered the questions of a very conversant and knowledgeable security cum manager who was keen to know how much of American history this Indian knew !!
the Clevelnad clinic was a well known medical center internationally and were running several hospitals in its name in the middle east etc ,other than this there were the university hospital and the Metro health medical center where my daughter was doing her Pediatric residency 
Cleveland is also known for biotech start ups and research
info tech ,industries were all famous in Cleveland
The playhouse area had theaters with Broadway type productions
The most famous museum was the Museum of fine arts ,we would go there the next day in a health line bus ( one of the Bus companies in the city ) and walk through a sludge of snow to reach the museum itself ,we spend a long four hours in its voluminous halls containing art pieces from all over the world ,renowned paintings of the mediaveal periods etc
Later our daughter would pick us up and go to a park in a cemetery ,a huge well kept park with dark foreboding trees ,pinnacles silhouettes of cottages icy roads and not a soul to be seen but tombstones
the stark beauty of the p[lace filled us with delight and we managed to take pictures of a pale peeping sun in the frosty skies as a parting shot to this fairy tale land 
dinner was at an Ethiopian restaurant a homely place with bouncy waitresses and music that played in the background of Ethiopian variety ,we sat in a an alcove nibbling into very Indian Samoaas the only difference being the changed word
Later we would be brought the landmark Ethiopian Injera a type of dosa made of Teff grain powdered into a dough and fermented and baked as thin pancakes eaten with different sauces and a meat curry !
On Christmas day we went to the nearby cathedral enjoying the exhilarating  white day ,
The cathedral was huge with painted windows and glittering altars ,

slowly it filled with well dressed and well behaved polite locals who had come for the special Christmas mass ,we sat through he ceremony lasting more than two hours with a sepulchral organ chiming in the background the baritone of the bishop in his sermon of the day and  the hymns sang with so much devotion that it thrilled our soul
on way back we did see a homeless man huddled in a dirty body bag on the snowy pavement exposed to all the elements the stark reality in the US of A such a rich country with some inequalities on inquiry i came to know that they preferred the street ans elements to a cloistered shelter when taken

Of course I hadn't done justice to the sprawling city this time and hardly visited a very small part of its downtown ,i did not venture into the Lake area or the famed Rock and roll house
Cleveland was part of several entertainment and film ventures and is part of several films too .it had its p[lace in art and literature too
with so many immigrants it had a rich culinary history and variety famed for its Polish and central European contributions and was known for its  corned beef sandwiches
Cleveland is known for tis famous basket ball team the cavaliers

Cleveland marathon was an annual event too

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