The next morning we got up with purpose. There was still so much to see, with so little time. We headed towards Central Park via a few of the city’s famous shopping hot-spots. Most interestingly, Abercrombie and Fitch looked kind of like a cleaner version of a poorly-lit house party. And there were less beer bellies.
I loved Central Park. It was such an amazing space right in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the world. There were amusements, things to see (I was particularly fond of the Alice in Wonderland statue) and even, if you went deep enough into the park, places you could grab some peace and quiet. Though my search for Friends’ Central Perk coffee house was unsuccessful, Ilana and I had a beautiful day in the sun chatting and watching a man blow huge bubbles with a bit of rope. I put it down to black magic. No one can blow bubbles with rope. Then we even spent a good 45 minutes watching the social dynamics of ducks. There was a group of maybe 5 or 6, and one that had been ostracised by the clan. We felt sorry for it, since it seemed to be pretty inoffensive, and though we were not allowed by park rules, we tossed it some bread anyway. Our pity was about to be deepened. The duck happened to be missing a small piece from the top of its bill; a huge duck under-bite, if you will. The upshot was that every time the duck went to snap up a delicious piece of bread, the lower part of the duck’s bill would push the bread away before the top could get any purchase. This duck would spend minutes just dribbling balls of bread with its face while its stumpy bill snapped away, until eventually, the bread fell into a crack in the rock or another less disabled duck stole it.
Ilana’s time was nearly up, but the Empire State building was more or less on the way to the bus stop. What with the peach and the giant monkey, the old gal was in pretty good nick.
It had been a fun 5 days, but it was time to see Ilana off. The blow was softened by a visit to Times Square with Jess, Sarah and Tom. It was night time and yet it felt brighter than the day did. I am not jealous of whoever is footing that electricity bill. People were everywhere, and it was only a standard weekday evening. It was a mad-house of gargantuan moving adverts, yellow cabs and themed costumes; and it was all backed by the symphony of New York hustle and bustle. Something Ilana had said earlier came back into my mind’s eye: that New York felt like the centre of the universe. I hadn’t been fully sold on the idea, maybe I hadn’t wanted to be, but here, in Times Square, it was undeniable.
Having got a load of great photos of all of this, I lost camera in frantic rush for the bus. I asked the station janitor to help me find it. All I got was a whole load of stink-eye and a “this is New York, buddy”. My camera had evaporated forever, crushed into New York wonder-dust.