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Oct 05

Those cheap shoes are tickin’, I’m callin’ the po-lice!

Perhaps it’s the temperate weather on this visit, as opposed to the biting winter coldness, but I’ve enjoyed New York a little more on each subsequent visit. It hasn’t visibly changed much since I came here almost five years ago. Lots of WiFi hotspots and other superficial modifications, but apart from that it’s pretty much the same city.

Of course, except for the WTC. The WTC site is a gaping hole in the city, demarcated by a chain link fence with boards commemorating September 11 dotted around the site. Constructions on a new subway station are underway, but the building of an appropriate memorial site and skyscraper is proving to be much more controversial. The site is nothing much to look at, but it’s still worth a visit.

Yesterday a terrorism alert hit the media about a possible attack on the New York subway system. We went into a bank to change some traveller’s cheques and it was disconcerting to see on CNN terrorism reports pertaining to the city we were currently in, although I imagine New Yorkers are getting increasingly used to it. In response to the terrorism alert, the subways were swarming with cops (I had my bag randomly searched once) but with 4.5 million depending on the subs daily, the terror alerts weren’t deterring anyone from using them – least of all backpackers with no other means of transport. Meanwhile there was one guy selling newspapers outside a station who appeared to be getting quite frustrated by the lack of sales. At one point he was crying out, “Terrorism alert! Read all about it! … Hey, those cheap shoes are tickin’. I’m callin’ the po-lice!”

U2 is in town playing at the Madison Square Garden. We queued up for about three hours yesterday waiting for cancellation tickets. In the line we had the somewhat painful experience of listening to a local man who was some leftover remnant of the hippie era. His ramblings covered things like the time he smoked pot on the Great Wall, how everyone in the world is ignorant or stupid, how no one talks about “important” issues in the world anymore (including moving towards a four day work week), and most disturbingly, how Australia should cut down its Asian migrant intake to avoid dilution of its “culture”. It was a relief when we got to the ticket booth and parted company. Unfortunately, we found out that the only tickets left were US$170 ones and left empty handed.