Monday, July 6, 2009
I'm sat between my Mum and my teenage sister on the sticky tarmac of 42nd Street trying to ignore the fact that the guy wrapped round the girl in front of me is looking to slide into second base. She returns his kisses (perhaps a little less enthusiastically) but keeps one hand free to pin her skirt to her thighs. Soon she's yanking him to feet and demanding to get closer to the action. Folks round here want to smell the cordite in the air.
The only reason we got close enough to sit on this little island of frotting couples and subtle brown-baggers is through disobeying a direct police order. We'd tried to cross over 11th Avenue, but had been vaguely pointed south by an officer who was busy trading derisive retorts with a mouthy reveller. At 41st we're told that it's rammed all the way to 32nd, though we can all see the empty street ahead.
"Keep moving!" The policewoman barks, wielding a pointed finger and a hefty bosom as though they qualified as riot-gear.
Most people grumble forward as the crowds push and surge behind us. There's nothing so dehumanising as a shuffling queue of bodies. We could be steerage on the Titanic. We could be lining up for bread after the crash. We could be queuing for the fabled 'nice toilets' at Glastonbury.
We decide to double back and sacrifice proximity for space, but when the first policeman turns his back we see the chance to slip through, and we take it. We find ourselves directly opposite one of the firework barges, and spend the rest of the wait congratulating ourselves on our cunning and steadfastly refusing to join the chants started by the alphas in their roof-gardens.
The fireworks, when they come are a half hour of blazing stars and golden trails across the sky. It's probably the most expensive display I've ever seen, but although it's beautiful the crowd's reaction tells me that it wasn't everything they pushed and shoved and planned ahead for. It's the kind of night where you have a longing to be part of something epic - but instead we're all out here in our thousands watching tinsel in the sky. As the guys standing next to me puts it, "I want more... boom." New York is powered by people wanting more boom, people like the people watching the skies tonight, looking for more than Chinese magic tricks. And with citywide unemployment pushing 10%, who couldn't do with just a little more bang for their buck?