When I first went to New York, American Express put me up at The Marriott on West Street. After a hard day in the office I would ask my colleagues out for a beer. And sometimes they would oblige... For a beer. One beer. Before departing for New Jersey. Leaving me alone in New York.
The Marriott on West Street is down at the bottom of Manhattan Island, all skyscrapers, bustling with life during the day but dead after work. What to do? On my first trip to New York?
Letting art be my guide, I summoned a yellow taxi and told the cabbie to take me to Bleecker Street. Due to the Simon and Garfunkel song, it was the only uptown street I knew. So he took me - circuitously I found later - up to Greenwich Village.
And so I wandered around. Had some beers in 'coffee shops' where I had to get used to putting dollars on the bar before ordering my drink. Lighting up a Marlboro I thought - hey! - this is living. All my idols - Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, had walked these very streets. All I lacked was my own Suzi Rotolo immortalised on The Freewheeling Bob Dylan:-
Now that image is well known. Less well known is the cover of The Paul Simon Songbook where Paul poses (influenced by Dylan, no doubt) with his then girlfriend Kathy Chitty (of Kathy's Song fame):-
The album cover above is framed and hung in my lounge.
So what does this show? Not much, in the receding view of history. A first time visitor to a great city goes somewhere mentioned in a song. But to me it was real. It was living art. All of my life - then - seemed to be an unwritten novel, a poem - a song, awaiting to be sung.
I suppose life is an ever diminishing version of that little story: The search for the new, the openness of naivety, the finding of oneself, wherever that may be. I suppose we all search for the thrill and expectation I felt during that first taxi ride between West Street and Bleecker Street.
And sometimes we find that feeling. But usually we don't. We all live in between.