Midtown.. What can I say? If you work here, it’s great, you’re among friends; if you’re a tourist… go to the Village.
Still, a few things to see, do, eat, hear.. in places scattered among neighborhoods that are too busy to look around and remember where they are.
Times Square.. Cannot miss it, the kingdom of ads, the swamp for tourists, with nothing to offer but beautiful colorama selling absolutely everything. It is not a coincidence though that this world-wide known US attraction spot is based on nothing but advertising mega screens. On TV, in America, sometimes you can only see ads. With mellow warm voices, speaking utterly weird texts, beckoning citizens to go on and keep buying, because they need it, because they’re worth it, because it’s cheaper, and sales happen everyday, and minus 20% is just part of normality. Something to become crazy with. And to support without hesitation the anti-ads graffiti heroes in Europe. Somebody maybe has to explain to people that what happens here is just too much?
One place to remember in Times square, a music club, offering memories of some of the finest old music: pearls from the 60s and the 70s, offered with good whiskey at the BB King bar. Not everyday but check their calendar. Then hide there and forget outside.
A few symbols, from the great boom of the 20th century, and the most beautiful skyscrapers for me: Chrysler and Empire State. Huge and still neat, with a beauty almost fragile, subtle details carved in concrete, they offer at night a dreamy view over Manhattan.
Gramercy: some will say, the best area of town. A small piece of refinement and bourgeoisie in the hustle of midtown, it has a nice park and a few gorgeous houses. For a little, your jet lag misleads you and you feel dizzy, suddenly, in a London street.
But no, you’re on East 20th street and you can hear the crazy double traffic of Park Avenue and the police car sirens, that always make me think of Eastern Europe in the 1990s.
In the East, the United Nations proudly stand on the East River, a still and neat perpendicular building almost serene and oblivious of the nasty battles burning inside since its creation. It is surrounded, in discretion, by a myriad of secondary offices, diplomatic missions, reserved parking spaces, national centres and so on.. making the neighborhood even more international-like than New York itself.
The area around is slightly underwhelming – with dense mid-rises, a substantial amount of Irish pubs, and of course nail bars. Only the names are appealing – Turtle Bay, Kips Bay.. But nothing exotic there if it is not for the relative lack of tourists, thus making it maybe a true old-style Manhattan area.
Up Turtle Bay and Sutton, a few streets that confirm my impression of being in Ankh Morpork – the guilds streets. The Designers street (58th), the Decorators street (59th).. extending to the west with the Garment district..
Also, worth mentioning are the 24h spas of Koreatown (or Korea street?) – a true symbol of the city that never sleeps, you can get a spa treatment at 4am if you’re not sleeping either.
Maybe the best thing happening to Midtown are actually the food trucks: gourmet warriors invading daily the office-ripe blocks to feed wary 9 to 5 crusaders with vegan and exotic burgers and soups. Probably the only excuse to go in this area, after all.
Don’t get me wrong, there are very nice blocks, streets, places.. But many will concede that any bar in Williamsburg is better than the best in Midtown. Sorry, Manhattan…