To be perfectly frank, I didn’t want to go to New York. Woken up in a large dim lit bedroom I didn’t immediately understand where I was. Having slept for 10 hours, I forgot all about Heathrow and the five hour delay spent in an awful bistro. How many flights run late every week? How many passengers spending between £200 and £1000 for an economy ticket are doomed to the hopelessness of dull cafes, sad bars and horrible restaurants? I am not even talking about the extra costs frustrated low flyers must endure- martinis aren’t free these days. How much trouble would it take to put together a room of airplane seats with 13 inch screens? What the fuck? Really…
An hour later we were having a late breakfast with Max and Grace who got here on time, went clubbing, have had a decent sleep and appeared chipper boarding on hysterical. The Christmas Day seemed perfectly planned: a breakfast and a few drinks with the chaps, lunch and more chit-chat with Vera and back to the guys for a formal dinner. We have all seen New York and could bear leaving highbrow cultural experiences for tomorrow. The 25th was all about food, friends and good time.
Back at the hotel, I was having a fag on the terrace, looking down at Central Park. Just the minute I thought I would never have the New Year festivities like back home, a snowflake fell on my cheek. By the time I finished the cigarette, the air was shimmering white; in half an hour the wind was howling between the tall lean buildings; in three hours we were fighting through the blizzard. The few blocks to the restaurant turned out to be quite challenging. The way back was a daring adventure only Amundsen would appreciate. I finally had what I wanted- a white Christmas just like back home, even whiter. Well, whiter and a touch more intense- the wind has turned snowflakes into splinters of ice. The 300 meters along the Central Park South took some courage. By the time I reached the apartment, I felt pretty much as I looked- dead.
Listening to the wind shaking the thick double-glazed windows, I was watching patios of our neighbours disappearing in snow. “How are we ever going to get to the Meatpacking District?” I wondered. A very polite lady told us we weren’t- my suit jacket could not be delivered because of the storm. Drastic change of plans was clearly in order. It was already sevenish and leaving the building was not an option- the cars outside could barely move in the blizzard. Fifteen of the channels available were reporting live from the streets of New York, another ten were showing American football the rest- Arabic news and infomercials. I have asked the concierge for a DVD player; none was available. In times of dire need the hotel clearly did
not live up to the expectations.
Vera woke me up at dawn; she was having a nightmare, murmuring in her sleep. I was soaking wet, body covered in thick, sticky sweat. Having thrown the blanket aside, I sat down on the bed, looking into the sliver of light between heavy curtains. The wind did not stop but listening to it from the comfort of a solid building wasn’t enjoyable. The massive brick walls felt paper thin- the flat was stone cold. I have hobbled to the living room to find the stairs leading to the terrace covered in snow- apparently the glass door was paper thin. Being wet in a large cold room is unpleasant. I used kitchen utensils to clear the snow and towels to fill the gap. I was very short of breaking a chair to make fire when the low hum announced that the heating kicked in. I have used the last towel to wipe the sweat and threw it onto the pile by the door. The window was shimmering, quicksilver light flooding the room; the light of the Boxing Day.