Remembering the Big Apple

I’ve only been to New York City once, and it was brief.

In August 2010 I landed in LaGuardia airport in New York, needing to find Grand Central Station in order to catch a train to Connecticut — where my cousin was getting married.

As the plane descended, the captain announced that it was 29°C on the ground and the humidity was maxed-out. It was 9:30 a.m.

As the reigning champion of the Nares Lake Who-can-stay-in-the-glacial-water-the-longest Derby, my cold weather credentials are beyond reproach, but I wilt in the heat.

I wandered through the terminal with that stereotypical first-time-in-NYC mixture of awe and anxiety; it was written all over my face. By the time I navigated customs and hailed a cab, my t-shirt was drenched with perspiration and my man-tits were visible to anyone who cared to look.

Like the Las Vegas strip, television and movies cannot prepare you for the reality of your first trip to New York’s Grand Central. The awesome majesty of the huge arched ceilings stand in contrast to the explosion of humanity on the station floor. There were thousands of people representing every age and hue. And they all crisscrossed each other with precise gaits and obvious destinations.

I just stood there and sweated.

After getting my bearings and a Gatorade, I located a booth that sold tickets; my train was leaving in minutes. I forsook any façade of poise and stumbled pell-mell through the assembled throngs.

I made it to the platform and walked the length of the train looking for a compartment that wasn’t jammed with presumably curt New Yorkers. The luggage I was carrying included an old duffel bag and huge banana crate filled with papermaking material; the whole outfit was very cumbersome.

Train car after train car was packed and I dreaded the inevitable awkwardness of trying to organize and store my belongings in these sardine-like conditions.

But luck can change in a New York minute (whatever that is) and as I neared the end of the train one compartment was almost empty. Incredulous of my good fortune I rushed in and flopped on a seat, somehow managing to feel simultaneously victorious and utterly defeated.

The reason for all the elbowroom? My chosen train car had a busted air conditioner.

By the time my cheerful aunt Janice picked me up an hour later I was less a man than a bog. Mosquitoes were spawning larvae on me.

Bellyaching about the weather is a nearly universal form of human communication, and Yukoners — myself include — indulge in the practice with gusto. But whenever I feel particularly persecuted by a stiff winter’s wind I try to remember that moist day in August.

For this Anglo-Saxon ginger the choice between 30°C in New York City and -30°C in Whitehorse ain’t no choice at all.

Peter Jickling is a Whitehorse playwright and the assistant editor of What’s Up Yukon

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