Good Morning!

Narrow corridor with ceilingless rooms (vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com)Narrow corridor with ceilingless rooms (vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com)
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In the subway car I was alone with about five young black men. They were busy chatting with each other and I was fascinated by how little I was able to understand them. But I was completely taken by another fact, that is that the youngsters spoke so melodiously and rhythmically — the voices, accent... that the conversation of theirs sounded just like a rap song!

As the stops went by, I realized I had a rather long way to go. And this despite the fact that some evening trains, like this one, only call at the main stops and skip the others. That's why I was surprised when we unexpectedly arrived at station "Broadway". So quickly in Manhattan? I quickly studied the little map in my travel guide, but I couldn't find any of the nearby stops there! Finally the map in the carriage helped me out: I was at another Broadway, still very far away, in the borough of Queens.

Manhattan at last. Everything there seemed so strangely familiar to me: traffic lights, steam rising from the manholes, police sirens and the pompous fire engines. I realized it was a side effect of the ubiquitous American movies.

Broadway, despite its name, is a narrow street and, despite its fame, dark and rather devoid of life. That was my first impression, anyway.

(Broadway is long and has an awful lot of segments, each of which has a life of its own. It was incomparably more cheerful there during the day. Lots of restaurants and bars, drugstores, brand shops, small boutiques and newsagents. Vendors of pretzels and fried meat on the street. The smell of food, but also smoke from the coal they burn — that reminded me of my travels in China.)

It was very late when I finally made my way to Bowery's Whitehouse Hotel. I booked it online still from home. This first night I decided to sleep not in a dormitory but in a private room, because I knew that would need to rest properly after a long journey. But when I saw my "room", I smiled sadly at my own naïvety.

I was in a large hall divided by wooden partitions into cubicles that could not fit more than a bed and a narrow, home-made cabinet. The cubicles did not have their own ceilings, only a view of the common ceiling of the hall. One could hear muffled words, turning of bodies and creaking springs of dozens of beds. White fluorescent lights high on the actual ceiling shone frigidly and intrusively on all the sleepers the whole night. Obviously there was no window in that dungeon, either. The owner asked me whether I was taking the room. I felt shattered. At that hour and dead tired, I was not in a position to choose. So I paid.

I was starving, so I still had to pop out to find something to eat. However, the streets were dark and deserted. So much for "The City That Never Sleeps", I thought. In the end I had to settle for some dreary branch of McDonald's. But what, this is USA!

When I dragged myself back to the hotel, it was 2 after midnight. Back at home it was already 8 am, so I went without sleep (except for a few moments of slumber on the plane) for 48 hours straight. At the reception I learned that I absolutely had to leave the establishment before 11 am. I remarked that I was terribly tired and didn't have my watch with me, so I hoped I wouldn't sleep through the checkout. But the receptionist told me not to worry, I will surely be woken up by the noise of other people getting up.

Despite the exhaustion, I was waking up often. Someone nearby was coughing incessantly. I was imagining a man dying in a pool of blood from tuberculosis, which he could not afford to treat. It sounded so terrible that I believe I was not far from the truth.

After some time, despite the unpleasant surroundings, I fell into a deep sleep. 

...

When I suddenly woke up, there was profound, suspicious silence all around. I thought with horror that it must be lunchtime already and I overslept the departure deadline. The sounds around me that disturbed me so much before were probably from getting up in the morning. Even the tuber apparently wasn't there anymore (or died in the meantime)!

I knew that if I didn't check out in time, my credit card would automatically be charged for the next night. Although if the going gets tough, I can still argue that I didn't sign and that it happened without my knowledge. But that was already going through my head in the shower.

I sprinted downstairs to the lobby. I looked out through the glass entrance... darkness! A glance at the hand clock on the wall above the reception desk — quarter to seven! Hell, I did not sleep until the lunchtime, but until the next evening, almost the entire seventeen hours!

At the front desk I apologized like a madman, explaining that I flew in from Europe late at night and fell asleep so deeply... would it please be possible to overlook the rules for this one time so that I don't have to pay an extra day? The receptionist looked a little taken aback, but then he assured me that it's OK, everything is fine. I felt terribly grateful to him and then I ran out into the night, heavy backpack bouncing on my back.

I felt bad about the long sleep especially because I wanted to meet Iva, who by pure chance was there at an international student film festival at the same time. I wanted to surprise her right away in the morning at her hotel, but I missed the moment by half a day.

My next destination was the Jazz on the Park hostel on the west side of Central Park. I needed to check in there for the following night, and drop my luggage. I took the subway for a while, but higher up on Broadway, close to the beginning of Central Park, I got on the surface, having decided to find the pond with the ducks that baffled Holden Caulfield.

The giant shiny walls of the skyscrapers still reflected some sunlight. Initially I found that a bit odd, because when I ran out of Bowery's, it was completely dark. But the hotel was apparently on the eastern, darker side, whereas now I had a view to the west. The last rays of the sun setting among the proud skyscrapers... I muttered under my breath. I felt a pang of pain again at the thought that I stupidly wasted a whole day in New York like this.

Based on the position of the sunset I figured where the north was, so I set off without hesitation. However, even after a quarter of an hour of very fast walking, I still couldn't see the park! After a long examination of my map I had to admit that I was walking... well, it couldn't be otherwise, I was walking to the south. Hmm, but that would mean that the sunset — is in the east?!

In that confusing moment on the pavement, some kind of homeless guy ambled past me. These people always greet me, for some reason. But this one said something rather remarkable, and that was: "Good morning!"

Good morning?!

It started to dawn in my head at last and suddenly I was seized with overwhelming joy. Over the fact that I didn't miss a day, over my own biological clock playing a prank on me. Despite two days without sleep, I woke up after less than five hours! That clock at the reception at Bowery's was showing a quarter to seven, but in the morning!

It's fun not to carry a watch sometimes. But it's also good to know that I'm utterly lost without it!

...

I turned around and after a while I finally reached Central Park. I was surprised at how huge it was. I found a few ponds, but no ducks, so to this day I still don't know which one Salinger wrote about in The Catcher in the Rye. I wandered about the winding paths for a while, but then I switched to a long straight sidewalk, so as to get to the hostel as soon as possible with my bag. By the slowly diminishing street numbers, I could tell that I still had over 30 blocks to go, and that's a few kilometers!

It was a beautiful morning. I was meeting dozens of runners, homeless people waking up on benches, sleepy people with dogs and professional dog walkers with a dozen pooches on each hand. Little gray squirrels stared at me curiously from the trees, meadows and rocks in the park. The character of the city was changing dramatically. Only large buildings and hotels. Also the Dakota residence where John Lennon lived before Chapman shot him dead in front of the entrance one day.

I grinned at the thought of how fresh and vigorous I was when I ran out of Bowery's, convinced that I had slept seventeen hours. Now that I knew the truth, I suddenly felt tired!


George, one of the Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome), experienced something very similar, when his watch stopped working and he panicked, in the middle of the night, in fear that he was late for work: How George, once upon a time, got up early in the morning.

Tomáš Fülöpp
340 Bowery, Manhattan, USA
October 25, 2003, October 31, 2022, April 11, 2023, April 12, 2023, April 13, 2023, April 16, 2023
Tomáš Fülöpp (2012)

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LanguageENGLISH  SLOVAKInternal linkLink pointing back to this entry Content typeARTICLELast updateFEBRUARY 26, 2024 AT 08:16:57 UTC