Want to feel the pulse of New York? Put your hand on the pavement

Travel Writer: Deirdre Dunne finally made it to the Big Apple, where around every corner lay a surprise

They say if you go to to New York, you’ll see the whole world. They were right.

The city that never sleeps first caught my imagination after a long suffering addiction to the Sex and the City box set throughout my college years where extreme procrastination was an Olympic sport. In the fictional world of Carrie Bradshaw, all she had to do was to write a 150-word newspaper column once a week to enable her to live in uptown Manhattan and spend her days buying Cosmopolitans and Manolo Blahniks. Her grossly unrealistic career and lifestyle was what my heart panged for.

When I finally made it there, the Big Apple stole the wind from my throat. Around every corner there was something new. Flashing lights, briefcases, perfect white teeth, Burberry scarves, skyscrapers that stabbed the sky, hot dogs, basketball tops, maple syrup drenched pancakes, blinding screens, seas of yellow taxis.

You could put your hand to the pavement and feel that the city had a pulse. A moment never seemed to settle, each second was invaded by action and movement and being.


Things that seemed beautifully strange and fantastic seemed to transpire from nowhere. In the Times Square subway station, I was caught up in a Beyoncé flash mob. Walking down Fifth Avenue, I overheard a woman in a Chanel suit berate her maid for not having her husband's suit dry cleaned in time for his meeting in Hong Kong.

On a walking tour of Harlem, our guide informed us outside the brown, period houses on Malcolm X Avenue how the first inhabitants had been Irish. A black man pushing an empty trolley and wearing a multicoloured jester hat stopped in his tracks and burst through the group. He ripped off his hat and roared: “Tell them about the DNA mutation, tell them about the genetic modification, tell them!” He dropped to his knees and fell silent before holding his arms up suggestively to the sky.

Strolling through Central Park, I stumbled upon the Imagine memorial dedicated to the late John Lennon and overlooked by Yoko Ono's apartments. The grey mosaic tiles swirled around the words of his most famous song yearning for the world to live in peace and yet it was just 200 feet away from where he had been shot four times. A band played The Beatles Hey Jude as I said a silent prayer. A woman arrived with an armful of sunflowers and broke down openly. "I'm so sorry, it's just, this has been on my bucket list for, like, forever and here I am. I've prayed for this day to come. Oh John, it's just me and you and you guys and this is the best moment of my life". Her hands trembled as she lay down the sunflowers and spotted the tiles with her tears.

It made me realise that this city has captured the hearts of so many throughout history and forever will for New York is the eyes of humanity.

Entries to The Irish Times Travel Writer competition, in association with Travel Department, are now closed. The winning writer will be announced on October 29th in The Irish Times Magazine. See irishtimes.com/travelwriter