I went to New York this summer to check out the Fringe Theatre Festival. It was haphazard, haywire, messy, fun, funky and very friendly. A reflection of the city itself. The direct, in ‘your’ face, friendliness of the New Yorkers took me by surprise. I began to realise how Danish I had become.
Swept off my feet
A guy sweeping the street on 6th Avenue stared at me aggressively and then suddenly smiled and drawled: “Hi there, how you doin’ today?” I was shocked and I must have looked disapproving. And when a shop assistant said: “Can I help you with anything, or are you just having fun browsing?”, I was speechless.
In the supermarket, there were a whole bunch of workers stacking produce and the chat was an endless stream of loud comments and jokes, involving anyone who passed by. I ducked past quickly. At the coffee shop, they asked my name and shouted it out when my coffee was ready. Not unusual maybe, but it is when accompanied by “Hey! Beautiful name” – and they remembered it the next time.
Safe in the saddle
I cycled around the city. It sounds crazy, but there are cycle paths (okay, with trucks parked in them) and a grid system that makes navigation easy. One night I was cycling downtown in heavy traffic and a woman waved her arms crazily and shouted: “Hey darlin’! You’re a brave lady!” We both laughed.
In Greenwich Village, I cycled the wrong way down a street. A big 4×4 drove towards me. The driver stopped and lowered his window. I thought he would tell me off, as a driver would in Copenhagen, but he said: “This is a terrific neighborhood! I just love the houses.”
Everyone’s got a story
I heard about a commuter boat to Rockaway Beach. I hopped on it to escape the heat of the city. It was a terrific ride, taking in the Statue of Liberty and Coney Island, but best of all, the passengers had a party. There were no tourists on this trip, just New Yorkers taking time off and commuters heading home. They played music, some danced, and a gay couple out of the blue bought me a glass of wine and said: “Welcome to New York.”
Everyone wanted to give me information about where to go when we arrived. I went on free walking tours of the city. The tour leaders were quirky locals who wanted to tell their personal stories about the city. I learned nothing of any value, but it was hilarious.
No longer a weirdo
Two weeks of this and I began to loosen up. I had forgotten that you can talk to strangers without feeling like a weirdo. I started to say hi to people on the street. I smiled at the street cleaners. I joked with the shop assistants. I solved world problems with bartenders. And I became determined to return to Denmark and release my New Yorker inner-self in the streets and cafes of Copenhagen.
What happened? Well – I‘ve run out of space in this week’s column so I’ll have to let you know. Wish me luck!