I’m perched beside an open window of a fourth-floor walk-up apartment in New York City’s East Village, trying not to feel like Carrie Bradshaw.
But it doesn’t take long to realise the similarities end at the laptop and fire escape partially obscuring my red brick view of the buildings opposite. There are more sirens and angry cab horns in the distant streets below where I am. (In fact, at this very moment, wailing fire engines are causing me to revisit an unsettling experience on my last US trip where an adjoining apartment block was gutted by a blaze in the early morning hours.) Yep, I’m surrounded by proof that my version of the city is definitely harder and grittier than Ms Bradshaw’s … from the thin film of dust coating the floor and furniture of my rental, to the suitcase spilling over with three months’ worth of clothes and street shoes where a stunningly fitted-out wardrobe and collection of Manolo Blahniks should be.
Manhattan will serve as my home for the next week or so. In the longer-term, I’ll be based in the hip Brooklyn neighbourhood of Williamsburg, but not before a quick detour to London, where I’ll umpire in the AFL exhibition match between the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide in early November.
Why am I here? Ironically, I’ve come to one of the world’s most thriving metropolises to wind down. And to recharge. The energy of this city is intoxicating, and ever since my first visit a few years ago, I’ve yearned to return for a more local experience (though I could have done without being woken up last night by a heated argument in the street during which a gun was shot. Gah!)
Why now? Over the past eight years, between full-time work and football, there hasn’t been time for much else. I’ve had an ever-growing sense that life was passing me by. And so, I’ve taken three months off from my full-time editing job (thanks, bosses!), to soak up one of the most exciting places on the planet.
I will discover things to write about along the way – far beyond the simple pleasures of wholegrain Kashi nuggets and HBO on demand. But for now, the challenge is stopping. And letting it all wash over me.
Let’s start with a spicy local ale and a run over the Williamsburg bridge … not in immediate succession.