Flight to the Old World

Saturday, 17 December 2022
Walking the line

Half a day left in New York, some more walking to accomplish, along the High Line, a former elevated rail line now turned into a linear park. Probably best seen in spring, at a guess, when it likely blooms with colour. In the depths of winter, the greenery is sparse, but the views of some of the city’s more architecturally interesting residential blocks make it still worth a visit. Always nice to be reminded of what the future looked like, at different points in the past. Nice views, too, along the length of the streets one is walking over.

The way it was going to be

And not much time for anything else. My taxi driver for the trip to JFK and my flight to London, once a Haitian but now for decades a New Yorker (and, no doubt, still very much a Haitian in this country in which one great-grandparent born in Cork is enough for someone to assert Irishness as a central component of their identity), exchanged snippets of his life story, while I did the same. While discussing how long he had called Gotham home, he glanced at me and confidently asserted that we were about the same age, guessing, it turned out, that I was older than I actually am. That is not a common error, but I was not offended nor he, clearly, embarrassed. “If you are my age,” I said, “then you grew up under the Duvaliers,” wondering what it must have been like to live under their often brutal rule. He had indeed, he responded cheerfully, and reminisced about the glory of Haiti then, “the pearl of the islands,” and decried its subsequent decline. “Now, there are no politicians, only those who would sell their souls for a dollar.” I wondered, but not out loud, whether any of the modern disappointments would have been improved in his eyes if they, like the elder Duvalier, were to declare themselves gods and keep the head of a vanquished opponent in a cupboard.

Leaving Manhattan

Onto British Airways flight 176 to London, where I was ably stewarded by Jacquie, who took in good spirits my gentle ribbing of her deeply ingrained habit of starting every interaction with an apology, usually for interrupting whatever I was doing, which was always nothing at all. We agreed that it was a profoundly English thing to do, and by an hour into the flight we were both giggling when she caught herself apologising and, inevitably, apologised for doing so. I promised thereafter to be the best behaved passenger on the plane, which I may have managed, as I promptly fell deeply asleep for the remainder of the flight.


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