Losing is bad enough. Losing everything or having it taken from you is like going to bed in the evening and covering yourself with a comfortable duvet, dreaming of a good night’s sleep, only to wake up in the middle of the night to the harrowing sounds of a tornado that has snatched the four walls from around you and the house from underneath you. You wake up on a pile of rubble watching the remains of your home blown in the wind.
Should you breathe? Should you check if you’re ok? Should you run after what’s been blown up and try to save at least some precious items? Should you even allow yourself to cry? Or should you make a plan to pull it back together? First.
It’s a “real” shitty feeling, as they say back in New York.
The Merchant’s House is one of the few houses built in the 19th century that are still standing in New York City. I was looking for it somewhere towards the end of October eager to experience it and cross it out my 111 places not to miss in New York City list.
The Merchant’s House belonged to a famous merchant and his family. They lived in there all their lives. On the death of the last Treadwell child, the house – whose furnishings had not been changed since the 19th century – was turned in a museum. It is like ethnography of two centuries ago, a time capsule in Downtown Manhattan.
It intrigued me that the house was said to be haunted. It almost made me not want to go in and pull out of the tour even as I was going up the stairs and knocking on the door.
One of the staff opened the door and invited me in. It seemed like I was being invited on a tour of the house of the Adams’ family. I set foot in the house and felt like I was walking down the same fictitious place, waiting for one of the Adams to come at me from behind the door or, better yet, for one of the ghosts said to be roaming the place to do the same thing.
When I got to the ticket office and paid the entrance fee, I thought that I was paying for a trip through hell.
I enjoyed the time spent in the garden, in the kitchen, and in the living room of the house. The scary part was related to experimenting the two adjacent bedrooms on the first floor. Like the rest of the house, these were set up in the style of the 19th and early 20th century retaining their original furniture and furnishings.
Customary of the time was the fact that people who passed away lay in their beds until they were ready to be buried. For this reason, the mortuary scene that had been arranged in one of the bedrooms (and which became apparent only when I turned from the first into the second bedroom), whereby a mannequin represented a dead person and another mannequin the family member who stood by the bed in mourning scared the creeps out of me and immediately pushed me down the stairs.
And out of the house.
The month is December. The year is 2016, not so long ago.
I have finished work for the year and am going to spend the holidays in New York. I am in my room, it feels like it is snowing outside or at least we are all hoping it will be soon. I have plans for the two weeks off, mainly to go kickboxing every day and carry on exploring the city as rapacious as I had been doing since September. I am playing this song repeatedly because it has a cool vibe. And it captures how I to an extent feel.
Music has the ability to take me back in time.
Not because they haven’t been critically acclaimed. Because their storyline is so painful and tragic that I cannot bear to watch it twice.
- Schindler’s List.
- The Last King of Scotland.
- Seven Pounds.
One of the best things about Manhattan is the celestial display that goes on above the city. In combination with the flickering lights of its skyscrapers, it makes for a spectacle every dusk and dawn.
My favourite spectacles were the ones above Midtown, as seen from Long Island every evening as I used to take the boat back to South Williamsburg. My other favourite spectacles were the ones outside our apartment in South Williamsburg. It overlooked the East River and boasted views of Downtown New York that “never got old”.
Seeing the sky change every morning and evening felt like there was some sort of celestial lamp out there and nature had the switch on/off/adjust the light button. Every dawn and dusk the light went on and off. Every time it appeared in different colours, shades and through different cloud formations.
You would think that a city that is known for its skyscrapers and their ability to pierce the sky has little in terms of architectural variety and detail at street level.
Nevertheless, when I started walking down Manhattan (and as I said before), some parts of Brooklyn, I also started noticing small architectural details that give the city extra charm. Some of these are the lamps that adorn the entrances to numerous brownstone houses and apartment buildings – from the Village to the Upper East Side, from Brooklyn across the East River and all the way into Hell’s Kitchen. So colourful, so varied, so architecturally different; so coming from the past and adorning of the present; so charming beyond their functionality. I felt like every little lighthouse was an invitation to a world that had a lot to offer to potential explorers.