It's 1:00 AM on the 30th of November and our group of travellers is standing on the banks of the Hudson just off the Exchange Place station in Jersey City, New Jersey. It's bitterly cold hovering a couple of degrees below zero and standing next to a huge water body is hardly the thing to do. We had a bottle of Corona each in our hands but it isn't doing a very good job of keeping warm at all.
It's the first episode of what will turn out an awesome trip of New York touching upon most of the points that I'd missed out on last time. But that is not the thing on my mind right then. The cliched, seen-to-death NYC Manhattan skyline is all spread out in front of us. Thousands of lit windows glimmer on the bank opposite to us. They might be some lucky people's apartments, some well lit interiors of empty offices or the first glimpse of Christmas decorations being decked out on the buildings. The myriad shapes and lights impart each building a character of its own. From this side of the Hudson, we can't hear the chaos that inhabits Manhattan: sirens of police cars or ambulances, the taxis honking and the buzz of the people who must still be out on the streets of the city. There is a black stone memorial on our side which is adorned by an image of the Manhattan skyline a few minutes before the first plane struck the WTC buildings on 9/11. The WTC towers were giants amongst the giants but the skyline seems to have assimilated their loss pretty well. It continues to remain an inspiring sight and a curiously peaceful sight too, something not to be expected from what is essentially a club of high rises bunched together and hopelessly overcrowded.
When on the streets of Manhattan, the permanently sunless streets and the teeming crowds do put me off once in a while. But distance gives me enough perspective to appreciate the magnitude of "the city that never sleeps". At this hour of the night, when most places in the world would be as good as dead, a million dreams are still running tirelessly and nourishing themselves on the streets of the Big Apple inside the people who sustain them. "Big city, big lights" never has had a more shining example.