Yesterday night, we did the most touristy thing possible in New York: we walked across Times Square (haven’t posted a picture of it as I can’t fully stand by that decision - yet). To be fair, this came after a full day of strolling around uptown Manhattan, the Upper East Side, Central Park, the Upper West Side (I’m telling you: we traveled)… then finally back towards midtown, the MoMa, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler building… all that good stuff.
Then Times Square. Just because. I mean, I’m not gonna go to New York City after 13 years and skip Times Square. It’s like visiting Paris and not going to the Champs-Elysées (arguably a smart decision, when you know what the Champs-Elysées actually look like, but you kinda have to check it out, just because). Or going to London and not walking by Buckingham Palace (and those sexy guards). Or going to Moscow and not going to the Gulag. You catch my drift.
Funny thing, too, about 2019-era Times Square: in the middle of the giant screens on the corner building that’s always shown in movies was an ad for Xinhua, China’s official news agency. Because China loves a practical joke, and what better way to do that than to have a super flashy video advertising their propaganda arm on the most famous square in Donald Trump’s home town, I ask of you?
OK, since you begged for the picture, here it is. See if you can spot the ad.
Anyway, as we were walking with our heads held high — not because we were proud, but because you have to look up to see the ads — a guy commented: “nice hat”. My hat is a remarkably bland full-on black piece of wool that I got on our second day in town because my ears were freezing. Not exactly a fashion statement. Still I said ‘Thank you’, as one does.
Guy: Are you guys from around here?
Me: No, France!
Guy: Oh… Marseille?
Me: Huh… Paris, actually…
Note: never since I’ve traveled overseas has anyone asked if I was from Marseille rather than Paris once I stated that I was French. Not that Marseille is a second rate city — I actually love the place, its harbour, its accent… — but let’s just say less romantic comedies reference Marseille than they do Paris. Must be the weather.
Guy: Oh, Paris! Cool! Do you like hip hop?
Note: the guy was a tall black dude who looked like he could be a rapper, but you never know because, quite honestly, about half the black men I’ve come across in this town since we got here could be rappers as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know if it’s the swagger, or the clothing style, or the expressions they use, but we was hooked.
Me: Sure I like hip hop!
Guy: Do you know IAM?
Me: You mean, the French rap band?
Me: Of course I do! They’re like gods in France!
Guy: Well, I’ve worked with them on L’Ecole du Micro d’Argent.
Note: L’Ecole du Micro d’Argent is arguably the most important rap album ever produced in France, perhaps after MC Solaar’s Prose Combat. And it’s also my all time favorite: it was released when I was 16 and I listened to it so many times it is one of maybe 2 albums I actually know by heart. Also, IAM happen to be from Marseille…
Me, still in shock: You worked on L’Ecole du Micro d’Argent?!
Guy: Yeah, I’m friends with Akhenaton, Pascal [IAM’s DJ]…
Me: Fuck me! How did that happen?!
Guy: I sang on a track with them on the album.
Turns out the guy we were talking to was none other than Timbo King, leader of Royal Fam, a collective associated with the Wu-Tang Clan. And he was here handing out vouchers to download his new album. Which I did. And it’s awesome.
Only in fucking New York…
PS. In case you’re interested, here’s the video: