New York City
Monday 12th September
Had to get up at 4am to go to the Airport. Tiredness is a hot potato for me, I always wake up with a very busy mind and chaotic thinking. I need to address that very quickly before a negative thought can take a hold and often spoil a day or morning at least. Meditation is something I’ve been practising for a little while now and that’s how I like to start my day. A quick coffee and a smoke followed by 10 mins sitting quietly and focusing on breath helps to ground me in the present moment where all is well and I’m not projecting into some future time and place. So even though I felt very tired I recognise the fact that I still need to do this, it’s vital. With a quiet mind and a bounce in my stride I’m outside ready for the taxi. A very short flight from Newcastle to Heathrow was followed by a relaxing 7 hours across the Atlantic into JFK. Most of the way there the lass sitting next to me was fidgeting, swapping TV Channels and skimming through magazines, I just felt chilled right out reading my latest Stephen King book and it got me thinking how the old me was so restless without a drink in me. I always had to be on the move, couldn’t sit down and everything revolved around topping up the alcohol in my system so I could just feel normal. Things have changed – Me! I’m ok with all that today.
We took a taxi to the Hotel and its stunning! On 75th & Broadway. Turns out there’s a meeting of “Mutual Friends” just around the corner so I decided to touch base and check in. Got chatting with an Irish lad who has been out here 16 years, again another change in me is my relationship to people, always hated them in my drinking days but today I can see them for what they are. All of us have some good and some bad, most people are mostly good and everybody is just doing the best they can with what they’ve got. It’s incredible to be able to just sit with strangers and have an honest open chat, I always had to be half cut before I would talk to those outside my close circle and even then it was just BS. A great day ended with lamb chops, mashed potato & asparagus.
Tuesday 13th September
I was up before the break of dawn and got the subway to the 96th Street 6am gathering of “Mutual Friends”. It was great to see Eoin again, we’ve kept in touch and he knew I was coming over. I went for breakfast in a Diner corner of 76th Street, had steak and eggs. The Americans have a big appetite for meat and it tastes far superior to what we get back home, it was delicious. I decided to go for a short walk and take in the sights and sounds. I love this City it has a real feel to it, I could walk for miles and never get bored or distant. We were to go on the open top bus tour but cancelled the idea, it may be the City that never sleeps but I felt exhausted all of a sudden so choose a siesta.
Woke up feeling a lot more refreshed and had a short meditation before we got a taxi down to Time Square (I was right in the moment, as the taxi driver swerved through rush hour traffic, using the horn more than the brakes) and went to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre to see the Carole King (She was a song writer that wrote a load of hits for others before becoming a successful singer in her own right) Musical. It was an outstanding venue and a brilliant show. It became apparent to me then that my mind is always relaxed and peaceful when it is intensely focused (Awake) on something creative, regardless of whatever that is and I really enjoyed the experience. We went to the Bar opposite after and I got a very strong sense that I had been there before, I’m sure I was in there the year after 9/11 but couldn’t say for definite as we spent the whole of that week drunk. I enjoyed a few ice cold diet cokes before ordering a shrimp kebab. Another excellent day.
Wednesday 14th September
Had a couple of extra hours in bed to catch up and woke to an email from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust saying that my report “A fresh approach to homelessness, lessons from the United States” was now live on line on their website. I felt proper chuffed. http://www.wcmt.org.uk/users/johncassap2015
Then we took the Subway Downtown to Battery Park, on the train I could feel pockets of anxiety attacking me from all angles for no reason, they were just there and I was totally aware of them. I focused on the noise of the train and feeling my chest rise and fall as I was breathing in and out. As always, the moment I become aware of the present moment, the here and now, then the fear begins to fade and I soon felt fantastic again. We took a cruise over to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. It was incredible to be there. It’s so much bigger close up and the weather was hot and sunny. Took some good photos and managed to stay present and take the whole thing in, spent the whole time going at a leisurely pace – no worries no problems. Afterward we got caught in a torrential downpour of rain so we jumped into an Irish Bar called the ‘Blarney Stone’ just off Wall Street. I had a couple of Coke a Cola’s before making a meeting in 12th Street. Met up again in a bar next to the hotel for an hour. Another glorious day, it’s great to be alive, amazing to be “awake” and something else to be Sober and able to enjoy the experience.
When a person drowns himself in negative thinking he is committing an unspeakable crime against himself – Maxwell Malz.