Today the iconic men at lunch photograph turns 80. A staged shot of Italian and Irish immigrants eating lunch on top of the Rockefeller centre construction site; it’s a picture that prompts me to reflect on my own New York trip and it’s a reminder to look up from everyday life and notice the view I once inhaled on St. Patrick’s Day over five years ago.
It’s a view I shared while holding the hand of my new husband. Beneath us lay a city that spoke around 800 languages. I felt like I was standing on the axis of mankind. I had reservations about traveling to America; George Bush was still president and his administration frequently unnerved me. I held incorrect assumptions about Americans but the trip changed me. It helped to shape the perspective I have about my own country.
Bordering the beauty of Central Park under snow and Pollock, de Kooning and Warhol – there was occasional darkness. We were stuck in a Greenwich Village lock-down the night two Auxiliary policemen were gunned down – volunteer police officers who aren’t permitted to carry guns. When we asked a paid officer what happened, he told us matter-of-fact “One guy got shot, another guy got murdered”. We went back to our apartment and I pretended the galloping policeman on horseback – resplendent with handlebar moustache and a cigar dangling out the side of his mouth was just a fairytale.
This year a documentary about the men at lunch photo premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Due for American release in November, there’s no word yet on an Australian release but I dare you to watch it and contain your excitement.
Have you been to New York? Did it change you?