The heart of the world
The 24 Hours of Le Mans lives on its night. New York, the city that never sleeps, lives for its night. A
Blame it on the song, its famous verse. The line about the city that never sleeps. I was simply humming away while brainstorming about the 24 Hours of Le Mans when the melody and the words—“I wanna wake up …”—popped into my head. New York is just fast-paced enough and loud enough to serve as an urban parallel to the classic of the motor-racing world. Especially Manhattan, that sky-scrapered sliver of land that is forever re-creating itself with a preternatural energy. A
“Manhattan sometimes seems like a giant ship with its engines running 24 hours a day,” says city reporter Ulrike von Bülow. The
This hyper-caffeinated version of everyday life can give the 24-hour classic of Le Mans a run for its money at any intersection. You encounter revved-up emotions, compressed dramas, a flood of flickering images and top-speed impressions. A drive along Central Park recalls the Mulsanne straight, while the hard curves around Grand Central Station provide an equivalent to the Dunlop chicane (at reduced speed, of course), and a Sunday drive might take one out to Coney Island, where there’s a Ferris wheel resembling the one at Le Mans. But we stay in Manhattan, a carnival in itself. Night owls can be found in droves at Times Square as well, amidst a remarkable display of visual advertising pyrotechnics. In the late and early morning hours, the
We start to feel the city’s dopamine factor, an experience that takes in all the senses. Our hybrid Gran
The people here are especially proud of their acceleration skills. It makes them harder, ambitious almost to the point of mercilessness with themselves. There is one ironclad traffic rule: They may see the other cars, but they’re looking out for themselves. That’s more or less how right-of-way is determined on the avenues of NYC. Finding oneself suddenly surrounded by six medallion taxicabs, painted iconic canary yellow, is to suffer urban yellow fever. But here again, traffic becomes a metaphor. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. You can never lose sight of the opportunities, albeit merely a sudden, well-executed turn. Just made it; our guest in the rear seat gives a thumbs-up. After all, “blocking the box,” as the traffic code calls standing in an intersection when the light turns red, can earn you a $150 fine.
Kirk, the NYC native behind the wheel of the
The major north–south avenues each have their own urban personalities: Seventh belongs to fashion, Park to money, new and old, Fifth to high-end retail and then to posh apartments, Madison to advertising, and Sixth (only first-time tourists call it Avenue of the Americas) to media conglomerate headquarters. All of them share worn asphalt so bumpy and pot-holed that it is in effect a world-class test track for proving why the
The race doesn’t let up in Manhattan when night falls, as darkness accentuates the electric energy of advertising signs, and the pace never slackens: a dinner, club, theater, or party to rush to. Times Square, with its extraordinary lighting that is easy to spot from outer space, is the recipient of an extra bit of brightness from the
But it’s not always easy when a man in a G-string and a cowboy hat crosses the street before your eyes, or you spot a lady whose hairdo wouldn’t look out of place on Lady Gaga. Who knows, maybe it is Lady Gaga. All the other ladies on the street are wearing elegant dresses, albeit with well-worn sneakers. The style is known as street-smart—an intelligent way of mastering the difficulties entailed in walking on buckled pavement. The killer heels for the office or the dance floor, depending on the hour, are stowed in the gym bag. Our mobile box-seat has its advantages. Kick back into the sports seat for a breather before turning back to the exterior world known as New York City with full concentration.
Because the city, unlike Le Mans, has no laurel wreath to bestow upon its drivers, we make a pit stop at a flower shop in SoHo. Open 24 hours, how practical. The lights around the
At five in the morning, even the neon sign across the street warms the heart, promising as it does hot coffee. The puddles in front of the street vendor’s cart turn yellow, pink, and blue in succession. The
We’re no longer in search of light, but we’re still on the trail of the city’s code, the tactics of the night. Night owls and early birds alike are united by the rousing feeling that the city is at their feet, and there just for their pleasure. To possess the heart of the world: it’s a seductive idea. The occupation is an emotionally charged one. “It’s the energy that always draws me to the city,” confides Kirk. As he brushes aside a shoe on the curb while getting into the car, he says simply, “Must have been an interesting night.”
Generating excitement is the common denominator between
By Elmar Brümmer
Photos by Steffen Jahn
The night is young
Three New Yorkers from the ranks of
What makes the nightlife in New York so special?
In a word: magnificent. Glitzier and greater than anywhere else. That’s when you really feel that we’re in the capital of the world.
Any tips for Midtown?
I could give you about a hundred and still not be finished. But my favorite spot is a few blocks from our store. There’s a place called Lavo on 58th Street. There you can get everything that makes a New York night so lively in one place: good food, good drinks, good entertainment. And there’s a nightclub below it. Little insider tip: the desserts—the owners are from Italy.
How should a New York night end?
It always ends on a positive note. Because you know that the next day will be a glorious one as well. The city’s good vibrations are like a promise.
Can you describe New York nightlife in a single word as well?
Of course. But I’ll put it in capital letters: F-U-N!
And where is the best place to experience this fun?
I like to go to the hotels, which have—more or less—become the secret nightspots. The nightclub Le Bain, which is in the Standard Hotel on the High Line, is a penthouse with a rooftop terrace and the best DJs. Another very cool terrace is the one at the Sanctuary Hotel on Times Square. It’s called Haven, but you feel like you’re in heaven. That might be because of the cocktails. Another high-rise location is the Sky Room on 40th Street, on the 46th floor.
What’s the best time to go out?
There is just one basic rule: not too early, so never before nine. But usually things only really get going around eleven. And the night has many stops.
Describe the difference between day and night in New York City.
It’s really two different cities. During the day it’s incredibly hectic; everyone just thinks of their jobs. At night, business and pleasure mix. That can be stressful too, but that’s just how big-city people relax. They need a certain tempo.
What are the best days of the week to meet real New Yorkers?
Saturday nights are when the most is going on. But the second-best night is Wednesday. And this rhythm is really good, too, because you can relax in between.
Do you have a preferred nightspot?
I prefer club-hopping, and that’s most fun around one in the morning. If I had to name one club, it would be the Marquee on 10th Avenue. The night is always young there. And when the day comes, it’s a day club.
Perhaps you can give us a helpful tip for getting past the bouncer …
Simple: You just have to look fashionable …
Hotspots & Nightspots - Useful addresses in Manhattan
Lavo, 39 East 58th Street
Le Bain/Standard Hotel, 848 Washington Street
Haven/Sanctuary Hotel, 132 West 47th Street
Sky Room, 33 West 40th Street
Marquee, 289 10th Avenue