Why Mrs Kerry is King of the Kongs

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The Independent Online

It came to me on New Year's Eve: a resolution for New York City for the coming 12 months. It is time for the metropolis to assert itself and take a leaf from the books of Slovakia, Kosovo and Croatia. How more obvious can it be that the liberal blue city is no longer comfortable as an appendage to the red-Republican United States of Bush? I am talking about seceding from the union.

You think I'm crazy? I've only just started. Think about it. There are eight million people here, quite enough to populate a nation. And we have everybody we could possible need. True, the Republic of Gotham, as it will be called, will be a bit short on farmers, but we can import them. Central Park will be turned over for cultivation. Crops will be harvested by hippies from the West Village.

We will have an interim government at first, of course. My idea is to form a cabinet of equals, to run the republic until conditions are ready for fully democratic elections. This transitional authority will be composed solely of prominent New York women. I will be contacting the obvious candidates; they include Bianca Jagger, Yoko Ono, Mary Tyler-Moore, all the ex-wives of Donald Trump and, if she wants indefinitely to extend her current Broadway run, Dame Edna Everage. Finding candidates to run for the presidency will not be hard. Ralph Nader and Michael Moore will barge in, even if we do not invite them. But I think Gotham would rather offer political sanctuary to John Kerry. Nearly every New Yorker wanted him as their president last year. Now he can be.

Not a native of New York, Kerry will have to be quickly naturalised as a Gothamite. But if Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria, is one day to be president of the United States (it could happen) why shouldn't we elect a man from Massachusetts? Best of all, however, Kerry would be accompanied by his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry. She will head our mint. Actually, she will be our mint.

Citizens of other states will be given free access to our territory, providing they can fit in. (Asylum policies will only be tightened when census figures show more than 16 people crammed into the average one-bedroom apartment in lower Manhattan, a level only slightly higher than today.) However, our treatment of citizens from the United States of Bush will be strictly reciprocal, with fingerprinting and the turning away of all former Enron directors, Wal-Mart shoppers and, of course, Paris Hilton.

Our breakaway republic will have two currencies. To ensure our continuing competitiveness in the world travel market, European tourists will still be issued with the US dollar. The rest of us will use the Kong. There will be ten Kings to the Kong. The image on the notes will be that of Mrs Kerry. All coins will have a hole in the middle as a tribute both to our long-lamented subway tokens, phased out three years ago, and to our favourite form of nutrition, the beloved bagel.

RuPaul, who has been looking to move on from his drag-queen life, has indicated his/her willingness to serve as ambassadress to Washington, at least until Martha Stewart becomes available. There will be no Gotham army, rendering moot whether we should remain in Iraq. We will remain in the United Nations, and even listen to what Kofi Annan has to say.

A minimal amount of early political cleansing is foreseen. This will mean the deportation of a few individuals and institutions. Contributors to the 2004 Bush campaign may want to seek out alternative accommodation, perhaps in Texas. For no particularly good reason, J-Lo will also have to go. In addition, we will issue expulsion papers to the entire Fox News organisation as well as its owner, Rupert Murdoch, for whom the Republic of Gotham would hold very little appeal anyway.

That should just about do it. Gay marriage will be fully embraced, naturally, as will stem-cell research. There will be special tax deductions for citizens who agree to smoke in bars and restaurants. Finally, we may consider an entirely symbolic monarchy, once more with tourism in mind. But before he assumes the throne, Mr Trump would have to promise to forgo his reality television activities.

All right, I admit it. All of the above springs from a mind severely impaired by the effects of cheap New Year's Eve champagne. But, as a resolution, it ranks equally with all others I have made over the years - about as likely ever to come to pass as cows being found on Mars.

Lazy, hazy days of winter

Late December may be my favourite time in the city. The place empties and an air of indolence takes over. Maybe this year the latter had to do with Christmas and New Year falling on weekends. Robbed of extra days off, Manhattanites decided to go slow on the days in between.

The dearth of people - vanished to celebrate with family in New Jersey or to ski in Aspen - contradicted everything we had been told to expect. The city would sink beneath the weight of tourists, they said. Around Times Square and the Rockefeller Center, that may have been true. But elsewhere, all was curiously, soothingly calm.

But now New York is vibrating again, as workers rush back to their offices and garbage trucks chew up discarded Christmas trees.