Monday, March 15, 2010

All dressed up and everywhere to go

Dressing in New York is a serious thing. The shop windows are works of art, salads are sold with with a myriad of dressing choices and everyone on the street is dressed with care and thought. The young women are smart and practical - trench coats, tailored skirts, neat bright scarves, huge expensive bags - while the older women really understand the notion of quality. There's lots of Ferragamo and Burberry amongst them, lots of small elegant handbags.

No self respecting dog in New York goes out unadorned either. Tonight I saw a small Wheaton terrier in a yellow vinyl raincoat and, a few blocks on, a Highland terrier in a red hooded sweater with matching red booties. The booties make me stare but no one else here seems to think it's strange to put shoes on a dog. The best dressed dog I've seen was a Jack Russell terrier who wore a blue striped sweater and toning goggles. His owner said he (the Jackie) doesn't like the glare. Well, who does.

The young men all wear their trousers around their thighs. They walk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins when he dances with the penguins. I find it flabbergasting yet curiously stylish. It can't be comfortable but it looks...well, modern. Defiant.

Baya, pictured below, is one New Yorker who hits the street in without a stitch on. His own covering is glorious enough. According to his owner. Baya was born on St Patrick's day and is thrilled that the city has a parade in his honour on his birthday. Baya is also very particular about daily exercise. He gets extremely agitated if he is not taken for his walk at 2pm every day. He supervises three cats who also live in his apartment and they are the prime targets for his frustration if the walk is delayed.

And none of this riding on the shoulder for Baya. He takes his walk on a perch.

This morning we went the Air and Space Museum which is housed on the Intrepid. Two wonderful things (not involving disco fries, sadly) happened there: I got to board the Concorde, and Neil Armstrong was giving a talk. For the record, he was wearing a very handsome navy pinstripe suit.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Talking turkey near Coney Island

"Is that your turkey?" my husband asked pleasantly.

We were walking alongside Battery Park to the Staten Island Ferry. A turkey with a mild expression was pecking amongst the grass. It was not a distressed or unhappy turkey. While I was taking photos a cheerful commuter told us as he passed, "She's the park turkey. She's lived here for five years." I thought it was lovely that he took the time to tell us, and that he knew it was a girl turkey.

Earlier in the day we had been to Coney Island. It was bitterly cold, raining and a wind of razor wire all around us. Sydneysiders are a little smug when it comes to beaches; show la plage on the Cote D'azur or Brighton Beach in Sussex or even one of the lovely jewel coloured things in Southern Thailand and we do get a little sniffy. Not as nice as Avalon, we'll smirk inwardly. We both sniffed when when we finally got to the beach at Coney Island but I envied the little town its urban landscape. It is shabby, tacky, gaudy coloured and cheap, but also has the optimism that an used, unoccupied thing will have. All the rides and shut tight food stands seem hopeful that the desolation is just temporary and that the noise and people will return with the sun.

The Stanten Island ferry completed our maritime adventures. We marked each side of the journey with hot chocolate in a pitiful attempt to ward off the effects of the freezing rain.

Another notable thing is that I had steamed vegetables for dinner last night and ordered, on a foolish gluttonous whim, a side order of disco fries. These are fries served in a puddle of gravy, topped with cholesterol-coloured processed cheese and placed in a crematorium for a few moments until it has all glued together. Not only did I eat this mess, I actively enjoyed it.

The veges were good too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Increasing in size while walking backwards

Last night we went to see the God of Carnage down on Broadway. This is our second play this week; last week we saw a Behanding in Spokane. Both were performed in one set, both were performed with no intermission, both had four characters but there the similarities end. The plots were almost the polar opposite of each other.

Both were fantastic.

On Wednesday we went to the Met and stared at paintings until we could decipher and decode no more.

Yesterday I had reason (albeit flimsy) to visit a pet shop and was delighted to meet two hitherto undiscovered types of pets:

1. A chinchilla
2. A hamster.

Hamsters have tails the size of a tic tac.

We then did a huge trek around the reservoir in Central Park and made our way to the Zoo via Strawberry Fields. I had some very pleasant encounters at the zoo:

When I'm not admiring animals I think about what I will buy next. On Wednesday I had some very happy experiences at the Liberty for Target pop-up shop down near Times Square. The quality is surprisingly good and the prints are lovely. The best part though, if there can be a good part about standing in line, was seeing all the New York fashion journalists who had first dibs before the commoners were allowed in. Some left pursed lipped empty handed (probably worked for Vogue) while others left laden with bags and two - my bet is they worked for Lucky and Elle - left with the much coveted Liberty bicycles. I left with some frocks, some scarves, a couple of mugs and an umbrella. In an ideal world I would have bought alot of cushions and the excellent bedding.

Today it is drizzly and cold. We're going to Coney Island. Meanwhile I have to decide: do I want the Anya Hindmarch Clarice bag in fushia or stone? But before I go I should introduce the third cat I've met in New York (which of course is a rampant dog city). Her name is Zoe.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Having a nice day

Every person in every store I visit (with the notable exception of Victoria's Secret) wants me to have a nice day. It's a humble and surprisingly effective wish. I feel good that I've bought something from them and I feel good when I leave. I wonder how long you'd have to live in New York before you grow deaf to people wishing you a nice day.

Today we went to the Body Exhibition. One of the warning signs of New York tourists is that we can never tell where we are when we walk out of the subway and today was no exception. We walked out at Fulton Street, squinting at our map book and found ourselves at the Trinity Church, a quaint little chapel with tiny and respectfully maintained cemetery. A small plaque at the gate told us all the calamities the church had survived, including the terrorist attacks of 2001. And then we looked up and saw cranes and scaffolding but more than anything an overwhelming absence, a huge gape in the beautiful early Spring sky where the towers had once been.

Life goes on in this enormous city. We took ourselves down to the Body Exhibition to see the arteries and learn what chyme is. I also became more adoring of livers. My love of the heart is well documented but it is the liver that earns my true admiration. It works so hard and features rarely in poetry or noted works of art.

We had lunch at a diner with the handy name The Diner. I ordered a spaghetti marinara and was served a plate that would have comfortably fed a family of four.

Later we took a subway jammed rigid with the end-of-day workers down to 86th Street. Two very notable things happened to me there: I met Clive, who lives in a Dog Boutique, and I bought a vintage Hermes skirt in exquisite condition. After this I wafted in a euphoric vapour down to Central Park to watch the dusk turn into night while I slurped a diet Snapple.

Oh, New York. I love you with all my liver.

And in case you can't picture such a thing, here is Clive:

What the world would be like if you reduced it to stock

It is truly the most diverse & fascinating of cities. New York's devils are in its details - the bridges, in the diners, in the carriages on the subway, the little dogs, the cast iron cat I bought at a flea market.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Miles and miles and smiles

Everything and eveyone will tell you that New Yorkers are brash and busy and rude but my limited experience has been the polar opposite: New Yorkers are incredibly friendly. Take Ms S.Wilson at the post office. Yesterday she rendered detailed and incredibly effective assistance to two clueless Australians trying to navigate their way around the US postal system as they sent a gift home for a child's birthday. Ms S. Wilson could not have been more lovely or more gracious.

Then there was Paul, the young man who worked behind the counter in Walgreens. He had been at college all morning and was working through to ten last night, ringing up purchases of vitamin water and chapstick to pay his tuition fees. Paul was friendly and courteous despite his evident exhaustion. He hopes to be a film producer.

My favourite friendly New Yorker (so far) is the cook we saw late last night, cleaning his kitchen in the closed diner at nearly midnight. He was still wearing his little paper hat and apron, alone in his shop with all the chairs stacked on the tables, all the chores nearly done while he wiped the counter one last time. He watched us walking alone in the cold and smiled through the window, a discreet acknowledgment that not everyone is at home tucked up on cold nights.

They're chatty too, the New Yorkers. All of them have mobile phones fixed to their heads, talking loudly and unembarrassed, invariably about relationships. I have overheard so many great conversations about finding true love, relationships that aren't working, relationships that need more work and the different between loving someone and liking someone. The real surprise is that the talkers are more often men than women. I have never heard a man talking about how you can't have lasting love without respect but I did last night down on 5th Avenue. He was maybe in his thirties or forties and walked a sober champagne coloured woolly dog who had no doubt heard it all before.

My favourite New Yorkers so far though are these guys. Their manners are impeccable.

The whole of the world

Pilots might think they own the world and with good reason. There must be thousands of them circling it from nine kilometres above at any given moment. It's their office. Yesterday the pilot told us to look out the right hand side windows for a great view of the Grand Canyon. A few minutes later (or maybe a couple of hours, I'd taken horse doses of valium to alleviate my conviction that I will die in an incident that will feature on Air Crash Investigation) he told us to look out the left hand side at a magnificent view of Central Park and the Statue of Liberty. It was his for that time, his work place, the view from his office.

And now it's mine for a few weeks.

New York is a giant of salad of everything you could imagine in this world and all the things you can't too. Last night at 9pm I found myself gape-mouthed in the shampoo aisle in the Food Emporium; a second later I was trying to choose cereal. Every single box had a good reason as to why it was the best. I chose the one that was guaranteed to taste better than Kellogg's All Bran but be better for me. There were fourteen different types of skim milk and more species of peanut butter than roses. Out on the street there are piles of snow trimmed with black grit; people wear heavy coats with little frames of fur around their face.

We had dinner at a pizza place that Oprah had declared sold the best pizza in New York. It said so on the door. I am unable to verify her claim because I opted for the spaghetti marinara. It was heavy with clams and onions and, in my non-Oprah opinion, very lovely.

There are dogs, lots of big muscly proud fellows in black, tan and beige. The pigeons are vari-coloured (none of those storm cloud hued things you see in London) and the one cat I've seen was small fruitcake coloured kitten in a cage at Los Angeles airport. Her name was Nuala and she was en-route from Hawaii to Munich with her pale haired, somewhat bohemian owner. "She's a bit mental at the moment," Frauline Boho told me. Well, long haul trips can be stressful, even more so in a plastic cage. I asked if Nuala had to travel in cargo but no, it appears she was allowed to travel up front with the human passengers. Apparently this is because of her age. Kittens don't count as burdensome luggage.

Our lodgings are beautiful and very comfortable but I doubt the shower is going to win any awards for substantial use of water pressure. (My father was a plumber. Appreciation for good water pressure is in my genes.)

Today: wandering aimlessly to get our bearings. And the cereal actually was nicer than Kellogg's All Bran.