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.