Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Kajagoogoo were right

Me and Mrs F-C at the Russian Tea Room: We *heart* NYC
I'm feeling refreshed and different after eight days in New York. I feel like I've been away for months, which was needed, seeing as we stood around a friend's bedside as he died the day before we went. That was a strange, rather grown-up thing to do and I'd rather not have to do it again.

But the next day at the crack of dawn we were New York City bound as planned and decided it was just what we needed.

We love New York. When some friends lived there between 1998 and 2000 we visited three times, we couldn't get enough of it. It's always different visiting somewhere and staying with people who actually live there. They know all the tricks and the groovy places.

It's funny because when i first went there in 1982 it was a very different place. We went en famille and spent the time utterly terrified and spooked at every turn. It was dark and dirty, threatening, swarming with police and really rather down at heel. How's it's all changed. I seem to recall we stayed on 42nd Street, which at the time was frequented by prostitutes and drug addicts. What a place for a family holiday. Now it couldn't be more different. It's clean, safe, packed with hundreds of lovely eateries, bars and hotels and shops. Even Grand Central Station is a must-see. Even 10 plus years ago Soho was just coming up, and the West Village and meatpacking districts were all but deserted. As for Hell's Kitchen, you wouldn't have gone there and The Bowery - fugehdaboutit.

But now you can go everywhere. And we did. We walked miles and miles, from Hell's Kitchen to Gramercy, from Soho (where we we were staying), across all the Greenwich Villages, to Central Park, the very civilised Upper West Side and Columbus Avenue, to Battery Park and Wall Street, Ground Zero, Noho, Dumbo, Nolita, Tribeca - you name it, we went there. We even went to Harlem. But we didn't get off the bus. Well would you? Those projects are not yet quite on the tourist trail. I'm not sure Malcolm X Boulevard is quite ready for them.

So some observations:

New York women
Gosh, what a ghastly bunch. Either self-absorbed twenty-somethings in PR mode, quite prepared to let a door slam in your face but woe betide you should do the same to them, who ignore you and treat you like you're invisible, to frazzled, pre-occupied, wired, reed-thin forty- and fifty-somethings who glower and are as rude as their younger counterparts. Overhead in a boutique as assistants danced attendance on one such demanding martinet: 'I like this necklace but it's too crazy. And my soundman will hate me'. And with coffee permanantly clutched in hand you get the picture. They can't go anywhere without a beverage.

Losing it
The famous Midnight Cowboy scene in which Dustin Hoffman walks out in front of a taxi which screeches to a halt and hoots its horn and he bangs his fist on the bonnet and shouts 'I'm walkin' here!'... well it's just like that. They sound like they do in the films and act like they do in the films. They kick off at the drop of a hat. It's like watching a thousand mini-vignettes a day. Quite a fascinating place for people watching. just watch from a safe distance. NB Taxi rides are utterly white-knuckle.

Star spots
We went to teh cinema on the swanky Upper West Side, just around the corner from the Dakota Building where John Lennon was shot, and home to the likes of Lauren Bacall and others of her ilk. We went to see a documentary. How much did we feel we were in a Woody Allen film? Anyhoo, two rows in front was Alan Alda. Then it really felt like a Wood Allen film.
We also saw Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Cera, who were judging the Tribeca Film Festival from our hotel, and star spot of all star spots, the President. The security was unbelievable. if William and Kate got married over there they would barely have seen the light of day, let alone parade the streets in an open-top surrey. Which brings me to...

The Royal Wedding
The first thing we were asked was why we were over there when surely we wanted to be over here for the wedding? They were just mad about it. All their top news bods like creaky old Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer were doing everything from London. Never mind tornadoes wiping out most of Alabama, what was Kate's dress going to be like. That opportunist pub landlord was never off the telly, and Ben Fogle and a cavalcade of very British types spouted forth in a way only Americans could love. Times Square was given over more or less entirely to a viewing platform and big screen so they could all get up at 4am to watch it.
And we now know more about the British Royal Family - and especially the Middletons - than we could ever have learnt over here watching wall to wall Daybreak and being forcefed Majesty magazine.
Saw a bit of it, and I have to say it all looked rather lovely and made me proud to be British. Yes, that's right.


To our surprise, we went to a Broadway show. The Book Of Mormon at the Eugene O'Neil Theatre. I was expecting a vast cavernous venue but it was like a village hall. Still, very comfy and good last minute seats for a great, highly irreverant show about Mormons, some of whom were sitting behind us and growled all the way through it. I'm amazed the theatre's not been firebombed. A great experience.

Getting around is so easy, there's so much to do, it's so civilised and so safe, I could easily live there, if I was living in the same building as Jerry Seinfeld on Central Park West.

So anyway, back to the real world. Buying a mop in Morrisons this lunchtime bought it all crashing back down to earth. Until my next holiday, whenever that may be.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back, FC. Great travel tales there, although you missed the chance to use the headline "Bar-Six and the City"...

Five-Centres said...

Damnit, RS, why didn't I think of that?

Sarah S said...

Shoudda gone to Tom's Diner when in Harlem, for the all-important Seinfield snap.

Five-Centres said...

Did that last time Sarah S! Saw the Soup Nazi's kitchen this time.

Matthew Rudd said...

I'm now in a New York State of Mind, and I've never been. You've sold it to me more than anyone else could. Welcome back!

Five-Centres said...

And that wasn't even the half of it, Matt. If you get the chance, you must go.

office pest said...

How fascinating, good of you to post so much. It's another world, though - maybe in the next life, or the one ater that...

Ishouldbeworking said...

I'm really sorry to read about your friend. That's a hell of a thing you did for them, though. I've had several patients who have been terminally ill and they've almost all felt their friendships fade away as people get awkward or scared around them. Being with someone right at the end is an amazing thing to do.

And NYC was obviously just what you needed. I've yet to write up my own experiences on the opposite coast.