The view from New York

  • 4 September 2018
  • Prue Scott

“Once more unto the humidity, dear friends, once more”, which we all know Shakespeare’s Henry V didn’t say.

Neither did he utter, “Once more unto the subway, dear friends, once more”, only to be never seen again.

New York at the start of September can do that to you, given the temperatures have been 33C (feeling like 38C) with high humidity, rendering the subway system a ghastly version of hell where the lower down your line, the stickier it gets. They’re also working on various lines so the nice little itinerary off the MTA app doesn’t always work. Must drop them a line about that.

But, let’s back up a bit.

I have to say this for AirNZ – Premium Economy is worth it. Leg room! Leg rest! Decent pillow! A wider seat! As a regular economy class passenger, I’ve never understood how they came to get those awards. Maybe they don’t survey people in in cattle class.

However, I still feel a bit gypped. PE class all the way to San Fran, and then it was onto United and back to cattle class with no food/drink. Arrived at Newark with tummy rumbling on account of refusing to pay for the food on the plane.

On the way to Newark, I got the guy the with emotional support animal (ESA) as the woman in his row claimed to be allergic to dogs. The man I chat a few times. And there he is several hours later, walking out of Penn Station and down Eighth Avenue – must have been on the same train.

Two NZ girls behind me on the plane were arranging an Uber from Newark. Nah, I thought, I’ve done the train thing before. We sat just outside Secaucus for nearly an hour – “held by the controller”, said our driver. I knew what I’d like to hold, and it was large and capable of blunt force trauma.

Eighth Ave is not the prettiest part of town, but bless it, at 1.45am there’s still a lot people rambling around, some of them quite sane. I was a tad worried when I came to 375 and it was a construction lot. I’ll just check the address before I lose it. Ah, 370.

Given I’m paying less than NZ$100 a night with some breakfast and all the fruit you can eat, one can’t complain. My cubicle is about six feet long and five feet wide. No room to swing the proverbial, but the suitcase fits under the bed and there’s a shelf over the bed for clothes. Ah, one power point. Ooh, look, a hardware store. One strip plug now installed to recharge the devices. The phone is losing the battle with my bad navigation habits, so I now have an Apple portable power bank called a Mophie. When the phone runs low, I plug it in and I can get home again. I grew up in a city laid out in grids, but I can’t get it back into my head.

It's a mistake anyone could make – heading for Macy’s on what turns out to be Labor Weekend. Who knew! I forgot to pack my sunglasses. Ah, Macy’s sale, that’ll solve the problem. Nothing under US$150 which is around NZ$275. Paid US$20 in a pharmacy only for the missing pair to present themselves. Big sigh. NYC messing with my mind again.

My sense of direction has improved slightly, although a wrong turn put me into Greenwich Village, but oh happy day – there’s my favourite BBQ joint, so I ate heartily and sank a beer.

And listened. NYers are fascinating to listen to. There are people talking to themselves, to a higher authority, to another universe. There are people talking to family, friends or work buddies. Some shout, some speak rapid-fire Spanish. Once upon a time, you could tell the loonier from the saner, but with those wireless Apple earphones, it’s always a gamble.

Two young, hip guys walking past.

G1:         I nearly died, you know? They called the paramedics and—

G2:         Uh huh.

G1:         Did I tell you this already?

G2:         What do you think?

Central Park was a great idea but a lousy choice, given the mercury hit 33C and the humidity about 85%. Was I the only one suffering in the heat? There were people cycling in that heat, people who probably hadn’t cycled since they were 10 when it certainly wasn’t 33C. There were runners, dog walkers and a woman who appeared to have had all the fat sucked out of her body.

Bethesda Terrace made up for it. I was enchanted by a couple practising their dance moves to the music in their head. A guitarist played beautifully and a woman passing by, began to sing. Outside, the guy with the rope and bucket of soapy water was making beautiful multi-coloured bubbles in the air.

Don’t buy from the stalls in the park. I had forgotten that. Your standard Haagen Dazs ice-cream was US$5 and a bottle of water US$3. Of course, having downed the water, I immediately came upon a chap with a chilly bin selling the same water for US$1 bottle.

If the Top of the Rock – the top of the Rockefeller Center – is being staked out by young Russian-speaking people (who speak American with an American accent), forget about getting a spot. They ain’t gunna move. They are going to keep going with the selfies and poses and the time-lapse iPhone shots…. yes, they are.

Times Square is another version of hell, but above ground. Yes, the displays are big and bright, but it’s a bit like Elizabeth Taylor: famous once and then was famous for being famous.

The promos for the “Good morning America” TV show seem to be made by people who think we’re all morons. Lots of fake laughter, shoulder clapping and whoops and hollers.

The garment district is still there – shops that sell trims, buttons, bows and feather boas. A designer was buying two yards of hideously expensive trim but was clearly known to the Sales Assistant.

D:           OK, so can you send that over, I have to go to Brooklyn now, my friend is having her baby today.

SA:         Yours?

D:           No, but someone has to be there for her.

And, with no warning, the conversation moved into Spanish.

New York – so full of surprises.

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