Tag Archives: New York City

Slugs and snails and puppy dogs` tails.

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I have recently finished reading a great little book written by a Jewish author the title of which is,  `Hope, A Tragedy.`  The author, Shalom Auslander has written a little gem of a novel in which a Jewish family move away from the hustle and bustle of New York to live in a rural location in a farmhouse.  What they are not told by the estate agent is that an elderly and absolutely foul mouthed Anne Frank is living in the attic.  She has been in hiding up there for forty odd years, surviving by eating the neighbours` cats and any other unfortunate creatures who stray into her space.   Her toilet habits are abysmal and as a result, an all pervading, hideous stench gradually fills the farmhouse once the air conditioning is switched on.  The finer details of her attic existence are slowly released to the reader in a visceral and incredibly pungent fashion, page by smelly page.  The book made me laugh out loud even though the unfolding tale does indeed become tragic for one of the characters and it has divided its readers, some of whom find it terribly offensive but I am not one of them.  I loved it and I`m a huge fan of Auslander.  (What a handsome geezer.)

About a year ago and as teenagers often do, (grandparents take note)  my grandson came to live with his grandfather which as some of you are aware, is where I currently reside.  I can`t help but be reminded of  Hope A Tragedy when I consider what it is like to share a space with my grandson, who I love dearly it goes without saying.   Mind you, my grandson is not at all foul mouthed, far from it he is an extremely well mannered lad and he isn`t smelly however, some of his mates could do with a bit of a scrub up!

Living with my grandson is a bit like living with a ghost, he rarely comes downstairs except to gather more food to take back upstairs with him and he does it ever so quietly, especially if he is having a clear out of crockery which he piles up at the foot of his bed until it is nearly falling over.  One minute the sink is empty, the next about a week`s accumulation of dishes and plates adorn it, lovingly collected by my grandson. “I`ll do it in a bit Nan,” he says if I cop him in the kitchen before he quietly pads back upstairs, never to be seen again that same day.  His kitchen visits are often nocturnal and only realised when I open a cupboard or the fridge and discover half a ton of food has been quietly spirited away.  I don`t mind, I like him to eat plenty.

My grandson occupies a small box room at the front of the house, he has a heavy velvet curtain drawn at all times and lies in bed or on the bed, creating and producing his own special brand of music, a kind of grungy, hip hop rap which is really rather good.  When I asked him recently if he would like to move to the much more spacious back bedroom he replied, “No Nan, I like it in here.”  I suppose his room could be likened to a womb which may be part of the attraction.  In the day time he trips to the bathroom where he often makes all of those ghastly noises that boys make when they go to have a wash.

On a Friday or Saturday night my grandson leaves the confines of his reclusive existence to go and “do a gig Nan,” often at The Institute in town.  He is doing very well and gaining a healthy following.  When I get up the next morning I always know when his mates are kipping on the floor in the front room because the first thing that hits me is the smell of their feet which I can only describe as proper pongy.  This aroma is often accompanied by all sorts of other scents like joss sticks, the occasional whiff of marijuana, old, cold pizza`s half eaten or with just the cheese filled crust eaten and the rest remaining, (a sight which never fails to bemuse me)  and a host of other smells which I won`t go into here but they`re all male and they`re all pungent, rather like Anne Frank in the novel I mentioned.  They are all lovely boys though, very polite and respectful and welcome in our home which I hasten to add, Anne Frank of the novel, would not be!

Boys, they are sometimes so strange.  My son texted me yesterday, he lives in Switzerland.  He said,  “MOTHER I HAVE HURT MY EAR.”    “How son?”  I texted back to him.  “I WAS DOING SOME SILLY TRICKS ON STAGE, (he`s an actor) AND I TRIED TO BLOW MILK OUT OF MY TEAR DUCTS BUT IT`S ALL GONE INTO MY EAR CANAL INSTEAD AND NOW I`M DEAF.”  Naturally I replied sympathetically by texting “Pardon?”  “OH VERY GOOD MOTHER, VERY HUMOUROUS,” he texted me back but can you imagine what that will smell like in a couple more days!  It doesn`t bear thinking about……

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6 days in New York. Our last day. Bwaaaaaaaaah!!!

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Lordy we have walked so many miles this week, my feet don`t feel like they belong to my body any more.

Today we began by visiting the Tenement Museum on Lower East Side by Delancey Street.  Patti explained to me about crossing Delancey which I knew nothing about and which was absolutely fascinating.  It relates to before, during and after World War 2 and many Jewish immigrants were arriving to begin a new life in America.  Crossing Delancey Street was a huge cultural issue because it meant that you had become an American.  A Jewish lady who was 92yet looked about 72 took us around and brought the whole experience alive.  Up to twelve people lived in two rooms in these tiny tenement flats.  A chimney down the centre of the blocks was where everyone`s waste, including toilet waste was tipped every day.  If you lifted up a table top up in the small living room – come kitchen, underneath you find a bath, the table became a makeshift bed at night.  It was fantastic and one of my (many) favourite bits of the week.  We walked on afterwards through more of China Town which I adore and then ate at Katz, where Harry met Sally.  The sandwiches are so enormous you have to pace yourself to eat one.  (I`ll have what she`s having!)

We walked on to the synagogue which was open today.  It`s being renovated and will be gorgeous when it`s completed.  There are so many buildings in New York which are fascinating and need an awful lot of work doing to preserve them and keep them going.  After that we went to the Mahayana Temple which was (hurrah) open!  It`s close to Manhatten Bridge which is pretty spectacular all by itself but the temple was truly beautiful and bathed in red and gold with a gigantic gold Buddha sitting in the centre of the far hall.  I loved it.

We strolled along Bowery and stopped for some coffee and some people watching.  You don`t half see some interesting bodies in New York and some extremely individual and eclectic ways of dressing, it`s incredibly cosmopolitan.  We went back to the hostel to sort our things out and get packed for home.   Patti didn`t want to go, she`d like to stay a lot longer but me, I`m all New Yorked out and I am longing for my bed and my bath. It has been absolutely wonderful though and I really hope to return one day, what a fabulous city!   The subway has been the most confusing bit since, in the wake of terrorism, the trains are renumbered and rerouted on a daily basis but the best way to get around New York anyway, is on foot, that way you don`t miss out.  For example, where once there was derelict wasteland, the community has come together and turned lots of derelict bits of land into incredibly pretty urban gardens, with hanging baskets and explosions of flowers everywhere.  It is unexpected and quite lovely amongst the skyscrapers.  You wouldn`t appreciate this if you weren`t on foot.  Times Square by the way, isn`t square at all!  That was a bit of a shock, it`s a long, long street.

In the evening we went to eat at a cool little cafe in Greenwich Village, very lovely and very Amsterdam Patti tells me.   Full of bookshops and arty places, Greenwich is so attractive and clean and offers a bit of serenity away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.  We both had to buy another wheelie bag to take all our stuff home, it`s a wonder they will let us on the plane with all our gear.

At 10:30 we fell in to our bunks for the last time, to sleep for a couple of hours before getting the flight back home.

Good night and goodbye New York.  It was a blast!

6 Days in New York. Day 5

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Today we got up early with the intention of taking a helicopter trip over New York in the afternoon.  Our morning plan was to go cruising the rivers and bridges of the city.   The Hudson River is four blocks walk down 42nd Street from 8th Avenue so of course we had to stop on the way to eat!   When we enquired about the helicopter trip it was another twelve blocks walk so we ditched that idea as our legs were developing muscles that even Superman would be proud of.

Actually we were absolutely knackered and falling into our bunks each evening but it was totally worth it.  Sleep is quite sporadic in the hostel on account of (mostly) pissed young girls coming in at four or five o`clock in the morning and falling about, putting the light on and off, banging the door, screaming, laughing, crying, talking loudly, rambling mindlessly, we have been most patient and reasonable.  This morning we lost our cool though.  Since they have completely ignored the fact that we are sharing a room, Patti and I got up at 6.30am and made a lot of noise, rustling, sorting, coughing, laughing, singing, tripping over their bags and yelling, “Oops!” and telling one another jokes until we had woken all of them up.

Yes I know,  It`s childish.

We took a cruiser down the Hudson River past all of the Manhatten skyline which is a treat in itself.   We sailed on into the East River past a tumble down beautiful brick building that was once a hospital where people with leprosy were looked after.  It`s going to be demolished which I think is a terrible shame.   Eventually we reached the Harlem River and sailed on past Spanish Harlem where there is a rose…..  alongside Harlem itself, back around the Jersey Pallisades and Inman Park  (my married name was Inman so that was rather nice).   Both these last two places I mention are quite staggeringly beautiful and I wasn`t expecting so much wild countryside in New York.  It was a fascinating trip under some magnificent bridge architecture and we both really, really enjoyed the day.  It was sunny to boot!

Tomorrow is our last proper day before catching our flight home.  my own bed!  My own bath……..

6 days in New York. Day 4.

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Recalled here with great respect and love for those people of Statten Island and America who lost their homes and their lives in the recent Hurricane Sandy.

April 2006.  Yesterday was a brilliantly sunny and very hot day at around 75 degrees.

Me and Patti took the subway to catch the Statten Island Ferry, one of the few things in New York which is still free.  We ferried past the Statue of Liberty which was most impressive and on to the island where we bussed around for a bit to get an idea of what it was like.  Statten Island is a totally different world to New York and in places, it is almost rural.  It is picture postcard pretty with wooden houses and porches and rocking chairs on the verandas.  American flags fly in almost all the front gardens so there is a great sense of patriotism there.  Everywhere was smothered in cherry blossom and the whole place looked absolutely gorgeous, I can well understand why New Yorkers buy there to live for the quiet pace of life and then commute to work on the ferry.  We shopped in a large and airy mall, it was nice to get into a cool place and it really reminded me of the malls in Australia.  We had coffee and caught the ferry back to the Wall Street area of New York.

We found a deli and had hot corned beef sandwiches with mustard and gherkins and went and lay in the sun on the banks of the Hudson River and sunbathed for a while in Battery Park.  I lost my umbrella which I was sad about as it was one I had purchased in America but as it happens, I really didn`t need it that lovely day.

We visited the Jewish Holocaust Museum which is a fantastically imposing piece of architecture and a most engaging and impressive museum.  We were shown round by an old lady called Rose whose picture is up on the wall of the museum, from when she was a little girl.  As an only child her Jewish parents shipped her away from home in Germany when she was 8 so that she would be spared the Holocaust.  She eventually wound up in New York aged 11, where she was raised by wonderful, adoptive parents.  Sadly, she never saw her birth parents again.  Both Patti and I cried whilst going round the museum, these matters always make me cry, just as they should.

Afterwards we dropped into BB King`s Diner in the heart of New York and in fact BB King was there the previous week so we just missed the great man!  They have loads of fabulous musicians making guest appearances there and I really liked the place, it had a great ambience.   Afterwards we got into one of those tricycles that are bike taxis and available for hire all over New York.  We were peddled by a very nice young Croatian geezer who took us to the Empire State Building where we queued for what seemed like an age, in windy  (no – that`s as in winding)  streams of people until we got to the lift which takes you to the 87th floor.  Wow!  You can go still further to Floor 102 but you have to pay a silly amount for the privilege.  The views from Floor 87 were so stunning that we really didn`t mind the wait.  Getting down again however, was a nightmare, it was terribly poorly organised and there was a massive crush of people all trying to get to the bottom floor.  Much of it was by stairs as there is no lift available for the downward journey, it was like being stuck in an Escher painting.  I would recommend visiting at lunch time if you are intending to go there as we were told it is very quiet at lunch time and no queues!

Tomorrow we are visiting the Tenement Museum on East Side and then dine at Katz which famously featured in the movie When Harry Met Sally, a proper Jewish delicatessen where I intend to eat liver and corned beef,

6 days in New York. Day 3.

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The following day we strolled to Green Street in upmarket Soho to find the gallery where my old school mate Paul Seaton sells his beautiful oil paintings.  They are mostly still lifes of old English roses that retail at around ten grand a painting.  It`s alright for some hey although I have to say he works like the proverbial mad artist and exists on black coffee and roll your owns.

We went to the site of the twin towers, a very large and at the time, empty space.  It was extremely moving and we were both somewhat emotionally overwhelmed.  We went into St. Pauls Chapel which overlooks the site, it`s lovely and is full of photo`s of fire fighters and full of love too. 

We walked on into ChinaTown.  I loved ChinaTown!  ChinaTown is full of vibrant colours and occasional indescribable odours coming up from the basements, dead chickens I think.  There are hundreds of wonderful shops selling gorgeous trinkets of every description.  I began to flag and so we bought ourselves a street massage.  A very old Chinese man sat us in chairs and we rested our heads and then he began to pummel us and slap us around a bit and dug his elbows into our muscles, it bloody hurt and made us go “Ow!” but it was incredibly invigorating and so we asked him to marry us and with happy smiles upon our faces we told him how much we loved him and asked us to come back with us to Birmingham where we would share him.  He didn`t speak English and so hadn`t got a clue what we were saying but we all smiled and laughed a lot.

Later we visited the Mahayana Buddhist temple in the bit between ChinaTown and Manhatten.  It is sooooooo beautiful in there, all reds and golds I loved it.  I love Bhuddism.  We also wanted to see the Jewish Synagogue in ChinaTown but it was closed so we had our hair cut instead, how spiritual can you get!  It was lots of fun getting our hair cut by two young Chinese men who didn`t have a word of English.  They asked us lots of questions in Chinese and we asked some back in English and spent the whole hour in fits of the giggles.  We both looked fab` dahhhhhhhling.

We shopped for shoes at a “WORLD FAMOUS STORE” called Store 21 which was dreadful and cramped but came highly recommended by the New York wide Zaggatt survey.  The staff were amongst the most miserable specimens of humanity I have ever encountered so we put a suggestion in their suggestion box to the effect that smiling is quite a nice activity.  Hah!

We lunched in a café on Bleeker Street and then walked to Manhatten Bridge, very wow that bridge.  We walked along Broadway which is lovely.

In the evening we visited the Rockefeller Centre called Top of the Rock which is situated in mid-town Manhatten next to RadioCity.  We went up 67 floors to the top, where interestingly, it was snowing!  Yes it was!  And the view of New York is absolutely stunning, the Empire State Building right in front of you and the whole of New York splayed out beneath, all lit up and totally spectacular.

6 days in New York. Day 1.

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After my dad died in 1993 my mum`s general health and spirit diminished quite rapidly, they had been together since they were ten so I guess it was to be expected.  For the last year of her life my mother was looked after by my sister-in-law Patti and some time after mum died, I took Patti to New York for six days to say a big thank you for taking care of my mother so beautifully.  Here is my journal from that time which was April, 2006.

The flight to New York takes seven hours and forty minutes, the flight home takes five hours and forty minutes, can anyone explain that to me?   As usual I ate enough food on the plane to sink a battleship, including my own and that of the bloke sitting next to me.  I watched Capote which was excellent and some crappy movie with Goldie Hawn`s daughter in it impersonating her mother, which was very peculiar.   I was very glad when the plane touched down as it was a Virgin jet and the seat space is extremely small so were were cramped and uncomfortable after the flight, but very excited once we had alighted on to terra firma.

We arrived at JFK airport which if you haven`t been is vast, like a city within a city but very dull and grey and almost empty of life, like an apocolyptic film set.   We had to take a train just to get off the airport campus and then we found a subway train that took us all the way to the centre of New York.  It took forty minutes through lots of districts and eventually got us to 106th street where our hostel was.  Several people came on the train to sell sweets and DVD`s and then someone brought a whole fleet of kids on board and the train became like an an episode of Fame, with the kids performing tricky dance routines and somersaults in the aisles and then taking the hat round, it was really impressive.

We had booked into a hostel on one side of Central Park with Greenwich Village just a hop and a skip away.  The hostel was only twelve dollars a night and was buzzing when we arrived with lots of young hippy types in residence from all over the globe so being in our fifties, Patti and I were treated like OAP royalty.  We were to share our room with ten young women so it was intimate, about eight feet across and maybe fifteen feet long with several bunk beds in it.  Patti commented that it looked remarkably similar to the set for Cell Block H.  The entrance to the hostel was painted blood red, a bit like entering hell; each room was a different colour such as lime green or purple and not really terribly easy on the eye.  We soon discovered that the girls we were sharing with were extremely noisy but as I had some ear plugs and my  “cover your eyes”  thingy I felt adequately prepared.  Later I was to wish that I had poison and tea bags, but that story will come another day.  The room`s radiator, in fact the entire hostel including the water from the showers were set to the temperature of the sun, no wonder there is a global crisis!  Still, it was good for washing out your smalls.

During the first night one of the girls let her boyfriend into the dorm where they commenced making amour to one another. A Japanese girl complained but no-one else seemed to mind so he stayed, quietly until the morning.  At some point in the night that same girl attempted to close the window by our bunk beds and Patti spoke up and said,  “Ere!  You can`t do that – you can`t close our window or I`ll die.”   So she didn`t and fortunately neither did Patti

We decided to rest that first evening and then planned the following day to mooch round China Town, have something yummy to eat and go and gaze at Grand Central Station.  The very best way to see New York is on foot and if you have to travel to another district a long distance away then the subway is very good.  At first we were mildly confused at the difference between Downtown and Uptown but you soon work it out.  Most of the time we walked.    In fact we walked so many miles that week my feet felt like they were independent of my body…….