Manhattan Transfer

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July 13th 2012
Published: July 17th 2012
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When you've racked up as much game time as I have in New York, over a week now, you have a right of passage to take on Manhattan vernacular in workaday conversation.

"Hey Penny, how's about we swing by NoHo, SoHo or Nolita for a cuppa joe before we jump the subway for some art at MoMa then zap to the Top of the Rock for a boydseye of de Apple."

What can you write about New York that hasn't been scribed a squillion times before? In a word, nothing. So here's my take on nothing.

We had our digs in the East Village, colourfully described as "newly gentrified". A few neighbourhoods fall under the banner of "newly gentrified", a term which was eloquently translated by a black comic at the East Ville Comedy Club one evening. A nabe becomes gentrified by moving out the blacks and replacing them with cashed up whites who then open up a cup cake store. Judging by the number of cup cake emporiums scattered around town, New York whites love their cup cakes.

Fortunately that's barely the tip of the icingberg of NY's foodie scene. This town is Noshville central USA and daylight second. No, I'll crank that up a notch, Noshville central of the cosmos.

Throw a dart at a map of the world and as long as it hits land, somebody in the New York boroughs will have a bloodline there. This must be, no, IS, the world's most culturally diverse city and it's reflected in the scope of its cuisine. Nor is this purely novelty cuisine for the sake of representing a place on a plate. It's top shelf or it don't survive. The best oysters of my life, the best sushi and the best Mexican of my life. The Mexican is hardly a surprise seeing as every head honcho in a kitchen in the Apple seems to be Hispanic.

This does question the authenticity of some of the regional foods but even if your sIice of genuine Italian pepperoni pizza folded in half Noo Yawk style was whipped up by Tito Puentes out the back, who cares when it's the zingiest, most delectable, artery clogging pizza ever to slip by the taste buds.

There's always a byline in a chink in the armour and the much hyped Katz Deli provided it. There are 2 trains of thought on Katz:

(a) It's the last Tasmanian Tiger of old school delis and should be preserved in bronze.

(a) A genius piece of marketing riding on the back of Meg Ryan's fake orgasm that somehow packs in the munchers despite the $17 plus tax price tag for a pastrami on rye. Penny went for the chicken salad sandwich that should have read glue sandwich on the menu and at $10 plus tax was overpriced by $10 plus tax.

OK, so the food is to die for but when can you get it? You have a hankering for Afghani shish at 4am. Somewhere will dish it up. Then you want some jazz at 5am. Somewhere the notes will be wafting out of a downstairs bar. On the way home you can't resist a Picasso and you know there'll be a museum plating him up at 7am. The NY cliche of a city that never sleeps is not merely a toothless fluffing of the feathers, it walks the walk. This city throbs 25/8. If ever a town needed an extra hour a day and an extra day a week, this is it. Yes Mr Sinatra, "it's a helluva town". Now, who can smell a but?

BUT! It can wear you down. People, people and more people. That SBS TV grab back home, "7 billion stories and counting", resonates here. Noise, noise and more noise. The constant background soundtrack which is a byproduct of that many people - jackhammers, car horns, sirens - THE WOYKS! One afternoon in Macys there were around 500 people in one department all speaking simultaneously whilst attempting to be heard over the other 499. We were in a human hen house. We needed an escape and that was after 5 days.

Plenty of New Yorkans feel the same way if the numbers on the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) escaping for the weekend is any indication. While Manhattanophiles may break out in a rash too close to the East River, for the rest, Long Island is a sanctuary you can almost smell from downtown.

Weren't we in luck. We are blessed with long time close friends at Babylon Long Island.

The last occasion we spent time with the Citarellas, their 13 year old daughter Taylor was minus 12 hours old. They can now throw their 11 year old
Fire escapesFire escapesFire escapes

Wouldnt want to be in too much of a hurry
son Jake (look out for that name, Jake Citarella, on the ASP surfing tour in 10 years time) into the family mix. Unfortunately their dog Bayley and I didn't see eye to eye but that's another story.

This is a side of New York most tourists don't get to experience. It was as though our day had been lifted straight from the Oz textbook on a family day at the beach. We spent the type of day you won't find in New York tourist brochures because it's light years and one hour from uptown Manhattan. It was a day we needed even if the hangover and sunburn weren't exactly factored in. That's it, I'm swearing off alcohol.

The most unique event was saved for our last evening. When was the last time you went to a poetry reading? In a dark dingy bar complete with the audience clicking their fingers at the action, a couple of guest performers were followed up by a good old fashioned poetry challenge. I would have loved to have thrown in a Southern Hemisphere entry but:

"There once was a man from Nantucket, Probably wouldn't have cut it"

To the people of NYC, I'm going to throw you into a basket with the French. Not because I'm looking to start WWIII via culture clash, rather because both of you get a bum wrap over perceived rudeness and arrogance.

Stand around long enough scratching your head staring at a map or the subway ticket vending machine in NYC and it's a sure bet someone will sidle up and offer assistance. Ask for directions and you'll get your request answered with a side dish of insider tips.

Finally, philosophy. Theres a guy down in the Financial District wearing a $5000 suit and mobile phone stuck to his ear buying and selling 3rd world countries. He strolls past his antithesis, the homeless guy begging for pennies.

Is it:

(a) Everything right about capitalism in the purist form we know of?

(b) Everything evil about capitalism in the purist form we know of?

I don't pretend to have an answer but it's gotta be somewhere in between. NYC, time to paraphrase. You're a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

I need a holiday.


It's a mad mad world in Manhattan.
Brooklyn BridgeBrooklyn BridgeBrooklyn Bridge

A span of steel to admire
The streets are congested with yellow taxi cabs, buses, cyclists, pedestrians, all vying for a little space. It's just one gigantic mechano set or Lego on steroids. It's so enormous and overwhelming but you can't help but love this city. Its bustling pace with a metro system you almost need a college degree in order to navigate, the museums that are as big as cities, art galleries with artworks that you studied at school but never thought you would ever get to see up close and personal, plays where the audience look almost as wacky as the performers, comedy clubs who this time didn't pick on the little Ozzie battlers, tall buildings to summit that are opened 20 hours a day, there is just no end of things to do in this town, and I haven't even touched on the food.

To talk about food in New York I would almost need a blog just to cover it. There is every type of cuisine available and in every price range. This melting pot of a city that prides itself on people coming from far and wide seeking freedom and starting a new life certainly has delivered the best there is to offer in food. Last time we were in New York, some 13 years ago the streets had loads of carts selling bagels, pizza and gyros. They are still here but the cup cake has moved in and dominates the street food carts.

The New York pizza is still my No.1 favourite pizza.The city, sights, food are all great but I really love the New York women. What other city can you go into the bathroom and see under the door two legs nursing their drinks while having a twinkle. They even balance their coffees and soda like this when travelling on the subway and buses. They are so practical and matter of fact, if they don't have a spare hand to hold the drink while you pee, no problem, just pop it between the feet. If you go in to a toilet cubicle and discover there is no toilet paper ( as I did on one occasion) you don't exit as I did, as they just send you back in and yell out no paper in cubicle 4, and under each cubicle left and right comes little parcels of toilet paper for moi. How nice, how efficient, how practical. New York women embrace all women, they help one another out, you immediately become part of the sisterhood regardless of where you are from or how long you're here for. New York women, thank you.

My final parting note is a tribute to the Citarellas and Joe's quote."This is a classy joynt". (joint).


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Time SquareTime Square
Time Square

Masses and masses of humanity

17th July 2012

Very glad to hear you got a dose of New York hospitality; I've always thought the rudeness must be coming from other visitors. Living in a city (transplant or native) so jam-packed with people and not learning how to pleasantly co-exist with all forms of humanity is just counterproductive. But I reach the opposite conclusion that you did - I think it's a great place to live but a terrible place to visit (because, as you saw, NYC is so much more than cupcakes and crowds - though boy oh boy do I know a lot about those darn cupcakes). It's the daily beat, the walk down the street, the little nooks and crannies and endless small discoveries you can make as the world converges at an intersection. It's a city that only reveals itself slowly, otherwise it just overwhelms the senses.
17th July 2012

Nice to know people are actually reading my blogs and I love the comments even when we don't agree on everything.
19th July 2012

What a great title
So much to do in so little time. One of the world's great cities! Glad you are squeezing every ounce of pleasure out of it. Plenty of observations are to be made in that city! Happy travels.

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