Oct 31, 2009
|It was raining. The taxi driver obligingly waited as I tried to call Cheryl, the owner of the apartment we had rented for our four night stay in New York. Peggy-Ann entered the front door of the property and climbed to the third floor as instructed in the email and returned to report that she felt as if she had invaded someone’s home. So I returned with her and this time we met a beaming Collette, the cleaner, who assured us we were in the correct place.
It hadn’t felt right for a number of reasons not the least being that on all previous trips to New York we had stayed in a hotel in Manhattan. But on this occasion we had decided to move into Brooklyn, the vast borough to the east of the Hudson River which was said to have a different ‘feel’. It was different from what we had expected for sure.
The apartment was on the second floor of a white painted wooden house located in a predominantly black neighbourhood or, more accurately, a totally black neighbourhood as we only ever saw one other ‘whitie’ get off the New York Underground at our stop during the whole of our stay. Within cooee of our abode there were a couple of delis and some take away joints but no diners, cafés, restaurants or bars. To compensate for the lack of bodily sustenance establishments we had a choice of 50 or so places to sustain the soul all with colourful names such as ‘The God in Christ Church’, ‘The Way Forward, Incorporated’, ‘The New Saviour Gospel Church’ and so on, each displaying the Founder’s name and a relative as Bishop and the Bishop’s son as Pastor and perhaps his brother as Elder.
We went for a wander around the neighbourhood which proved to be a relatively well off suburb with some leafy streets and lines of often well kept town houses. With the friendly and genuine welcoming nature of the Jordanians still sitting clearly in our minds, the lack of immediate bonhomie from the New Yorkers was at first a bit of an assault on the senses; we had forgotten the brash, sometimes near dismissive nature of the Big Apple’s residents. All this being said, Cheryl and her husband Mark were very fine folk and it was nice to see a loving young family in action after all the time on the road.
We took the underground further afield to discover Junior's, a 1940s diner where the Cobb Salad could have fed one of Caesar’s legions and the BBQ Ribs were definitely removed from a large dinosaur. A large black van double parked nearby advertised its menu of tattoo services and proudly displayed its accompanying slogan of ‘We bring the ink to you.’ We strolled over the Brooklyn Bridge on a cool day along with hundreds of others, the distinctive Manhattan skyline ever dominating the view and the Statue of Liberty with her beacon of hope sitting at ease in the background. On the return, I was slapped by a cyclist as he passed me yelling abuse for requiring him to slightly alter direction as he sped by; I was therefore kind of glad that I had taken a photo of the Manhattan Bridge (thinking it was the other)just before the camera battery died and thus denying me the chance to snap the cranky Brooklyn. We mosied by the famous ‘River Café’ toying with the idea of spending some ‘hard earned’ for an overhyped meal there but persuaded otherwise when we were unable to enter and check the menu because of a private function in progress!’
On the Friday night we headed to Broadway, took a look at Times Square for the umpteenth time, ate at an overpriced diner, spied a stretch pink Mini glowing with sparkling diamonds down its columns as it travelled down 7th avenue and then went off to the theatre.
We had booked Jersey Boys, a multi Toni Award winning musical about the 1970s group The Four Seasons, some weeks back and expected it to be a highlight of our New York encounter. It was for me. The sets were stunningly innovative and the show spectacular and somewhat nostalgic as we tapped and sang along to the likes of Big Girls Don’t Cry and Bye Bye Baby (Baby Good Bye). It wasn’t a highlight for PA though. Still suffering from a degree of jet lag and a first foray back into alcohol consumption after a near two week hiatus, she struggled to stay awake even through the loud music and on stag dialogues. She swears she enjoyed the bits she did see though even exclaiming to me that at one stage through the show she was sufficiently awake to clap!
We had noticed that houses were dressed in ghoulish attire with pumpkins and ghostly apparitions hung here and there so correctly deduced that the great American tradition of ‘Trick or Treating’ at Halloween was nigh. And so it was on the Saturday as we took the underground to the lively neighbourhood of Williamsburg where we first embarked on checking out the orthodox Jewish community where the men dressed in black and sported huge circular fur hats, beards and short haircuts with a curled braid dangling by each ear.
We passed kids dressed fancily and were offered candy here and there. But Halloween is more than just a kid’s night out; it is also an occasion for parties with otherwise fully stable folk acting like kids as they also run around in fancy dress. We popped into a restaurant for dinner and were served by a young woman made up with a couple of days’ beard growth whist Pinocchio served at the bar. A couple of sexy cat women dined at a nearby table and it wasn’t long until Elvis dropped by and a pair of butchers with bloody aprons, hatchets and a lamb carcass tossed around the neck joined the throng. The mood was jovial and light. I was pretty sure these folk were probably not running in the New York Marathon scheduled to start at 10 am the next morning.
We left the restaurant. Fancy dress of all sorts was loose in the streets. A young sexy woman went striding by in full confidence, her long coat opened to the wind and displaying a ‘naked’ body suit equipped with nipples and hairy crotch that would put Pussy Galore to shame. An older guy wound his way down the street on a tricycle of sorts decked out with a host of balloons, honking a horn and playing carnival music as he went his merry way.
Back on the underground at a relatively early hour the carriages were packed with families heading home and young folk going out. The party atmosphere still reigned and it was interesting to note that a swear word was not once heard in complete contrast to the expletive ridden utterances that pass as conversations amongst some folk in Oz.
The festive mood was definitely there but New York had lost some of the vibrancy of that which we had experienced two years prior. There were more folk rattling a cup on the street corners hoping to catch a little change and less out having a good time most days. When a family joined one of the trains we were on and realised that a daughter may have stayed on the platform (she hadn’t as it turned out) the father said they would all have to get off and return to get her. The mother rebuked him with ‘Don’t you know there is a recession on. We can’t afford no extra tickets to do that.’ Recession is well evident in America.