New York, the cool shit and not so cool shit. Well, we have finished up the New York portion of our trip and have had a huge time hanging out in NYC. There is so much cool shit here…
Upsides of New York.
- The MET. Quite simply one of THE best museums I have ever been to… loved the Impressionist galleries, the Medieval armoury and the decorative arts galleries. The building itself is gorgeously impressive and the bookshop? Well, it’s hard to get out of there with your credit card intact! Love it!
- The Cloisters. Very cool little Medieval museum that feels a lot like it has been modelled on the Cluny Museum (the Musee de Moyen Age, in Paris which is built in a Medieval convent). The Cloisters holds some of the most beautiful artefacts ever. I finally got to see the Minnastracken casket that I had based my embroidered aummoniere purse on, and had no idea it was so small! It’s a hike uptown to get there, but the Cloisters was worth it.
- Top of the Rock. The views from the top of 30 Rock were incredible. We went up in the afternoon and waited around for night views and got the best of both worlds… New York by day and by night. Awesome views.
- The MET Opera. Saw an amazing production, La Boheme, at the Lincoln Centre which itself is an incredible venue. Such a beautiful building and even though we were in the third balcony, we had a fantastic view of the stage. Loved it.
- Statue of Liberty. Very cool landmark. I always thought it was a bit twee, but after getting to go up in the statue and see out through the crown to the views of Manhattan, I was quite impressed. Add it to your list.
- All the Art Deco buildings. So much of New York is built post depression/post war and the facades of all the buildings are very well kept. If you ignore the signage and vehicles at street level, you can imagine things haven’t changed that much.
- Times Square. It’s all happening here, so much going on, so many shops, so many restaurants, so many street performers, so much hype and action. Hard to know where to look.
- Theatres and other museums. New York seems to have a lot of actual culture available for consumption. I swear you could go to a new museum or a new production or a new exhibition every day for a year.
- Everything is open late. All the shops and restaurants seem to be open until all hours. Everyone is out every night and walking around the Midtown area in the middle of the night feels open and safe.
- Starbucks. The coffee is apparently ‘drinkable’ as American coffee goes, you can’t knock free wifi, they have cheap yummy bagels which make a quick easy breakfast, you can find one on every second corner and they have totally replaced McDonalds for this travellers preferred place to find clean toilets.
- Buses. I like the bus system here (can’t believe I am saying that!). They go pretty much in straight lines – up this Avenue, down that Avenue. Most of the popular routes we wanted to use ran every 10-12 minutes or so, they’re clean and you can see the town a bit while you go.
- Street vendor food. Mr K loved the quick and easy hot dogs, pretzels and other yummies available on nearly every corner. You can always tell which ones are the best, they will have line ups for ages, like the Halal Guys up near Carnegie Hall.
- Cheap pashmina. Along with food vending carts, there were happily people around selling items of warmth nearly everywhere… beanies, hats, gloves, scarves, pashmina and all good things.
- The Waldorf=Astoria. We felt it was a wonderful place to stay and it really added to our New York experience. As it turns out, our friends staying over in Times Square were paying roughly the same (okay, they were actually paying a little bit more) that we were, because I found some great winter discount rates. Hunt hard and you can get a good deal.
- The Colbert Report taping. In spite of having to line up for two hours in the cold, and in spite of the whole thing being over and done before you know it… it was a lot of fun.
- ‘Buzz’ of the street. Mr K really likes the pace of New York, the hustle and bustle, the noise and excitement in the air. But personally, I think that comes at a cost (see below).
Downsides of New York:
- Fat apartment puppies. EVERY dog we saw being walked in the streets and parks was overweight, and some of them were grossly overweight. These poor dogs live in apartments and have no yards and don’t get enough exercise. Was kinda sad and I think a little bit cruel to keep a Siberian Husky in a New York apartment.
- The Subway. Ok We had a disagreement over this one. Mr K thinks the Subway is ‘Quick. Fast. Direct, Stops every few blocks. Affordable by the weekly ticket. Goes everywhere. Has unlimited travel for $30/week’. (His tautologies, not mine!) I thought it was disgustingly smelly (can’t imagine how bad that gets in summer), it was noisy and uncomfortable. It was full of homeless people desperately trying to stay warm making a huge statement about the US’s inability or unwillingness to look after its disenfranchised and on top of all that there was unreliable disabled access to platforms. I have trouble with stairs and they were unavoidable, I have no idea how you get around if you are wheelchair bound – it’d be totally fucked. No where near as good as the London Tube for access and I am so glad I never have to go near it again.
- The ‘security theatre’. Everywhere you go there is this pretence of security, but it is inconsistent. Bags, belts, electronics, jackets and shoes at airports; Bags, belts and electronics at Statue of Liberty; Bags and electronics only at 30 Rock. Bags, belts and jackets at the Empire State Building; Visual bag check and metal detectors only at museums and Colbert… the whole thing feels like a farce. If there was true problems and true concerns to protect these environments and the people in them, you’d think there would be a standard of security required and you’d see the same level of security measures everywhere. It all feels like the appearance of security is more important than actually securing these spaces. Meh.
- “This is for you.” Got pretty fucking sick of this really quick, people pulling you up in the street and saying ‘here take this hat/card/blessing’ and then when you go to walk away, asking you to pay for said item. Worst one we saw – a little Buddhist dud gave Mr K a card with a blessing on it, and the stood there and demanded $20 for him accepting it. Some Buddhist!! Needless to say he got his blessing shoved back where the sun don’t shine… talk about fucking window licking special.
- Emergency Service Vehicles. Two things about these 1) You can hear the sirens going 24/7. It is so much part of the landscape in the city, that it becomes background white noise after a while and you don’t even bother to turn around to try and see what is going on; and 2) NO ONE makes way for ambulances and fire trucks on the road. Taxis, private vehicles, buses, no one is moving out of the way for them – I’d hate to be the person dying of a heart attack at the other end, knowing full well that help just ain’t coming because they can’t get through the traffic. So fucked up.
- Smokers. So many smokers here, and you really notice them thanks to the close proximity of the Humanity(TM). I also hate when you’re walking along a sidewalk and someone will bust their butt to move around you to walk in front of you and then you get stuck breathing in a truckload of their second hand smoke. You can keep that shit.
- Food is expensive everywhere. Some of this impression might be based on the hanging around the ‘touristy’ areas, and the impression might also be attributable to the taxes not being included in prices on menus, and of course the fucking tipping which drives most Aussies nuts.
- There’s just too much “America, fuck yeah”. New York overloads on the ‘How fucking awesome are we?’ There is so much flag waving, so much over the top patriotism, and a definitely feeling that saying anything critical of the US could get you stomped on. Enough already, you guys are not the greatest country in the world anymore – ask Aaron Sorkin.
- This nonsense that passes for Spring weather. Outside temps of 2C and 3C but feels like -6C or -11C and threatening snow, again! So over it. There were many nights we wanted to just go wander the streets and take in the city, but instead found ourselves taking refuge indoors. If this is Spring, it can piss off.
- But the one thing I really dislike in New York was this, Sense of Entitlement, displayed by many New Yorkers. Now this is a big one for me, and it is big enough for me personally, that I feel I could never, ever live here. I don’t know if it is a lack of respect or a failure to recognise what is, and is not appropriate, but there are so many people here who feel it is perfectly within their rights to disturb the people around them, and they have no hesitation in doing so. For example, it is quite common to find yourself walking along with a group of people who seem to be talking so loudly that EVERYONE around them is forced to hear their inane conversations. Then there are people who will walk four abreast on the subway stairs and make no effort to move over to allow people to pass.
There have been some even more special examples of this sort of inability to act privately in public spaces. We were on one train, and two young black guys got on the train, asked people to move out of the standing area near the doors, put on a loud soundtrack and started dancing and doing acrobatics causing a disturbance on the entire carriage and after imposing their impromptu performance on everyone, they walked around with a hat asking for money. Then there is the guy in Time Square, who no doubts thinks he is amusing, calling himself the Work Out Soldier, who walked up to strangers in the street and started yelling at them like a bootcamp instructor, usually kicking off by telling the person he was assailing that they were ‘fat, lazy, obese bastards who should skip a meal’! No shit, this guy was walking up to people saying this stuff. If he had come near me, I would have given him what for.
Another absolutely mind boggling example of a lack of consideration towards others, came in the form of some plonker deciding it would be funny to hit the ‘stop’ button on an escalator at Penn Station, just as hundreds of people were flowing off a crammed platform after the hockey game. Yep, he thought he’d get to the top of the escalator, and prank his friends by making them walk the rest of the way up… never mind the other people already on the escalator, never mind the hundreds of people still stuck down on the platform that were now going to have to take the stairs – fuck you, you inconsiderate little cunt – you’re not funny, you’re not amusing, you’re not witty, you’re just a self entitled little prick who has no regard for others.
These are some of the more extreme examples of what we ran into everyday, and all I can say is there seems to be a pervasive, and frequently displayed, lack of awareness of what private behaviour is appropriate in public spaces, and a complete disregard for the privacy, space and comfort of others.