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I love New York and other clichés

USA | Friday, 25 February 2011 | Views [2055]

From the moment I landed New York was one big cliché. But while everything I saw and did felt like déjà-vu I still loved the place and I was excited about getting to the big apple. I checked the weather whilst still in Rome and noticed the daytime weather was around 20 so I was pretty sure I was heading for perfect tourist weather and my limited clothing in the backpack would be sufficient. On arrival the penny dropped, damn it was 20 Fahrenheit not Celsius ! For those in civilised countries that use the metric system it is easy to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius you simply -32 and times by 8 and then divide by 5 and put you left foot in and shake it all about…

I spent my first day taking a good walk around the lower sections of the city and basically getting my bearings. I based myself on West 40th street which is midtown Manhattan in the garment district near Times Square. New York is a simple grid design city with avenues running north to south starting with 1st Avenue in the east and ending with 12th in the west. Streets start with 1st Street in the south and finish in the 200’s of the Bronx. The Subway is a very viable alternative especially for the longer distances and of course the venerable yellow cabs are on every corner and surprisingly clean.

More common than the yellow cabs are the street food vendors on each corner and of course their mainstay is the Hot Dog. Best eaten with the lot which includes ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut, the hotdogs aren’t large and therefore many people buy two at a time which I thought was just greedy given the carts are on almost every corner. I did follow one tradition which was to buy a hotdog at each vendor in central park as I crossed from east to west. This meant a simple 20 minute walk came with 5 hotdogs! All that hard work in Thailand is being undone by the food and booze in New York (and Rome too)

New York clichés don’t finish with hot dogs, there are the pizza (pie) shops also on ever block selling the thin pastry specialties with sausage, pepperoni and cheese being the local favourites.. Sorry NY but Rome beats you with pizza.

Whilst heading to the Metropolitan Museum (ain’t I cultured) I walked along 5th Avenue past Sak’s department store only to notice the steam rising from the manholes in the road  - New York you are the capital of clichés.

The New York delis are also just as I expected, I visited Katz Deli on Houston to enjoy a monster pastrami on rye sandwich served with just enough gruffness to ensure I was in the big apple.  The New York diners have counters which even include the city’s finest having pancakes with their police radios on the table keeping an ear to what is happening.

One cliché that surprised me a little was the drinking of shots with beer chasers (or a ‘beer back’) again I had seen this again on television but it was normally being performed by old men or middle-aged construction workers, not twenty something business women.

I spent an afternoon in Brooklyn checking out some of the sites although was disappointed to learn that Coney Island is closed during winter. I also caught the subway to the Bronx and rather than do any planning I simply jumped off at a random stop.. And as luck and the clichés would have it I exited the subway into the middle of one of the typical hardcore gangster neighborhoods right down to guys selling crack on the corners. I resisted the temptation to run back into the subway and instead took a short walk and even bought a sandwich and sat at the window (half waiting to see a drive-by) before returning to my nice midtown hotel.

One thing that did surprise me and was completely against all known clichés was the friendliness of the new Yorkers. I was shocked by the ease in which people struck up conversations with me or how quick they were to apologise if you got bumped or even seeing people offering their seats on subways. I actually had a guy on the street handing out pamphlets say ‘sorry sir’ when I declined his voucher for half priced curtains.

So overall I think New York is an awesome city that not only lives up to all expectations but actually manages to exceed them.

I was ready to post the above but I feel compelled to have a little rant first.. America you are still a superpower although some of the kids from the east are catching you and there is no doubt you set the standard on many things world-wide including food, fashion and entertainment. But there are a few things you must fix. Firstly America as I mentioned at the start you need to get on the metric band wagon, stop using this silly Fahrenheit for temperature or just as confusing asking me what size drink I want using ounces.. buggered if I know just get me the big one.  

And finally I need to agree with the speech Mr Pink made in Reservoir Dogs. You need to get away from this idea of automatic tipping! If it is just expected because the person is underpaid then please don’t tell me the coffee is $2 if you are gonna add tax and then have an expected % tip that I need to figure out and add on top. Just tell me it is $3, pay your waiters a proper minimum wage and make it simpler on all of us.

Ok I have gotten that off my chest and I Love you again New York


Tags: new york

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