Volume 6 Part 026 New York … the wheels fell off
By 2013 it felt that the whole place was coming apart at the seams. All too much “been there and done that”. Trying something new was fairly disastrous, trying something old, simply depressing. The walk via “One World trade” to the jetty for “Governors” Island, only to find it closed for rebuilding was a mile too far for the little man in flip flops. The Paris Café carrot to get him from Battery Park to Brooklynn Bridge failed spectacularly. It too, was closed for renovations. For the first time since 1866 its door had been closed by the Hurricane which beat the one in 2011 for severity. By 2014, for Joe’s visit, the Paris café had opened “under new management”. Despite still appearing in travel guides it was reduced to pub-grub and Peroni. There was no evidence of the Irish family who had managed the place for an eternity. On the next table were a family from Salford celebrating their wedding. The two daughters had served as bridesmaids that morning at a civil ceremony at the Town hall a couple of blocks inland. They recognised us as the four who had occupied the front row next to the bogs on the AA flight in from Manchester where a “sprog” had wee’d his pants in the aisle queuing for the toilet in the after dinner dash. We remembered her for later checking why her feet were wet and told her so. Maybe she’ll wear shoes the next time she uses an American Airlines micro-loo.
Much to my dismay the family were off to Hoboken to collect a wedding cake ordered from Mario’s after seeing him baking on a Sky channel reality TV programme. The Itinerary I had drafted for Joe and Elena’s “blast of a lifetime” in the Big Apple had been received with largely gross indifference. The only activity they wanted to add to the list was a trip to some Italian baker I had never heard of and located in Hoboken. Who the fuck wants to waste holiday time in Hoboken? Hoboken is in Jersey. It looks back at Manhattan. A very fat temp PA I once enjoyed the misfortune to employ came from Hoboken. She was fat because she was Idle, came from Hoboken and ate cakes. We were supposed to be heading in the same direction but only if it rained! Worse still, we would need to take a sub way. In over ten years of tramping the streets of New York the nearest we got to the sub way was Penn and Grand Central station and the rush of hot air exhaled by the sub way vents along Fifth avenue.
It rained on the Saturday in October 2014 so we went to Hoboken.
After ten minutes of utter confusion and absolutely no assistance from fellow passengers we mastered the ticket machine for The “Path” from 34th street direct into Hoboken central. In New Jersey, a post woman pointed the way the baker on Washington Street. Due to the rainy day and an early start we encountered no one queuing in the roped “Slaarght Lines” outside the bakery. Inside we were ticket “37”. “16” was being served. By the time we sought refuge for brunch in Jonny Rocket’s diner a little way further along the street, the rain had slowed to a drizzle and the queue outside the cake shop extended to over a hundred meters.
Armed with $150 of cupcakes, homemade biscuits and brandy-snaps filled with piped clotted cream we were back on the “Path” heading for the first stop after the Hudson River which pops up on Christopher Street. We’d been there the previous night for a play at the Lucille theatre which smelled of mould and dry rot. The pre-show dinner was at a Cuban restaurant opposite the theatre and a delight, despite the owner who served us being a miserable old man who couldn’t force a smile even for his 20% tip.
The paper hammock containing the cake cargo burst just after we crossed under the Houston. We never got to shop in Tribeca or see the house where “Ghost” was filmed on “Baker”. Brunch was big on the agenda for 2014, as were street bought donuts and Mary O’Grady’s Shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. We also did an appalling French Bistro with a radiator hot enough to toast a Hungarian. All the staff were East European. We did lots of Italian’s. The “Boat House” in Central park was a pretentious as the former “Tavern” with food equally bland. Given its reputation for exclusivity we were surprised that, despite my protestations the Indian Taxi driver dropped us off at the wrong side of the Park and nearly late for a pre-booked reservation. The entertainment was provided by a wild racoon playing on the outside window ledge.
We concluded that the Fish lunch in the Oyster Bar under Grand central station was worth the hike. Taking Stella Artois in the gallery bar hoping for a replay of a famous Hitchcock film was an expensive toilet break.
The 2014, Time Square Sheraton is possibly the worst hotel in the world it has been my displeasure and discomfort to visit. All so brown and impolite with an estimated two and half thousand rooms sized just sufficient for a battery hen, invoices that don’t match the services taken and check in times comparable with the accuracy of a British Rail timetable, this is the place to avoid. Scruffy lobby facilities monopolised by scruffy out of town business executives during the day gave way to scruffy lobby facilities serviced by incompetent indifferent staff during the evening. Ordering a coffee resulted in being presented with a waxed paper beaker and directions to a self-service coffee fountain sat in the midst of a prehistoric swamp no one could be bothered to mop up. Submerging a sign denoting “slippery Floor” was deemed sufficient. We received the Greeks drinks. The Greeks received the Russians bill who had left in a huff, late for theatre reservations.
The weather in September is ideal for New York. Not to hot and not too cold but just enough to burn. The weather in October is pleasant but approaching being too risky to guarantee promenading at will.
February 2004 was business! I was, by now “an old pro” in New York City. A weekend at minus fourteen degrees centigrade offers a new perspective on the lakes in Central Park, overcoats and boots on Fifth Avenue and the number of unoccupied bar stools in the Monster bar. People stay inside in a New York winter. That year I stayed at the “Benjamin” courtesy of the office. Overshadowed by the Waldorf, the Benjamin is as Brown as the Affinia and as beige as the Sheraton. On Sunday afternoon, I walked the length of fifth avenue arriving at the Monster Bar as the sun set behind the Canyon on 8th. I warmed to a long Island Iced Tea consoling Peter by text that his favourite Boutique on Waverley had disappeared. He wouldn’t be getting a replacement pair of shiny fluorescent orange “camy” style trousers from the select store we raided on our first visit in 2002. Pete had piled the counter high with a selection of pants, shirts and even a pair of exclusive cowboy boots, first seeking reassurance that each purchase was sanctioned. Why would I be complaining? The cute Jewish sales assistant handed me the totalled bill with a sneering smile. I handed him Pete’s credit card with a retaliatory smile! Peter signed the receipt with a glazed expression forcing a grin through a head-full of clenched teeth… Sugar-daddy my arse!
The adjacent pet shop has weathered the fashion of fickle New Yorkers. We pay an annual pilgrimage to lament the terraced cages of sad little faces destined to be trophy accessories along with the Gucci handbags and Jimmy Chus. “Min-Pins, Miniature Pinchers at a thousand dollars apiece were discounted if bought by the pair or sold as three for the price of two! Fat Yorkies would be the last to sell, often lasting out a full week of our vacation with us leaving for home and they still incarcerated.
I flew “Business” in 2004.
Somewhere along the line in 2010 we did we did the Hilton in the fashion district. At 23 stories it was a pencil thin tower with a fashionable roof terrace and bar that was out of bounds after Pete became “tea-total”. I liked the Hilton. The roof terrace was first in a line of missed opportunities.
Pete won the trip in 2006 as first prize in a Swanke Haden raffle to celebrate their centenary. We had bought the house in Broomhill that year and were giving a holiday a miss. I paid for my ticket out of money set aside for the new front garden railings. This was the first time we travelled business class together although from Stansted on a “B.C.” only flight which subsequently went bust but spoiling us for subsequent tours. October was a little damp but still warm enough for jacket weather. The company selected a Marriott Hotel someplace up-town.
The event was a major disappointment somewhat disproving the theory that America is a classless society. The “haves” occupied the stage area to look down upon the “have-nots” in a very drab ballroom on the ground floor of the Swanke-Hayden offices in the Puck Building on the corner of Lafayette and Houston. Peter and I were with the have-nots but endowed with special status as not only being the honorary Gays, but the honorary Gays “from little old England”! The sycophantic Director in Charge of the Sheffield Office was licking arse in high places.
This was the first time inside the former Victorian warehouse which we had seen on our way back to the airport at the end of the initial tour to New York in September 2002. On that occasion we didn’t actually bother to step outside the Lincoln town-car taking us back to JFK. The week had been so busy we hadn’t made the courtesy visit we had promised ourselves. To know that the office was real was sufficient.
The first trip in 2002 took in the obligatory sights in less than a week covering the Ground Zero, Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Staten Island Ferry, Wall Street, Broadway and the Yellow-fat-Rat-Bastard super store on lower Broadway, Brooklyn Bridge, The statue of Liberty, Grand Central station and central Park. The nearest thing we got to culture was an afternoon at the Guggenheim. With the exception of the Guggenheim and Yellow-Fat-Rat- Bastard the whole tour was repeated in ’14 for the benefit of Joe and Elena. The cake shop in Hoboken was their highpoint with Elena preferring to spend the time on top of the empire state to catch up on her texts rather than the spectacle of the world’s most vibrant city. We tried for and missed the “Top of the Rock” three times
Over the years the repertoire expanded to cover MoMa, the Met, the cable car to Roosevelt Island, Macy’s, The Chrysler, The UN, Trump Tower, Woolworth building, the Oyster Bar inside grand central station and the Hi-line. In ’14 they got the lot although the visit to MoMa didn’t get past the museum shop. I was bought a cardboard cut-out of the Chrysler building in exchange for a visit to see the underwear in Victoria’s Secret on the corner of seventh and 34th. Spoiler alert!!! Victoria’s Secret is not confined to a New York thing! They are everywhere including the departure area of Terminal one at Manchester Airport. Elena spent more time riffling through knicker drawers than looking through the lens of a camera bought especially for the trip to NYC. There were more selfies outside a cake shop in Hoboken than from the roof of the world’s greatest metropolis. A Sunday stroll along the hi-line has become so popular it is now single file and not the retreat from the hustle and bustle at street level it once professed to be. Something else the Italians didn’t get in ’14. The Metropolitan Museum had lost out to a bra counter.
The New york trip of October 2014 will be issued as a pictorial addendum – … ….cant wait …..