Friday, October 12, 2007

The Big Apple First Bite

I reluctantly left my cousin and my goddaughter in Canada whilst looking forward to my upcoming adventures in New York City.

My cousin R picked me up at the airport in his big shiny Lexus and we had lunch at his apartment. He's a good cook though he wouldn't admit to it, and he likes to offer up selections of sliced fruit from his ever-bounteous supply.
He had called me the day before, asking what tea and cookies I preferred, and if there was anything I didn't like. As you know, I like black tea, but I wasn't sure which cookies to ask for, so I figured I would pick some up myself on a jaunt round the neighbourhood. Being the host he is, though, R decided to buy me a box of Jules Destrooper Almond Thins. I've always wanted to try those, and they were delicious - I like almond in baking, but he didn't know that. R had excellent taste in choosing my cookies throughout my stay!

Now, he has lived in the Bronx since first moving to NYC in 1990. When I first visited New York, we stayed with his sister and her family upstate, about 20 minutes from the city. We made a brief overnight visit to R's place and he took us to the top of the World Trade Center at night. That was the extent of my experience with the city. At the time, we were living in Texas, the friendship state, and I didn't like New York or its environs. I thought it was dirty, crowded, and the people aggressive.

Of course, my five years in London have hardened and disillusioned me a great deal. From this perspective, I now think New York City is better than London. It is cleaner, the pace is slower, the people are friendly and interact with each other. The aggression I expected manifests itself more in London. All my preconceptions are shattered. I am newly impressed.

In the evening, when it cooled down a bit, R took me downtown to Union Square, about an hour on the 6 line. There is a Whole Foods supermarket there, a store I liked back in Texas with lots of fine natural and organic products. Picked up all sorts of yummy stuff, then made a short foray into Union Square proper. I was pleased to see people hanging out on the steps chatting, laughing, playing music. It seemed so relaxed and free.

The next day, I began my own adventures. Exiting the building I passed the mailman going in and he said "Good morning." Shocked at being spoken to by a complete stranger, I replied surprisedly, "Good morning." I crossed the road with a smile on my face. I went to the bank to withdraw some money. The man waiting in the lobby waiting for the two customers to finish at the ATMs saw me approach, opened the door for me, and even offered to let me go in front of him. Again surprised at the courtesy, I declined and said he had been waiting before me. But when an old lady with a walking stick came in after me, I let her go ahead of me. Again, I was feeling good with all this community spirit. My first experience with passing it forward in years.

This put me into a good mood to go into town, and all this had only been in the Bronx! Turns out its reputation is undeserved, but also my cousin lives in Parkchester which is a pretty good neighbourhood with a special history. More on that in a later post.

A friend, Vera, from my university dorms in Houston was in town visiting friends, so she and I met up on the steps of the Met.

street scene at the

We picked up lunch at a rather lovely Italian cafe on Madison Avenue, and had a picnic in Central Park while we caught up with each other. The weather was absolutely summery. Central Park is like a whole county. I think of it as the lungs of New York City.

After lunch, Vera and I went back to the Met where we visited three exhibitions, all of which are free with your entry donation: The Age of Rembrandt, Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, and Depth of Field: Modern Photography at the Metropolitan. We had a bit of time left before closing so we flew through the European paintings, Egyptian gallery which housed an entire temple on a water feature, a Spanish courtyard, and the American Wing, which featured whole rooms from different eras. There was so much more I wanted to see, but I had to get across town to meet my friend Denise for dinner. It was a 15 minute walk through Central Park.

Vera joined us for dinner at Arte Cafe, a local Italian in the West 70s. I enjoyed some veal scallopine in lemon and caper sauce. Very yummy. We also had salad and sorbet, as it was a pre-theatre dinner menu. But I had to have a cocktail! I think it was lime and mint and vodka.

We took the subway to Times Square which really is an awesome sight at night. It's like Piccadilly Circus x 10. Vera parted from us at the theatre and then we went in to take our seats. Curtains with David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier) was a delight, in the style of the old musicals with toe-tapping song and dance and comedic dialogue. One number had me smiling from ear to ear in naive delight. That is what you have to do, just shed cynicism - I read a negative review of it, but of course I disagree. So what if I kept thinking, "It's Niles on Broadway!" So what if the jokes were, well, naive. We moderns are too worldly anyway ;)

And at intermission, I saw Liza Minnelli going up the aisle on the way to the bathrooms. Yep, the most famous celeb I've ever spotted but on my least favourites list. Blimey, she be ug-a-lee.

Don't worry, Photobucket displays the photos too large. The better sizes are from Flickr. I wish I could put all 100 on there...May have to make do with Webshots, but the quality on Flickr is still better....Arrrrrggghhh!

Now. Get ready for the next bite.


L B said...

Awwww... yeah, I do agree with you ~ NYC is so much more friendlier than London! Awww..

AmitL said...

Hi,Olivia..that's news-NYC is slower than London??I always thought it was the other way round.

Nice pics..let me see the vid now.

And,it was great reading about people being so polite( I was just wondering-were they being polite to a pretty girl,or,are they usually so polite?Smile)

Have a nice day.I know a great blogger in NYC..chk her site:

Um Naief said...

oh my goodness... what a wonderful post! first.. i love david hyde piece! can't wait to hear all about hte play! and you're right.. liza is uggggaaaleee! can't imagine what she looked like in person... probably a whole lot worse.

i love whole foods. i was just thinking and talking about that place yesterday. i miss it! they have the best cheese spread! ummmm... i love their natural peanut butters too.

i love your pic of central park and times square. i've never been there and i'm dying to go now. maybe we can make a stop there when we go to the states next year. glad to know that it's friendlier than years back. i was wondering about that.

i can imagine that the italian restaurants are delish there. all those italians, i'm sure, make it the good 'ole fashion ways. makes my mouth water just to think about it.

i'm so looking forward to your next post. i'll watch your video later and check out the pics on flickr. glad you're having a wonderful time. i still think you should write a travel book. you give the best details... you make me want to see the place.

Um Naief said...

david hyde pierce... i mean ;)

Olivia said...

LB - which only makes it harder to be here :(


Amit - hm, you did make me think, but no, they're just very chatty in general - otherwise I wouldn't be complaining about Londoners being unfriendly.

Thanks for the referral, I will go look.


Um Naief - I don't know why I thought I had blogged about the play, probably because I'd emailed a few people afterwards.

Hm...I'm not sure you would find NYC friendly, unless Bahrainis are worse than Londoners! Remember, you know Texas too and it's less friendly, which is why I didn't like it back then.

Nevertheless, it is definitely worth a visit, and you never know, you might like it.

I ought to get onto the next post before I forget more. But keep putting it off because I'm afraid of all my photos, can't choose which ones to post! I do have the whole album up on Webshots, see post below.

Lotus Reads said...

I honestly think you should rename your blog "Where in the World is Olivia today". Everytime I visit your blog you're in some new exciting city, how the heck do you manage that?

amillionpieces said...

Sounds great fun! Especially central Park and the Rembrandt exhibition. I confess I'm slightly baffled mind, I never found London unfriendly at all - maybe I just go to the wrong bits, or maybe I'm too much of a city boy to notice.

ML said...

I agree with Lotus! You sure travel a lot, but I love hearing about your adventures :)

Olivia said...

Lotus - .....uh, I don't know. I never thought I travelled that much, and it's usually in a narrow area where i have relatives. So much of Europe I haven't seen.

You've been to Kracow!


Pete - there lies the difference, I've lived in the Deep South, where people are warm and friendly, so the coldness of London hurts me a bit.

Today a lady smiled at me as she held the door at the office, and as I got onto the lift, and that made me smile too, so as I got off at my floor I told her to have a good day, and she smiled and wished me a good one too. Ah, I miss humanity like that.


ML - thanks, which reminds me, I need to get cracking on the next post. Not until perhaps tomorrow night.


nikkipolani said...

Hello friend, I love your NYC bites and am looking forward to more. Your photog exhibits sound lovely, as did your walks around the area and run-ins with courteous people. It's nice to be pleasantly surprised :-)

Guyana-Gyal said...

I enjoy reading the different perspectives...those for London, those for New York.

My mother loves London, but then, she goes only for a holiday. I'm not too sure if she likes New York as much.

I've never been to New York. I wonder if I'd like it. But it always sounds so scary to me.