Big Man on Mulberry Street

And as if by magic, it’s the working week again, and I’m back from a holiday that seems all the more dreamlike than California did last year. I went for a long walk around my neighbourhood last night and was immediately struck by just how quiet this place is, how little goes on when compared to the 24/7 full on noise and smell that New York shoves at you. I think that is why I prefer it to the West Coast, on reflection: there’s no hiding how shabby and unkempt NY can be, despite numerous attempts to cover it up. It’s that mate you have that never shows up to formal events looking immaculate, and you love them all the more for their refusal to play to situation. My daughter found the town genuinely frightening, and I can now understand why. For me, it’s a lot closer to my personality than I’d casually care to admit.

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I’ve not mentioned the apartment we stayed in, which was found via AirBNB and proved to be the master stroke for the ten days away. Apart from spotty WiFi there was pretty much nothing wrong with the place: huge, comfortable and allowing us not to have to play to a Hotel’s schedule or menu. It gave ten days where we could find a haven amongst what was often a chaotic city, quiet reflection in often debilitating heat and humidity. Most importantly however we could wash clothes, cook meals and eat pizza as if the place was ours. It gave the kids their own rooms too, which if we’d had to pay for the privilege in a hotel would have effectively doubled the price of the Holiday. I can fully understand why the Leisure Industry sees such a threat in private rentals, as the NY Yellow Cabs view Uber as threatening their livelihood. The Yellow Cabs may have an app now, but if you won’t let us specify a large car to take our bags to the Airport? You’re no use to us. There’s a lot of lessons to be learnt as the concept of ‘holiday’ changes, and not all of them will be learnt.

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I need to document a few last things: the experiences at Ground Zero are still quite fresh and raw, and with 15 years coming up next month, I think I might hold back on that until the correct time. The number of Space Shuttles I’ve seen now is two: we ‘did’ the USS Intrepid as our last day (and the Enterprise by definition), with the evening on Mulberry Street so I could cross ‘eat Cannoli in Little Italy’ off my Bucket List. Of all the things I did in the ten days it will be the Egyptian collection at the Met that sticks most in the memory, but the evening walks that struck at me most deeply. The city is its most seductive at night, and I am a sucker for a romantic gesture.

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I’ve got a lot of new stuff planned, which I’ll clue you in on starting when School does next month. For now however I am content to keep plugging away at the various strands of life already being worked on. That means I’ll be doing PT later today, editing Bond before lunch, and generally attempting to make sense of the mess that is my life in between. At least now I can be confident I’ve found a part of the US I’d not grow tired of living in. All that’s left now is to fill in some of the gaps in between.

 

Quiet Life

There wasn’t really a plan yesterday, and so that meant a fair bit of wandering about, but as it transpires it ended up as one of the best days of the holiday. We again set the task for the oldest to find us a restaurant to eat in for the main meal of the day, and he picked what I thought by name might be a problematic suggestion. However, I should have more confidence in my son’s choices. The Times Square Bar and Grill was a triumph of 1970’s design, and served possibly the most amazing Vegetable Quesadilla I have ever tasted. In fact, I’ll freely admit I’ve been searching out recipes to try and repeat this when I get home.

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Design wise, I’d love to know who was responsible for the construction of this place. It was so 1970’s but utterly beautiful despite that. That made eating a pleasure and people watching even more so, and the place was far enough off the beaten track to mean we were able to eat quietly and not worry about the excessive tourism that Times Square produces. Of all the places we’ve visited this holiday, that’s one I will not miss one iota when we return home. It’s the most touristy of traps, packed with people and ways to separate you from your cash. It was horrible, and I hated every minute we were there. So, while Mr Alt went to buy a guitar, the kids and I went to Battery Park, which has free wifi and therefore became a couple of hours of hardened gaming in the sunshine.

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All told, being able to ‘play’ outside was fantastic. I’m close to L20, have a spare Americas-only Pokemon to trade with once they open that ability, and have been able to watch my kids have a great time doing something they enjoy in a completely different environment. To be honest, the app’s been a godsend when both youngest and oldest have bored of us dragging them about, and for me yesterday it was hugely satisfying to be able to complete evolutions and get XP, and at the same time sit and watch Battery Park move past. More importantly, a remarkable number of other people were playing, across a vast age range. It was a revelation for my husband, who finally grasps just how significant this phenomena has become.

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Then, as the sun went down over New York, we found ourselves at Ground Zero,and the Twin Towers Memorial. Seeing it at twilight was all the more sobering, and as I watched people taking selfies at the monument, I couldn’t help but think this was inappropriate. I understand the need to record holiday memories, but not like that. My son asked me where I was the day it happened: I told him I was with him, ironing in the front room of our house with him in his baby chair, when I saw the first plane hit. There were a lot of tears, especially when it became apparent that white roses are left in the names of each victim on the day of their birthdays. It is a very sympathetic and moving monument, and I’m extremely glad we went. Then we made our way home, via the new Westfield Shopping Centre built next to the site. It is a stunning building, which from the outside looks like the wings of a dove.

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I’m also not 100% comfortable with the Twin Towers site becoming a centre of mass consumption, but as has been established I am not the target audience for such things to begin with. There’s no argument however, America does large and showy better than just about anyone else: whether it is Times Square or shopping complexes, you’ll be hard pressed to better them.

All Time High

It was inevitable I’d get behind, but in reality that’s not as big a deal as I’d make it out. The last couple of days have gravitated around Macy’s: my daughter and son have both saved spending money to buy clothing here, and even I took the plunge and have picked up a pile of cheap sportswear: even with the Brexit state of currency, I saved money, and it is entirely worth the effort to drag myself around sale racks. Plus, with Macy’s free wifi, I’ve managed to get almost to L19 at Pokemon Go, and as this is my only gaming fix right now? Very much required and needed.

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Monday was the Yankees (who won 1-0, in a game that at times was pretty average) and yesterday was the Empire State, which was beautifully queue free. My husband has a fear of heights, and I have to say I was proud of him going up as far as he did. Adults have been managing on two meals a day and yesterday’s Diner (Andrews) gave us top food, smoothies and Olympic coverage. In fact, as far as food goes so far, I think this beat the hipster vibe of Harlem. It was honest, decent and very delicious, and I even sneaked in a slice of Red Velvet to boot. All in all, a fabulous couple of days.

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There was a plan to do the USS Intrepid today, but I’m not sure that will come to pass: we only have two more days here so what now gets done is dictated by enthusiasm and not desire. I’ve visited everywhere I’ve wanted to, kids seem quite happy with what has transpired, so now it’s down to what else we can do in the time available. Mostly, I’m keeping out of discussions and having a shower, and hopefully by the time I’m done there’ll be a consensus.

Bring on the day :D

History Repeating

Okay, yesterday was Sunday, right? That means I’m at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it’s the largest collection of Egyptian objects outside of Egypt (I believe) It also means an unreasonable amount of squeezing like a fangirl, and I did not disappoint on that front. Even writing about it now is making me happy internally. There’s a metric buttonne of pictures on Flickr for those of you who care but for me? I lose myself in a civilisation that has fascinated me since, I’ll freely admit, a book of my parents on Tutankhamun. Before then I didn’t have a clue about anything related to life before Christ. Now, it has become one of my favorite diversions as an adult.

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There is a remarkable amount of scope in the Met’s collection, it must be said, and the curation insider this museum is very reminiscent of the V&A in terms of sympathy and situation. However it was the number of small objects that stunned me: tiny, intricate pieces of art, hand-worked jewelry, pots, painted panels… The range was staggering. I’ve realised I want more pieces of Egyptian art in my life, something I’ll attempt to remedy on my return to the UK. For now, I’m just staggered by the details: so many, and all so totally beautiful. Many new blog headers will be created as a result.

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However it wasn’t just Egypt on display: quite fortuitously for me, there was a special exhibit on clothing: Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. This meant an entire area dedicated to some of the most iconic looks in modern fashion, and how contemporary designers are using cutting edge materials and processes to reinvent the iconic looks. However much I was impressed by the colours, use of 3D printed materials or fabrics? It was the black evening gowns that reduced me to speechless wonder. There was one Coco Chanel dress in particular, from the 1920’s, which is as close to perfect as I think I’ve ever seen fabric designed. I may not wear makeup, or spend hours on my appearance, but I sure as fuck know special when I see it.

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So, I bought a catalogue, all $55 of it. I don’t remember the last time I spent that much on anything printed, but it is worth every single cent. Then we walked through Central Park, and visited Dana Barratt’s apartment block which, on cue, had nothing thunder and lightning burst forth around it shortly before the heavens opened and soaked the world. Then it was Dominos and the Olympics and I don’t care I only got about five hours sleep because yesterday was officially my best day for some time.

I LOVE THIS TOWN.

(I Love You) Miss Robot

If you ever listened to The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you will be aware of the the Total Perspective Vortex. This was a torture chamber that worked on a simple theory: as every atom is connected to every other atom, it is possible to extrapolate an entire version of the Universe using something as simple as a piece of fairy cake. Stick your hapless victim inside it and the enormity of creation (plus a small sign saying ‘You are Here’) will inevitably destroy their soul. Yesterday, I discovered the American Museum of Natural History didn’t need fairy cake to produce roughly the same effect. They just built the Hayden Planetarium, and got Neil Degrasse Tyson to do a film about Dark Matter.

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My brain’s still reeling after yesterday’s trip: I cried pretty much from the moment the film started until the moment I left the theatre. It wasn’t just the enormity of scale either, but the understanding of a true and intractable interconnectivity of everything to everything else. The Museum itself is a mass of contradictions: the traditional taxidermy makes me physically uncomfortable, and is starkly inappropriate when placed next to the joy of the Universe. This place, as my husband very astutely pointed out, has to work very hard to engage in a country where many people still staunchly believe that evolution is a myth. In fact, when you stick the vastness of the Universe next to the belief that the Planet was created in a week? Stories have their place in the world, but not at the expense of reality and truth. Sometimes, you need to understand where one ends and the others begin.

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For me undoubtedly the highlight of the Museum was the Gemstone Hall: so many pictures have been taken (I’ve stuck them all on Flickr, for what it’s worth) and will be integrated as Blog headers on my return. Then it was just so hot out we went home, and spent the evening watching British athletes win Olympic medals, with chicken pasta and vegetables for tea. All told it was one of the most relaxing evenings I can remember for a VERY long time. Husband’s gone for a walk this morning because he, like me, would actually be liking to do more exercise but the weather’s causing that to be a fairly big ask. I’ll salute the people I saw running in New York yesterday, your lungs are far stronger than mine: it has been so bad I actually had to pull an Inhaler out yesterday for relief.

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Today I am reliably informed should be the last day of insufferably hot weather, but that’s now not really an issue as we can pick places with superb AC and wireless to keep the kids occupied should the content around them fail to engage. I think that means  we’ll be heading for Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but that is going to be dictated by what time husband comes back from a walk/run (I thought I was bad with needing the exercise, but he’s beginning to feel it too) and when the kids finally choose to surface. That should give me plenty of time therefore to catch up on words in various places, and maybe even get to schedule some stuff on the side. I don’t really care where in the World I am now: as long as I have the means to write?

Everything is great.

The Way it Is

Okay, so I admit that I crashed out last night after two beers and a particularly humid day. I’m here now, in the glorious period before we head out of the apartment where I am neither a) sweaty or b) hot having showered. Last night, amazingly, the AC made things too cold. There were fevered dreams of me being covered in blisters on the lower half of my body, and having to fight my way into the library at Karazhan to discover a cure. Yes, Warcraft is still quite prominent in my dreams right now, but I digress. I have two days to cover. Let’s go back to Thursday, where modern art broke out all over the shop.

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MOMA was on the must-do list, having never visited the place before. I’ll freely admit, a lot of what is exhibited as ‘art’ was, at least to my mind, utter bobbins. However, when we got to the top floors, everything changed. There were tears in this gallery, and not simply because of this picture, which sat with so little security around it I was genuinely surprised, especially considering how much surrounds the Mona Lisa in Paris. The whole experience was wonderful: I always find myself imagining the artists at work, what their environment would have been like, how the people around them would have reacted to what is, at least in my mind, genius. The kids got bored quite quickly but I could have stayed there all day. Except I had a lunch date, with someone extremely dear to my heart, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

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Yesterday was spent on the water, knowing how hot it would be, and we circled the Island of Manhattan. Our Tour Guide was magnificent, and the two and a bit hours literally flew by, with history being crammed into an extremely willing mind. I now understand a lot more about the topography of the Island itself, more about the north than I ever did before, and mostly just loved sitting in a boat sweating my arse off but learning stuff at the same time. There was also sufficient walking to offset the Peanut Butter Burger I had for dinner (husband lied, pulled pork was better) and the chocolate beer, which really did do very scary things to my subconscious.

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As a running background to the last few days has been the Olympics, which meant my Husband following Bradley Wiggins’ gold medal via Twitter on the Express C back to Washington Heights. It’s been fabulous to be in the same time zone (more or less) than all of the action, and makes for genuine excitement each day, though it was slightly surreal to wake up this morning to find the first game of the Premiership already on (Hull 2 -Leicester 1 WHAT’S THAT ABOUT) However, what the Internet means is that we can still be away yet remain in touch with all the normal stuff that makes the family what it is. Normally I assume the technology’s more about being able to speak, but what this week has proven is how important it has become also to listen.

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The time difference is still taking some getting used to, and as a result sleep’s summat that I suspect at some point in the next week I’ll end up taking in the daytime, but for now I am happy to survive feeling slightly ragged but permanently hyped. I have no idea of what we’re gonna do today, but whatever happens really doesn’t matter. This is the most relaxed I’ve felt about anything for a very, very long time.