by Pierre Le Roux
Our week in New York was everything I expected and more. Now being back at work and feeling extremely jet lagged, it seems strange to think that just a couple of days ago I was still in the Big Apple. Being jet lagged isn’t any fun and it makes you stupid. It feels like you are hours behind everybody and everything and you experience uncontrollable bouts of drowsiness and energetic rushes at the most inconvenient times: Falling asleep at your desk at 11am and being wide awake and ready to climb Mount Everest at 2am. My body’s clocked is fucked, but they say it will reset itself and things will go back normal in a day or two. In the mean time everybody just have to deal with me somewhat incoherent and sleepy the whole time. But I digress; let me tell you about our week in New York City.
It should not come as much of a shock to learn that a certain airline didn’t upgrade hubby and I to business class. We had to fly cattle class and it was awful! Imagine spending 23 hours in a plane, cramped in like sardines with what sounded like a 100 babies screaming at the top of their lungs none stop. This happened on both our departing flights as well as our return flights. I have come to learn that I hate babies, especially on planes. Luckily I was armed with sleeping pills and my iPod and if I didn’t have this combo you were sure to have read about a certain passenger who tried to open the plane doors at 35 000 feet threatening to throw babies out of the cabin. It was that bad! On our flight to JFK I also learned a valuable lesson the hard way – never fly with boots because your feet will swell up and you will have one hell of a hard time putting your boots back on again. Needless to say when I arrived at JFK I could hardly walk. I was in pain and my ankles looked like those of an 8 month pregnant woman who was retaining water.
Waddling my way through customs must have looked very funny as I was walking like a disabled person. We stood in line for just under an hour and for the first time in my history I did not experience any problems. Hubby and I were processed and welcomed to America. No interrogations, no searching our luggage, no strip search (I was kind of disappointed about the strip search part though seeing as the one security guy was rather hot). We made our way to the taxi and we were whisked off to our hotel in midtown Manhattan. We stayed in the Yotel on the 24th floor and had the most amazing view of downtown Manhattan. The only disappointing thing about the hotel was the fact that it was a “non smoking hotel” (yes, I am smoking again) and they have a $245 fine if you were caught smoking in your room. So I was creative.
I did smoke in our room, practically hanging out of our little window that could open and I went through two air fresheners in one week. I did not get fined and I sure hope that no one of the Yotel’s staff actually read my blog. On our first day in New York we decided to do the open hop-on-hop-off bus tour mainly because my feet were still throbbing and secondly because we wanted to get our bearings and find out where everything were and how far certain places were from our hotel. We managed to see midtown and downtown Manhattan and we also saw a large part of Brooklyn on the first day. It was fabulous!
The first thing that I noticed was that New York is loud. Everything makes a noise and it doesn’t stop. The noise level practically stays the same 24/7. The second thing I noticed was that New Yorkers are some of the friendliest people I have ever come across. Sure most New Yorkers mostly keep to themselves walking down the street with their iPods firmly lodged in their ears, a cup of Starbucks coffee in the one hand and checking their messages on their phones in the other. All New Yorkers clearly have places to be and everyone is constantly in a rush, but if you look confused or lost New Yorkers will take the time to stop and ask you if they can help. In South Africa that will never happen. The only people who will stop and take an interest in you are the ones who will most probably rob you. Which brings me to crime in NYC.
There wasn’t any time during our stay in New York that I felt unsafe. Not taking the subway or walking the streets at night. The NYPD are everywhere and if you don’t do anything stupid chances are nothing bad will happen to you in NYC. The one thing that I did notice was that there are a lot of homeless people in Manhattan, people from all ages, from the druggies to the mentally ill. The funniest homeless woman I saw was at Battery Park. She was your stereotypical bag lady and clearly was suffering from mental illness. She was screaming at puddles of water on the ground and at one point she collected these puddles in Starbucks cups screaming at them “I will deal with you later!” I didn’t know what the water puddles ever did to her but clearly she had issues with them and I didn’t want to get involved.
There is a reason there are so few obese people in Manhattan. You walk a lot in New York and you walk long distances. This is why we quickly learned to use the subway. It’s cheap and convenient once you have figured out how to use it. On the first day of venturing underground we were struggling to buy our metro cards. The machine kept on saying “NO” much to our frustration. The fact that it is hot as hell down there also didn’t help much either. Eventually a homeless man came to our assistance and it freaked me out. I almost broke my Botox! We got our metro cards and the guy left by saying “Have a nice day now” and he didn’t even ask for money. It felt quite surreal! I did see a really fat lady on the subway the one day though. She was too fat to use the turnstiles and she had to use the emergency exit which sounds a rather loud alarm if you open it. I recall hubby turning to me and saying “Shame, it must be horrible to be reminded everyday by an alarm that you have a weight problem” as we watched her struggling to climb the stairs.
Some of the highlights of our trip to NYC must be Central Park which looks amazing in autumn, watching Mamma Mia on Broadway which was awesome, seeing Picasso’s Black & White exhibition in the Guggenheim and generally just walking around in New York and experiencing the city as it rushes by you, rumbles underneath you and brushes past you on the sidewalks. We took a couple of cab rides as well and contrary to what I heard taxis aren’t that expensive in New York. However, I would not recommend using it as your primary form of transportation but every now and again it is convenient. Owning a car in New York is also way too expensive as your parking fees per month could easily cost you the same, if not more, as your rent as parking spaces is a problem in the city.
We also saw a lot of people walking their dogs. Some dogs having been quite large and it begged the question, how do you keep a Labrador in a New York City apartment, but clearly many people do. The nastiest thing about being a dog owner in New York is that you have to pick up your dog’s poop with a plastic bag. I gagged twice when I saw people do this and it made me really grateful that I am a cat person. I cannot imagine having to kneel down and pick up dog shit and then having to walk a couple of meters with that in my hand to deposit it into a dustbin. It’s gross, but I guess if you love your dog and you live in New York, that’s what you have to do. New York is also one of the cleanest cities I have been to. You won’t find the street littered with trash and there are very few, if any, cigarette butts on the street. Every now-and-again you will catch and odd smell coming from vents in the street but mostly you will smell the food of the street vendors. I ate two Halal hot dogs from said street vendors and they were scrumptious.
The weirdest thing we saw in New York was a prostitute (or at least we think she was one) a few blocks from Times Square. It was just before 9am and she was wearing a very tight fitting red dress that accentuated all her fat rolls of which she had many. Her plunging cleavage also revealed her aversion for brassieres and she was talking to a man who clearly though her eyes were down at her sagging tits. This was not the normal morning attire of your round of the mil New Yorker and she looked like a two dollar whore. We could not help but stare at her whorishness. I wanted to take a picture of her because I knew nobody back at home would believe me if I told them this story, but I didn’t. I didn’t know where her pimp was at.
Our time in New York City was fantastic and I desperately want to go back some day. In the time we had we managed to get around to seeing everything we had planned. But there are so much more in New York that I want to experience and see and one week clearly is not enough time to do that. So hubby and I will have to save up money and plan another trip to New York. It’s easy to fall in love with a city and I did with New York. We took a big bite out of New York City and New York City took a big bite out of us and we loved every minute of it!
Till next time.
*This blog post was written while experiencing extreme jet lag. Apologies for any incoherence, my biological clock is fucked.