Friday, 12 November 2010
New York, New York........
At the very front of the top deck of the No. 19 bus, I sit immobile, watching out of the window. It's my favourite seat despite the attempts of the designer, no doubt some faceless committee who had clearly never travelled on a bus, to ruin everything by installing huge windows which render it a travelling greenhouse should the summer-sun dare to show it's face, ripening the passengers within. But now it's Autumn, the sky is blue, my seat is safe and everything has turned to amber and orange, it makes me feel like I'm in New York. Warm sunshine on a cold day always reminds me of living in America: coffee to go in a blue and white cup, 'we are happy to serve you' emblazoned on the side, copper-coloured leaves crunching under foot in Central Park, my 6-year old son, a dead ringer for Noddy, kicking them high, killing the baddies while I try to read the Sunday Times. Hard though it maybe to imagine, there was once a time when travelling anywhere without a hot beverage in one hand and some kind of baked goods in the other, did exist in London and the closest one got to a cappuccino was a frothy-coffee. So being able to walk into my corner deli and buy a coffee .... to go ...... was very exciting indeed.
I still miss the city. I miss my daily breakfasts in Les Deux Gamin, on Waverly and 4th: bowls of cafe au lait and a croissant, watching Rupert Everett eat his tartine and talk to his dog in French. I loved living in the West Village. I used to walk my son to his school looking up at the Empire State Building and walk back in the shadow of the Twin Towers. It is hard if you never saw them, to imagine just how much they dominated the downtown skyline. Without a child in tow, one may not notice that New York is a city of parks and playgrounds. I spent many happy hours in Washington Square Park where junior would play chess with the old guys for free because they said he was good for business, drawing a crowd as he sat , feet barely able to touch the ground, chin cupped, brow furrowed in concentration, almost winning ...... yet again. Or catching the sun over at the Bleaker Street playground, bare legged, sitting on the bench with the single-moms-from-hell, eating cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery, while our children searched for their precious Power Rangers lost in the sands of time, somewhere beside the swings.
This was before Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney had moved into the neighbourhood but even while I lived their the neighbourhood was changing. Rents were rising and Mayor Giuliani's work was almost done. The wet fish shop was gone and the vintage store on the corner of Bleaker and Morton had become an emporium of fine food. Even the hardware store on 6th Avenue had closed down, where the women wore tobacco-brown coats and always had fag on. They sold paper bags of nails and screws, counted out from wooden draws that lined the back wall, light bulbs, sink plungers, bath plugs and chain cut to length. All gone and replaced with magazines and greeting cards.
For me, Manhattan never failed to deliver and I loved it with the same passion I disliked Los Angeles. And despite the popular myth that New Yorkers are un-caring and rude I found to the contrary. I lost my purse three times while I lived there and three times it was returned to me ...... intact ....... having arrived with a five year old and a fist full of phone numbers, I was shown nothing but kindness, consideration and generosity of spirit. I lived in a tiny apartment with a miniature bath tub, hard-wood floors and an open fire. And when I sat out on my fire escape .... just like in the movies ..... I could here someone practising their opera scales and in the distance, the sound of a saxophone...... Back in London ten years now, how long did it take me to get over leaving? Any day now .....
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