Tag: New York

I then thought back to my last trip to New York. New York is a city where strolling is not only frowned upon, it is trampled upon. The citizens of New York speed walk. They almost run. They have this amazing ability to run while walking. They speed past each other, never colliding, with their phones to their ears and coffee in their hands. Even preoccupied in two other activities (talking and drinking coffee), New Yorkers walk faster than me.

Shinjuku - where nobody ever crashes into another person

Shinjuku – where nobody ever crashes into another person

Two days later I was back in Shrewsbury and cycling with my children to school and I came across another slow-walking environment – Going To School. Parents and their children walk incredibly slowly to school. Even when my children and I walk to school, we don’t generally walk slowly (but that might have more to do timing than purpose).

So then I decided to create a list of places where people walk fast and people walk slowly, starting with the fastest (New York) to the slowest (Victorian park):

  • New York
  • Tokyo
  • London
  • Any airport
  • Any train station
  • Anywhere except the above, in the rain (although not much rain in an airport)
  • UK town centre
  • European city that is not London or Scandinavia
  • Scandinavia
  • Route to a primary school
  • Route to an infant school
  • Route to a secondary school (unless late)
  • Route to a nursery
  • Park in the 21st century
  • Park in the 19th century

That’s it. I’m quite pleased with this particular Weird Thought. But wouldn’t it be fun to speed walk through the park and stroll through London during rush hour? Tempting.

 

 

 

 

I have an incurable disease

This is something I realised last week as my sister and her family flew off to New York for a few days. To say I was envious of their travels is an understatement. I was more than envious. I was very green. I was green to the point of sulkiness. I wanted to go to New York. No, I didn’t want to go to New York, I wanted to live in New York. In fact, I concluded that morning that my life would be perfect if only I could persuade my family to pack their belongings and head off to New York for EVER!

To console my feeling of woe as I imagined my sister excitedly awaiting her flight at Heathrow, I went into town to have a cup of coffee in a coffee shop that might remind me of New York. I wanted to pretend I was there for half an hour. I thought that might make me feel better.

My all time favourite city EVER

My all time favourite city EVER

I chose a cafe in town I like called Chez Sophie. This was a bad choice. It is a French coffee shop where they serve amazing milk shakes, crepes and they play French radio in the background. This didn’t make me feel as if I was in New York at all. Rather, it made me feel as if I was in Paris. As soon as I settled down with my Americano and art magazine I thought: ‘wouldn’t it be marvelous to live in Paris?’ If only we lived in Paris, I mused. Then I’d be among the artists and free thinkers of this world. I’d be able to have coffee every day in wobbly Parisian cafes. I would be instantly attractive and well-dressed. I’d have deeper thoughts than I do in Shrewsbury. I could be the original flâneur with my sketch pad and observant eye.

I could live here.

I could live here.

As I sat sipping my coffee dreaming of an arty French life, I perused Facebook and saw that a couple of friends were planning an impromptu trip to London the following day. And the green monster lured up again. I wanted to go to London. No, I wanted to live in London. If we lived in London I’d be able to have coffee at the Tate or the National Gallery, I concluded. How amazing would that be? I’d lead this fabulous cultured life and I’d be able to shop on Carnaby Street and sip wine in Covent Garden. I could go to a well-known art college and become famous too. Yes, that would definitely happen if we lived in Lonodn.

Cycling home after this morning of woe I realised that I have a disease and it’s not a good disease to have. I have ‘grass is always greener’ disease. I live in a state of continuous envy of other places to live. Whenever my husband and I go abroad I try too persuade him that we could live there. We’ve imagined life in Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin as well as New York over the last few years. This also happens on UK holidays to Devon, Somerset, and even Borth. I have gone as far as browsing property for sale in Borth.

I love Borth

I love Borth

This is nuts because Shrewsbury is a lovely place to live. It is a very lively and cultured town which is steeped in history. It has all sorts of coffee shops which I frequent (some of which remind me of Paris, obviously that would be Chez Sophie; some of London, such as Ginger & Co.; and some of New York, for example Starbucks). I can cycle into town. I can go from front room to Waterstones in ten minutes if the wind is blowing in the right direction. How lucky am I? So it isn’t New York, Paris, Borth or London but it’s not that far off. I need to pinch myself sometimes and tell myself that I am jolly lucky to live where I live.

Having said that, we are planning to move as soon as we can convince someone else of how lovely Shrewsbury is, and in particular, how lovely our house is. I suspect that after we moved I will mourn for the Shrewsbury life I will be leaving behind.

It is an incurable disease.

What is it that makes me want to share EVERYTHING about a great experience on Facebook?

This is a weird thought I had on Sunday night after posting the following to Facebook:

I know I’ve been a bit in your face these last two days but please indulge me for a few more hours. I’ll be quiet probs from 10am tomorrow for about a week. I hope I haven’t annoyed you all too much… If so sorry

That addictive social media beast

That addictive social media beast

Over a period of 48 hours on my recent trip to New York I posted a total of 72 times to Facebook (only twice to Twitter) with comments, check-ins and photographs. This count begins from the point of setting off from our house and ends upon arriving back at the same house. This count doesn’t include comments and replies to posts. I can’t imagine what number that comes to.

An outsider may question whether I actually saw anything of New York since my face and fingers was almost permanently attached to my phone. Why wasn’t I able to enjoy my experience without feeling the need to share with everybody?

I’ve been questioning my motives since Sunday. Was I just boasting? ‘I’m in New York and you are not!’ I don’t think that is it. I hope not, at least. Was I bored? No, certainly not. I had a brilliant time. Am I addicted to social media? Perhaps a little, but that’s not enough of an explanation since today I’ve only posted twice to Facebook. I think the real answer lies in the artist in me who just wants to share great things. I see something amazing,  ordinary, or extra-ordinary and I want to share the joy I feel at seeing those things with everyone I know. Social media allows me to do that in an instant. I get a kick out of seeing a blue sky over the New York skyline. I feel joy at drinking a very potent Cosmopolitan at the end of a night. I feel happiness at wandering around China Town. So I want to give some of that feeling to the people I care about. I know I’m not the only person who feels this urge to spread the joy. There are a few of us out there.

New York cocktails - a must share with friends

New York cocktails – a must share with friends

However, perhaps I need to consider the fact that not everyone wants to have a piece of my astonishment at the weird and wacky world we live in thrust upon them. But I’m not sure I am able to stop. My virtual friends, as I’ve expressed before, are as valuable to me as my real ones so I do want them to be with me in some small way when I have great life experiences.

I think that I also get something in return from sharing. I’m sharing because I am selfish. I get joy and release from the act of sharing on social media. There has been some research into the ‘oversharing’ on social media phenomenon. It functions in a similar way to therapy. One of the great things about therapy is that you can let spew your thoughts, anxieties, and issues without judgement and immediate response. Facebook is a bit like therapy. Generally, there is no response and if there is a response at all, it isn’t immediate. By which point the oversharer has had the boost to their happy hormones that they so badly desire.

I think that oversharing is also is like looking in the mirror, which we do for confirmation of the inner perception of the self. By sharing something of the self that might in the real world be keep concealed, the oversharer is seeking reassurance.

It is also argued that the oversharer is desiring a level of celebrity. I am certain that I fit into that category. I’m not sure that is a good thing to admit. It seems shallow. But if I didn’t want celebrity I wouldn’t be writing now in an online forum, I’d be writing it in a little notebook kept locked under my bed.

These people want fame - who are they?

These people want fame – who are they?

So I apologise dear virtual friends, but the oversharing will most likely continue. You are my therapist and you make me feel good.

 

Why do I love New York so much?

I had this thought while at Newark International Airport with nothing much to do for an hour and ten minutes while I waited to board a plane to Heathrow. I had spent the last 48 hours in New York and I was sat at Newark asking myself: why do I love New York so much? What is it about the city that draws me in? Why do I want to return there after only 12 months since the last visit? This is a thought that is made more curious to me because I know people who have been to New York and have professed that they were disappointed by the experience and even concluded that they disliked, and even hated, New York. I don’t understand that because after two visits, for 48-hours each, I love the place. I’d live there if I could. What is there not to love?

The city of endless possibilities

The city of endless possibilities

So I decided to kill my time at Newark International Airport by writing a list of reasons why I love New York. This is my list:

The smell

I love the smell. I wish I could bottle the smell. Times Square, where our hotel was, has a distinctive smell. This is a smell that I cannot preserve and return to at will. I wish I could. Someone needs to invent a technology that allows us to capture a smell and ‘share’ on Facebook or just keep for future reference. The sense of smell is a very important provoker of memory (just ask Marcel Proust).

This man again?

This man again?

Times Square smells of diesel, pretzels cooking, nuts roasting, rotting rubbish, steam and frying food. I love it. When we first arrived at our hotel, I opened the window, eleven floors up, and the smell hit me like a wave of city life. Chinatown smells of noodles and soya. The Lower East Side smells of coffee. Central Park smells of trees, fresh air and summer. The subway smells of engines and sweat.

Can you smell it?

Can you smell it?

The people

I love the people. They are interesting. I just wish I could spend more time with them. I would love to stop and talk to them and find out more about their lives. They come from all sorts of walks of life. Some appear beaten by life and others bolstered by it. The cultural diversity of New York is refreshing. Everyone moves with a purpose. They rush but not through stress. They drink coffee on the go. They listen to music on their iPhones on the go. They cross the roads while screaming down their iPhones ‘I know, that’s outrageous’.

The art

New York is the most cultured city I have been to. It is full of art and artists. I am with the like-minded there. I love the streets, the coffee shops, the art galleries as well as the inspiration of art (the people).

One of the many fabulous art galleries

One of the many fabulous art galleries

The feeling of youth

New York is a youthful city. Everyone is young (at heart if not of body). The youthfulness of the city is infectious.

The optimism

New Yorkers are optimists. They see possibility everywhere. They look on the bright side of life. They smile at strangers. They are happy all the time.

The bookshops

I haven’t had much time to peruse the bookshops of New York but I know that the bookshops are there, waiting for me. I only managed to browse books in the art galleries, the tenement museum in the Lower East Side and Barnes & Nobel but that was enough to whet my appetite for great books.

The people-watching opportunities

I love to people watch. What better city to do that in than New York? New York obviously knows that it is the perfect city for people watching. Many of its cafes and fast-food establishments are set out in the style which I call ‘last supper style’. This means that they have a big window and a bar with high stools along the window facing out. In other words, you can sit and enjoy your coffee and watch the world go by. To passers by, the people sitting along this bar resembled that very famous painting of the Last Supper.

Most cafes have a bar at the front for people watchers like me

Most cafes have a bar at the front for people watchers like me

What the cafe windows look like

What the cafe windows look like

You can go there for a weekend

I know it seems mad to go to New York for the weekend but it is possible. I’ve done it twice now. So my advice is: go to New York for the weekend and see if you love it as much as I do. I hope you do.

Things that weird me out about America

There is a lot of water in the toilets and it is quite high up

This really weirds me out. I don’t like American toilets, the use of which is unavoidable unless taking a really short trip. Two nights is quite a short trip but not short enough for avoiding that. They seem to hold more water than British toilets, you also  feel closer to the water (and the contents later on) and also the flush is really quite violent and sudden. Your produce is whooshed away as if down a shoot.

Toilets are different wherever you go, there is good and bad

Toilets are different wherever you go, there is good and bad

I also don’t like the public toilets. The doors are short and do not reach the ceiling or the floor. They are simply stalls. They remind me of the ‘outside’ loos at Leasowes Junior School which the class of 1983 avoided using at all costs for fear of peeping people. I feel that same fear in the US (it has not yet happened but I don’t like the idea of being heard either). I am also challenged by the automation of US public toilets – the flush, the soup dispenser, the water, the dryer. On the plus side, US public toilets are always free whereas over here we may have to pay a small sum (more than a penny) to visit the micturition station.

Sitting in the stalls

Sitting in the stalls

The hotel rooms make full use of mirrors

Every hotel I have stayed in, in the US, has contained lots of mirrors: in the lobby, in the lift, in the hotel room and in the hotel room toilet. I don’t really enjoy seeing my naked self or my naked bottom perched on the funny toilet (see above).

My photographing the big mirror

My photographing the big mirror

You can’t just have a bagel

This applies to coffee, bagels, pizza and in fact almost any food stuffs. I have quite simple needs in the morning: a coffee and a bagel. It’s not easy to order that. On my first ever trip to the US (Boston) we had to cross the road to the bagel shop to get some breakfast and the first time I remember feeling somewhat confused by the person serving me when they asked: ‘What sort of bagel would you like, ma’am?’ I think my response was ‘Huh? Just ordinary please’.

Panel bagel with no frills

Plain bagel with no frills

Everyone moves so fast

This might only apply to New York and Boston (I have also been to Cape Cod but that was 15 years ago). Certainly in New York the people move as if they are being chased. They don’t run, though. They are still walking but they walk very fast. They would struggle with the slowness of a day out in Shrewsbury.

The fast-moving people of New York

The fast-moving people of New York

I blend in well

This is something I like about the US. I have some weird and wacky clothes (not too weird and wacky, but perhaps a little wacky for Shrewsbury) but in New York at least I look less like the eccentric artist.

Videos in lifts

I’ve only ever encountered this phenomena in the US. Perhaps it is only a New York thing. But both hotels I have stayed in in that city have had videos in the lift.

Videos in lifts

Videos in lifts

Revolving doors

This is most likely a New York thing but the city is full of revolving doors. In the UK the only place you will find one of these is in Morrisons.

One of the many revolving doors

One of the many revolving doors

Everyone walks around (very fast and with purpose) with a drink in their hand

Everyone (again, perhaps this is a New York thing only) walks carrying a Starbucks or similar cup, presumably of coffee. They do this at any time of day or night. They also often are attached to headphones and an iPhone. They also are more likely to use their phone as a phone. They like to march across the road, phone against ear in one hand, coffee in another.

The adverts for medications list all the side effects

I love watching American TV because it is different and refreshing. On our second morning, I enjoyed an hour or so watching the US-equivalent of BBC Breakfast or GMTV. One of the adverts during this programme was for a sleep medication. The narrative of the advert was very convincing. It sounded too good to be true. Towards the end of the advert a different, and faster-speaking narrator, listed all of the side effects of this medication which included: suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, liver problems, kidney problems, death. It was almost as if the angel and the devil were competing with each other. I certainly wasn’t convinced by this wonder-drug by the end of the advert.

I have returned home now and already I miss the energy of the US. I may be ‘weirded out’ by the things in the list above but I am also energized and inspired by the very same things (if at the very least, to write this blog).

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