nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Clouds in Central Park

Check out this quirky temporary artwork by Olaf Breuning which is currently residing at the bottom of Central Park, opposite the Apple Store and the Plaza. “Clouds”  is nearly 35 feet high, the clouds are made of aluminium and the supports are made of steel. It is here courtesy of the Public Art Fund, which funds public art across the city and has been doing this since 1977. I quite like it, but I’m not entirely sure I agree with the description of the art that appears on an sign nearby:

“Clouds dramatically transforms the skyline of the park into a playful fictional tableau, inviting us to experience the stage-like quality of a New York City street with a new sense of wonder and possibility.”

Err, ok.

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Cupcake crazy

Yes, here in New York City and I think in America in general, people love cupcakes. Can’t say I’m a fan, but they are hugely popular and can be found in a huge variety of flavours. Large ones cost around $4 and in terms of calories, you’ll rarely find any under 300 with many at around the 500 mark. I’d rather get my calories from a scone or a Danish pastry. Anyway, enough of that.

Last week we had Macaroon Day  and today we have Cupcake day. The cupcake company, Sprinkles, got masses of press today as they launched their first cupcake ATM in the city. Yes, that’s right. A cupcake vending machine, dispensing $4.25 cupcakes 24 hours a day! Like you need one at 4am.

We were at Central Park Zoo earlier today and given this is over on Lexington Avenue at 60th Street, we thought we’d go over and have a look.

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The queue wasn’t very long and there were more people from the press than customers. I’m probably on some TV coverage on some obscure NY channel now. So after waiting about 10 minutes we had our turn. The ATM is very pink and metallic.

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There is a fairly standard touch screen to follow instructions and the flavours for the day are displayed for you to choose (see below).  The cake is then dispensed from the door to the right. It does look a bit like its run by small pixies pulling up a door, not very smooth or elegant, but it does the job.

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It would have been a lot quicker to have just gone into the shop and bought one, but the ceremony is fun and if you do get the urge to eat cupcakes after 8pm, you know where to go!

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Yes, yes, he’s right!

At last, someone who agrees with me that the alarmed doors on subway stations are pointless. I have complained here before about the noise the doors make when I have to use them to get my buggy on to the platform and how I feel like a fare dodger for using them. Turns out other people hate them too! In an opinion piece in today’s New York Times, which is accompanied by a short 2 minute 26 second video, a writer called Ken Webb shows how awful these doors are. And he’s almost on my side when he talks about the volume of the alarm affecting babies being pushed through the doors – at 85 decibels, this seems pretty loud to me. He even shows someone pushing a buggy through, but doesn’t show what I experience every time, which is the physical origami I perform as I try to hold the door open and wheel the damn thing through without the door slamming in my face and the alarm deafening me. Yes! He’s right. Someone at the MTA should take note of this man.



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Panorama without the politics

Panorama has been on the BBC for as long as I can remember. Focused on current affairs with an investigative approach, it’s a stalwart of the BBC. But here in NYC it’s nothing of the sort. “The Panorama of the City of New York is the jewel in the crown of the collection of the Queens Museum”, says the blurb on the leaflet about the enormous 3-D map of the five boroughs of New York. It’s hard to comprehend just by looking at a computer screen, but here’s what you see when you first walk into the Panorama room at the museum:

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Even if you know nothing about the geography of New York, you can see here on the right hand side the long island of Manhattan with Central Park providing a rectangle of green relief in the middle. Look in the distance of the photograph and you can see how small the people are compared with the size of the map.

Walking around the Panorama you see how big Queens and Brooklyn are compared with Manhattan. But the greatest surprise is the size of Staten Island, seen here looking from the south of the island north to Manhattan in the distance on the left.

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And then back round for a closer look at Manhattan. It still shows the Twin Towers and when we went the Statue of Liberty had fallen into the sea, but I am pretty sure it’s still there in real life.

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The Panorama was originally made in early 1960s for the 1964/5 New York Fair; it still looks good today and in the newly refurbished Queens Museum, it makes it well worth the trip. And it’s only $8 suggested donation to get in, so a bargain to boot.

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Happy St Patrick’s Day

It’s very popular here, with so many people claiming Irish roots, that it’s hard to escape as you walk around town. We avoided the parade today as it’s just too busy with young children, but we saw plenty of escapees in green outfits and shamrocks galore. One reveller gave E a balloon hat in the three colours of the Irish flag, which went down very well.

The mayor, Bill de Blasio, boycotted the parade saying, “I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city.” Seems to be focused on anti-gay sentiments of the event. So he’s having a bit of a do at Gracie Mansion and hanging out at a Catholic church or two instead.

The Irish pubs were full at 230 in the afternoon, when we walked home from the subway. Fairway was full of green food but was lacking imagination in the cup cake decorations that we loved last year. I think my favourite was the woman wearing black jeans with long socks to her knees so that she looked like she was wearing leprechaun trousers. She looked about as Irish as I am.

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T is for Tea

I spend a lot of my life at the moment reciting the alphabet and saying ‘A is for apple’ etc. in an attempt to teach J his letters and get to grips with the written word. T is usually for Thomas or Teddy, but today it is for Tea in honour of the following conversation I had in Teavana, a chain of shops that sell loose tea and various things to go with that tea.

Me: “I’d like some tea bags please”.

Tea man: “We don’t sell tea bags. We sell loose tea.”

Me: “I know that. I want the bags for the tea to go in, please.”

Tea man: “Oh, you mean filters. Yes, we have those.” And he wanders off to get them.

Tea man: “You know that you should use a tea pot or a tea ‘pod’ (?). These don’t make good tea.”

Me: “I just want the tea bags, thanks.”

Tea man: “You mean tea filters. Oh, OK.” Wanders to till looking disconsolate but deigns to sell them to me. Five bucks for 100 single cups.

When I get home, I examine the box the tea filters (not bags, must learn) come in and it says: Perfect tea filter. Brew PERFECT tea anywhere.

Someone should tell this man that being rude about the products in your shop isn’t good sales technique and annoys customers, especially me.

Oh and the reason I have to buy filters in NYC now is because my beloved Tea Horse, seller of lovely loose tea all the way from exotic St Johns Wood in North London has gone bust. Should have bought more tea. And filters.

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Shattered in Queens

It’s quite a long way to Queens. Got my first visit to the newly refurbished Queens Museum this weekend. What a find. Set over two levels and a massive 105,000 feet space. The building has had a varied past including being originally built for the 1939/40 New York World’s Fair but since then been the home of the United Nations General Assembly and an ice and roller rink. It’s a lovely airy space and if you walk in this month, you’ll be greeted by this enormous artwork by German born artist, Peter Schumann who now lives in Vermont.

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Schumann has an exhibition on at the moment called The Shatterer and it’s pretty gruesome stuff. Carrying on with my general theme for seeing bonkers art, this one certainly leads the way. As you walk in you are confronted by vast black and white sculptures hanging from the ceiling, all over the walls and jutting out in to the floor space. There’s something distinctly unsettling about his work. The blurb says his work ‘often depicts past and present battles between good and evil’.

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I don’t know about you, but it just makes me shudder. When I was there a steel band was playing Caribbean music in the atrium, which lent a peculiar soundtrack to all this horror. As you wander through the room into the ante room you come across a large number of puppets, so far from Sesame Street and the Muppets, that Jim Henson clearly wasn’t an influence here.

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Quite what these fellas are trying to tell me, I’m not sure, but spending ten minutes in their presence was enough to send me back to the atrium and the comfort of the Caribbean. I asked a member of staff what would happen to the large painting in the atrium and he said it would be painted over. Good job, he said, it had been scaring the kids. I am not surprised.

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Seen today

In Central Park:

1. A man running bare foot. But wearing a hat and gloves!? It is minus 2 degrees Celsius with a bitter Easterly wind. It was not the man I had seen previously who ran literally in just his shorts. 

2. A man juggling whilst running. I have seen him before, he’s quite old and favours wearing bright orange. 

3. A woman wearing a hooded fur coat which was so large she looked like a yeti from behind. 

That is all. 

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Now that’s fancy

In what I hope will be one of the last winter-related posts of this winter at least, I am amazed at the ingenuity of some people who live in New York. They have everything and now they have heated pavements! Yes, some buildings are so fancy that they have paid the city for the rights to dig up the nearby pavement and install a heating system so that when it snows they don’t need anyone to shovel the snow. Now that’s what I call lazy. The New York Times will tell you all about it, but it will say sidewalk and not pavement, of course. Have a read. And laugh.