nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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Good job we’re off soon

Because it looks like the only way you’ll get decent Cadbury chocolate will be by importing it in your own luggage. The New York Times reported that “as a result of a settlement with the Hershey’s Company, Let’s Buy British Imports or LBB agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolates made overseas.” The woman who owns the British cafe, shop and chippie way downtown was not happy and another retailer of British goods was quoted in the article saying “Cadbury’s is about half of my business.” Crikey, are there that many people in New York who buy British chocolate to sustain half a business? Not me, I always get mine from Fairway’s and I’m pretty sure they are UK made, unless I’ve lost too much of my UK tastes in the last two years. I suppose Fairway’s will stop selling them too, let’s hope they don’t stop selling Walkers crisps, because we have definitely been their best customers – so much so they put the price up three times since 2012.

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The $1.4 billion garbage bill

I’ve often wondered where all the rubbish goes in New York. On Saturday mornings, the streets around here are lined with rubbish bags and waste waiting to be picked up. The streets smell really bad until the ‘garbage’ trucks turn up. I usually go for my run then and I have to breathe through my mouth the whole way to avoid the smell. Friday night detritus is everywhere, pizza boxes galore along with some less salubrious leftovers.

To be fair to the DSNY (the New York City Department of Sanitation) they seem to take pretty much anything. People leave all sorts of crap out and it’s gone within hours. Each week the Department picks up 50,000 tonnes of curbside rubbish. I did try to find out where it all goes, but it was a long and complex explanation, suffice to say Manhattan is an island so it trundles off by boat from Marine Waste Transfer Stations. Where it goes from there, who knows!

I did find out that there are 6,000 uniformed workers and a vast array of vehicles:

  • 2,230 collection trucks
  • 450 mechanical street sweepers
  • 275 specialized collection trucks
  • 365 salt/sand spreaders
  • 298 front end loaders, and
  • 2,360 various other support vehicles

The New York Times did a great article yesterday, providing an insight into the life of a garbage truck worker and the training they have to go through. And I was stunned to see the cost of it: $1.4 billion. Wow. It’s well worth a read.


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Miss you, Guardian

Have I confessed before to being a Guardian reader? Well I am. Or was. For a very, very long time. Reading it online is a poor substitute and I have lapsed since living in New York and only occasionally look at the website. I tried reading the Guardian weekly digest, an A4 size version available for 5 bucks in a newsagent up the road, but that seemed to be just the boring bits strung together and none of the features and writers I loved.

So what brings me to consider this today? R has just returned from a few days in the UK and has returned with a pristine weekend edition (now 2.50, I’m sure it was 2 quid when we left) and Monday’s edition, almost pristine, if R hadn’t looked through it on the way back to New York.

What a pleasure to see it again. How funny the Berliner format seems compared with the large and old fashioned style of the New York Times. How nice to read a story on consecutive pages and not be sent to three different sections of the paper to finish an article (yes, New York Times, that’s you and it’s still annoying).

I read the Saturday magazine in the library this afternoon, with J sat next to me happily ‘reading’ his toddler books. It felt almost sacrilegious to put it in their recycling bin when I’d finished it. I was sure another Brit would be along shortly to love it like I did. But they didn’t, so I did (throw it).

And this evening R and I raced each other to finish the Monday quick crossword, just like old times. So close, he beat me by 2 and a bit clues. Good to see Lenin in the answers, good old leftie Guardian.

So if you’re visiting us, make sure to bring a copy of the Guardian and some Sainsbury’s Highland Shortbread Fingers (family size pack of course, but they are only for me) and you’ll make me a very happy nyc-newbie.


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New York smells

Now this isn’t just a random insult, it’s more an observation brought on by an article in yesterday’s New York Times. “Don’t turn up your nose at the city in the summer” is written by an academic from the University of Sheffield in the UK. Victoria Henshawe, who talks about the history of New York through smell in this article, conducts ‘smell walks’ of cities around the world. This may be a rather odd occupation, but I was taken by her article and carried out my own experiment earlier today.

I walked 6 blocks south and one avenue across and back another 6 streets to our apartment. I only breathed through my nose the whole way. This is hard. It is warm today, about 29 degrees, sunny with a bit of cloud with a reasonable breeze heading north up the avenues. This is what I found:

  • heat has a smell but I can’t put my finger on it
  • the obsession that some people have for hosing down the pavement in front of their buildings leaves an odd, damp smell, a bit like a damp dog
  • and that when that water forms in pools and goes a bit stagnant, it smells rank in the heat
  • rubbish bins smell horrible in the heat
  • the wafts of deodorant and perfume from what seem to be freshly washed pedestrians aren’t too bad when carried on the wind
  • blasts of diesel and other fuels from the constant traffic are horrible and unavoidable
  • and pizza parlours smell lovely.

Summer in the city. And it’s only June.


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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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Why so popular?

I remember in Sex and the City when they visited a restaurant called Balthazar. I presume it had just opened back then and it is still going strong. It is hugely popular and rammed pretty much all the time. It’s downtown on Spring Street, which is prime SoHo and a great shopping area.

And yes, it was rammed when we went too. It was hard to even get in the door there were so many people packed into the tiny waiting area.  Once we’d worked out who was doing what and whether we were queue jumping (you don’t want a pissed off New Yorker yelling at you because you jumped the ‘line’) we were told we had to wait. We made our way carefully to the bar – in danger of running into a waiter bearing plates or stumbling into the lap of some poor sod who got the worst table in the place right next to the door.

It’s kind of a French brasserie in side and all Christmassy looking at the moment. I expect if you did a straw poll you’d actually find very few actual New Yorkers in there. I saw lots of shopping bags, ladies in groups looking very excited and a slightly out of place group of young lads in school ties, or something like that. So glad we went without E and J, there were no kids in there under 10.

I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary to have a lady in the toilets hand you a paper towel when the dispenser is right next to you and New Yorkers are clean freaks so this kind of goes against the grain of the ‘don’t touch anything’ mentality. But I did like the fact that in the spirit of its French vibe, they had a fancy ‘Toilettes’ sign high up on the wall but had to have an explanatory ‘restrooms’ in modern type below it, just in case.

The food is good, they specialise in steak and chips, which is always a winner. It’s not cheap, so probably more of a treat kind of place. Even if eating that in the middle of the afternoon seemed a bit decadent, it’s a bit like time isn’t relevant, you can’t see outside, it could be any time of day.

Just think about the operation behind this place with hundreds of diners there from pretty much 6am to midnight seven days a week. The New York Times did a great behind the scenes piece on them which is well worth reading. Makes you appreciate that steak just that bit more.

It reminds me of the Wolseley in London, which is on Piccadilly and based in an old car showroom. They don’t have such an obvious Parisian brasserie thing going on, but it’s always rammed in there too and for good comfort food at odd times of day, it’s well worth trying.

And no, I have no clue why it’s so popular.


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Ohh, I feel so homesick now

One of my New York friends has just pointed out to me the 36 hours in Hampstead article in yesterday’s New York Times. Hampstead is NW3. It’s filled with all the places I know and love – it majors on places to eat and it’s spot on. It even includes British Military Fitness, which I miss desperately, even after nearly a year away – and my abs miss them too. Do read this and go to Hampstead for 36 hours.

Two more years…


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Levering for votes

You’d think that a sophisticated city like New York would have a sophisticated system for dealing with elections: no pieces of paper folded up and shoved into antiquated boxes in musty church halls here, you’d think. Err, well you’d be wrong.

“Dented, dinged and dated, New York’s battleship-gray lever voting machines have been hauled out of retirement because the city can’t seem to get the hang of electronic voting.”

This is what the New York Times had to say on in its front cover story in today’s newspaper. Machines from the 1960s have been dusted down, lubricated, given some TLC and shunted off to the 1200 voting locations for tomorrow’s primary elections. The primary elections are to decide who gets the Democratic and the Republican nominations for the race for Mayor and the other election in the city (that’s five Borough Presidents, the Public Advocate, the Comptroller and various City Council seats). You cannot escape the candidates and their supporters as you walk around the city, the number of trees that have died because of election literature must be huge!

The Executive Director of the Board of Elections, Michael Ryan – appointed a month ago –  goes on to say on a more cheery note in the same article:

“The machines have all been tested, and they’re functional. I think that there are naysayers in every walk of life, and some people just like to harp on the darker side of life. We’re a lot more optimistic here about this election coming off, and the election coming off successfully.”

Fingers crossed, eh?


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ok, ok, I’ll say something about the royal baby

It would be remiss not to, not that I’m any kind of royalist, but you can’t fail but be a bit interested in the birth of a future king. I bought today’s papers here in New York to see what New Yorkers had to say.

First, the New York Times. Blink and you’d have missed it. They put a small photo on the front page, a second one, as they normally only carry one rather boring picture on the top left on a normal day. It shows a policeman outside Buckingham Palace and the crowds near the gold trimmed board that officially announced the birth. ‘An heir is born’ it says, followed by ‘Crowds at Buckingham Palace after the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a boy.’ And in true New York Times fashion it refers you to another page. They then deign to provide half a page on a rather snidey, yet bemused overview of the day’s events. They get Lionel Shriver, author of ‘We need to talk about Kevin’, who is US born but now lives in the UK, to do a piece on the baby later in the paper. You get the feeling she’s not keen when she says ‘the firstborn of the Duchess of Cambridge (that’s Kate Middleton to you) being third in line for the throne is of no more import than my being third in line at my local London Tesco’. You kind of wonder why they bothered.

Then the Daily News, a good old fashioned tabloid, sells for 75 cents and really isn’t worth buying normally. Its headline  shouts ‘Let’s heir it for the boy!’ and follows with ‘Wills and Kate baby joy’. It then refers you to pages 6-7 and a double page spread shows a very glum looking Queen and a town crier, looking ridiculous. I thought they’d be pretty into the baby thing, but half of page 6 is devoted to a really anti royalty piece called ‘No thrill among moms who feel royally shafted’. Denis Hamill, their columnist, goes on to say ‘the world media fawn over the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who live on public assistance in public housing in Great Britain, where they welcomed another royal layabout son’. Not keen then? It’s a shame it was quite so rude about the royals, as it does actually make some solid points about the poverty many New Yorkers live in and yes, it’s incredibly hard and expensive to raise a child.

And my favourite. The New York Post. The entire front page is devoted to a random baby in nappy, waving whilst wearing a gold crown and holding a silver spoon, next to the headline ‘Crown Jewels. Kate delivers a baby king’. Fabulous. The New York Post loved their front page so much, they tweeted a picture of it and asked readers what they thought. Not quite in the same league as the UK’s Sun tabloid newspaper that renamed itself for the day ‘Son’. Classic.

Now can we obsess about something new, please.


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First there was nannycam

And now there is doggycam. For the New Yorker who loves their dog but has to work but doesn’t want to use doggy daycare, there is the dog walker. How do you know they actually walked your dog?  A company called Swifto was mentioned in today’s New York Times. They have developed a GPS device that you can access via an app on your smart phone. They say: “View a live map of your dog’s walk. See the exact route, miles, and duration of the walk with alerts when the walk starts and ends.”

The New York Times article starts off with a graphic description about how it works:

“At 7:03 p.m. on May 25, my dog went to the bathroom in front of the Chinese massage place up the block from my house in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

I was not there, but I know this is true because a “poop alert” popped up on my laptop, 22 miles away at a friend’s house. A poop alert is a little white-on-brown icon of a squatting dog with, yes, a small pile beneath its tail, superimposed on a map of the walk fed by GPS data from the walker’s phone and updated every few seconds.

In addition, I received a text message on my phone. “Barnaby has just pooped.”

Blimey.