nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


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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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Some observations on summer

Here are my thoughts on how to survive the summer so far:

  1. Don’t wear very much
  2. Wear a colour that doesn’t show up sweat, because you will, a lot
  3. When crossing avenues or streets, lurk in the shadow of the nearest building and don’t boil in the sun waiting for the crossing
  4. Like iced drinks, tea or coffee, everyone is clutching one
  5. Don’t be in a hurry
  6. Carry a lot of water or a lot of dollars in order to top up at the many kiosks and carts selling water – most expensive so  far has been $3
  7. Visit museums, galleries and other tourist attractions for the air conditioning – but be prepared to elbow your way through the crowds of people doing exactly the same thing
  8. Be grateful you don’t live in the UK where a heat wave is greeted with mild panic and with little air conditioning, it will be awful
  9. Be thankful you live in a city that knows that every year for around 4 months it will be very, very hot, so it’s geared up for it
  10. And don’t breathe through your nose: NYC really smells in the heat


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If you want to get ahead, get a hat

It is hot here in New York today. After two days of rain, it’s now officially summer. I am in downtown Brooklyn, which is a world apart from the Upper East Side. It is busy, there’s a lot of flesh on show and not in a good way. The pavements of Fulton Street are lined with all sorts of stalls selling hats, jewellery and clothing.  Music blares out, competing with noise from stalls nearby. There are crowds of people in Macy’s (Brooklyn branch). I listen to harassed mothers who yell at their small children to ‘shut the f*** up’. I buy a hat in Macy’s:  I am gratified that my head is not large in Brooklyn. I queue in the equally crowded Gap Outlet next door and am barked at by the cashier, ‘next guest!’. I know now that means next in the queue. I don’t feel much like a guest as I’ve queued for 20 minutes and put up with the horror of the outlet experience. I buy E a hat too and hope that head size isn’t hereditary. I walk back to the subway and find I am the only one wearing a hat. I will set a new trend. Alone.