That’s one of the things I love about this city, its spontaneity. Got a text from Em to saying that she was delayed at Heathrow, so not to bother going out to the airport to meet her this evening. Then half an hour later, Em F calls out of the blue to say she’s in New York, and what am I up to this evening. So planning on lots of catching over wine and a meal somewhere in West Village, starting out in the Weekhawken Street apartment of course, which is now solely my territory for the week, as the others are all away for the holidays. Strange how when Em F and I were seven, eight, nine, we used to play at travelling the world, spinning the globe then pouncing on a random country which would be the place we’d travel in our game that day, taking skittles & M&Ms as our malaria tablets. Now we’re pretty much doing that with the real globe, having met up in Krakow earlier this year and now in NYC (didn't need malaria tablets in either though). How small the world can be sometimes, for those of us who can move around it freely.
I’m in S’nice at the bottom end of 8th Ave, one of those sit-for-hours cafés with communal tables where people work on their laptops, emanating caffeine-fuelled creativity or wannabe creativity. I’m struggling to eat a brie and pear sandwich with loads of caramelised red onions without getting it all over the keyboard. One day I’ll learn to do one thing at a time. Looking forward to a quiet, much-needed evening of recharging batteries before Em, H and M get here for a week of xmas antics, tomorrow evening.
This afternoon, or more like this dusk, I explored Central Park for the first time. When I finally made it there – after a ridiculously delicious brunch of poached eggs and hollandaise sauce on cornmeal bread with spicy black beans on the side with B at Miracle Café where he used to play his bass, and a trip to Union Square farmers market, where the statue of Ghandi with his stick and loincloth seemed rather incongruous next to the swarms of Christmas shoppers laden with bags of produce – it was already 4pm, so there was only an hour or so left of daylight. It was a cloudy, damp day, but still beautiful: with a trippy tinge due to a late night last night and some hair of the dog fresh hot cider, that’s being sold everywhere on street corners at the moment. As I walked through the park the sillouettes of the winter branches got progressively blacker, the squirrels more agitated and the joggers sparser. I just made it up to the Jaquie Kennedy Onassis reservoir before darkness fell and it was time to break out into the shiny shop-lined streets of the Upper East side. It’s nice to think of the park remaining there throughout the night, a patch of peacefulness in the heart of the city, undisturbed other than by perhaps a few rough sleepers, who must be getting fewer now that it’s getting so cold.
In the park I was keeping half an eye open for wild animals: I’d had my latest instance of accent incomprehension today, when B told me he’d once been surprised by a wild hog in Central Park. It was only when he mentioned that the hog was sitting in a tree, that I realised he meant hawk. Apparently the hawk flew down right next to him, grabbed a pigeon in its talons and retreated back up to the tree to demolish it.
Not sure whether the guy typing on his laptop diagonally across from me appreciates my presence. He had the table to himself until I got here and was in a writing flow: now another ticking brain and typing pair of hands so close by has ruffled him a bit. I’ll just sit here quietly and hope things settle.
So it’s been a while since I last wrote here, due to long days of work and nights of play. Last Friday was the JBH holiday party: Ve’s husband runs a hedge fund, and given that there are only two or three employees, turns his end of year work party into a free-for-all in the Lower East Side apartment they use as an office (guess when you’re a hedge fund manager you can rent an apartment with city views for an office). On one of the walls a guest had stuck a note saying “Strategy for 2008: Buy less, sell more”. Apparently the party was more civilised than previous years. But the remnants, me included, who were left over at midnight decamped to Von bar and had no trouble injecting a couple of hours more life into it. Weirdly, J happened to be in the same bar. Manhattan’s small like that. And there’ve been several little coincidences that make me feel like things are in the right place.
Like the two books I bought the other day when MCR bookshop on Prince Street lured me in with its rows of tempting titles and smell of coffee. Both, after I’d bought them, disclosed on the inside pages surprising little connections with my life over the past few weeks. One was a collection of short stories by Daniel Alarcón, which I bought mainly because I liked its flimsy binding and soft thin pages, its title, “Guerra en la penumbra”, and the fact that Alarcón was born in Lima. Only after I bought it did I realise that although he was born in Lima, he was brought up in Alabama: the coincidence being that there’s been a bit of an Alabama theme going on with me at the moment (early days yet, so won't go into it). The other thing I realised only after buying the book was that the original was in English, and what I had was a Spanish translation, albeit with Alarcón’s input. A bit silly really, though good practice for my Spanish I guess, like my chats with Gloria the cleaner in our office. The other book was “Al norte del infierno” (another cheerful title) by Miguel Correa Mujica, whose trajectory has brought him from Cuba, to Florida (que sorpresa) then Manhattan and now Weehawken. Ok, not Weehawken Street, but still. Some people here when I say that I’m living in Weekhawken Street think that I’ve been conned by real estate agents who’ve successfully passed that area of New Jersey off as part of Manhattan. Apparently it’s happening with bits of Brooklyn, like one area that’s been described as part of “Wall Street” with no reference to the fact it’s over the bridge.
So to give a whistle-stop update on some of last week’s activities...Last Sat evening spent ensconced with B in the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street, which is apparently where Dylan Thomas had his last drinking session before he died. Sunday was mostly spent in a vegetative heap on the too-comfy sofas in the apartment (which I’ve mentioned before), watching cheesy films with S. Tues was a chilled out evening with Mi – the first time I’d met her – listening to her boyfriend play his guitar at one of the “upstairs sessions” at the Living Room on Lower East Side. A girl perched on a stool in the middle of the stage asked the musicians questions between their songs, in an intimate radio chat-show format. Weds, a drink with L from PILI in the closest relatively good bar we could find to work: there’s a dearth of bars and restaurants in the Garment district, though that no doubt will be addressed one day. And Fri night, an “Oh Death” gig at mercury lounge along with various support bands. There were plenty of bearded fans jumping around in front of the stage but Oh Death didn’t seem 100% into the thing...