It is an oft-cited piece of folk wisdom that New York is ‘just like it is in the movies’. In many respects, this is true. When you gaze up Fifth Ave through the Washington Park Arch, or stand amidst the neon of Times Square, or have an ice-cream on a sunny day at the Bethseda Fountain in Central Park, it is often hard not to conjure up so many of the scenes which have become part of the fabric of popular culture. However there is one particular area in which this is not true, and this is in the realm of accommodation. How can it be so tricky to find a place, you may wonder? Ross and Rachel, Carrie and Miranda, Betty and Marc...they all had great apartments! The Friends page on Wikipedia may come close to a confession on this great media conspiracy:
‘When the series was criticized for incorrectly depicting New York, with the financially struggling group of friends being able to afford huge apartments, Bright noted that the set had to be big enough for the cameras, lighting, and "for the audience to be able to see what's going on"’.
So there you have it folks. It’s fictitious. Obviously I'm only a live studio audience away from finding a nice place to rent in Manhattan. In keeping with the Friends theme, here’s a Season One collection of some of the apartments I have viewed: The One With the railroad room (NYC real-estate speak for ‘no walls or doors’) between the illustrator’s home and her studio. The One With the Japanese girl and the incessantly-barking, jersey-wearing chihuahua (with time, I may have eventually understood what the dog was saying). The One With the three guys who were so immersed in a football game and a chemical haze that they didn’t even say hello. The One on the seventh floor of a walk-up (NYC real-estate speak for ‘no elevator’). The apartments in this city (unless of course you’re minted) are as riddled with idiosyncracies as the people who live in them. A friend consoled me with the story of a friend of his who viewed a place...with no bathroom door.
In short – I’m still looking. I’ve widened my search, and am looking a little North (of my budget), a little South (of my desired neighbourhood). And I am very lucky indeed that I continue to be welcomed in Hoboken, where my bedroom is probably larger that the entire apartment I will ultimately end up in. Pat and Art have been unendingly generous and supportive and always pepper the day with fascinating conversations. Nora has shared not only her former bedroom but also her many wonderful friends with me. While living out of two exploded suitcases grows wearisome, it is a much, much better option than unpacking them anywhere I’ve seen so far.
So when not spending large tracts of time pursuing gainful employment and the least unperfect apartment I can find, I have of course felt it only right that I squish in as much New York as I possibly can. Last week was a no holds barred cultural smorgasbord, prompted largely by the presence of friend John, conductor and musical director extraordinaire, who was en route to darkest Canada. The week’s attendance included: the New York Philharmonic performing Brahm’s Violin Concerto and Fourth Symphony, which had me enthralled for the entire evening. Hearing Bernadette Peters sing Send in the Clowns and seeing Elaine Stritch (still performing at 88) in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music on Broadway. And having my socks blown off by La Boheme at the Metropolitan Opera. I have always considered myself an opera philistine, but this? Every single thing about it was so lush and beautiful; the set design was utterly breathtaking and looked like it went on forever, as well it needed to as there was one point when I think there were literally 300 people and a horse on stage. I’ve never seen anything that comes close to production values and talent like that, and I suppose it's what makes it world class. The staging, the costuming, not to mention the astonishing singing and orchestration...It was just all on such an amazingly lavish scale. I wanted it to go on forever.
In all cases our ‘cheap’ seats had us either tucked under the armpit of one of the violinists, or sitting along a piece of scaffolding looking in through a skylight. I’m really only exaggerating a little. I do think it may have been one of the first times in my life when I have fully contemplated how nice it would be to be truly, wildly wealthy. With good opera tickets typically running to $300, you would need to be if you wanted to make a habit of it. Meanwhile, I’m just happy to be soaking up all the absurdly amazing experiences this city has to offer. On the cheap perhaps, but even without ever buying a ticket, there’s always something intriguing to be discovered. By the weekend I honestly felt almost overwhelmed by so much sensory overload. For now, lunch in Bryant Park as they start to get the ice-skating rink set up beside the ping-pong tables is performance enough to tide me over til the next Broadway and Lincoln Center visit.
The next post, if you all keep your fingers crossed tightly enough, will I hope have apartment news. And I’ve been amassing some Hallowe’en photos for your perusal too. And then there’s the Rally to Restore Sanity this weekend...Stay tuned!