Well, here we are, eight days after my arrival. My first post and it’s going to be a long one! This is mostly a gathering of thoughts from this week and not a day by day account. You'll have to bear with me while I get into the swing of it. I will try and write a little on last week at a later stage too...
The idea of a blog is something I’ve resisted for quite a while, for most of the usual reasons. That I find the concept egotistical, that the minutiae of one’s daily life can’t really be all that interesting. But then I suppose facebook categorically throws this theory out the window. The lateness of this post is largely because despite the many wonderful attributes of my temporary foster home in Casa Martinez, wifi is alas not one of them. Also part of the reason I wasn’t online much was simply that not having to check email daily was such a nice break. Ironically, while I spent almost 3 days entirely web free, facebook has been INESCAPABLE here at the moment. Zuckerberg just donated $100m to the Newark education system so the news is full of chatter about that. There’s also masses of hype about the film The Social Network, which opens today, with ads and billboards all over the place. Justin Timberlake was on the Daily Show, Aaron Sorkin on Colbert, and they're both in town for the New Yorker Festival which is screening the film tonight with Q&A after. It is, predictably, sold out so I'd say it'll be the cineplex for me. But I'm really looking forward to seeing it, and have also been craving a cinema trip.
I digress. The arguments in favour of blogging seemed to far outweigh those against. There is undoubtedly a kind of wide-eyed observation which comes with moving to a new place (perhaps one which truly great writers can keep alive while remaining in one place?) and I very much wanted to keep a record of my thoughts and reactions to this year. I like the idea of there being some sense of imperative on me to post relatively frequently, thus preventing my usual journal-keeping methods which involve letting it descend into a void of procrastination. Lastly of course is probably the most compelling reason - that it's a great way of keeping in touch, and there was a loud and gratifying chorus in favour of my keeping a blog. Group mails aren't always welcome, and masses of individual newsy mails was never going to be realistic. So this way people can check in and see what I'm up to in their own time, and I hope maybe, as the title suggests, enjoy a little slice of Big Apple every now and then.
Enough of the back-story. To NYC.
On Wednesday I went to see a matinee showing of This Is What we Sang at the Synagogue for the Arts in Tribeca. This play centres around the lives of three generations of a Jewish family in Belfast, hence the venue. My interest had been piqued both through a good review in the New York Times, and a desire to check out a few of the offerings of the currently running Festival of Irish Theatre, and it seemed a nice combination of themes for a new resident of NYC. Besides, the ability to go to a matinee showing of anything still feels like a delicious perk of my hopefully temporary unemployment! There’s something very decadent about deciding to go to something for pure pleasure at 3o’clock on a midweek afternoon. Even browsing in a bookshop in the middle of the day feels like a taste of what it must be like to be either a shameless trust fund kid or else a very contented retiree.
I had bought my ticket online and was giving my name on the desk, when I heard in incredulous tones behind me “Lucy?!" And lo, who is it only the lovely Ken Wardrop, director of this summer's marvellous His & Hers. I can tell you that a random meeting with someone from back home within only a week of being here was thoroughly delightful. Now admittedly this was an Irish Theatre Festival, so the odds weren't that low. But still, I think there is something so Irish about being in other countries and bumping into people you know. The play, incidentally, was very good - an engaging story, well told. I hope to get to see a couple more in the festival over the coming days; Hue & Cry has also been getting thumbs up from the Times, and I'm also drawn by Graham & Frost. For those of you who are interested, see www.1stirish.org
The other portion of my day was spent obsessing over an apartment which I had found on Craig’s list. I thought that an apartment in Greenwich Village - hands down my first choice of 'hood - would be well beyond my budget, but it turns out that there are in fact a few possibilities. My Brooklyn-resident friends and acquaintances are shouting loudly for its infinite coolness and affordable and spacious rentals. Nora, a self-confessed Jersey girl, thinks that that's all hype and that Jersey city has all of the same benefits and none of the pretentiousness. Amidst all this, I am still harbouring hopes to actually live in the city, and I think if it's do-able at all- without having to pay a fortune or live in a complete shoe-box - then I'm going to try. Which in why the place on Waverly and W 10th, in the space of 24 hours, went from somewhere I had a passing interest in to be absolutely convinced it was the key to my entire future happiness. That can happen with house hunts, in my opinion. My mild indifference was stoked by email correspondence with the owner, and revved up to the point where I’m now at the fully fledged, fever-pitch, starry eyed stage where I am frantically trying to curb, as it were, my enthusiasm. I have stalked the area. I have tried to identify which one it might be from the street, going by the windows from the interior photos I was sent. Presently, a complete stranger called Betty holds my (residential, anyway) future in her hands. It is a funny thing and one which I think is experienced more when you are a newcomer to a place - being so utterly at the whim of people who know nothing whatsoever about you nor you about them.
The weather since Monday has been decidedly weird. My first few days here were hot and sunny, unseasonably but enjoyably so. Now however, it is uncomfortably warm mostly because the air feels tropical, soupy and laden with humidity. And then the rain started with these sudden heavy downpours that seem to come and go from nowhere - again, strangely Caribbean. And then the wind started - these great cold gusts that pick up and shake the leaves off the trees, and make you feel like transportation to Oz is nigh. But they still don't manage to make the air any less soupy. As Nora's husband, a high-school teacher, put it, "I spent the day teaching in a swamp". The gusty wind means I can't leave the bedroom window open at night anymore as it makes the bedroom door rattle in a very unnerving way. So instead (despite my eco-annoyance at this paradox) I have to keep the windows closed and the ceiling fan on, which is pleasingly old fashioned and languid, and at least just stirs up the soup a little...
One of the most amusing outcomes of this weather, for me, is sartorial. New Yorkers seem to take a very pragmatic approach to fashion. So at the moment the place is full of all these stylish women in little DKNY shift dresses and Longchamp bags….and they’re wearing wellies! It’s like the entire city is dressed for the Electric Picnic. There are of course lots of Hunter wellies, but also funky patterned ones, shiny patent effect ones, ones with lace-ups, and even Ugg wellies. And it’s still a million degrees! There are people literally in denim mini skirts and vest tops, or office skirt suits – and Ugg wellies. And they are not queueing for Pieminister, or going up the yard to let the cows in. They are on the subway, on Fifth Avenue, and having brunch. This strange hybrid of the wacky and the sensible, and a confident indifference to what anyone might think, is I think a very New York trait and part of what makes me love this city.
Eavesdropping in New York is the most spectacularly entertaining activity. People talk, loudly, all the time, and so eavesdropping is often pretty unavoidable. There are conversations which you simply would not hear anywhere else, either because of the subject matter or the idiosyncratic neuroses of the place. Such is the entertainment factor that Overheard in NYC actually has is its own website, www.overheardinnewyork.com This not withstanding, I am going to make my own occasional contribution to the oeuvre in this blog.
Overheard in NYC 1: (Hipster girl to friend in restaurant in the Village, on explaining why it ended with her boyfriend): “He doesn't encourage my flamboyance. I want someone who can celebrate that.”
Ok, I don't want to set a precedent of insanely long posts, for either myself or you reading! This is a scrappy hodgepodge of unrelated thoughts - future musings will I hope have a bit more flow. Photos may also feature shortly when I get my act together...