Andy in Tokyo

New York

Aug 25th 2007
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The Thinker in Central ParkVery much enjoyed New York, and forgot about the huge amounts of pot holes on every street between JFK airport and Manhattan. Pot holes held no fears for our shuttle bus driver, however, as we stormed through traffic at 80mph. Springy suspension is the daddy!

Our hotel wasn’t bad at all, though some strange latex cover had been put over the bathroom ceiling to prevent ancient bits of plaster falling off and killing customers (I put my hand to it to check, and felt a wedge of plaster resting on it that could have felled an ox). Luckily, the room had a big telly and a huge bed: that’s all I need!

Speaking of TV, it always astonishes me how many bizarre religious commercials crop up on US networks. One of the best was for a “Green Prosperity Prayer Cloth”, which went something like this:

The Reverend X wants to place in your hands the “Green Prosperity Prayer Cloth”, which he has personally blessed and anointed. Thousands of people around the world have used this Biblical point of contact prayer cloth to receive abundant blessings of financial prosperity.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling that the Big Man upstairs (if he is upstairs; he might be in the garage for all we know) would probably not have approved of this one.

Living in a country where customer service has reached an insane level of politeness, the care-free attitude of most sales assistants was absolutely fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, being polite is all very well and good, but to be quite honest it drives me nuts - in Tokyo, I can’t look at a item of clothing in a department store for more than two seconds without someone drifting to my side, then providing me with a detailed explanation of the item in question: Aaargh!

Scrawny bugger in Battery ParkObviously, some people don’t care for the care-free attitude: I witnessed a woman go absolutely ape shit in CVS (Boot’s the chemist’s US equivalent). I guess she wasn’t too happy about their photo developing service, and went off on a particularly gormless-looking girl behind the service desk. The other staff found this highly amusing.

A similar situation occurred in a subway station: Some woman was unleashing every last drop of verbal venom in her guts at an old man. Some of the things she said were unbelievable.

Visited Ground Zero. Now that is a big hole. I vaguely remember going there seven years ago: it was a Sunday and some lads were playing football on the street, right outside the World Trade Center buildings. Anyway, we didn’t linger there long; someone was trying to sell maps and memorabilia shouting: “This is history! Right here!” He could do with working on his sales pitch, as he scared away almost everyone within a hundred metre radius.

MoMA's central hallMade it to MoMA. (I wanted to go the last time I visited New York, but it was being renovated at the time.) It was heaving, and there was so much to look at that it was all quite overwhelming. There was a particularly good exhibition on Soviet Modernist architecture - the New York Times has very good article about it here - and very nice ice cream in the cafe… err, I really should have been paying more attention, shouldn’t I?

Everyone seemed to SHOUT down their mobile phones at any given opportunity, no matter how inappropriate the location, or the conversation. I couldn’t help but overhear one old gadgie make an appointment with his doctor to check haemorrhoids. You’d think if you were discussing something like this, you wouldn’t put your phone on speaker mode, in the middle of a cafe, at lunch time.

Lower Manhatten from the Staten Island FerryTook the Staten Island Ferry. Did you know that it’s free? Well, it is, and is definitely worth doing, although there’s nothing at all to do on the Staten Island side - 99% of passengers on board our ferry went straight back to Manhattan.

For the rest of our time, we didn’t do anything overtly touristy - a bit of shopping, which for me was mostly for books (so so so many book shops - you people living in English-speaking countries don’t know how lucky you are!), and for Ayako mostly - you guessed it - clothes and bags. I’ve never understood why women don’t just want, but need so many bags. What’s all that about?

Anyway, we’re back in Japan, where it’s currently 35ºC and the humidity is disgusting. Back at work, which is the same as usual (I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever finish the project we started eight months ago), and… well… yeah, that’s about it really.

Hope you’ve all been enjoying your summer, wherever you are! I’ll be back with more stuff soon.

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