Two Sonambulists in The City that Never Sleeps

Shortly before setting off to the States I read an article on alleviating jetlag. They suggest adjusting to the new time zone up to two weeks in advance, waking up at the destinations morning time, eating your meals at what would equate to breakfast, lunch and dinner times in the new time zone….riiiiight….I am going to start getting up at midnight and eating breakfast at one am…and can you imagine “sure Mr Jones, I have an appointment for you at 3pm NY time see you at 9pm Thursday then…?”

Nope. Not gonna work, and besides in my experience, if you can grab a couple of hours snooze on the plane and then power yourself through day one, with coffee if needed, slotting into the new time as soon as you land, by day two you’re all good.  So that led me to wonder, while trying to grab a bit of sleep on the flight over, perhaps one would do better to prepare oneself for the long haul flight and trying to sleep in those oh so not comfortable seats….here’s what I have come up with. Spend the night sitting up sleeping in a small chair, with the air-conditioner set to dry out every bit of body fluid.  Ideally the chair should be placed in a public bathroom to emulate the full experience of trying to sleep in an upright position in a tin can thousands of miles up in the air with all the other passengers and their protesting bowels.

So  yes as always I was happy to disembark at JFK off the plane and onto the hotel. We have been here a couple of times and i was looking forward to just experiencing the city (as opposed to hitting all the tourist spots) Good food, catch ups with friends, theatre, shopping and lots of time in Central Park was what I was looking forward to. As to the hotel,  Pierre was right. He told me I would love The 1 Hotel and I do! Clad in wood and steel, greenery everywhere it has an inviting and relaxed feel. The view of Central Park from the window seat in our bedroom fitted with a comfortable cushion….perfect for reading, or just watching the world go by. Any hotel that has, in addition to the ubiquitous dressing gown and hairdryer, a couple of yoga mats in its cupboard is a winner in my book. The restaurant attached to the hotel is vibey at all times of day and night serving a delicious selection of organic and responsibly sourced food….with enough vegetarian options to keep me content.

The 1 Hotel Central Park lobby

In fact I began my acclimatization there with bowl of steel oats and fresh fruit, even though brain and body thought I was mad to be eating breakfast for what they were convinced was lunch.  Fuelled by that and 2 cups of strong coffee we set off to go clothes shopping. I was impressed at my staying power,  I have to say, being a bit dazed actually made the shopping process a lot easier, although I faltered when we had to go into Macy’s. Huge department stores are my idea of purgatory and while I truly do appreciate the huge selection, this glut of consumerism always leaves me feeling slightly queasy given the poverty, never mind in the world but right outside this very department store. How can so few have access to so much, most of which we don’t even need while outside someone sits shoeless, hungry and with their dignity as tattered as their clothes ?  

Focused on getting what we needed and getting out we were pretty efficient and could soon reward ourselves with some delicious tapas and cocktails. We chose an outside table, feeling like sleepwalkers we found the distraction of watching the people rush by about as challenging a past time as we could manage, though as the cocktail took hold we became a bit more animated.  NY is a city under construction, constantly changing, repairing there’s always construction going on.  However this time I also noticed a change in the New Yorkers themselves. As someone who likes to throw out glances and smiles like confetti at weddings I have got used to the fact that when I do that in this city the reaction is to blankly ignore me, or divert their eyes in panic…’why is this crazy lady looking at me?’ kind of thing. But this time round ….people made eye contact and brief smiles flitted across their faces. It is as though the shock of Trumps election and his decidedly divisive policies have shaken them out of their rather self absorbed and distracted state of mind making them less insular and separate from their fellow humans. 

We made it back to the hotel hanging in there until a reasonable bed time before collapsing onto the bed, and in my case at least waking up feeling more normal on day 2.  We kicked off with a run and stroll in Central Park….man how I love that place. It’s a little city on its own with baseball fields, volley ball court, dogs, kids, runners, horses and carriages…. Even in the centre of the park though you cannot escape the sounds of the larger city.  NY has its own theme tune, the roar of the traffic, the thundering cymbals of wheels riding over the big metal plates that cover the potholes,  the steam escaping the underground hissing and rattling like maracas. And always in the background sirens. There is no getting away from it, even indoors with the windows closed the sound leaks through. Once on the street the more subtle undertones fill your ears. Latino, Mexican words, slang and hip hop references… I got to say, the average New Yorker is nothing like Trump! Latino, Mexican and Chinese dialects and accents are everywhere. In the park I see a family of North American Indians dressed in traditional wear carrying back packs with feathered finery and instruments. Our barman part Puerto Rican, part Chilean tells us how his other job is hospital maintenance. Outside families represent a melting pot of blended nationalities Asian, Caucasian, African, Spanish so that in some cases it’s impossible to identify simply by features what someones heritage may be. It’s vibrant and diverse and very much alive.

The MOMA- beautiful and disturbing painting

Post our little run its a short walk from the hotel to MOMA where we indulge in not only feasting our eyes on a variety of art – Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Frieda Khalo but also allow ourselves a little right brain exercise – creating patterns with coloured shapes and stopping to sketch a view of the sculpture garden outside, not very well perhaps but that didn’t matter, it was the doing that was so enjoyable.  Again I notice the Citys’ new awareness of what’s happening in the States and the wider world as plaques brought attention to specific artists who under the current administration would be denied access. That night we have dinner at a lovely vegan restaurant with food delicious enough to tempt any palate and cocktails that are pretty tempting too. We leave sated, our only disappointment is that we had no room left to try their dessert.

MOMA artwork by Louise Bourgeois

The next day shall forever be known as the day I got lost near Central Park- even now I am not sure how but believing our hotel was on W57 street, asking a policeman and looking for a short cut all culminated in me spending pretty much an hour wandering across the same city blocks! And meantime my hotel not more than 300 metres away. Luckily for me a kind cab driver drew me a map and our mates arrived twenty minutes later than I was anticipating which gave me just enough time to calm my man and take a shower. They met us for coffee in the lobby and we got some takeaways to all enjoy in Central Park, their little boy has had a tough year with lots of medical procedures, all for the better and he’s doing well but parents and lad seemed to enjoy just be able to chill outdoors with us and it seemed more comfortable than going to a restaurant- besides it seemed a waste on a beautiful cloudless day.  In fact it was thirty degrees plus…crazy for this time of year in NY as they go into Fall.

Central Park on a hot Fall day

Given my mornings 40 minute run, and an unplanned “walking tour” aka getting lost I was pretty knackered so seeing our mates off we went back to the hotel to recover a bit before re-emerging into the heat to stroll around until once more, the heat drove us to seek something ice cold to drink. A couple of ciders went down like cool drink something I would regret in the morning. Then came a beer and cider inspired spontaneous shopping spree at the Adidas store …something we might have regretted but fortunately it turned out we still liked our purchases sober the next morning. Unfortunately on getting back to the hotel the two ciders long forgotten (by me, but apparently not my liver) we ordered more cocktails.

Pierre (& I) on pier at Brooklyn bridge

The next day dawned way too early and bright for my liking! Taking my punishment like a big girl and whimpering only very softly I allowed Pierre to guide us on to Brooklyn. While the temperatures outside soared the underground was like a huge sauna. However I had to admit the area around the pier and Dumbo at the Brooklyn Bridge was lovely and rather soothing for my poor self. It’s quite a vibrant area, lots of artwork of various kinds appearing in nooks, parks and public areas – sculptures, a woman’s photographic testament to her parents struggles with cancer and homage to their lives, the stories of people displaced by violence war or genocide also reflected in various sculptures and photographs .

Brooklyn Bridge

 

We sat for a while on the side the East River at a spot called Pebble Beach. Eventually walking along Brooklyn bridge (truly impressive in both form and function) we made our way via the subway aka sauna to The Whitney museum, or more properly The Whitney Museum of American Art https://whitney.org/About/History based in the Meat Packing District. They have a diverse offering of exhibitions, if you don’t like or ‘get’ one piece something else will call to you.

The Whitney roof installation

Personally, while his art is not quite my style I appreciate the influences that inspired the Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica and the way he attempts to free art from the canvas and include the viewer in the experience – walking barefoot on soft sand and crunchy gravel on a hot day in a NY museum was a delightfully freeing experience.

large_Helio_Oiticica-To_Organize_Delirium-3

The exhibition that of course resonated most with me was An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney collection 1940 -2017.  And finally, for its sheer beauty Calders’ Hypermobility; a variety of crafted mobiles  beautiful both as just objects themselves but also creating shadows and movement that expands their beauty beyond the object.

Leaving the Whitney we strolled back along the Highline which has grown even more beautiful since our last visit. The foliage has grown more lush and it’s a strange feeling walking along the old rails with wild flowers growing between the paving and trees making software shushing sounds while the city roars on down below. A purchase of shaved ice stopped me melting away entirely as we headed back to our hotel for a bit if R & R.

That night was Cats on Broadway. What can I say? Never having seen the stage rendition before possibly I should be less critical BUT I have heard the music and this was a poor performance  with the exception of the actress who played Grizabella.  However, regardless it’s always fun to dress up to go to Broadway. I see while some folk feel the same way there were lots of shorts and jeans…none of my business but it’s nice in this day and age to have an excuse to dress up occasionally and what better reason than a show on Broadway?

Cats – Broadway

And so ended our last evening (this time round) in NY though I have no doubt if possible we will be back. There is something about its energy and diversity that draws one back and always reveals something new.

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