I went to New York recently (she says casually like Cindy Crawford would, or a businesslady from the 1990s). Okay it was April in fact, but it’s been a turgid few months since then, filled with regret and lassitude at no longer being in New York so it has taken me a while to write. New York is ridiculous; having haunted my imagination since I was of Athena poster buying age, I wasn’t disappointed by the steam from the drains, the yellow of the cabs or the sheen from the mirrored skyscrapers. It all felt unreal and familiar.
Boozed up and jetlagged, I took notes from every day of my stay, but do you really care what I did? Does anyone? That’s my business. From childhood, I vaguely remember ‘slide shows’, where we would formally gather with other families at nieghbour’s houses to have a guided tour, with projected images, of what they did on holiday. You may remember Don Draper singing the praises of the home projector on Mad Men, but he clearly never visited the denizens of Hull, because all I recall of the slide show is the click and the whirr of the machine and Uncle Brian or Aunty Sue telling us the date and time that the picture was taken, where it was taken and normally who had been sick or was about to be sick at the time of execution.To be honest, if I ask you ‘how was your holiday?’ Just say ‘fine’ or ‘shit’ and leave it at that (actually if it was shit, I’ll probably want to know why. I’m such a schadenfreude freunde). Looking at my travel journal (which I imagined as a full blown epic) I can tell where I got bored of writing about what we did, because it becomes a ‘did list’. And it’s awful. If you really want to know what I did, go and read ‘Just Kids’ and pretend that I’m Patti Smith. That should do it.
So now, we’ve established that I’m not going to give you the blow by blow of my trip, what am I going to do? I’m just going to write about two things that I noticed, that’s what.
New Yorkers have to have the last word, which means, as a Brit, you can get stuck in some serious politeness showdowns. Here’s an example from a restaurant that we went to. It’s between a waiter (played by Don Draper), me (played by Patti Smith) and my husband (played by Betty White – why not?)
HUSBAND: I see what you mean about slide shows and i totally agree.
WAITER: More water?
ME: Yes, please.
WAITER: You’re welcome
ME: That’s great, thanks
WAITER: Not a problem
ME: Great job, well done
WAITER: My pleasure
ME: Nice one.
WAITER (running away, shouting over shoulder) ENJOY YOUR MEAL!
As a Brit, I like to patronise waiting staff, to make them feel cared for and listened to, but most importantly I like to seal off the conversation by having the last word. Every rejoinder takes away from my benevolence! Really, I should face facts; my platitudes are squat: a damn big tip is worth more than a feigned grin and attentiveness.
Unless our visit coincided with a Tresemme conference, the men of New York have hands down collectively the best male hair I have seen anywhere on ths planet! It is spectacular: lustrous, bouncy and product free. Curls the colour and density of wet sand, worn long, nestling on shirt collars and flopping over foreheads. Full white clouds of cauliflower. A crisp afro. I had full blown middle aged man hair envy – something in the water, perhaps?
Yes: everyone shouts at each other a bit, sandwiches are massive and the skyline is amazing. But should you visit New York, I recommend that you check out the pompadours and try to out-polite a waiter.
And pretend your Patti Smith. But that’s just a general life lesson, isn’t it?