Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trip to New York March 2008.

New York 29th March 2008

The United trip was smooth as silk and for once we even befriended a nice flight attendant … or to be more accurate, he befriended us. Having insisted on giving us extra champagne and made every hour go by faster on that ghastly leg to Los Angeles. The JFK connection remarkably was hassle free. I don’t know how they do it, but we continue our 10th year (or more) of paying economy fair of about $3500 and getting up-graded (on the day we book, usually many months earlier) to business class, always upstairs. This is priced on the internet at just over $7000 each way! It was a full flight as they nearly always are these days … we know, since a couple of times when things were quiet we went for a walk downstairs and right to the rear of the plane in an effort to prevent thrombosis in the legs.

On approaching JFK one gets a definite feeling of exhilaration and expectation, both for all the pleasures of the big apple as well as knowing all the things which can go wrong. The New York area is a watery wonderland which I still know little about. About 45 minutes before landing, one crosses a mighty river, presumably in New Jersey, and from there one can see bays, islands, long peninsulas, massive bridges (‘the cathedrals of New York’) and coastlines which stretch off into the invisible infinity. It is only towards to end of this grand arc that one finally sees the amazing skyline of Manhattan. We usually seem to land over what I imagine to be Fire Island, or maybe an extension of same. The airport itself is just about the geographical border between the NYC boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn with the start of Long Island which projects over 100 kilometres into the Atlantic. All we ever see of that particular “pond” is beyond the Verezzano Narrows Bridge from the Staten Island ferry … or from the shore if one takes the subway all the way to Brighton Beach or Coney Island (several major lines end up there).

Having taken a quick taxi ride to our new flat at 83rd St and Broadway (round the corner from Zabars food store) we went into a small grocery store as everything else was closed by 10pm on Saturday night.

We are staying in a delightful one bedroom flat in one of these classic 16 storey turn of the century (1900) blond brick buildings of which there must be thousands across the city. I think Will and Grace is supposedly set in such a building and in fact Riverside Drive is one block from here. I think it is one of the few curvaceous streets in the whole city, and of course its west facing apartments get a view of the broad Hudson River and the New Jersey coastline beyond.

A trip to the last day of Macy’s Flower show on Sunday was a pleasant low-key event for our first day. A guide took us through the various planned “gardens” around and mostly above the sales counters on the main ground floor. I even took a video of some of it and only hope it came out since it was a veritable tutorial in horticulture. I was amazed (but should not have been) that the lilies we know as November lilies are called Easter lilies here in North America.

On the Monday morning we went to the Met and managed to get seats to every opera we had wanted to as well as one we didn’t (Satyagraha – something to do with the life and times of Ghandi and the Indian resistance I believe). We also managed seats to Candide and a concert by Martha Agerich at Avery Fisher Hall at the end of the month. Carnegie Hall (OONY) is doing Puccini’s early work Edgar which will be a rare opportunity to hear it, as with Natalie Dessai and Juan Diego Florez in Daughter of the Regiment. We just missed the Tristan broadcast and I still have not heard if it went ahead after all the sickness, stage accident and cancellations of the season, whether Heppner and Voigt ever actually sang together! [I have since found out that it was a triumph for all on the final night.]

I have always said since first coming to New York City nearly 20 years ago that every time one walks out of doors something extraordinary can be witnessed. Today I encountered the “Geese Police” in Central Park. We were just a few metres from the Belvedere ‘Castle’ from which all Manhattan temperatures are measured. The car-less roads of Central Park occasionally see a police vehicle or service truck - and sometimes one can be surprised by a silent electric ‘conservancy’ van (I am sure ‘conservancy’ is not an English word). A man with not a gun, but a trusty hound alighted from the truck which advertised ‘Geese Police - Call on us to get the flock out’. Right on-cue, two geese dived into the adjacent lake and made for open water as the attentive tracker dog was instructed to circumnavigate the lake. This involved jumping two fences which was done only on command from the master who never moved more than twenty paces from his truck, parked anti-socially if not illegally on the pathway to the Belvedere ‘Castle’ which is also a haven for children to climb to see the view. I took a video of the whole attempted cull which would make good court evidence if it needed. Happily on this occasion the pair of geese got away by swimming under the bridge and out of reach of the dog and master.

More anon …

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