What is it that fascinates almost everyone about New York? In all seriousness, other than the fact that every second shop sells the best grub,(slang for food in the UK), on the planet, outside of Florence of course, the place is just one big shithole. I make no apologies to all my friends and clients who live there, but I have to ask that one simple question, why????? After 30 years of passing in and out of New York, both for vacation and mostly for business, I am sorry to say that it has no appeal to me other than for it’s gastronomic delights, oh, and perhaps the bevy of beautiful woman who seem to congregate on every street corner. In fact I believe that every woman who wants a modeling career is based in NY, just like every crazy who wants to act is based in LA. Let me take you through a typical NY experience, then you decide where you’d rather reside, NY City, or indeed, any other part of the USA!
NY, is not America, it’s an altogether different country. It’s all the countries of the world, sitting uncomfortably on a small strip of real estate, sandwiched in between 2 rivers and two states. I hope I have my geography correct here! Arriving at JFK, or Newark or La Guardia or Grand Central, you exit and are forced into one of a seemingly endless line of yellow taxis, most of which are 40 years old or more, and then you sit in traffic, no matter what the time of day or night, being driven by a mental Asian or African or Middle Eastern F1 wannabe, headed at 100MPH towards the car directly in front of you, which BTW, is only ten feet away, while he or she talks endlessly in some foreign language on a headset in his ear , bluetooth of course, AND with the radio turned up full blast, blurting out some incomprehensible language that sounds worrisome if only because you fear the tone in the broadcasters incessant non-stop growl. If the stop start violent jerks of each 20 foot movement in that cab don’t make you sick, then the stench of BO coming from the front seat or the mess on the floor from a previous occupant, certainly will. Rarely, if ever, will the driver turn on his A/C, claiming that although 85 and humid outside, this is in fact ‘cold’ compared to his native climate. What the fuck??? I am sitting , sweating like a pig, feeling as if being sick would only be the beginning of all my worries, and he is up front, dodging bullets, the bullets being the other cars on the road, like a madman, with the windows wide open, the smell of carbon monoxide rife inside my nostrils and the noise of incessant horn honking, yes, CAR horn honking, for no particular reason, driving my wee sensitive brain into convulsion and confusion. And all of this in the first 5 minutes! After an hour, when finally arriving at my destination, I am virtually ‘poured’ out of the back seat onto the curb side, where at least 40 strangers are rushing by me at the same time, smoking, arguing, texting, all at the speed of light. They care little for the fact that I am in their way, and are so engrossed in their own self importance, they are blinded by their ability to continually do bodily harm while all I want to do it stand up straight, try and breathe some sort of ‘fresh’ air and recover from my Disney E ticket ride, which has set my ever so short life back about 10 years. Welcome to Manhattan!
Checking into a hotel is always an experience. With a bevy of men offering to carry my bag, which never weighs more than 15 pounds, into the lobby, just so one or two bucks can pass hands, I always try to wave off their attentions with the brush of an agressive hand crossing through the air in a manner that states categorically, FUCK OFF I can carry my own bags thanks! It’s always the same, every hotel lobby, OLD, very dreary, and ALWAYS dull. Even if you are privileged enough to afford the Ritz, the St Regis, or something that’s more than $400 a night, (that’s cheap for an average hotel in NYC these days), the similarities are astounding. The staff, though courteous, have a very direct, no nonsense approach that compliments the general attitude of 99.9% of the city’s inhabitants. It’s a sort of ‘take it or leave it’ attitude that comes with a scowl and a ‘don’t do me any favors’ open-eyed gaze. If looks could kill! Have you ever noticed that most of these hotels are antique behemoths, either falling down, or about to fall down, OR, if you are very fortunate, just renovated and ready to collapse in about five years from now. They have a knack of making the old look older and the new look shabby. Most hotel rooms are always a pleasure to be in, for about ten minutes! The continual noise that emulates from every street in Manhattan does nothing to cure insomnia. In fact it’s so bad, that if a room on the inside of most hotels in not procured in advance, it can leave you having to resort to bribery and corruption just to get yourself moved to a spot where trafic is only a semi nuisance. I remember once checking into a Sheraton on 7th Ave in the midst of winter. The A/C in the room just didn’t want to work, and the room was so hot from the continuous heat the furnace was blasting through the A/C unit, that I genuinely thought I was in the Serengeti on safari. I called down to ask them how I could cool the room down, and the response was, “Sorry sir, it’s winter, the system only blows heat”. Ever tried opening a window in any NY hotel room??? Not only is that an impossible task, once open the noise is so deafening you feel like you’re at Le Mans, on the track, in the middle of the race, with no place to hide.
So your first night of sleeplessness is really only a small concern compared to what awaits outside on those oh so unfriendly streets. Every corner offers an unbelievable sight of one kind or another. From the stereotypical street person, asking for money, to the wannabe rapper, giving his all to an audience of none, with his cap bent behind his ears and his see through pants bearing his manhood and his perversions at the same time! That’s just the first corner, and believe me that’s mild in comparison as to what follows. What is it about this city that brings out all the weirdos? Ah yes, New York, home of Nathan’s hot dogs, the New York Yankees, Madison Sq Garden, the Empire State building, and every wacko who ever desired to make it in front of a live audience! I hear you gasp, ‘how can you say these things Alan?’ Well, it’s true and I speak from experience! New Yorkers are direct, very direct, and I like that, but with that brashness comes an insulting and annoying mannerism called ‘fuck you!’ ‘Fuck you’ is derived from an errant inability to have time or to be pleasant to anyone, friend or foe. ‘Fuck you’ is an easy way out of any conversation, without uttering one single word. It’s that look, those eyes, that desire to be too busy for anyone other than time itself.
And then there’s the food!! New York has the best, most accessible, plentiful supply of food on the planet. Whatever you want, you can get. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, but if you have desires, they have the solution, and it’s ALWAYS good! The expense is often worth the effort, New York is certainly not the cheapest place to satisfy your culinary desires, but it IS, for sure, the only place on earth that I have ever been where every second store is a food store and every culture on the planet is well represented by a plethora of restaurants serving food depicting authentic individual gastronome. But, and it’s always a big but! When you want a slice of pizza, it costs about the same amount as a small apartment’s rent in Glasgow. There is no telling how they stock the shelves of over 6000 restaurants and 10000 convenience stores each day, but they do it, and they do it seamlessly. Everything is fresh, including the non existent niceties offered by all who serve. But, in all seriousness, if you take into account the size and population, ignoring the illegals and tourists, they pretty much have the best, most efficient feeding system on the planet. I wonder how much of their turnover is waste? Hmmmm, I must look that up once I’m done. OK I just did, and it’s staggering. They reckon enough to fill the Rose Bowl in LA every day!! Wow!! I remember once, a very long tome ago, eating in a place on 7th Ave, American cuisine I believe, and as I was still residing in the good old UK, I had no idea of the system. In the UK the gratuity is always added to the bottom of the check. In this case, I thought they’d done the same thing, and so I paid and left. Suddenly, from about 100 meters, a woman on roller skates comes hurtling towards me at 100 mph. She stops, we stop, all four of us are now stationary. “Did I upset you?” she uttered, quite our of breath. “Excuse me?” I replied. “You never tipped me!”. “It was on the bill” I protested. “That’s the tax bozo” she said. I looked at her, surrounded by three of my friends and I said to her, “I have a tip for you” as I put my hand in my pocket, ‘It’s running in the 2 PM race at Santa Anita tomorrow afternoon, and it’s called Courtesy!” She swung at me, missed and fell on her backside, dismayed and confused. We left, just dismayed!
Back to the taxi’s, oh yes, those wonderful yellow submarines. I was going from Soho to Mid town, guy picked my up on the side of Canal St, and proceeds to take me the wrong way. I may be foreign, but I am not stupid.”Where you going?” I asked him with my best “fuck you” NY impersonation. “I go to 8th and then to 56 and then drop you” “How about no fucking way. I wasn’t born yesterday buddy and I never came up the Clyde on a banana boat” The Clyde being the main river in Glasgow. He stops the car, looks round, and says,”where you from?” “Scotland, why?” “Where you learn to speak such good English?”
Another NY favorite of mine, the stench of urine on every street corner and especially in Central Park. Just delicious! Why is it that with 12 million people, probably 3 million pets, and 2 million tourists at any one time in that city, the stench of urine is as bad as one open latrine in Calcutta? Why can’t they sort that situation out? Do they believe it’s a delicacy having the aroma of fresh baked bread and cakes intermingling amongst the poisonous CO2 emissions that are suffocating everyone each day. And why is it you can never see the sun in Manhattan? It’s because people are too busy watching their own two feet march up and down the same drudgery to nowhere in particular.
So, with all said and done, what do you think? Do I love NY, nope! Do I hate it? Well, I prefer NY to China! NY is fascinating, exhilarating, scintillating, and often breathtaking, but, who would really enjoy living there? Not me, not many people I know, and those who do? Well, good luck and good hunting. The rat race is epitomized by NY. The worst of the worst and the very best of the best, with no in between and no compromise. In Scotland we have space, greenery and friendliness. Turn that 180 degrees and what do you get, yep, you guessed it in one, Manhattan.