Incidental New Yorker II

July 18, 2015

I truly love the multi-ethnicity of Manhattan. I love how different people & languages intertwine, and that everyone accepts everyone else’s accent, however original or hard to understand. I adore the serious attempts at making this a bike-friendly island, to Copenhagenise it, as it is actually termed. And I look forward to venturing out there on my own bike soon, traversing narrow, deep and noisy valleys between high rises.

I feel the need to stress that I completely and utterly agree that #blacklivesmatter, and I hate that such a campaign should even be necessary … That you actually have to state the obvious.

Other random thoughts on my new life:

Upside

The energy, pulse, variety of people, choices, cuisines – top-end, low-end, every-end. Fun thrift shops. Shopping in Chinatown is like being back in Asia. Chinese and Americans share the acute need for shouting rather than speaking to one another. This too, is strange to me, even if I’m used to it from China. But the great fact is that in NYC there are people from all over the world; like the friendly, talkative shop owner, originally from Afghanistan; in next to no time I knew exactly where he came from, what his wife thought of his business talent (not much, I am afraid), how many lovely children he had put through education, and so forth. We talked politics, economy and the like …

Queensboro Bridge … someone looked deep into the future a very long time ago (i.e. in 1909). An impressive structure, which you can cross on foot, bike or by car.

The local tobacconist offers Cohiba cigars now. For 55 years Americans haven’t been able to – legally at least – enjoy the world’s finest cigars. Pity, of course that smoking is no longer comme il faut, but even so. And I do hope to get the chance to fly directly to Cuba from the US while I call it home … Thank you, Obama!

Weirdside

I am amazed how people don’t seem to distinguish between private and public here. How some turn their lives into open-air performances with an – often unwilling – audience of whomever happens to be passing. Too little space? Or a whiff of exhibitionism?

I laugh at the people who blatantly show off their wealth, much like you see in China; like the rather mature man in his silver Lamborghini. People seem to enjoy showing off their achievements – or for that matter, the opposite!

And the dogs! They have a world of their own. Their aquarium in the oyster! In our building a little dog has four rubber-wellies to protect its paws, as do many other dogs in the area. Pet shops have mindboggling supplies of toys, clothes etc. for dogs. I see dogs walked by the dozen. Some with similar sized friends, others in all shapes and sizes. I see dog day-care centres, I see women walking their dogs in prams, chatting with them, long monologues which really need the occasional answer, but these odd dog-human couples have their habits and stick to them. Also, there are small – very small – public spaces where dogs can run free; small for big dogs and a separate tiny one for small dogs. Our building allows dogs under 10 pounds. We thought of acquiring a sweet little Great Dane puppy! No, only joking. Couldn’t get myself to leave him in a day-care centre. And I’m not sure I’d care to join the masses that try to encourage their dog-friends to attend to their needs in this almost totally paved city. Dogs are well behaved, bordering on the apathetic, and a quick look reveals that many of them are doctored. But judging from the one-sided conversations in the streets, many of them obviously serve as good – and possibly the only? – company for their humans. 

© Mette Holm

Oh, and there’s the traffic! People here say that only losers use the underground. I totally disagree. Look at all the stressed out people in traffic jams. I outwalk them on streets and avenues. And reach my destination before them via the underground. That said, public transport here really needs a makeover! I agree with Bogotá’s former mayor Enrique Penalosa who stated that, “A devel­oped coun­try is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use pub­lic trans­port.” He also built proper bicycle paths because, “When we build very high quality bicycle infrastructure, besides protecting cyclists, it shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally as important to one in a $30,000 car.” Now that’s a mayor!

© Mette Holm

Downside

I spend hours in the supermarket, frightened of what I might bring home: Hormone steaks, farmed medicated fish. All milk, even the most organic selection has added vitamins. I have to scour the massive choice of food to find in tiny print info like: “no hormones added,” “no straw shortener” or “100% GMO-free.” I worry that everything else with no such welcome info, is indeed manipulated and does contain unwanted additives.

And I can’t believe the waste of resources! We can’t adjust the amount of water in our Niagara-like shower, only the temperature. You get disposable everything everywhere. Some bottles and plastic bags do encourage recycling, but there’s nowhere for you to actually return empty bottles. The woman who offers to help us clean routinely uses 2 ½ roll of paper kitchen towels in a few hours. She is not used to using and wringing a cloth – disposable or otherwise. We will have to talk about this habit. There’s no way we’ll contribute to the world’s depletion of resources at such ridiculous and unsafe speed! Even if we’re the only ones on Manhattan to feel that way!

Also, I find it strange and worrying that a country in the Western hemisphere, with the world’s largest economy, hugely progressive in some areas, will accept that people in need must rely on charity or nothing at all.