Monday, July 28, 2008

Three annoying things about the U.S. (that make me feel marginally better about having to leave New York)

Fitter. Happier. More productive
It is impossible to watch U.S. television without being assaulted by back-to-back ads for drugs of every possible description, promising to treat every possible ailment (and plenty of made-up ones, I'm convinced). They usually feature a good looking couple walking their dog on a windswept beach, talking about how life-changing the latest chemical money-spinner is turning out to be. It got to the point where I was finding comedy value in the awkward "silent" footage they had to run while the narrator spends 10 ponderous minutes listing the outrageous side-effects (using Crapulon may cause spasms, breathing difficulties, hallucinations, bleeding on the lungs, vomiting, and in some cases, your untimely death. Talk to your doctor today to find out whether Crapulon can help make a better you!).

How much food can one little island consume?
ALL OF IT, apparently. Lord, it is impossible to avoid all the food. Manhattan island is groaning with the stuff; piled high with great mounds of it, mostly of the high-sugar, high-fat, crammed-with-additives variety. It is a serious challenge to find a good, healthy meal in the city. I only survived thanks to frozen edamame beans from the Korean grocer, and even then, I spent a lot of time ill (one doctor even suggested the change in diet may have brought on the appendicitis). Order a salad and it will come swimming (literally) in dressing. The only thing to do is give in, and hope that the intermittent illnesses will bring your weight back down to pre-America levels.

If you do go down the path of least resistance, undo your belt a few notches and get yourself a tub of Häagen-Dazs Extra Rich Light Mint Chip ice cream. I know it is half the fat of regular ice cream, but trust me, you will eat twice as much. Also a pizza-pie from Grimaldi's (if you walk over the Brooklyn Bridge you will feel slightly less guilty) and a classic hamburger n' milkshake combo from the Empire Diner in Chelsea.

I'm sorry, I don't speak American
The Americans can't distinguish the individual members of the vowel family. The only way around this is to speak to them with a big old fake American accent. I can't tell you the number of times I had variations on this conversation:

Me: "So that's Kelly, k, e.."
Them: "k, a.."
Me: "No, k-E.."
Them: "k-A.."
Me: "E as in Elephant."
Them: "A?"
Me: "E, not A"
Them: "A?"
Me: "(emphatically) No, not A, E!
Them: "So...k-a?"
Me: "How about I send you an email and you can reply."
Them: "k-a?"
Me: "Bubbye now."

You want more flimsy anecdotal evidence? My friend Stu said no one understood him when he asked for a Coke ("You want cake?") unless he put on his best Texan accent.

* * * *

That's all I got. I could also go on about how unfunny the Americans are (glaringly obvious when up against their naturally witty British counterparts) - but when you take into account their inherent optimism, it's kind of endearing how earnest they are. I am excluding Jewish people here of course; they are funny as hell.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Goodbye NY, hello LDN

I have been back in London for a week now, and already I am feeling nostalgic for the bright lights and wide avenues of New York. There is some kind of magic about that name, isn't there? New York! Even whispered under your breath, it evokes excitement, colour, glamour, drama. The buzz of life swirling around the streets, pouring into the subways, milling around the bars and leering at you from doorways. Park avenue princesses and Madison park bums. Wise-cracking doormen and edgy cab drivers.

A sense of optimism pervades NYC, noticable after the comfortable pessimism of London. New York is brimful of hope right now, especially with the election around the corner.

Despite my nostalgia, my last week in New York was far from the highlight of my trip, and being run down as I was meant I really noticed the smog, the dirt, the noise and the stench of rubbish left festering in the humidity. After I touched down at Heathrow, the thing that really struck me was how green London was, having burst gloriously forth from a wet Summer since I've been away. And how quiet the city is! It seems so peaceful after New York, especially in my little neighbourhood north of the city.

In an effort to help me settle back into my everyday life here, I present a list of things I continue to love about London (which I shall repeat to myself often, mantra-like):

1) The parks. Hampstead Heath especially - so lovely, and more suitable for rambling and picnics than Central Park. Also, there is nothing prettier than an English cottage garden.

2) The quirky style of the inhabitants. People are more free-spirited in the way they dress here, and more rough around the edges.

3) The buses. They are a great way to get around, if you don't mind taking a bit longer, and the sight of a red double-decker bus is inherently cheering.

4) The variety of food that is available. London is a foodie town, there is no denying it. Borough Market, I missed you and your awe-inspiring arrays of meat, seafood, spices, coffee, cakes, bread, and local and exotic fruits and vegetables.

5) My bike and London's increasingly bike-friendly roads (really!). Good to be back in the saddle.

6) Proper world news, delivered by people I can take seriously. Living in New York, you tend to forget about the existence of an outside world.

7) The generally "good natured despite the weather/the fact that nothing works as it should" attitude of the people here.

8) A nice cup of English (or more likely some kind of herbal) tea. It just didn't seem right drinking tea in NY, and I missed the ritual.

9) The sense of history, of course. I hope to see more and do more in this historic town; having made the most of my time in NY, I feel a little like I have taken London for granted.

10) The vast variety of accents, some of which I have become immune to, but some of which still manage to tickle me (the "Cheers, Guv'nor!" to the driver when the bus waited for a tardy cockney to board).

I am sure there are many more things to love about London which I have forgotten to include here, so I will update this list as they occur to me or as I experience them.

Just don't ask me to choose which my favourite city is. I am not prepared to go there just yet.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Website of the week (year?)

Overheard in New

So funny. Props to the lovely Amanda who sent me the link.

I think I have mentioned this on here before, but the funniest thing I remember overhearing was a little kid who had had a bit of a crash on the ice at the Somerset House skating rink, and was asking his dad hysterically, "Am I dead, or what?"
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