Friday, 10 November 2017

NYMFC: Tourism Part 1

I’m not much of a tourist, not doing much touring.  But there is a lot to see in some places, isn’t there?
On a Monday in New York, we wake up to rain.  And plenty of it. 
Yesterday, we made plans for today: Empire State Building, followed by Katz’s Deli for lunch.
The rain, almost literally, pisses on that.  By the time we cross the Brooklyn Bridge on the train, the thick mist looks like it’s hanging around half the height of the ESB.
Since we’ve already made the trip, we decide to ask.  The helpfully honest man in the ticket office is cheerfully blunt: “Oh, you can’t see anything.  Not one thing.”
So, we sack it off and decide that we will maybe try to squeeze it in before our flight home tomorrow.
There’s no point in a tower with a view for sight-seeing, if you can’t view or see sights.
We head to Katz’s Deli for lunch.  It’s a confusing place, but they have a system, which they breathlessly explain to diners as they (the diners) join various queues.
I get stuck between two “lines” (that’s what they call queues here, remember) somehow, between two “cutters” (that’s what they call sandwich makers here) and as I realise a young woman has cut in front of me (I daresay she spotted my tourist naivete from a distance), she grins widely at me and offers the meat that the cutter has just handed her from the huge slab he’s working on.  I ask her what it is, and she says Pastrami (that’s good, ‘cos it’s what I’ll order.  Eventually.)  I take a bit and it’s really good. 
“No”, she says, “you have to eat the whole thing!”, and again looks at me like I’m hopelessly, cluelessly (if, perhaps, somewhat charmingly) daft.
(Women have looked at me like this and I’ve never realised what it meant until it was too late – except in this case, when I’m not at all interested in what it means.)
After I get my own taster of the pastrami (it seems to be like trying the wine to make sure it’s not corked, and is acceptable), I get a Reuben with Pastrami (that’s a beef sandwich, if you’re nasty) and fries, and a can of soda (that’s a tin of pop, to you).  When I join E at the table she has been saving she is sitting with a man who is there on his own, and they are chatting.  (He is a wine-maker from Seattle, WA, if you’re interested.)
He comes here once a year, a sort of foody pilgrimage without his wife, who is a fussy eater.  He recommends all sorts of places we don’t have time to try.
Katz’s itself was recommended, and it is great, if a wee bit touristy.  It’s the diner in which Sally went with Harry, the one where she faked an orgasm and then a woman said “I’ll have what she’s having” and then everyone laughed forever and ever.  (That moment was the US “movie” equivalent of when Trigger fell through the bar.  Which you love.)
In fact, as I look around, I notice a sign above our heads.  It reads: “Where Harry met Sally…hope you have what she had!  Enjoy!”
So, it seems we’re sat at the famous table right out of the movie!  And we didn’t even mean to!
We pay on the way out, which is novel.  Back outside, the rain has just got heavier.  There is a man in a wheelchair asking for money, and E stops to talk to him and hands over some notes.  We dive back into the Subway and head for the Museum of The American Indian (I had assumed this was not the real, official name of the place, but it definitely, very disappointingly, is). 
The museum is in one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan, and it’s a state building, so it’s a bag search and airport-style metal detector on the way in.  Go figure.  (There is no British translation of this phrase.  It’s basically meaningless, as far as I can tell.)
The first thing I am confused about is How Is It Still Cool To Call Native/Indigenous People Indian When Everyone Knows They Are Not Indian And Were Only Called That, Ever, Because Of The Ignorance Of “Explorers” (Pirates/Genocidal maniacs)?
B says a lot of people still say “Indian”.  That’s a shame, but this is an Official Museum! WTF?  (That’s What The Fuck? to you.)
The museum itself is a disappointment.  There are 3 exhibitions, one on Native Fashion Now, one on ancient art in the Americas (all of the Americas) and another which seems to be about culture of different native groups through pre-annihilation history.  Its more art than history, although there’s a smattering of historical info.  And there’s a guide taking a group round.  I eavesdrop and hear a moving anecdote about the Choctaw Nation, who, after The Trail Of Tears, when they were forcibly removed from their land following a treaty, raised money to send to Ireland during the Potato Famine.  Big Time Solidarity.
The whole thing is a wee bit depressing, and seems to reflect very badly on the current state of denial in America concerning the genocide committed against native people on which this country is built.
I sincerely hope there are other, better museums that deal with this.  Again, the problem is the same as back at home: we are not taught about these things, for fairly obvious reasons…
Upon leaving the disappointing museum, we head to the “oldest pub in Manhattan”, The Frauncis Tavern.  It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the plaque on the wall outside, and is named after Samuel Fraunces, a “West Indian” American patriot, who hosted George Washington at the pub, at the time of the Revolutionary War (the one that kicked Britain out).
Inside, it’s posh and a bit dark.  There are several bars, and B directs us to his favourite, which has loads of beers on tap – most of which are very expensive and some of which are very strong and all of which are new to me.  I select one which is served in a small glass, looks like about half a pint.  It is very tasty though.  E has a cider.  Every bar here seems to have a telly, even classy places that wouldn’t back home.  This one is showing 24-hour news (our era’s most depressing development in media?  Ah, but there are so many to choose from!)), which is confirming/re-affirming something that cannot be considered news by any standards: the current president, among his many other attributes, is entirely self-satirising.  The actual news of it is that he may also have committed some kind of treason, by colluding with Russian agents to influence the 2016 election.  (Hahaha, what a card.)
As we head back to Brooklyn, we discover that there has been a bomb in Manchester at a big pop concert, which has killed people.  It makes us sad and a bit nauseous.  The things happening in the world just now seem, for someone who has been paying attention, like they have always been happening, but now are quicker and worse and in our faces all the time (you know, terrorist atrocities, wars all over the world, massive (mostly unpunished) political corruption, racism, economic turmoil, despair etc.).  Some people seem to think that a lot of this is new, somehow.  As I say, others of us have been paying attention.  What is new, to me, is how quickly we find out about it, and from whom.
We want to buy B & J dinner to thank them for putting us up/putting up with us for a fortnight, so we all go to one of their favourite local restaurants.  It’s very nice, a bit trendy, and the food is, again, very good.  We get another tour of the neighbourhood (the place is on Cortelyou) and walk the gamut of gentrification.  This part of town sure has changed since I was last here, yessirree, Bob.
Back in the immediate vicinity of the flat/apartment, J, E and I stop at Hinterland for a nightcap.  B is on sensibletime, and this being a Monday night, declines.
The bar seems busy, for a Monday night.  J discovers, while getting the drinks in, that the crowd are here for the “season premiere” of The Batchelorette.  (That’s the first in a new series of a long-running dating show, where a woman chooses from 30 or so preening tossers competing for her attention/body/love etc.)
Soon, the screams from the back of the bar (where there is a big screen set up) are making conversation about anything else almost impossible.  The show seems like Definitely The Worst Thing Ever, based on the noises produced by the crowd at the back.  Oh, God, the screaming
Still, it’s probably not that different to the feeling a non-football fan would get in a football pub when there’s a big game on…to each their own.  And, like a non-football fan in a football pub when there’s a big game on, I need to leave swiftly to preserve whatever’s left of my faith in/fondness for humans.  We are agreed on this, although E & J seem to be getting sucked in a wee bit, however reluctantly.
So, we leave after one drink (this is possibly the first time in my/our life/lives that “one more drink” has actually meant one more drink).
Back at the flat, J puts the telly on to watch… The Batchellorette!  So, now I can have an informed opinion on exactly how hideous it is.  It is exactly as hideous as I had assumed without having been fully subjected to it.  (Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover/screaming fans.)  It’s utterly ghastly, obviously.  I write these notes and shake my head a lot.  There is nothing less Real on God’s Green Earth than Reality TV.  That’s the extent of my critique.  Life’s too short to dwell on it.
I tell J that the only thing worse than British TV is American TV and she laughs.
So, that’s everything there is to see in New York City, isn’t it?
Bed time.

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