New York – Its about the people

New York is not really like the rest of the United States of America.
Or at least from what I can gather its not. It seems to be an oasis of liberalism and open mind’ness that one might not find down the swamp lands of Louisiana.
New York is in my big three. London, Paris, New York. New York, Paris London.
Any which way you like, its up there.

I found New York to be quite a strange place in many respects. I guess it might be because it is so different from the quaint, stylish, old’ie world’ie European cities that I am more used to.
Manhattan is a long strip of an island. Thirteen miles long and 2 miles wide, divided up into a grid like pattern of streets and avenues.
Its really too big to walk about, though you could take a cab (taxi) to one of the ‘hip happening’ areas and then mooch about on two legs and that would be OK, but still its not really a pedestrian friendly city in the style of Paris or London.
I found the underground trains to be terribly confusing, but then that’s not my strong suite.
I stuck to the lower west side mostly. I don’t know why I started there but on the first night there I got horribly drunk in a bar called Wilfie and Nell’s, fell hopelessly in love with the barmaid, Christine (OK that’s why I stuck to this particular area) and met a few locals who welcomed me into their fold and I didn’t look back.
I had a great time. The New York natives are wonderful people. They are so friendly and generous as to be bring tears to ones eyes.
I was whisked about to bars, restaurants, night clubs and jazz clubs.
Smalls, 183 West 10th Street, is a famous little Lower West Side jazz venue where some really big names perform in front of small intimate crowds. You’re really in the heart of New York when you’re in there.
I didn’t behave very well there. With a belly full of vodka my voice was obviously a bit too loud and I was repeatedly asked to …SHHHHH!!
Oops, sorry.
No really, the natives take jazz very seriously.

I was also hopelessly under-dressed for New York.
First of all it was the dead of winter and it was freezing. My standard UK three layered system of T shirt, jumper and thin jacket was hopelessly inadequate and I was left gibbering with hypothermia on many an occasion.
Second – the New Yorkers (I’m not sure if this what one calls someone from New York but I’m going with it) dress UP when they go out.
Jeans? They’re for cowboys.
T shirts? Teenagers.
But I think that with my South African accent, lack of make-up (yup, men wear make-up in New York) and my faded jeans I was seen as something of a foreign oddity. It opened doors actually.
I ended up going out to dinner with the Vice President of Merrill Lynch’s Global Fund Management department in jeans and a T shirt.
I got away with it I think.

So, things to do – again, that’s not what these articles are about but I had to visit Brasserie Les Halles in John Street and have a steak. Brasserie Les Halles was where Anthony Bourdain, the author of one of my favorite books (Kitchen Confidential) was head chef.
The beef was outstanding.
Food – Where to begin. It was superb all around. From the humble chilly dogs on the street side to the upper end bistro’s and sushi joints.
Without doubt New York is a fine place to eat.
Try not to eat where you see throngs of gullible tourists. Twenty bucks for a stale baguette covered with cheap cheese and flung under the grill taught me a lesson proper fast.

And don’t just stick to Manhattan Island. Brooklyn has evolved from a really rough, get mugged neighbourhood to a stylish, chic and up market borough brim full of wine bars, restaurants and café’s. Worth a visit.
I ate deep fried broccoli there. Don’t pull a face, it was good.

So many people talk about the shopping in New York. OK well if that’s your thing then yes I guess all the big name labels are out there and you could probably pick stuff up for 30% less than you could elsewhere. Yawn.
No, for me New York was about People. They were so warm and friendly and I made friends that last to this day.
I suggest you make New York about the people too and you’ll not go far wrong.

And Christine – if you’re still there…. I’m still here.

Ross Waters