Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Raging bull

Today I lost it at The American Post Office.

The full force of my special sparkly festive edition wrath came down on the scary spiky haired woman at the counter who threw my credit card back at me. Really threw. She threw it so hard it bounced back over the counter at 20 MPH before narrowly missing a suicidal dive off the edge. The reason for this? Because I had earlier refused to go to the back of the 20 minute line. The reason I refused? Because I did not accept that filling in the wrong size of custom form was reason enough to do this. So I stubbornly stayed at her counter and filled in the correct form, while enjoying the tropical setting of the post office central heating system. All the time she bitched and moaned about me as she served other customers.

''You are very rude!'' I say in my poshest British accent.
''Next!'' she yells over my shoulder.
''Excuse me? I am serious. I just needed your help and you have been impatient and rude.''
''Oh my god" I continue with the entire queue watching the free Christmas entertainment "You can't treat me like this! I am a customer and you work here. What is your name? I am going to complain!"
"Oh you want my name?"
"Yes I do!"
''My name is (pause to laugh with her colleague)...uh...Jamie. Yeah, my name is Jamie."

I narrow my eyes to show my distrust, although Jamie could be her name, being as it's kind of unisex and because she has lesbian hair.

My wrath seems somewhat wasted on this woman. My voice may be loud in Cardiff, but in New York it's normal level. The woman continues to yell 'NEXT!' shrugs her shoulders, flicks her lesbian hair and brushes off my wrath. She is wrathed out.

Customer service is for those who may actually live in some fear of loosing their jobs. American Post Office employees at Christmas are not those people.

This is not my first blow up since arriving. If you are already a fairly passionate person then New York has the ability to turn you aggressive. If you are already aggressive then it can turn you into a sociopath. If you are already sociopathic, you're fucked. On a good day I fall into the second category, therefore I spend a lot of my days fighting people in the service industry. There are too many blow ups to account- they include, but are not limited to:

1) Yelling ''I JUST WANT TO BUY TAMPAX!'' in Duane Reade when I was told I couldn't switch queues to get served faster.
2)Shouting ''Do you like your fucking job?!'' at a cashier who threw my groceries at me at the 'gourmet' market on 14th street. Gourmet just means they charge more. It does not mean they stop employing cholitas with attitude from the Bronx.
3) Nearly getting beaten up by a taxi driver because I refused to shut the taxi door in protest at his rudeness. I just wanted my bag out of the boot. He didn't know what a boot was. I had to run away from this one, as he looked like he might have a baseball bat in his boot/trunk.

Rudeness is rampant here. The streets are mean in more ways than one way. New Yorkers can be abrupt, cold and couldn't care less. They can also funny and talkative, helpful and exceptionally kind.

New Yorkers are a bit like the city they live in, contradictory at best, schizophrenic at worst.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Wellington Roots

While on my way to buy rainboots this week I pondered a memory: Many years ago when my fabulous new life in New York was just a twinkle in a social networking site's eye I imagined how life here would be. And naturally, the reality is quite different. But the biggest shock is that I would have been pretty certain that I would do it all in heels. And here I am off to buy wellies. And not in an Alexa Chung 'partying it up at the VIP tent of a festival' way. Just in an everyday wearing way. Scary.

It doesn't take a genius to work out what was responsible for the fantasy of skipping around New York in 6 inch stilletos. A certain TV show that we never dare speak it's name after they sold out and made that appallingly saccharin big screen version.

When I first started coming to New York in 2006 I figured that I couldn't do the smoking (gave up in 2005) or the dating (had met The American by then) or the Jimmy Choos (skint single mother) but I could do stuff in heels. Ya for heels! I love them, spent my whole life staggering around in them. 'Car to Bar' heels as my mother calls them. Only good for going from the car to the bar. I also found them good for the car to the supermarket, the car to the office and the car to a friend's house for dinner.

Problem is now I don't have a car to go to the bar, unless I get a taxi-which is reasonable for a night out but not so much for a food shop. Come to think of it, I don't have a supermarket either, just 'gourmet markets' and I no longer have an office. I have only just started to get some friends so you can see how the 'car to bar' shoes start to become redundant.

But I stubbornly stuck with those heels in 2006, wearing them to sightsee and shop and I simply ended up with feet that looked like they belonged to 90 year old Grandma.

New Yorkers wear flats and rainboots are an acceptable part of an outfit in the snow or wet. I resisted of course, but it was futile. Since I arrived in September my heels have not moved from their place in the shoe rack and my flat boots all need reheeling. And now I find myself buying rainboots. And callling them rainboots. Wellies Emma, they are fucking wellies.

''What is this 'Wellie' you're taking about?" asks The American.
''Yeah, what is a 'Wellie?' We don't know that name in America." When the American says Wellie it sounds like Willy so I giggle.
''Galoshes do you call them?"
"Yeah I want Hunters."
''What is this Hunter? We don't know that name in America."
"Yes you do. They sell them in bloody Bloomingdales."

Which is where I am heading now. And while I am there I will stroke pairs of heels with a great nostalgia and I will say:

''I will never forget you. I will always love you."

Because flats might be what I need right now, but heels will always be my solemates.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Liberating a Christmas tree

Of all the ways you can entertain your 15 year on a Friday night in NYC, getting her drunk and then stealing a Christmas tree is not among the most responsible.

It started with Mexican Bulldogs at Benny's Burritos on Greenwich Avenue. A seemingly innocent drink that tastes sweet, but not too cloying and boozy, but not too strong, nothing like the usual firewater cocktails they serve up in this city. It's a frozen Margarita with a corona tipped upside down into it. Possibly on reflection, they don't seem that innocent and the name may be a clue to the trouble that lies ahead. Anything with bulldog in doesn't sound like a soft option. Come to think of it, there are no soft options in this alcoholic town. You can easily get drunk on two cocktails due to the lack of measures and the fast and loose pour of the bartender. They want you drunk so they'll make better tips. You want to be drunk. This is a mutually satisfying relationship.

The Mexican Bulldogs were discovered when The Welsh were in town. The fourth lot of Welsh since I arrived. This time my best mate's brother and his girlfriend, who patiently tried to explain the science behind the Mexican Bulldog. I just couldn't get how the Corona was going down as I sipped the Margarita through a straw. It was something to do with physics they said. I still don't understand now. In the middle of my second Mexican Bulldog, I also didn't care. I was still trying to fathom how I had not yet discovered these fast tracks to nirvana on my previous visits to the restaurant just two minutes from the apartment.

It was love at first sip. That night we went to the lighting of the Christmas tree at The Rockefeller Centre and despite being feet away from Aretha Franklin, Shakira Shakira and Rod Stewart, the only conversation was about The Bulldogs.

So the following Friday I take The Teenager to Bennys and we order up some Bulldogs. Well who else is going to appreciate a new booze experience better than a 15 year old?

I tell myself she is nearly 16 and if we were still living in Cardiff she'd be on first name terms with most of the bouncers by now. Such ability of sense and reason did not last for long. We must have only have two or maybe three Bulldogs and then the next thing I know we are trying to get into a bar. Am I trying to have a pub crawl with my teenage daughter? Who is not 3 but 6 years underage here? Yes, it appears so. There'll be no ID problems at this joint, we've gotton in before without ID.

''Oh no," I slur "This is my sister and she doesn't have any."
"She can't come in then."
Awkward pause
"But she's British?"
''We're British, we don't do ID."
"You can't come in either then."

Fuckity, fuck, fuck. The night is young and I want to drink more.

''Let's nick a Christmas tree." says The Teenager, eyeing up the stall over the road.

I don't remember what I said in reply, but it can't have been much in the way of parental protest because after a quick tactics meeting we are grabbing an unwrapped 10ft pine from the end of the stall and dragging it away.

We haul it over the road and The Teenager falls on top of it.

''Get up, for fuck's sake!'' I shoo her off the road and grabbing the tree I run as fast as I can, in order to get out of the line of site of the stall holders.

We go the long way home to avoid detection and drag the pine by it's top, so it's shedding needles along the pretty cobbled streets of the West Village. We march past bars where people double take out of the windows and we surprise those sitting on their stoops smoking. Some people talk to us, cheer us, shout. I shout back that we have 'liberated the tree'. My reasoning is something along the lines of 'The tree began to nature, they stole it from nature, we are liberating it back'. This is fairly weak considering I planning to hold it hostage in a small 2 bed apartment, rather that release it back into the Norwegian forest.

We turn the corner onto 7th Avenue past the homeless medical centre and a manned NYPD police car. Then we bump into a couple who collapse into laughter and ask us what we're doing to which I shout 'Liberating a Christmas tree!'' and they ask if they can take pics and then The Teenager and I are standing in the middle of 7th Avenue posing drunkenly with the stolen tree and then we are talking to the couple and they are inviting us to a party in Chinatown and The Teenager wants to know if it will require ID and I say more importantly we have to get the bloody tree home. And then we are talking about Flight of The Conchords and how they would make a Liberating a Christmas tree song and then we are all singing that song and then they offer to help us get the tree into our building and then the lady is taking my email, cos she says I must have the pics, even though I know they will be awful and drunken and I think what a cool pair of Americans. That's a first.

Then we are dragging the pine through the front door of the apartment and The American is sitting on the sofa eating take out which actually falls from his mouth when he sees the giant tree, which now looks even more massive in our Manhattan broom closet. The Teenager and I are singing the Liberating a Christmas tree song and then we explain that we actually stole it and then he really is shocked.

But then he gets quite excited at the danger of it all and he insists on going to the 24 hour Duane Reade to buy a stand and I say

''Get me a Diet Dr Pepper!"

And The American goes off muttering how all Welsh are "fucking mental".

And I know that whatever else happens in our lives and however much we fight and she thinks I am uncool-The Teenager will never forget the night that her and her mother got drunk and stole a Christmas tree in New York City.

Liberating a Christmas Tree: That's how Christmas should be.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Figging hell

Today while on a bus in Brooklyn I watched a woman eat a whole pack of Fig Newtons.

She devoured them in quick succession, not pausing between biscuits. Because I was wearing sunglasses, I was able to stare at her with a mixture of fascination and disgust whilst simultaneously observing her technique.

The Fig Newton box perched on her lap she took out one at a time. She bit each Fig Newton in half, turned it 90 degrees and then bit it in half again. She finished the two bits of Fig Newton in her mouth before popping the third bit in. She did the same thing, each time, with absolute precision.

Each time she reached for another, I was screaming inside:

''For the love of God woman, put the Fig Newtons down! What kind of insanity is this? They don't even taste good! Do you know what you could have for the same calories? Do you know? Do you?"

This woman was neither old nor fat yet she munched on those hybrid biscuit/cakes like her very lifeblood depended on it.

Then when I thought I couldn't take anymore craziness she slid one Fig Newton back into the box, placed the box into a red suitcase at her feet and got off at the next stop.


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