Sunday, 5 December 2010

Hometown story

Tomorrow I return to Wales for the first time since I arrived in New York.

Today I walk along 5th Avenue with the sun shining so bright it's like the second coming of Christ. A perfect NYC winter's day, everyone bundled up against woollen things and over sized sunglasses.

I think about the last 16 months. Where I am now, where I was when I arrived in September 2009. Am I a different me now? Adele's Hometown Glory comes on my ipod, like it always seems to lately "...I ain't lost, just wandering...'round my hometown."

A giraffe-like woman stalks past me in a fake fur, alien looking, make-up free, legs that threaten to break from their skinniness. Model spot. I pass a line of food trucks, Manhattanites lining up to make their weekend hangovers betters with carbs and coffee. On my right a homeless couple have made their own pied-de-terre on the sidewalk from boxes they have broken up underneath some elegant Christmas lights. A temporary house of cardboard with their own Christmas star above.

I feel it. A little pull at the thought of leaving New York. A city of flawed beauty-broken, ugly, imperfect, yet unmatchable. I love NYC the right way now. Not the romance I had when I first started visiting in 2006, where I only saw the good in her, but the way I feel now. Based on accepting her for all she is and all she is not.

New York is a tough one to love. She gives only when you do. She mirrors your state of mind. When you bounce onto the streets, they are energised and pulse with life. When you walk shoulders hunched the city is depressing and dank and lonely.

I board a plane tomorrow at 8 a.m. and I have butterflies of excitement at the thought of going back to Cardiff. Not because it means escaping what is not perfect about my life in NYC, but because of the people I have there. People I have loved, some of them for my whole life.

And just at this time I realise I have found my feet in New York. I was always told it would take time. Everyone forgot to mention it also takes friends. Just like Cardiff, I found my corner of this city and I am not alone in it. 

If home is where people I love are, then I guess have two now.

And for that I feel blessed.

Friday, 26 November 2010

When is it time to drop your Mother on Facebook?

This week something happens that causes a departure from my usual blog subject of being a sometimes lost, sometimes found, Welsh Alien in New York.

My mother changes her Facebook profile picture to one of her drinking a pint.

I show it to The Teenager (who I always defer to on booze related matters) and she tells me it's actually Sangria.

"But in a pint glass?" I say.
"Now you know how I feel." she says.

Hardly. My daughter refuses to be my friend on Facebook on the basis that she wants to be able to slag me off to her 565 friends. She briefly changed this rule in the summer when she went home for 6 weeks, after much begging from me. Her only communication for the entire time was to post "Your a massive Twat" on a Black and white 'arty' photo of me pissed in a L.E.S. bar. I posted back about her grammatical error and that she should remember her apostrophe 're. She dropped me soon after.

She will however, be friends with my Mother. Her 66 year old Grandmother. And she is unapologetic about her rejection of me. Whereas I personally felt it's a bit rude not to accept my Mum's FB friendship-what with the small matter of her baring me life.

Now I wonder if my own Mother is 'doing a me' and embarrassing her offspring on Facebook.  Is it time for me to cut the virtual apron strings? But before I click 'remove from friends' I ponder that my Mother's very existence on a social networking site is miraculous to the point of being an evolutionary shift. 18 months ago she couldn't even write an email. Now she can post pictures online, send attachments and nag me via several new mediums. There is likely a whole new section of her brain that has developed to process this new technology and her fingertips have grown little webbed pads to protect from RSI.

She has now taken to writing me emails that quote my Twitter/Facebook/Blog. In them, she will complain about information she is hearing second hand from any given social media platform:

Subject: Rubbish daughter

Hello Darling, I see from your Twitter that you have recently  *insert small, insignificant piece of news*  this is nice to hear at the same time as the rest of the world. You also Facebooked that there was  *insert small, insignificant piece of news*.   Your Mother would like to know these things. And I read your blog, it was funny, except you didn't tell me that  *insert small, insignificant piece of news*.  As The Teenager would say- WTF?

Love Mum xxx

This roughly translates as:

Hello Darling. You are a bad daughter and I will make sure to spend all of your only-child inheritance on a series of luxury cruises and overpriced M&S food.
Recently, when I complained on Facebook of my Blackberry breaking my Mother wrote the following "Did you throw it against the wall, like you did with that other phone?" I deleted this comment, as it was not only defamatory, but unfortunately true. I can assure though, that my phone hurling incidents were purely restricted to cheap nokias. I would never do such a thing now. Now I have a Blackberry that I take to bed at night. And I'm 35, of course.

Facebook has become a communicative shorthand for us all. This is what my Mother's generation might fail to get. If I emailed everyone individually to tell that what was going on in my oft' bad soap opera of a life I would never leave my computer, or sleep, or eat. 

I ask The Teenager's advice. I say that getting ticked off by my Mother on Facebook in front of my 200 'friends' is a bit irritating.

"It could be a lot worse", she says "At least she's not blogging or tweeting every detail of your life for everyone to see. Hmmm? MOTHER?"

And she fixes me with that cold stare she does so well.

"Oh right...yes."
"You really are such a twat Mother."
"Now get out of my room."
"Love you."
"Yeah whatever, shut the door behind you."


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Lost time, found again...

In order to find yourself in New York, you gotta get lost first.

Which is good, as I have absolutely no idea where I am and it's been this way for the last two hours. My blackberry keeps telling me I am where I want to be, which is not helpful, as clearly I wouldn't be attempting to get there if I already was.

The beauty though, is that I'm having such a great time being lost I've forgotton my original endeavour of trying to find an antique jewelers in the Lower East Side. Two of the diamonds fell out of my Victorian engagement ring. It survives a century intact and after just one year on my big, clumsy hands, it's screwed.

In the time that has passed I have walked past The Cooper Union and mused how it looks a little of the Armadillo exterior of the Wales Millennium centre:

I then realise I'm not even in the LES anymore finding Fonda Lolita with it's actual VW camper van parked inside at Tacombi.

I sit down with a rib and chicken taco and ended up talking with the owner who tells me tales of setting up the same restaurant in Mexico. He'd had two successful places until bird flu killed the tourist trade. Then he started making beer and got the funding to move to the U.S. and open here. In New York everyone has a movie script-worthy back story.

I leave when it's just getting dark and the blinking neon of the 99 cents store glows large. The promise of cheap tat lures me, until I realise it's a $99 store and just sells leather jackets.

Down the block is American Apparel. The very same one that used to be deluged by hipsters on the benches outside. Today there are four hobos drinking from brown paper bags on the seats that remain and AA is hawking leotards on a rack outside for cheap. Oh the economy!

I walk around to East Houston and find an Army and Navy store being run by possibly the nicest bloke in NYC. I buy combat boots and some studded leather gloves from him and his Chinese Mum who doesn't speak any English, while he tells me he doesn't have a computer, but that customers tell him "Everyone write nice things 'bout me on internet".

I find the jewelers eventually, not by means of google maps on the Crackberry but by asking human folk the way. The woman in the store chastises me for having such a dirty ring. I avoid the obvious entendre and instead thank her and express how much of a pleasure it will be to pay hundreds of dollars to get it fixed.

I take the F train home and when waiting for it close my eyes to appreciate the Jazz trumpet player busking on the platform next to me. It's the perfect soundtrack to the day. Close my eyes, breath in the last few hours, smiling, smiling...

"WHAT THA' FUCKING FUCK MAN?" the girl sat next to me is suddenly going bonkers and flailing around. I realise it's because she was listening to her ipod and the jazz trumpeter is drowning out her music.

"'Dat's some fucking buuuuulllshit right there! Shut up man! SHUT UP! No one wanna here your fucking jaaaazz ass music."

The Trumpeter doesn't even blink. She screams, he plays Miles Davis. She screams some more, he's riffing some high notes. A guy in a suit gives him $20. The girl's still screaming. Together they sound like a hybrid alternative Jazz fusion you would hear at a downtown club.

New York makes it's own music.

Today I love the sound.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Head in the clouds

Aside from Cardiff and New York, I have been a permanent resident of another place: Emmaworld.

In Emmaworld,  everything is sunshiny happy and unicorns frolic on rainbows made of marshmallow. There are no rules, aside from permanent positivity. Emmaworld-population: 1

In Emmaworld the move to the New York was going to be a film script. Not a sachharin rom com, but an upbeat Indie with a few minor challenges for the characters to overcome. In the end everything is cool. Turns out in the real world everything is not cool, which is good I guess, because it's must mean it's not the end.

I have recently taken forced leave of absence from Emmaworld in order to reside in the real world. In Emmaworld I have a super super spanky job and strut around in perfect buttery beige vintage boots grabbing Manhattan by the bollocks and yelling Sancerre orders at waiters after a long day conquering at large.

In Realworld I am in tracksuit bottoms on the sofa of my pricey Manhattan Storage unit-come-apartment, eating Cheerios from the box while jabbing refresh on my emails like a woman possessed. I tune into the painful sound of no phones ringing. Me and several other million Americans in the great job hunt.

Oh and I'm networking.

Oh yeah... Feel my pain. Networking. I am a Brit and more than that a down to earth Cardiff girl. I have to talk bullshit to people I don't know for work? It makes me feel a little dirty. They don't even call it bullshit here. They call it "B.S." America is so busy with the actual bullshit they don't even have time to say the word.

And then there's people not always laughing at my jokes. The reaction after I said something seemingly witty and spontaneous at a recent event went like this:

Networky person: *Silence, quizzical look*

Me: *Silence, refusing to qualify joke*

Networky person: *Silence, while working out if I'm serious or not*

Tumbleweed blows through the room.

Me: *Pause*

Networky person: *Longer pause* "Oh my god you're like... soooo funny!

Which (as my Brit friend pointed out) roughly translated means:

"Oh my god, you're like... soooo inappropriate!"

Ticket back to Emmaworld please? Or at least Cardiff...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Style is so omnipresent in New York that even the water bottles are intimidatingly fashionable.

Turns out this Missoni/Pelligrino collaboration was the most stylish thing I would see on the day when I take a 'diva' shopping tour of the garment district with my fellow expat blogger Notes by a Stylist. Immediate alarm bells were ringing due to the use of the word diva in the title, being as I am neither a 6 year old girl who shops at Claire's Accessories or living in 1996.

Whenever alarm bells ring they never cease, they just get louder. When we met the tour guide on a Midtown corner, the bells are shaking my very core. She is wearing a waistcoat that was surely fashioned from my bathroom rug, with an iluminous pink nylon handbag. It wasn't like I expected her head to toe in Rodarte, but she looked like she was dressed in the dark by a four year old with A.D.D. 

We are told of the excitement and bargains ahead and are quickly herded to an anonymous looking office building around the corner where we all squeeze into a lift and arrive on the 10th floor. When we pile out, I spot the showroom for a cool department store brand and realise I have judged the whole thing too hastily. But no. We're not going there. No. We're going to the showroom of a coat designer, who I've never heard of who. But not to worry, because she has a crumpled copy of an old Oprah magazine, proving firstly that someone at a magazine once liked one of her coats and secondly that they normally retail at $1000. That's $1000! The showroom assistant shouts this as if she's talking to a group of Primary school children learning basic addition. "That's O-pa-raah! That's one thousand bucks! But for you today, most pieces retail at around... $300. That's a saving of...(nods her head excitably) SEVEN...HUNDRED...BUCKS!"

I have no interest in a new coat costing $300 so I mooch around sulking until I am pounced on by the actual designer. Why is she hawking her own stuff? Doesn't she have better things to do? something?

"You have to try this on!" she says. 
"No thank you" I say looking at a purple boucle wool coat so old fashioned my dead Nanna would have hesitated to wear it to bingo.
"No. You have to try it on!" she persists.
"No thank you."
"I insist."
"I'm not taking no for an answer!"
"Sorry, no."
"You know honey? This coat would be great for your with your big boobs, it's really flattering with the shawl collar..."

Yes she did. She really did. She went there. Ok, so it's no secret to the world that I have large breasts, they are right there every day, for all to see- distracting men from what I'm saying and making me look like a hooker in every blouse I wear. They ruin fashion choices, I need a second mortgage every time I buy a bra and I will never stand up entirely straight. So guess what? What I do not need, is this to be shouted out by a woman I just met in front of a group of strangers. I pause. Fix her with a menacing stare, the smile and say:


That sort of set the tone from there on in and Sara and I are like bored schoolgirls being dragged around an automotive museum. The depressing cycle of overpriced tat continues for hours, broken up only by the odd bit of cheap tat. At one point we're not allowed in a showroom because a buyer is there and the tour guide whispers.

"The buyers don't know we have these tours..."

Oh reeeeeeally? So the people who work in the industry don't know this goes on? I assume they are not only idiots, but also don't have Internet connections to google 'garment district showroom shopping tours'?

When we are at the point of no more we are taken into another showroom and the designer introduces herself by telling us she's hilarious. That's hilarious with lots of exclamation marks!!! I walk out and Sara follows. We skulk around outside for 15 minutes wondering before Sara has a genius plan. We're going to let everyone know what we think about this, in the most British way possible: We're going to run away.

No complaining, no honesty, no embarrassment. We prod the lift hastily, bolt out of the building and hail a cab on 7th Avenue and head for lunch where we drink to forget our Post Traumatic Dress Disorder.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Stormy weather, just can't get myself together

I spent Columbus day in bed hungover, discovering only that I cannot drink like I'm 25 anymore.

This is not a new revelation, which is apt because it turns Columbus didn't really discover much on this day in history either.

He was actually more of a PR man for The Americas, which was probably found years before by the Chinese in 1421 or even by my Welsh forefathers way back in the 6th century. Christopher did all the promotional work though and then reveled in the glory, making the new world really popular via his genius marketing plan of slavery, which it turns out, really caught on. When he first set foot in the Bahamas he noted in his log how the ignorant locals would make fine servants and that "...with fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we wanted."

So with Columbus being something of a power hungry Italian Dom it is perplexing why he is celebrated at all.

But when you're a Cardiff girl, there is little excuse needed for a party, so I start the festivities the night before at a West Village bar serving half price bottles of wine. I come home in the early hours to the local crazy who has threatened to kill me several times passed out in front of my building. Shame he was more zonked than me, so we couldn't exchange our usual pleasantries where he screams "You're going to die, you fucking bitch" and I cry "What have I ever done to you?" 

My recollections of the next few hours are shaky, but after I step over my hobo nemesis and retire to the safety of my apartment I remember drunken arguing with the (sober) American, drunken IMing anyone in the UK who was awake and drunken oven pizza burning.

By the following evening I have done nothing with my day but sleep, rot my brain watching E and suffered the black dog that accompanies every hangover. I wait for the big storm to hit. I know it is coming, not because I am a witch as The American claims, but because NY1 had been getting a hard-on about it all day.

New York does storms like it does everything else-completely over the top. First comes the rain, not drops, but lashes from the sky in huge sheets. Then the hail, as if every barman in the city has emptied their ice buckets at the same time. The stones hammering down on the back of the air conditioning unit like a drummer having an epileptic fit. Then the thunder so loud I feel the vibrations in my heart, quickly followed by lightning illuminating the inky sky.

The American and I open the bedroom windows and stick our heads out by the fire escape. We drink it the drama, turn off our phones, switch off the TV and shut our laptops. No technology can compete with the free show from nature tonight.

New York photographer Jay Fine's stunning picture of Lady Liberty in the lightning storm

"The lightning is like a giant Paparazzo bulb over Manhattan." says The American "Like the city is one big celebrity getting papped."
Cute. Clever even. He doesn't always say dumb stuff, despite his obvious disadvantage of being descendant of those who fell for Columbus New World marketing ploy.
"I like that." I say.
"You should put that in your blog." he says.
"Hmmm...maybe." I say.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Homesick and Hiraeth

The Welsh language has it's very own word for homesickness.

It's a word that has no literal translation into English, but the best way to try to describe it as a grief and longing for the homeland. The word is Hiraeth. And I have it bad.

I am pining for my mates, Sainsburys, shitty weather, Primark, Coronation Street, Roath Park near my house and irony. For some inexplicable reason my Hiraeth has also manifested itself in a deep desire to once again see the concrete monolith that is the Gabalfa roundabout in Cardiff

I haven't added my Mother to the list because she has a special way of making me feel like she's in the same room as me when she nags me transatlantically. It's quite the unique talent. It has nothing what so ever to do with the fact she didn't buy me a flight home this summer when I was skint. That would make me spoiled and entitled. But can I just point out that Bank of Mum is only supposed refuse withdrawals if the child works in a stable industry, which clearly doesn't include the media. Instead of a flight, she sent me an IlovestheDiff t-shirt. 

I loves the 'Diff t-shirt posing by classic NY fire escape. It's raining, so it feels at home.
In my Mother's defence she'd already stumped up a load of cash up for The Teenager to go home in July. For a few months of the summer return flights were starting at $1000. I have never seen prices that high. Was there a fuel crisis that had passed me buy as I no longer own a car?

I know there are worse places to be stranded than NYC, so I tried to see the positives of being in sweltering, rubbish stenched 100 degree heat for the summer.

I mostly focused on the Teenager going home and the resulting break from Motherhood-having been hard at it for 16 years without parole. I was really looking forward to being an adult life free of responsibilities- ready to go out banging pills of Meow Meow and sleeping with hot hipsters in nightclub toilets. Then I remembered I am not only 35, but married. Seems there is always someone to spoil the fun.

I was determined not to remain in NY. for the whole summer. So there was Plan B to have our long awaited honeymoon to California. Until The American's new job put an end to that.  

"Hooonnneeeeee. What can I do?" says the American.
"Nothing. I just hate New York right now. I just want to home and reset."
"I feeeeeel bad." he says.
"It's not your fault." I say and look up at him with an expression that says: Really it is your fault cos you're American and the collective you is responsible for most of the crap in the word, especially the stuff that involves fuel prices.

It gets me a little depressed. For at least a few days. Which is a lot for me, as usually the only things that make me moody are hormones and The American eating my stash of British chocolate.

I begin to wonder will I always feel like this this? Sort of...displaced? Will being away from what I still call home forever feel like I'm escaping something? Even though there is nothing I want to run from in Cardiff?  Quite the opposite in fact, I would quite like to put on my trainers and do a Forest Gump and sprint all the way back to Arran Street.

Like other expats, I've started to create my own little Welsh Alien corner of home in New York. Brit friends coupled with an inability to make any American mates, two Brit shops and a Chip shop within walking distance, an ongoing mission to hack the BBC iplayer and my small but perfectly formed NYC Bluebirds supporters club. New York home is still not home though.

After days of wallowing in my Hiraeth I stagger out onto my street and into the late afternoon sunshine to head for the coffee shop around the corner.

I buy a large iced caffeine boost and sit on the bench outside next to a strange looking, slightly Albino woman.

Turns out she is just Scandinavian, I can't be more specific as I wasn't really listening at first, after initially judging her to be a nutter.  After 10 minutes the conversation turns to the subject of freckles, of which she had a lot, as do I. Except hers are red and pretty much blend into one big splodge.

"Frickles arrre so pre-tea!" she says
"I think so too!" I say
"Ven I vos lidl girl in school, a boy say to me sumting lovely bout de frickles"
"What did he say?"
"He say dat a girl vivout frickles is like a sky vivout da stars."

The weird albino nordic woman smiles at me and I smile back.

New York always does this. Just when I am feeling like I don't want to be here anymore, like I love her less-she throws me a scrap. Just something small like this, a moment. And she knows that I am fickle, just like the city. She knows that this moment, this one moment will mean that I will love her again.

I say goodbye and walk down 7th Avenue, sip my coffee and check my Hiraeth.

It's still there, but not so much...

Monday, 20 September 2010

Fashionably late fashion week blog

Chris Benz S/S 2011
I said I wasn't going to any shows this season.

I was planning on rejecting the frippery of fashion in favour of knuckling down to some proper work- rather than hanging around the tents in the vague hope some oafish celebrity might do or say something ungainly that I could sell to the tabloids.

That was the plan anyway, until my writing partner from last season started waving tickets at me and the allure of glamour and goody bags began to keep me awake at night.

Of course there were not many actual tickets to wave, since the PRs started emailing them to save money under the ruse of environmental concerns. Shame, as that thick, glossy cardboard doubles up as a handy fan while waiting in line with your fellow sweaty fashion nobodies.

Chris Benz S/S 2011
There was also the whole issue of NYFW having moved from Bryant park to it's new uptown home for the first time. I convinced myself I should be there for historic reasons, so I could tell my grandchildren, as if it was akin to the Berlin wall coming down. Although this looming entrance at the suitably monolithic Lincoln Centre is not unlike something from East Germany.

After 20 odd shows last season, my tally this year ended up being markedly less impressive.  I missed one as I couldn't decide what to wear (Monique LHullier) and made three presentations- which are gradually taking over from the shows.

There was massive celeb whoring at Chris Benz:

Cheapskate mannequins (in place of models) and weak Martinis at Alice Temperley:

and Garden party retro at newcomer Rebecca Moses:

Which left one actual show. One of the best if you're a celebrity whore like me. Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B.  I was pretty shocked to get a ticket. Then I shocked myself further in an rare act of maternal selflessness and gave it to The Teenager on the condition she get me good pictures. She ends up with this snap of Gwen.

Hmm. She explained to me she was right at the back. I told her she will never make it in fashion, as there are no excuses in fashion.

On the last night in the tents I reflected on how dipping my foot in this way felt wrong somehow. Without putting in all the legwork, I felt like a bit of a fraud.

But then fashion week- like fashion itself -repeats. There is always one accessory that becomes a must have (this time-floppy hats), a colour palate (neutral) and a take on from a current trend (harems blow wider into balloon pants). There are always the same security staff who let you strut past without a ticket if you have an air of Anna about you. And there are always the crazy characters, blaggers and Jersey girls who sneak in.

At least the celebs were back this season. In February there was slim pickings, with some nonsense about an austere and sombre feel to match the nation's empty wallets. It was probably less complex than that. It was likely more to do with the fact King M.J. banned them.

Six months later, America can't really decide if it's out of the recession, but it seems that famous folk are perpetually en vogue whether the dollar is down or not.

Whatever hemlines might be doing, stardust is always in Fashion.

Susan Sarandon. Hot for 63. Hot for half that age

Carmen Electra. What does she do exactly?

Kelly Osbourne. She lost weight. The Daily Mail might have mentioned it. Just a few times.

Hip Hop mogul Russell Simmons who winked at The Teenager when she took this picture. He is worth $330 million. I told her she should have winked back       

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

My route to 66...

Much like Joaquin Phoenix I've had a strange and surreal 12 months.

It's exactly a year since I packed up my life in Cardiff and arrived at JFK with a sobbing Teenager. She shedding tears for the boyfriend she left in Wales, me still in shock at my Dad's death a month previously. At my feet some seriously bulging excess baggage.

The American picked us up in a rented SUV and we drove into Manhattan. I was all broad smiles and endless chat, but with a belly groaning with nerves. This is home now. Excited and scared for what lay ahead. Bye bye Cardiff. A fresh start packed to the brim with hope and blindness to any troubles that may lay ahead.

There was no time to ponder on my grief. No pontificating on the enormity of what I had done-giving up a great job at the BBC, renting out my beloved house to strangers, leaving my recently widowed Mum. I was the project manager of this whole new family life and there was a lot of gluing to do, or things would fall apart.

The work started pretty quickly with enrolling The Teenager in school, which was swiftly followed by finding another school, as she hated the first one. Next, the blistering footwork to find an apartment, followed by ploughing all our savings into securing the right one-which then had to be decorated and furnished. We moved from our temporary digs in Queens to our permanent bijoux box in the West Village and wondered how we were all going to live in harmony in such a tiny space.

There was then the small matter of getting married in Central Park by a naval captain in the freakish hot Autumn sunshine and then a rodent infestation in our perfect apartment in place of a honeymoon. Then began immigration and all the ridiculous, comedy bureaucracy that accompanies it. Have you ever been engaged in vice? Are you planning a coup against the U.S. government? Were you a member of the Nazi party between 1939-1945?

When the excitement wore off and it no longer felt like we were here on a long holiday- the missing came. Missing my Mum, missing my friends, really missing my Dad, missing working, missing Corrie and Cadburys, missing the NHS and missing someone knowing what a wanker is.

I had to find my way around New York and my new family life and there was maps for the first but not for the second, but in both I got lost frequently. Some real personal stuff happened, that even I as a chronic oversharer didn't want to blog about. Winter days got shorter and darker and colder and then snowy. Then there came some even bigger problems which I  couldn't blog about and then there was some money problems due to the stuff I couldn't blog about.

Throughout it all I missed not having girl mates to talk the extra 15 thousand words a day that women need to say. Finding them became my mission and I was horribly desperate at first, a girl's girl starved of female company. But by the time there was spring blossom outside our window the friends came. Then the friendships had to be fostered through NY girl activities like toxic cocktail drinking and $20 manicures from women who bitch about you in Korean. But mostly it was about the drinking. There is little that cannot be forged over a Manhattan mixed Martini.

Summer, the last season in the cycle. (More) Tears (than usual) for my Dad on the anniversary of his death, temperatures of 100 degrees giving birth to an obsession with air cons. Our green cards arriving in the mailbox and the U.S. immigration service using the worse photos I have ever seen of The Teenager and I. A deliberate ploy I believe, so immigrants will not commit crime and end up with an unflattering picture of them on the news. 

I blogged about most of what happened over the year here on Welsh Alien. In fact, I wrote so much I didn't actually write my book, but then I have not been writing my book for at least a decade, so at least that's one comfortable consistency to keep me warm at night. I can safely say I penned at least a book's worth of blogs, except none of you paid 12.99 for my hard work on Amazon. Although I'd like to think you would, given the chance.

I have written 66 blogs so far. This one makes 67.

66 would have been nice. An even, rounded number that evokes World Cup wins and famous American roads. But then that's not my number.

My life here is far more of a 67. A lovely, odd imperfection.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

She works hard for the money

Since moving to New York I haven't done much of what could be constituted as a hard day's work.

I appreciate this is unlikely to endear me to anyone reading, so I'll come straight in with the defence that I only recently got my U.S. work permit. Well fairly recently. Two months ago to be exact. I had planned to hide it down the back of the sofa but The American got to it first.

"Honnnneee you can get a proper job now!" he trills, waving the card excitedly around like it's the Wonka Golden ticket .
"I have a job! I am a Journalist."
"Honnnneee. I know you are a journalist, but you kind of have to work as one, not just, like, be one."
 "Fuck off and make your own pasta."

To further my defence it's not like I've sat on my arse watching Maury and General Hospital for the last year, instead life has been it's own real life soap opera to which I've become the reluctant producer.  I've been pretty busy with a whole lot of something and a fair bit of nothing.

There have been paid jobs here and there, some radio, some writing, a few small TV jobs, but nothing that would pay the rent- and when you live in a bijoux box in the West Village, ain't nutin' going on the but the rent.

I had been trying to avoid going back into tele, for the reasons that I am rather fond of having a life and not so fond of cultivating new deep set frown lines.

But the TV demons want what the TV demons want, so when I get my called by a former colleague and offered a month's work as a New York  'fixer' for a high end Natural history programme I am back in the game again.  I have to admit it feels good to be a whore for the money  get hired again.   

I take the job even though 'fixer' sounds like a someone who goes in and cleans up after a grisly murder in a Tarantino film. As it turns out, it means everything from location and casting manager to producer, NYC restaurant expert and coffee runner.

Before the crew arrive for 8 days of filming I spend the several weeks beforehand researching and finding people and places to film. Turns out I am pretty good at scouting locations, seems my year of doing a whole lot of something and nothing has given me a finely honed sense of this Island.


The crew arrive on a dull, humid Tuesday night. Within 20 minutes of meeting them at their hotel there's a TV crisis, some sandbags are missing for an essential piece of kit. For the majority of you fortunate enough to not work in the industry, let me explain a TV crisis; It is the very worse kind of crisis. It starts as quickly as it is over, but for it's lifetime it's all pervading, encompassing and really, reeeeeally serious. This particular one find us all in a sport's shop at 8p.m. buying 200 lb of weights and then working how we get them out of the shop and back to the crew's hotel.

That's just the entrée. Over the following 8 days there are many more real-life TV dramas and surreal moments.

There is extortion from the locals in Chinatown, there are rats and their catchers, there are angry honeybees on a show stopping rooftops in Queens. There are 6 a.m starts, midnight finishes, a soundman with suspected martini poisoning  and a night out that ends with a cameraman riding a mechanical bull in a Lower East side bar.

There is a fight in another bar that has hundreds of women's bras hanging from the ceiling (not involving any of us crew I would like to point out),  there is the panic stricken 5 minutes when we think we've locked some contributors on a 7th floor balcony and there is getting chased down by some graffiti artists in Long Island City.

Then there is the weather. After a glorious NYC summer, it is stubbornly grey when all we need to film is golden sunshine.

The American is patient while I work day and night, although really I suspect he just enjoys playing a lot of x box unhindered. While I am gone our apartment goes to shit: laundry sits in the basket, nothing gets picked up from where it was dropped and a cure for cancer grows in the sink. The American does not do any of these household chores because he has a penis and is busy killing Nazis.

I don't have time to write or see my friends or do anything else I love. I am out every night having dinner with the crew and this means booze becomes my major food group.

I also don't go to the gym which means I get grumpier by the day, although I do lug lots of camera equipment around up endless flights of stairs and carry a lot of waters and coffees. Me and the driver find ourselves doing a lot of drinks runs actually- on one of them we work out we have a combined age of 65 and three degrees and a postgrad between us-which we think might make us the most well educated pair of coffee runners in town. We laugh about a lot about that. No really, we're in total stitches.

On the last day, with the words "it's a wrap" ringing joyfully in my ear I wave goodbye to the director as she heads off for Newark.

I bounce down 27th street, feeling the satisfaction of a hard month's work.  Just that old fashioned buzz of a job well done and bringing home the bacon. Feels good. I had forgotten how good. I want to go crazy, pay some bills! Do a food shop! Mail a rent cheque!

The euphoria lasts until the next morning when I get sick.  A raging sore throat, a thumping headache I can't shift and a lethargy. Tele hangover. I swear I will not do another TV job again, even though I know I will, especially when I add up what I've earned. This causes my fingers to disconnect from my brain and make their own way to my laptop to buy some new stuff for the apartment and an ipod and that perfect pair of summer wedges without the ankle straps that make your legs look fat.
Then I take to my bed in dramatic Victorian fashion and dispatch The American to Duane Reade to buy me Theraflu and tissues that don't make your nose go red. I tell him I think that maybe TV work does not agree with me. He says I should rest and not worry about another job until I'm better.

I tell him I suspect it will be a long recovery.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

You can ring my Liberty bell

New York and I need a break.

My Welsh alien ship has been stranded for too long in Manhattan. The wheels are rusty. Just like any relationship, I know my love will be renewed after some time apart.

This is what finds me on the Bolt Bus bound for a postcard pretty suburb of Philadelphia.  My plan is enforced solitude so I can work.  I need to escape the city's whoreish pull on me, it's murky and delicious temptations that lurk on every corner. To achieve calm in the countryside. To see butterflies. To not have my groceries thrown at me. To remember what manners sound like.

I am going to house and pet sit in Bala Cynwydd, a former Welsh colony.  I wasn't aware my forefathers were at it either. No longer can us Welsh claim a moral superiority over our English cousins and their voracious appetites for stealing lands that didn't belong to them. We likely did it with less panache though-brandishing daffodils and shouting "Alright' butt' I'll take this land now. Ta."

When I arrive I can see what the appeal was-the place even looks like Wales with lots of greenery and trees. I meet my charge-an 80 pound 14 month old golden retriever- who's described as '"Frisky". He's apparently partial to toilet roll and  kitchens, having already eaten his way through an entire one. 80 pounds is a lot of a dog, almost as big as some humans. It's roughly the same size as Nicole Richie in her partying with Paris days.

From the start, Montana-who shall be known as Slobadan on account of his highly productive dribble producing jaws- follows me everywhere, only leaving my side occasionally to try and destroy something. When I shower he sits outside the cubicle, when I am on the loo he opens the bathroom door with his paws and sits next to me. When I eat, he thinks it's dinner for two. When I try and work he soaks the keyboard with drool. When I turn my back on him he tries to mount me.

By the end of the first day the items I have retrieved from his mouth include (but are not limited to); my pen, two notepads, several books, something unidentifiable from the bathroom, my vintage scarf, most of my lunch and two toilet rolls.

Everytime he does something bad he looks up at me panting, his pink tongue lolling like a giant slice of deli ham, his soft golden face framed by long sandy eyelashes. Yes, he has doggy eyelashes. I am putty in his paws.

That night I sit drinking wine on the porch, looking out at the trees and flowers and listening to the sweet sound of nothing but crickets and and birds saying 'coup coup' in the trees. Fireflies are darting in and out of the hedges. Slobadan wants to play ball. It is nearly 10 p.m.

On day two I discover that-as warned- nothing here is in walking distance aside from lots more trees. I will need to use the car. I have slight qualms about this due to the fact that I haven't driven in a year/have limited experience on the wrong right side of the road/have always thus far refused to operate an automatic. So, that's actually quite a few qualms, but I have never been one to let logic lead me off my destined path.

I set off to buy my groceries for the week, arriving in one piece at the retail park,  happy there is little to distract me in sleepy Bala Cynwydd.

That's when I discover the local Lord and Taylor sitting right next to the supermarket. I have never even set foot in The New York branch, imagining it to be one of the less exciting, more old lady department stores. In this setting though, it gleams like Tutankhamun's tomb. It is consumer Atlantis.

Inside, my retail radar leads me to the clearance section. The rails aren't anywhere near as plundered like they would be in New York, even though a sign informs me there is another 40% off all the lowest marked prices. When I get to the till the assistant tells me there is further 20% discount. Game changing, some dribble escapes from the side of my mouth. I go skittering back off into the rails and find a classic navy Ralph Lauren cardigan for $20 and a floral BCBG Max Azria dress for $50. I feel a little faint with excitement, but I put them both down and force myself to leave, exercising my If-you-are-still-thinking-about-them-tomorrow-you-should-buy-them-policy.

The next day I pull back the curtains to hear birds tweeting and see a butterfly float past the window... I can think about nothing but the Lord and Taylor clearance racks. I take the dog for a long walk to distract myself, through the 19th century graveyard nearby, where I see the grandoise resting places of the area's former brewery owners.

My crypt's-bigger-than-your-crypt was apparently a popular game in Philadelphia at the turn of the century-some of them are more spacious than my Manhattan apartment.

I breathe in the air, it's clean and there is absolute quiet and austerity...Then a little voice says  "I wonder if that BCBG dress is still there?"

It's no good, I have to go back. Montana asks if he can come, but I tell him bargain hunting is a dog-eat-dog game and he may not be safe in the crush. Of course, he knows there will be no crush and cocks his head to the side and demands an extra cheese string as guilt payment.

I return and regretably discover a whole other floor with lingerie and sports wear on and some more clearance racks, including the shoes.  I leave with a bag almost as heavy as the feeling of disappointment in myself for being so easily distracted.

The next few days drift by- I write while sitting on the porch in the sunshine, read a book called The Sex Lives of Cannibals, watch movies, work, sunbathe, work some more. I take lengthy morning dog walks in the abundance of local cemeteries and take pictures of the Welshies' headstones.

I wrestle my bra, more toilet rolls, People magazine and a punnet of Blueberries from the Jaws of Slobby. I get covered in giant mosquito bites, I try to figure out how to get a train into town, but they only seem to run every 5 hours. I  clean dog slobber off everything I own. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the Lord and Taylor clearance rack.


On the last day, after a week of perfect weather,  I am trying to even up my tan in the garden when the skies darken and I hear a rumble in the near distance. Within minutes it's like a monsoon hit. I run inside with Montana, who growls every time the thunder does. We sit inside and I tell him not to be scared, that it'll pass. He just pants at me, which seems to be his standard response to everything.

I  go out on to the porch for a few minutes to drink in the drama. Rain batters the trees and the brook outside races furiously. The prettiness is destroyed, everything is imperfect, mud sloshes on the lawn. Nature is a bit pissed off. It's a truly entertaining, real kind of beauty.

And just like that, I am ready to go back to New York.


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