Return to New York, New York!!

NYC is as captivating as ever, 7 weeks in to our trip.

On 4 April, after sorting out house-sitters to keep the house safe and everything else, Alfie and I took a United Airlines flight to New York with him in the cabin as my official Emotional Support Dog. I love United for that. I had made a portable bed from 2 inch memory foam that I covered, rolled up and attached to my on-board rucksack. Rolled out, Alfie had a lovely comfy place to lie, while he received visits from the staff, including the captain! His behaviour was impeccable.

I was delighted to see that they had ‘LA LA Land’ and ‘Manchester by the Sea’ to watch and enjoy. Arriving half an hour early at Newark, I was surprised at how no-one met me from the plane (In the UK I have to pay £366 for the privilege with strict checks).

Just as when we arrived in Brooklyn on the Queen Mary, all the border control wanted to see was evidence of his rabies vaccination in his passport – no checking the microchip, no looking at the certificate of veterinary inspection…. It is easier for Alfie to get in than a lot of humans! A quick bus to 42nd Street then the subway to 116th, and we arrived at Debbie’s apartment, greeted by the lovely new doorperson, Jeanette.

I have been very caught up since arriving and so this blog has been a long time coming!

My lifestyle here is similar and yet different. First of all, where Debbie lives – 15 Claremont Avenue NY 10027 (between 116th and Broadway) is obviously built up and noisy (like all of New York) as opposed to my semi-rural existence on the North fringe of Bristol. However, just like at home, Debbie has a park on her doorstep so every morning I roll out of bed, grab Alfie and make our way 2 minutes down the road into Riverside Park where, as in most NY parks, dogs can be ‘off-leash’ until 9a.m. (though we always push it to 9.20) $100 fine if you get caught after 9 a.m. and before 9 p.m.

The significant different feature is that if I turn left instead of right on 116th I find my way within one minute into the subway and the gateway to all the delights New York has to offer. This is why I love it so much. Getting off the subway on 66th Alf and I walk 8 minutes and there we are in Central Park, the lungs of New York, with its very many interesting areas and features. The firemen are quite cute, too!

The biggest drawback is also New York’s draw – it is the city that never sleeps. Even uptown the noise takes getting used to. Unbelievably noisy trash collectors at 1.15 a.m. isn’t fun; neither is telephone companies getting their employees to commence very noisy work at 11.30 p.m. and go on until 6 a.m. Calling 311 to complain has worked … but it amazes me how very tolerant everyone is.

Sadly, Alfie is not as energetic as last time he was here. The diagnosis of hip dysplasia and arthritis has probably made me more wary of over-exercising him. I constantly watch him, concerned that when he is panting he might be in pain.  I have ordered all sorts of supplements to help him and have to use a pestle and mortar to grind all the tablets.  We still enjoy Central Park, Riverside Park and Morningside Park but now I take the subway or bus to get there. He has also had a couple of tummy bugs that have necessitated copious amounts of rice. Apart from that, he is delighted to be back with his girlfriend, Ellie, Debbie’s ‘Seeing Eye’ German Shepherd. Recently, I have caught them cuddling up together – so sweet!

In these past weeks the vegetation has changed – Spring finally arrived and with it the opening of the cherry blossom. The celandines and tulips in Central, Morningside and Riverside Parks, where I walk Alfie, have come and gone and the bluebells, aliums and irises have opened. The weather has alternated between virtually Siberian then overwhelming hot and humid, sometimes within 24 hours.

The Central Park Conservancy is very active. Every day of the week there are free guided tours. On 10 April, Alfie and I joined one that started at E72nd Street and took in some lovely locations.

It started with the history of the park, how it was a rocky swampy mess with volcanic bedrock in the 1850s when they started to create it. The lake was the first thing that was built. Topsoil the equivalent of 800 football pitches was imported, as were all of thousands of trees. I love Central Park.

Whilst walking around Central Park, and like last time I was here, I meet people in odd places. One day, I bumped into Courtney painting in one of the covered boat landings that they are improving in the park. I also bumped into some delightful people from upstate New York who came to have a picnic in the shelter where Alfie and I were sitting by the lake.

Racoons are plentiful in the US (banned in the UK) and have started to be seen more and more in the parks, usually at night, but Alfie and I came across one in Central Park.

I have been visiting the Hungarian Pastry shop (the walnut baklava is superb) but not quite as much as last time. I took a picture of a fascinating couple sat near me.

I am more aware of how polluted the road is running alongside the outside sitting area. The bar in nearby Riverside Park is a much more peaceful affair as indeed is ‘Pain Quotidien’ in Central Park where I have met some great people (always wanting to talk to me because of Alfie). I have fond memories of going to the bar in Riverside Park a couple of times with Ellie (daughter, not Debbie’s dog!) when she was with me here last May.

There are many free concerts in New York – Debbie and I attended a lunchtime jazz concert at the Lincoln Centre library – all of the musicians were over 70 and played to an enthusiastic crowd. We also enjoyed the orchestra at the Philarmonic 

The garden by the Lincoln Centre has a lovely sculpture of a hippo in a ballet skirt which everyone loves.

Another landmark in NYC is the main Library which has a famous reading room with a beautiful ceiling. There was a photographic exhibition of old snaps from Central America. I was captivated by a photo of an older woman whose lined face is so beautiful.

John, the porter in Debbie’s building is also an artist and invited us to the private view in a local bar where we ate ‘fresh fries’­.

The American Museum of Natural History run various free talks, one of which I attended on 6 April. There appeared to be no room but when I walked to the front I ended up sitting next to a delightful lady who, along with her husband, sponsors the talks. They had been allocated some seats and had one spare! What I note about New York is how there are some very rich people happy to sponsor events of all kinds with their millions. The only very wealthy family who appear to shun philanthropy is Mr T’s.

I find it impossible to put the T word and the word President together, as do many I meet here. I started off feeling really down about the destruction and havoc being wreaked on this country by this Narcissistic child, but now things have become so very ridiculous that the daily reports from the radio, newspapers and television are more interesting than any soap opera could be. As we say: ‘You couldn’t make it up’.

People have gone from intense anger over this ‘presidency’ (he loves using totally inappropriate quotation marks that make a nonsense of his early morning childish tweets) to incredulity to the realisation that the guy has got to fall on his sword (sooner rather than later).

He is now being treated like a child by most of his staff and advisors and his attention span is so small that he can only read an A4 list of bullet points – that includes all of the important and destructive changes he is trying to make to the lives of the citizens (like healthcare, tax, women’s services, services for impoverished people etc).

Stephen Colbert has risen to the top of the late-night presenters because of his no-holds-barred condemnation of the f.ckwit. Debbie and I look forward to our 11.30 p.m. date with him. I applied for tickets (like gold-dust) and managed to secure 2 last-minute (literally) ones to the show that had Jim Parsons (Sheldon) from The Big Bang Theory and a load of cute puppies. He is as funny live as he is on TBBT – just a witty lovely guy.

On Saturday Night Live, Melissa McCarthy (she of the hilarious Bridesmaids) is side-splittingly funny as Sean Spicer (‘Spicey’), the ‘president’s’ press secretary whose days are, like anyone else who gets too close to him, numbered, particularly as his boss is furious that a woman is playing him…. hilarious!

I found a great sign in Greenwich Village “Make America sane again” that I had to photograph.

So all in all, interesting times to be in NYC. Debbie and I went on the march for science (one of the many things f.ckwit is trying to destroy and some of the banners were very witty.

Finally, Alfie has rare opportunities to come across his little obsession – cats. This one was provoking him from behind the pet shop door…

Lots more to share, soon!

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