Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to get a free drink in New York

Posted: January 27, 2010 -

Last night I watched four strangers get Bingo.

You don't get that at Gala back home in Wales. I'm sure the most torrid thing that happens there is some Tena lady leakage. Although Mum says there are occasional fights over blobber pens.

The Teenager and I and some Brit friends sit agog at the back of a Lower East Side bar as these audience members proceed to do a fan dance with some paper plates. It is 8.30 p.m. on a Monday night.

altThe quartet in question had earlier introduced themselves as an opera singer, a political consultant, an erotic party organiser and a go-go dancer. So you might not be hugely surprised at the last two, who no doubt spend their nights watching arse humping away. However I can't imagine there's that much cock on show at Madam Butterfly and I would guess the Republicans like to keep the tits to a minimum. *Insert your own George Bush joke here*

What is most surprising about this impromptu flesh show though is that all of them are doing it for just two drinks each. I have previously blogged about the fact that two drinks is enough to get you hammered in New York, especially vodka Martinis, which seem to be pure Absolut, with an olive for the hell of it. But isn't the point that you would have to be smashed before you got naked? I wouldn't take my clothes off for all the booze behind the bar. In fact, I would probably only just about consider it for the deeds to the bar.

altYou might ask what do you expect at Drag queen bingo? Well I expected some good clean family fun like I had at Lips in my West Village hood. There I enjoyed a fake orgasm competition in the company of my mother and daughter. But real life nakedness? I remind myself I'm on the East side now. There are no trees, Armani gays or overpriced cupcake bakeries but there are young 20something hipsters, lots of entertaining crackheads and really good drug dealers (allegedly).

It's edgy. Yeah. I can do edgy. I watch the odd indie film and have fake ray bans.

Later that night I am in queue for the toilet wading through a piss leak on the floor and reading the obscene graffiti on the walls. Next to me is a loud girl in American Apparel lurex telling her friend about a film that's "...really, really really old". Turns out it's from 1989.

Taxi back to the West Village.


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Monday, January 25, 2010

Just fix it

Posted: January 25, 2010 -


What is it about technical people that makes them think you want to know what the problem is? I don't care about what's causing it. Just fix it.

As soon as the man from Time Warner Cable arrives to make the Internet work again I explain that I know nothing about computers and wireless connections. I tell him that I don't know the difference between a router and a modem and that my life is happy that way.


I essentially tell him "Just fix it." in a very roundabout British way. As proof that I am focused on our very definite gender roles I offer him a cup of tea. He laughs. I ask him why that's funny and he says:

"I love your accent." which makes me dig my nails into my arm until a bit of blood comes out.

"Ok! I'm going to leave you to it!" I say with a faux cheerfulness and disappear into the kitchen and do some dishes loudly so it's clear I am occupied and he won't bother me.

"What is your network key?'' he shouts 3 minutes later above the banging of plates.

"I don't know anything about computers." I say defensively
"Yes, but I just need to know what your network key is."
"Well I don't know, because I don't know what one of those is."
"Your network?"
Blank expression from me.
"We should call my husband." I say.
"No Miss, I can fix this, don't worry I will find the network key."

So I leave him to find the key, even though I don't know of any keys that came with the Internet stuff. Where does it fit? What does it lock? Maybe I lost them? I make crashy washing up sounds so it will be clear I'm busy and not bother me again. Doesn't work.

"I think you may have a problem with your router, but I am going to replace the modem anyway." he shouts at me.

I sigh and come back in from the kitchen holding my rubber gloved hands aloft as the clearest sign possible that I am busy doing pink jobs and should not have to be bothered with this bluest of blue jobs and that he is trying to make this Internet thing a purple job and everyone knows that purple jobs don't really exist.

I breathe deeply when he starts mentioning routers again and I allow myself to drift away into a happy place where technical things are fixed by a twinkly fairy who never dares speak of the reasons that things are broken.

''So you gotta problem with your proxy server Miss.'

What language is he speaking?

''I'm ringing my husband."
"No Miss I was just kidding on that last bit! I can fix this, it's just your router."
Oh. Computer humour. I am deadpan.
" I don't know what that is either, I'm ringing my husband."
"No, I can re-establish the modem connection with a hotwire."
Hotwire? I haven't heard that phrase since I dated a football hooligan in the late 80s. What has hotwiring a car got to do with the Internet?


He keeps speaking but all I hear is ''Na noo nam nam blah blah blim blim internet wah wah."

"I'm ringing my husband"

He says no again, but this time I'm not listening because I know that The American is expecting me to fail at this whole getting the Internet fixed thing and therefore actually <span style="font-style: italic;">wants</span> me to fail, so he can swoop in riding a white Macbook and declare me unfit to deal with blue jobs in his absence. So I dial him and pass the phone over to Time Warner Cable man and they speak to each other in perfect harmony like Navi flying the magical forest. <span style="font-style: italic;">Blue</span> Navi.

"It was a mainline ploxim issue with the mighty plexy server widget connecting with the blunket torch fixator?" The Time Warner Cable man says. Possibly.
"Meh." I say
"But it's fixed now."

I check the internet 5 times before I set him free and then bake some cakes.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Raging Bull...a Christmas Blog in January

Posted: January 16, 2010 -

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.


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Arctic Flunky

Posted: January 16, 2010 -

I was warned about the New York winter. I didn't really listen.

The American used to drone on about the temperature for years while I listened via SKYPE from the comfort of my centrally heated thermostat controlled house in Cardiff.

"Honneeee it is 22 degrees here in New York! 22 degrees!"
"Is it darling?"
"Honneeee, do you even know how cold that is?"
"Umm, not really, are we talking Celsius or Fahrenheit?"
"Fahrenheit Em-ma."
"Right. Yeah. Which one is that?'

I am still not really sure now. All I know is that when it hits '70' in the summer it's hot. And '0' in the winter is really cold. Freezing in fact. It's not my fault I was taught metric in school but suffered parents who still talked imperial. Therefore I am a hybrid of both. How wide is that? About 2 metres and 5 inches I'd say...

So when it came to the NY winter I just thought The American was being a drama queen because he spent the previous decade of his life in California, bathed in year long sunshine. Now I see he had something of a point. Every day he tortures himself by checking the forecast on the West coast:

"Honneeee. It is 70 degrees in LA today."
"That's great babes" I say as we face the biting headwind wind along 7th avenue.
''70 degrees!"
I t least know that means hot.
"So what is it here?" I ask
"IT. IS. Twent-teeeee Twoooo fucking degreeeees!"
"And that is below freezing?"
"Uh yes Honnee! Thir-teeeee Twooo is freezing. IT. IS. Twent-teeeee twoooo."
He likes to spell out the stats like that. It adds weight to his suffering.

Not having a car is the kicker. Back in the UK I would go several metres from my front door to my car and then several more from the car to work, preferably by parking illegally somewhere near a BBC entrance. Admittedly my W reg Fiesta would take a while to heat up, in fact it would usually only kick in by the time I was pulling up to Broadcasting House.

Here you walk everywhere. And it's way colder. When the headwind hits you is face palsy freezing. It makes me want to wear a balaclava. As a fashionable substitute I often leave the the house with headphones and sunglasses and hat and scarf- looking something like a rapper about to explore the Arctic.

Here there are two options to keep warm. Real fur or a duvet coat. Being as I am not about to throw my principles out the window, it looks like I will have to throw my fashion sense out instead. Let me explain to those of you fortunate enough not to be familar with a duvet coat. Think puffa, but less puffy. Literally it is a duvet-with down inside and the fabric outside. The fabric is usually nylon, so possibly more like a sleeping bag? Anyway, yuck right? Do I need to add pounds at any time of year, let alone the winter? Do I want to look like the Michelin man while strutting my stuff around New York? Do I want to hark back to my puffa wearing rave days of the early 90's now I am a grown up? No, no and no. So I tell myself ''Emma. You will freeze rather than wear one of those hideous things."

altI have scoffed at the duvet coat for years of visiting New York. What I didn't realise is that not only have I not visited in January before but have never lived with extreme cold day in day out.
What I was forgetting is that what New York demands, New York gets-and New York wanted me properly bundled up against the cold. This city had made me succumb to flats after years of being a die hard heel wearer. Who did I think I was trying to fight?

So I found myself playing with the idea in my head. Could I? Should I? I watched other duvet coat wearers and scanned them for signs of style. Could It be that even the fashionable were donning these too? In secret I logged onto some department stores and browsed the duvet coats. The models seemed happy enough, they didn't look like anyone was forcing them to wear duvet coats under duress.

Then on a snowy January 2nd The Teenager, The Boy and me are shivering in Madison Square Park waiting for a famous Shake Shack burger. In front of us are two stylish looking girls wearing duvets. They are cool and warm.

''I want a duvet coat." says The Teenager
"Me too."

So we find ourselves in Macys coat department and there's a whole sub section of duvet coats and everyone is buying them and it all seems quite reasonable and normal and what's this? Betsey Johnson does duvet? And Calvin Klein? Oh. They can't be that bad then.

The Teenager has the Betsey on and it's not hideous. In fact I might go as far to say it looks funky. I tell her I'll buy it for her as duvet-coat-by-proxy seems like a less painful way to initiate myself. She makes an 'I'm not sure' face and says she needs more time.

And then I am trying one on and it actually looks ok on me too. Then I am trying lots on and t I find a navy one which is more sort of horsey that council estate chav and the duvet pattern is quilted, like a Chanel bag. And it's $80 down from $240. This excites me even though I know the full price is a con in the perma-sale world of Macys.

It's by Tommy Hillfiger, which just makes me think of pretty blond preppy girls in navy polo shirts frolicking in sunny parks with frisbees. Which seems like a nice image in the depths of the bleak mid winter. I am ignoring the other half of me says Tommy Hilfiger? Tommy frigging Hilfiger? Have you lost your mind woman? Next you'll be hanging out in malls.


So I remove myself from Macys and go home to stroke some vintage clothes and forget the duvet coat ever happened. But the coat has got to me. I toss and turn that night and stare at the Macys extra 20 extra percent of sale voucher on my bedside table. Sleep comes in the early hours but it is disturbed, peppered by dreams of duck feathers chasing me.

Then the next morning I find myself back in Macys and a woman is packing up the Tommy Hilfiger duvet thing and I am handing over cold hard cash that could have paid for something far more beautiful and far less practical yet I feel strangely excited and compelled to leave the store wearing the coat like I am six again.

So I bundle my vintage velvet number into the carrier bag and I put on the Tommy and I step onto 34th street and I feel no cold. I catch sight of others and realise that no one looks slim in a duvet coat, so there's a kind of great democracy in duck feathers.

I was warned about the New York winter but I didn't really listen. Next time I'll remember the city is the boss of things, not me.

Either that or I'll do as my friend suggested and get a fur burka.

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Wellington Roots

Posted: January 16, 2010 -
  • alt

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 dinn

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.


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