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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Reflections on New York


A month ago now (time flies), I went to visit my dad, who was in New York on a business visit. I reached the night of Feb 28th. I was in New York until the morning of March 3rd.

I was tremendously excited. First, because I was going to be seeing my dad in New York. Second, because I would be seeing the Lion King Musical on Broadway, which my father has raved about a number of times.

The night of February 28th, we ate in an obscenely expensive Indian restaurant (Nirvana). I guess you can chalk it down to my need for Indian food, and my dad's desire to pamper me silly. I was very excited and very talkative. I'm not always garrulous, but if you know me, you know exactly how I am when I'm in a chatty mood. Anne Shirley has nothing on me.

We had booked tickets for an afternoon show on the 1st. We had a heavy breakfast, and wandered around the streets a bit, with a vague notion to go to Macy's, where there was a spring sale (Spring! Ha! I was wearing approximately four layers of clothing, and my father refused to take off that ridiculous black headband you see in the photos below - even for photos. I had to resist the desire to guffaw inelegantly whenever I saw the words SPRING SALE emblazoned across store windows). I saw quite a lot of Times Square, and promptly lost a glove as soon as we set foot in Macy's. Again, if you know me, this will come as no surprise: since the start of 'spring' semester here in Buffalo, I've lost a pair of gloves and a muffler, one of those things that looks like a monkey-cap, an umbrella, earmuffs, and God knows what else that I can't even remember. This is why I hate the winter here - all the stuff you need to take care of at all times. Apart from the bitter cold and the crazy wind, of course.

Anyway, we promised ourselves we'd come back to check the lost and found in Macy's (located on the eighth floor - maybe they hope people won't take the trouble to go and check, so that they can sell off that stuff too?) We went into the Minskoff theatre. I was going to see an actual musical. On Broadway. I'd wanted to see a Broadway show for years.

The Lion King musical was truly spectacular. The music was evocative, and more elaborate than in the movie; it had far more African languages, and the live performance made it more powerful - particularly The Circle of Life. The props were brilliant, and the rendition of the stampede scene was innovative and impactful. It was like seeing the movie a different way. The boy who played young Simba was perfect - playful and active. The only character I couldn't quite accept was Timon. Most of the actors said the dialogues with the same intonations as in the movie, so it was like seeing it come to life. Timon, however, delivered the punchlines in a somewhat different manner than in the movie. Not that it was bad, just that I kept expecting him to say it a certain way, and he didn't.
The settings and the props deserve special mention because they were elaborate, vivid, colorful, intricate and magnificently done. The largest prop was an elephant that was carried by, I think, four people.

At Grand Central Station

We walked around the predominantly Broadway streets after that, explored Times Square a bit, and went inside Grand Central Station. I saw posters for Wicked, Les Miserables, the new Aladdin musical, and plenty of others that I didn't know of. I think August Osage County was playing too. It was a bright, exciting street. I'm glad I don't attend college in NYC, because I have a feeling I know what I'd blow all my money on if I did.

One of my dad's oldest friends lives in NYC, and we went to his house for dinner. I ate lots of good, homemade Indian food, watched Mulan, and generally had a cozy time before heading back with my dad to our hotel. Unfortunately, there was a bunch of drunk, raucous guys on the metro with us; they rather spoilt things for me. They were stupid and loud and vulgar and just plain horrid. I tried to ignore them, but for some reason, I couldn't, and I wondered yet again why some people feel the need to be so completely inebriated to enjoy themselves, and why on earth it is that people like to swear so much. I believe firmly in the power of language. I think we should use words with care and respect. When they're flung around, they lose most of their meaning; and yet they retain something. When it is profanities, I feel as if everything you say becomes so much harsher, even if you don't really mean what the words you're speaking are supposed to mean. Call me a prig, or naive; I wish people had some standards in speech, even if it is the 21st century.

I thought that there would be so much to do in NYC that we'd be running around trying to catch everything. My dad wasn't really interested in the museums though, and surprisingly, that really cut down things to do the next day. Both of us had already seen the Statue of Liberty, and didn't want to waste an entire day on it. We thought of taking a tour bus, but they worked out scandalously expensive if we only wanted to sit in them for a few hours. They only sold day or two-day passes. Sometimes it seems to me that everything in this country is designed to make you spend more.

We ended up roaming the streets for hours. We did check the lost and found at Macy's. Unfortunately, I didn't recover my glove. I still have that single glove. I was too miserly to buy another pair since winter was almost over (or so I hoped), but I keep the one, and used this technique: bury right hand in deep pocket, wear glove on left hand, and cover nose with shawl using gloved left hand. Making do this way is generally my form of atonement whenever I lose something, which means I make do a lot.

We checked out the Empire State building, but didn't go inside. Again, both of us had been inside before. Plus, with so many taller buildings around now, I have to admit that I didn't understand how much of the skyline we'd see from the top, anyway.

In front of the Empire State building

It was a pretty cold day, and the sky was grey in a rather dismal way. I got to see a lot of the city's downtown in a way I rarely do on usual tourist trips, because we walked so much. I got a general sense of the city, its architecture, and got to see things up close. When I visited NYC in 2007, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the skyscrapers, and how you can see nothing but building whichever direction you turn, and however high you look. This time, I felt more closed in. Maybe it was the weather, but I felt a little claustrophobic. NYC is a fascinating city, but I wouldn't want to live in it (at least downtown), boxed in by all that concrete with only that tiny square patch of sky. I need space.

What caught my interest this time around was the buildings themselves, rather than their size. They are extremely modern, of course, and yet the inordinate use of red brick gave it a rather old-world feel in a very unique way. Or maybe that's just me, because we don't seem to use that much brick in India.

After hours of wandering, we decided to take a cruise: far cheaper than a bus tour, and we'd still get to see the skyline, as well as the Statue of Liberty. As we got near the docks, the city began to get dirty; I mean literally: there was sewage water, a bit of a stink, and garbage. I have to confess that I was shocked; sewage and garbage had no place in the image of busy, efficient NYC that I had. Clearly, Mumbai is not unique in this regard.
On a cruise, in front of the Statue of Liberty, which you can see a glimpse of in the background

The cruise was nice. Our captain also acted as a guide, giving us an audio tour via speakers. I saw Wall Street, Manhattan, the red-light district, the rich residence-streets (which I don't remember the names of), everything from afar. We also saw the building where Leonardo DiCaprio and Hugh Jackman live (they are neighbors), and the captain warned us that the water would be icy cold, in case anyone got any crazy ideas. He gave us brief histories of everything, including how Wall Street got its name (there was an actual wall at some point), and where immigrants used to be processed. We rushed out to get photos when we got close to the Statue of Liberty. I have a photo where you can clearly see it, but I look better in this one, so obviously I posted this one.

We were exhausted with all our walking, so we went straight back to the hotel after the cruise. I was rather depressed at the prospect of going back to uni the next day (not to mention that they had cancelled my flight that night, which meant that I'd have to fly back the next morning, missing two classes), but I resolved to forget it as long as I possibly could, which is generally my defense mechanism, and also why I'm always late for class on Mondays (don't tell me that Sunday nights aren't traumatic experiences for you, too). We watched Larry Crowne on my dad's laptop, which is watchable, if somewhat trite and pointless. I ate the fried rice that my dad went out into the cold to get for me, delayed bed time as long as possible, and woke up the next morning with that feeling of loss you have when a much anticipated event flies by much too fast. I was a little late (of course), and we when got down to the lobby, I couldn't find my passport, so we emptied my entire bag. Of course it was inside the entire time, and I got a round scolding for just throwing it in anyhow instead of keeping it accessible. I suspect that this is the point at which I lost my earmuffs because I never saw them after that.

It was a wonderful trip; I was excessively pampered and it felt so good to be with my dad. Does anyone else get this feeling of safety and comfort with their dads? Whenever I'm with him, I feel like he'll take care of any eventuality, like there's nothing to worry about. It's an awesome feeling. That trip was a gift; my dad didn't have to spend so much on air tickets so that I could see him in a different city for just a weekend. But he did, because he wanted me to enjoy myself, and hopefully also because he wanted to see me (kidding, of course he wanted to see me, who doesn't)!