Thursday, December 28, 2006

London is sexy

London is sexier than New York. No, Londoners are sexier than New Yorkers. New York itself - tall, shiny, noisy, OUT THERE - is sexier than London - short, old, genteel, reserved.

It surprised me when I first arrived in New York how 'behind' the general populace seemed in terms of cutting edge fashion, in taking risks, in wearing unusual colors and styles, in being experimental with their hair. Fashions come, but there is little deviation from what everyone else will be wearing. The women are all very pretty, most have long hair, wear flattering clothes and dresses. Botox is big...which increases the chances of everyone not only looking the same, but sharing the same facial expression: Surprised. Men stick to chinos and polo shirts through all seasons. I didn't realize how damn BORING it all is until I went back to London.

Hooray for Londoners! Walking down the street the young and not so young, gay and not so gay, all seem to express a flash of individuality - a little color there, leaking out of a standard winter coat; skinny jeans and flashy tops; colorful scarves and socks and gloves, shiny skirts, big hair, straight hair, lop-sided hair; gangster hats in night clubs...a general air of 'wear whatever you like, no one gives a shit'. Londoners are hot.

But get this: In New York, the people are outgoing, friendly and open. In the months that I've been here I've made as many friends as all my time in London (although naturally the closeness of those friends will only be told with time). New Yorkers chat to each other in bars and restaurants, invite each other to house parties, are polite and courteous (in my experience) and chatty. The English, in a broad sweeping generalisation, are reserved, polite but not warm, cautious and 'keep themselves to themselves'. Many lovely English people will happily go for a drink after work, but their own house, their own friends, the rest of their lives! are all out of bounds unless you're related. And sometimes that isn't even enough.

So....maybe English people express their inner vibrancy through adventurous dressing. Whereas New Yorkers express their inner reticence through their dress. Or maybe there are just a whole bunch of New York rules I'm oblivious to!

Anyway, Kiwis and Aussies are obviously outgoing, friendly, vibrant and extremely sexy. At Christmas lunch we made up for the lack of kiddies by starting a balloon war. The English people sent missiles back, but it was more like a military operation - no smiles, no laughter. Which I think proves my point - their actions reveal their inner fun, but they obviously feel compelled to present a good, stiff British upper lip.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas in New York

We do not have many Jewish people in New Zealand. It leaves one very unprepared for Christmas in New York.

For instance, we had a menorah in the lobby at work but only a couple of the lights were on. So I helpfully screwed the other bulbs in, admonishing Otto, our security guy, for not trying hard enough to get them all working. Otto (the one who told me my lack of salsa finesse was more down to my lack of practice than my ethnicity) patiently explained that you're only supposed to light one per day, one for every day of Hannukah. Then he unscrewed them all again.

The Jewish Christmas tradition in New York is Chinese food and a movie. There are packages you can buy for the day, and Chinese restaurants do their best trade of the year. What confused me about this was that when I attended a carol service last week, a fair proportion of the people there were of Chinese origin. So if the Chinese people are not Jewish, how come the restaurants stay open on Christmas Day?

Incidently, I haven't all of a sudden turned religious. But I do like the singing and the stories. Speaking of which, our lovely Whale Rider adorns the buses here, advertising the film "The Nativity". She plays Mary. I haven't heard advertised something that is world famous in New Zealand - that she is in fact pregnant, at 16 yrs. And not yet married.

Anyway, back to New York. In New York you can't say 'Merry Christmas'. But you can say 'Happy Hannukah'. If you want to say 'Merry Christmas', you say 'Happy Holidays'.

People put up menorahs and Christmas trees. The city is alive with lights! Compared to Halloween, this is the Cinderella to Halloween's Ugly Sister (dripping blood from those cut-off toes). In most cities around the world, shops have fake snow, lights, candles, decorations etc. New York is one great big strip-mall of shops. It glows! It sparkles! It smells like pine! I'm sure from above, Manhatten resembles one great, glowing Christmas phallus. (Because that is the shape of Manhattan Island. Check it out if you don't believe me.)

Sorry, I do mean to say that this is, in fact, a beautful time in a beautiful city. Macy's has a window display of great lions that roar, elves on winged bycycles, a rotating Christmas tree and sea monsters...all of which move when the kids (and me) press a button on the store window. Saks resembles a sea of white lights, dazzling - I stood just inside the door, gaping. The tree is up at the Rockefeller Center and people whisk by on ice skates below it. The leaf-less trees on the side walk are all bound up with fairy lights, so that at night, the avenues become hallways of white and yellow stars.

In my apartment, we've put up a tiny, re-plantable Christmas tree. Pilar has decorated a pine wreath for the walls and we have white roses on the table. I've bought fairy lights too.

It's also the season for big tips and giving to charity. Salvation Army people stand on corners and ring their little red bells. When I hear them it's like an enema for my wallet. Apart from the ones with speaker phones. They get nothing.

Tomorrow I'm off to London, another beautiful city. And although I'm happy to go, I'll also miss being here for Christmas Day, when the streets are quiet but there's celebration in the cold air.

Merry Christmas New York! My affection for you grows every day.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Statue of Liberty is a Man

I was recently visited by a very special Kiwi. Special in that we've shared a plethora of adventures, and also that he is a real live, living breathing DayWalker. Most red-heads burn and speckle in the sunshine. A DayWalker walks safely, merely building up a tan and perhaps a little redness on the nose.
Perhaps because they have this ability, some DayWalkers behave as if they have other powers too. They like to take risks...

DayWalker and I went to see the Statue of Liberty. After skirting around her, looking up her nose and admiring the folds of her toga (made of copper as thin as two coins put together) it was clear that the Statue of Liberty is a man.

"She" has a square jaw. "She" has a low brow and a hint of an Adam's Apple. "She" has thick, muscular forearms and big, strong hands. "She" is tall, wide and flat chested. However, she does wear a dress.

The Statue of Liberty is a drag queen.

9/11 still haunts the NYC tourist spots. The Empire State Building once again reigns as the tallest building in the city. The main ferry rides have airport-style security checks. Downtown, Ground Zero (yes, a tourist spot) is still very much zero; all construction, noise and dust. And you can't climb up into the drag queen's crown anymore.

All this in one sunny day. The DayWalker has now departed South, to where it is warmer. He will soon be in training to be a parachute instructor, flying even closer to his ally, the sun.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Divercity and expensive (but fabulous) hair

It would be hard to be racist in New York. I had six hours of hair rescue to think about this. Remember the hair turning green experience? Well, it seemed the hair never really recovered and was 'translucent'. Which is VERY BAD.

Since then it has gone through various evil stages of home-artistry...

Giovanni, stylist (genius) - Dominican Republic. I trust Giovanni, she was referred by my roommate. But there was a slight twinge of doubt when she says "I have NEVER seen anything like this." I think it was the tri-colour of bleach yellow, orange and brown. Like a rust stain.

Stylist #2 - Chile. She is sick of people in New York who claim to be from Italy, Ireland or wherever, because their grandparents were from there. "They're New Yorkers!" She says. But what about the man who was born in France, has been in the city 10 years and calls himself a New Yorker. "Not a chance," she says.

At about midday I'm famished and ask if there is anywhere to get some food. "Of course darling!" A whole bunch of take-out menus lands in my lap. I order the Thai pork roll and eucalyptus and honey drink, for my cold. They deliver while I'm being toned, for the third time. Which doesn't work. The greeny blonde turns metal grey.

Washer - Brazilian. Wants to go to Montreal to learn French. We spend quite a bit of quality time together. He gets to wash my hair at least three times, and help with the colors as Giovanni helps her other customers. He is gay. He doesn't believe in marriage, even when it's legal for gay people. I tell him that, statistically, people who get married live longer and have happier lives. He gives me a hug when I finally leave. We bonded.

Expensive hair cut should be listed with the other things that define one as a 'grown up', like having kids or owning houses. Before expensive haircuts, either your parents decided and paid , or you went cheap to save money for University (beer/rent) or other activities (overseas travel). I can't see myself going back to home jobs...but the decision makes me feel melancholy...

When the hair finally went blonde instead of steel grey, Giovanni calls out "GOD BLESS AMERICA!"

So here it is. Straightened, of course. With, as a comparison, a picture drawn of me by a supposedly famous artist at a party on Thursday night. I was with a French/Danish writer and his Iranian psychiatrist friend. The picture is now in the bin/trash/rubbish.

The salon is having a Christmas party tonight, my new multi-American friends. I may take my new maturity along for a few irresponsible drinks....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Rockettes!!

I've figured out what sort of dancing I should be doing!!! Tap! My spastic ankles might be useful after all! The Rockettes had no hips and mimimal busts.... and they looked fabulous!

The Christmas Spectacular is a 75yr old tradition at Radio City Music Hall, easily one of the most awe inspiring theatres I've ever been in - massive and canavarous, wonderful sound, and an incredible stage set. This being my first time, I didn't recognize the songs, which are re-hashed every fact, a costume change or new lighting makes the news here.

And the 40 dancing Rockettes - grinning they worked at MacDonald's front counter - are legends. I queued outside waiting for my girl friends, watching the crowd. All the grannies in the city shuffle their way in, hiding their food in their pockets from the food Nazis at the door. They're enticed by the Rockettes like the Pied Piper led the fact, the Rockettes win because they bring in the kids as well. Although the kids' mouths only drop open when hundreds of Santas take the stage. Probably expanding their wish lists, greedy sprogs.

As I watched, I thought, where else but in the States would you see a Christmas show that includes a 3D animated film (we're given glasses); very swish visual effects on both the back screen and projected up onto the ceiling; on stage, camels and horses and donkeys (my friend Sarah nudges me and says 'and some sheep for you'); a mini ice skating rink with a proper Torvill 'n' Dean style ice skating couple; dancing teddy bears and dancing dwarves, dancing reindeer and dancing tin-men. And a girl they claimed was nine but if she was, she's going to be the next Dolly Parton. Or she's been eating too much chicken.

They had quite a few dwarves on stage. I wonder if the number of dwarves per head who go into entertainment is a larger proportion than for the rest of the population?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Preparing for winter

It's going to be 19 degrees Celsius tomorrow, Friday Dec 1st, the first official day of winter. By Saturday it will have dropped to 6 degrees. That ain't right! There is even a chance that it may even SNOW next week!

I am quite petrified of winter. People gleefully tell me stories of snow piled so high it covers the cars parked on the sidewalk; icy wind that whips through the sky scraper canyons; days on end when the temperature doesn't get above freezing. Gargh!

I have already dis-gorged almost $100 buying ski-gloves and thermal glove-lining, and still need to buy winter boots, a long, Michelin Man-style coat, and maybe even gumboots for when the snow turns to slush. Gumboots! They come in all varieties - plaid patterned or plain, polka dots and some even have heels! My friend Sarah bought a pair for $80. (That ain't right either)
Even the little dogs have coats - not their own - and some even have 'shoes'. The below pic is a pair of dog rain boots on sale at Wal-Mart for $14.94. They come in a variety of sizes.

Today I returned a pair of winter boots. They were great, really comfortable and pretty, but there was quite a bit of dead rabbit on them. In New Zealand I'd proudly wear such a pest on my feet, but unless I knew I was also eating the little critter (like I eat cow) I can't do it. Unfortunately this side of the world rabbits are more Watership Down than pestilent scourge.

I will however wear, with pride, the possum-fur scarf that Mum is sending over. Die little suckers! Die!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bahamas - do dis, do not do dis...

When in the Bahamas:


  • Ask. We got a room wit' a view, a coffee maker and extra shampoo. Pikey pikey....

  • Learn to dive. Complete all the tasks: hovering, equalizing, navigation. Taking the mask on and off underwater. Preferably without a big booger hanging out of your nose. Even though most the the time we were learning stuff to keep us alive, we still saw some good fish, a ray (pretty, big, with teeth), and an aeroplane, sunk for a James Bond film. The Bahamas are a James Bond mecca...a lot of the dive instructors at Stuart's Cove were part time stunt doubles.

    Go diving with Hank! Hank was a large Canadian on the same diving course as us. Hank panicked when his large girth kept him afloat, banged his head on the underside of the boat, got twisted up in his gear and had to go back to the boat (blamed the gear) kicked us underwater, got distracted by the fish and end up off course, complained about jet-lag...even though the Bahamas is in the same time zone as Toronto, where he came from. Hank made us look GREAT. (Hank still passed. Scary)
  • Meet the locals! The food is better and cheaper outside the hotel, especially at a group of sea-side restaurants/bars called the Fish Fry. There is a lot of conch ('conk'). Conch tastes like boiled rubber. Conch is stewed, fried, grilled and made into a salad. This man, a criminal attorney, told us that the conch is quickly becoming over-fished, endangered - god knows why. He is eating conch salad.

    • Luke is eating a snapper head - apparently the best part.

  • Try to learn a few Bahamian phrases. The words are clipped and they talk fast...except to tourists.... 'dis and dat', 'tink'..... Although when we asked a wandering guy on the street where we could get some food nearby, he says 'Of course mon, I'm from Jamaica. How much do you need? It's good stuff'. Since when was marajuana known as 'food'?

  • Get a taxi to a cheesy nightclub. Your pumpkin could turn out to be a limo, circa 1970.

    Avoid the timeshare people. 'Free drinks! Free tickets! Free breakfast!' It ain't worth it - 90 minutes of sales talk from sales rep, Grenville, including 'Are you a model' (in reference to our pay bracket and the fact that I live in NYC). Luke sniggers. 'Well you're tall. You could be.....with a bit of make up on'. Luke suggests a lot of make up would work better. Then he tells us we'd like Miami because it is like New York. He likes Miami, the people are beautiful there. I suggest that maybe I could be a model there instead. 'No, probably not. All the girls are models there. All along the beach,' he says. Then, to Luke, 'And strippers at night. He he.' At the end of the session, Luke tells them the hotels they have listed are crap, because he has stayed in them, and not worth the money. The promise to 'depart as friends, whatever you decide' seems unlikely. We come away with $60 worth of flavored rum, one of which breaks in Luke's bag after the flight.

  • Torment the bird, it deserves it for crying like a baby, biting and mocking your laugh.

  • Learn how to play craps! But don't lift the dice up off the table. Everyone yells at you.

  • Go to the cabaret, Jambalaya. A multicultural singing orgasm - lots of taught buttocks. Don't be the guy who gets pulled up on stage for a multi-buttock dance. Your girlfriend won't be impressed. And tourists will recognize you later, down at the Fish Fry.

  • Play dominos! Or, to be safe, watch it instead. Gets pretty crazy -the rules are the same, but each piece must be SLAMMED down. Torretts is encouraged. Yell! Slam! Push the other players! Luke and I only went into the bar because we thought a fight had broken out.

  • Drink rum. Preferably from the road-side daiquiri-only shacks...fresh fruit, ice, rum...yum.

  • Visit Atlantis, the not-so-budget hotel on its own island, Paradise Island. The Atlantis has a cave system, waterfalls, sharks and tropical fish, myriad of swimming pools, a massive, glitzy casino with incredible glass sculptures ......

  • ....... fat couples in faded denim and white sneakers walking by the super yachts and boats as big as large houses, Gucci and Cartier and other over-priced tat, Haagen Daas - $10 for three scoops, young girls with braces, thick make-up and mini skirts smoking on the balconies, boys wearing chunky chains, making plans on cellphones - like a mall that's had an expensive make-over. One visit is enough. Escape (with your expensive ice-cream). Possibly maybe accidently 'steal' a small expensive bottle of water.

  • Mix it up at Senor Frog's, where they don't serve mojitos because they are a MEXICAN bar. Avoid the local expat Canadian contractors, trawling for cruise boat fodder. Do a Bahamian version of bootylicious, led by an on-stage DJ - 'Sexaholics make some NOISE! Alcoholics make some NOISE!'. Shake off that fried lobster holiday fat with your white girl/guy dance moves....

  • And scare the locals with your eerily non-floral, matching outfits....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Eight Principles Of Fun - watch it!

This was too good to not this - eight principles of fun

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Hedge-ettes

Okay, this is a sort of request post, or rather, it has been indicted that I omitted one... a night that apparently bears repeating, in as much as i can recall anyway...

So, if you could have any hors d'oeuvres, what would it be? I choose those marinated shrimps on a stick that you dip in sweet chilli sauce. At the
Pink Elephant (again! this one was actually before the Dems' victory booty-jumpin' celebration) we got ourselves into a strategic sweet-spot on the stairs that narrowed the waiters into a funnel of moving food. The event was some sort of hedge fund soiree, so the fare was pretty good - no sausage rolls here! Actually I've just looked at a review of the club by an unhappy patron; I think it's worth repeating...

"One faithful night approximately two weeks ago, I went to meet some friends and was cometeply ignored at the door. I was head-to-toe Marc Jacobs and extremely friendly and a gentleman with an Austrialian accent completely ignored me, like I didn't exist. The head of the table had to come out and personally escort me in, which was extremely embarrassing for someone like myself. And what was even
more frustrating, is that I saw young women with low-quality standards being let in immediately. That night my friend spent $1,000 on his table so I feel as though, I should have been treated better. I probably wouldn't go back unless I myself purchased the table or I am walking in with those who have purchased the table. I cannot risk additional insult at the hands of that gentleman with the Australian accent."

Damn Aussies, didn't even recognize a quality sheila.

By 9pm when the bar closed we were pretty stuffed full of shrimps etc - me, D and R, the two guys who actually had an affiliation with the event.

After we signed off on myriad important deals (like, I'll swap my teriyaki chicken for your prawn dumpling), on to Rocktober Fest at BB King's bar, which is a grand, huge place where you can imagine jazz legends crooning before an audience wearing tailored black clothes and smoking cigars. Not tonight though. Tonight was a skinny white guy howling out 70s and 80s pop, but with a full band backing him - brass and strings, the works. Not very impressive, and definitely not BB King cool, but then R informs me that the members are all hedge fund managers brought together from different firms across the city...and I forgave every one of them right there. It's about expectations, and for a bunch of disparate finance guys, they were pretty damn good.

The BEST bit by far was when random women started jumping on stage, then took off their tops to reveal matching white singlets underneath, and began the Britney moves, synchronised and all. D christianed them The Hedgettes. The event was raising money for something.... I have a t-shirt somewhere with logos tucked away in my pyjama drawer....

We were inspired + we were also a bit drunk = we went to kareoke in a tuk-tuk.

Yes ladies, this is the standard for tuk-tuk drivers in New York. I'll leave the bus drivers to your imaginations.

ANYWAY...kareoke. D started us off with 'Dancing with myself' and R did a very brave and interesting version of Prince's 'Kiss', falsetto and all. Phew.

I did Madonna, Killers and Guns in Roses. Madonna cos it's gonna be easy to sing. Killers because I love them. And Guns n Roses because that way the whole bar can join in...kareoke gives me a lot more respect for singers - they can't give up near the end when you just don't feel like singing anymore.

R fell asleep on the stair railing, and our spots were taken by some large women with professional attitudes who began singing Carpenters songs earnestly, so we decided to call it a night.

I'm trying to think of something philosophical, because when I left the kareoke club with my two friends and stumbled out onto the early morning streets, it felt like the end of a mini adventure. But the best I can think of is that NYC must be becoming more like home, because I also recall the feeling of being snuggled up in bed after the cab ride home in the rain, and being a very happy camper indeed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

My new phone stinks

My phone was stolen by a fruit seller and I had to pay significant cocktail/travel money towards a new one. And it stinks. So far I have taken a few crappy pictures, and I can't even download them. Boo hiss.

Here are some I took with my really cool phone that the fruit seller is now enjoying.

Museum shops are the best shops in the world. Here's a fun present idea. Fun fun fun.

And how about these for the young kiddies, just starting out at pressure...

Exciting Times

In the women's toilets at the Democratic Party party last week, the girl behind me in line was almost delirious - she'd almost had her photo taken with Clinton but had not managed to find her camera, which was hiding somewhere in her handbag. Luckily her friend had taken a picture instead. I asked to see, and shouldn't have really been surprised to find out the Clinton was actually the male member of the family, rather than the star of the evening, Senator Hillary. Then the flustered girl found her camera, hanging off her arm.

All Bill did at the party was stand behind Hillary, rather red-faced, clap and look proud. Then kiss her at the end, which was the picture that ended up in the papers. It's a funny thing, that he holds so much public appeal, even among the random Republicans I've encountered, but for her it's a different story. New Yorkers are fans; she is seen to have tried her best for the state under difficult circumstances, and the huge swath of people crammed into the Sheraton ballroom were vocal and exuberant in their appreciation...but to win over America as whole, there's a massive PR campaign to run. The media portrays her as someone who polarises the populace. I'm new here, and don't know what this is based on. Or whether it is actually true or not. But seeing how she handles the next couple of years will be very fact, I've now decided to stay here til after the presidential elections in 2008. Whoever runs, it will be exciting times.

When you're at a political party with 4,000 people, it's good to be on the winning side. The place was decked out in red/white/blue balloons, a huge American flag as a back-drop (I noticed the Republicans had exactly the same backdrop at their celebrations.... the American flag has a monopoly on so many events!) a large, well lit stage and a small mountain of press people - TV, radio and print. There was food, although not suitable for anyone on the Atkins Diet - all deep fried carbs and sweets - and free soda wine and beer.

I was invited to the party by C, my political campaigning friend. J also came along with his parents - his father gave me a US politics 101 class as we were watching CNN as the Democrats took Congress. Rather than me try to explain sucking eggs, for those who don't know, info is here

Hillary is a good speaker when in front of the audience. Engaged and smart. Spitzer, another Democrat, won the governor's seat and brought up his whole family on stage, as did the guy who won for the Attorney General position. His family looked very wealthy, all furs and expensive suits, even his Grandma and Grandad - who had been together 60 years. Family is a big deal here, a real bonus-points opportunity. Spitzers wife - I swear - was the mother off The Sopranos. Chelsea wasn't there, and compared to everyone elses stage-cramming, Hillary's one supporter looked like a sparse offering. But then again, I can't say I recognized anyone else's whanau from the front page of the daily papers. Everyone thanked God and Blessed America! A good tactic - new statistics (Time magazine) show that the US is 85% Christian and most of these are born again/evangelical.

Another toilet queue conversation - again about Bill, and commenting on how supportive he was of his wife. The general consensus (among the ten or so girls in the line) was that he'd damn well better support her. He owes it to her.

Afterwards C got me into the private Clinton post party. It was held at a nightclub called the Pink Elephant, a trendy place in Chelsea where on a normal night it will set you back a few hundred for a bottle of vodka. As an aside, the elephant is a Republican symbol, although i doubt there was any intended poking going on. Tonight was excellent nibbles and free cocktails. I was hoping to get a photo with Ms C...but on entering and hearing the music (my hump my hump my hump) I realized quickly she wasn't coming. Damn! Oh well. Maybe I'll volunteer in the mission to win over America. And sometime in the next year and a half get a picture with a Clinton....even Bill will do!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Spooks and sluts

I was pretty skeptical about Halloween; for a start pumpkin is one of those foods that I hated as a child and really really really hate as an adult. Then I expected, in terms of costumes, that the odd person would dress up as a ghost (sheet) or devil (garden pitch fork), or at best, a blood-dripping vampire (sad waste of tomato sauce). And then a bunch of sprogs would terrorize the streets, whinge about sweets and pelt doorways with eggs and rotten vegetables....

That ain't Halloween. That's the rest of the world's interpretation of Halloween. Halloween is HUGE! It's bigger than Christmas! And Halloween is slutty! Super slutty! Super fabulous slutty!

These are Halloween costumes...and seriously, I did not go out of my way to visit a porn store just to liven this up:

On Tuesday (31st - Halloween night) at work, people started leaving early, which was weird. Then the bosses daughter came in as a pumpkin - nothing too unusual - and gave everyone a cookie. But it was a beautiful, elaborate gingerbread 'pumpkin' cookie, inscribed with her name and wrapped in pumpkin cellophane.

And although I was ambivalent at first, the excitement - the whole town seems caffeinated - is infectious. Shops everywhere are decorated in spider webs, pumpkins and plastic bugs (and American flags, which seem to be an appropriate accompaniment to any celebration) including my local supermarket.

There are pumpkins in the oddest places, like in the subway. On my way in to work I started noticing little things, like a woman in a full business suit, business face and business suitcase ...and little red horns sticking out of her perfect business hair. A man who was definitely a banker - somber suit, striped shirt - sipped his coffee and exposed little, red-tipped fangs.

So instead of going to yoga, I met with a couple of Kiwis, stuck on my black wig left over from Burning Man and went down the road to 6th Avenue. Roads everywhere were blocked off. We were on our way to the parade...and yet the parade seemed to be all around us. Colored wigs and wings, blood spatterings in odd places, cloaks and ghosts and men in high heels, and so much more.....imagine a huge, bustling city - like any warm city night when people are out in the streets - but everyone dressed up in costume. Friends I met at the parade had berets and sweaters slung over their shoulders; they'd come as 'French people.' Afros and doctors, slutty nurses, French Maids, Statues of Liberty, fairies, World Wrestling champions...I can't describe it - so much imagination and inventiveness - a night of fun! Here are some pics of the parade itself:

Thousands line the streets and anyone in costume can enter.

Can you make out the French Maid on the dog float? There were quite a few George Bushes, one with a toilet seat around his head. People on stilts, marching bands in full costumes, drummers and acrobats, floats for causes as diverse as saving lost kittys to promoting gay awareness - the parade goes for hours - they expected 50,000 people to take part.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


In winter, before refrigeration, men would go out onto Montreal's frozen Lawrence River and cut huge swathes of ice using long saws, which were then divided into smaller blacks and teken away on carts. Apparently the water was cleaner in winter...don't ask me how that works. The river itself was such a hub for commercial activity that when it started to thaw in the spring, the townspeople would rush to the shores and start hacking at the remaining ice to open the channels again.

All this I know, because I ended up at the museum when I was supposed to be shopping in Montreal's huge, 32km square underground city. How anyone actually enjoys shopping is COMPLETELY beyond me. I found loads of lovely, unique stuff, but it was all stupidly expensive. Anything else was....too much! too hard! colours! sizes! textures! queues!... in the end I chose a low fat muffin and ran for the museum.

It struck me, in Montreal, the effect language has on geography, rather than the other way round. Barely 45 minutes from loud, boitrous New York City I arrived in a French city; greeted by customs officials and taxi drivers with 'bonjour', taken to a steaming, rowdy restaurant in a cobbled street where olive skinned waiters served succulent, rich pork shoulders and unfettered-by-conscience fois gras to large groups of stylish, elegant people - not a botoxed forehead in sight - all discussing world affairs and great ideas (okay, I don't speak French but the conversations sounded worthy), then walked to our hotel through streets lined with grand, Victorian-era apartments and ornate shopfronts.....all the signage in French, from the Bvds and Rue's to the Chinois Place near our hotel in China Town.

Of course, this is not Paris. For a start, the waiters are very friendly. Second, there were plenty of ads pasted around the city promoting the local ice-hockey team. And in Paris, they would never allow this mutated Holiday Inn in a spot near the old town:

I was with four Aussie girls and in true down-under style we got straight into the food. I have a severe case of 'grass is greener' when it some to restaurant food and usually prefer to eat off other people's this case, no one would touch their block of deep fried 'something', except moi. It turned out to be unidentified, deep-fried, foul-tasting innards....and spat right back out. Then I dug into what looked like well cooked squash or vegetable of some sort - a good thick chunk, only to go hmm, that doesn't taste right....turn the remaining piece over to reveal a nice, two inch thick piece of pig fat, white skin shining in its own oil. Even thinking of it now makes me want to brush my teeth and run around the block.

Montreal is built at the confluence of two rivers - an island, like Manhattan - and for a long time an important place for traders, particularly the early fur traders. The French found some hardy American Indians here, living in long, multiple family dwellings, smoking on pipes that the Europeans soon emulated. The British arrived, fought the French (surprise surprise) and it remains in British hands...and feels like no part of the Empire that I've ever set foot in. The resurgence in language is relatively recent, although there were a number of people were came across, even those in hospitality, who did not speak English.

At this time of year, Montreal is slipping into winter. It rained the whole time, except when it started snowing. Rugged up in multiple layers and cushioned with lots of calorific French food, we were ok... but poor Montrealians, for them this is just the beginning. In winter, the temperature hovers around -14 degrees Celsius; the worst was -33. Every year a snow-storm paralyses the city. The boots on sale in the fashionable shops are purely functional - thick, two inch soles and all fur-lined. Of course, you could always buy a classy hat like this to keep you warm...

and if you're shopping for birthday presents (for your senile old uncle...)

Halloween in Montreal is a rather subdued affair compared to in the States, and even then they did it in style. Where else would you find a gorilla playing drums in a jazz band? (The other guy was playing a Japanese flute...very cool sound.)

Dodging snow and high winds, we made the pilgrimage to St Josephs (in a taxi) where many go to be healed. Here are the walking sticks of those who are now fit and well, apparently. There were two of these structures in the church, along with many many banks of candles...not in recesses or alcoves within the basilica, but in its own separate candle-room. Here is the most beautiful of the candle tiers.

The dome of the basilica is the second largest in the world, behind St Peters in Rome.

The church was disappointingly austere inside, all grey blank walls, escalators, and elongated effigies.... but apparently the healing thing is still works despite the lack of decoration ....

And this....this is just worth sharing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


It's amazing what difference a view makes. I've just shifted to a window seat at work, and already my little soul is unfurling a wee bit....

Here is the view. The first is if I look straight out,

the second if I open the window and sort of squishal and bend out. So with the second view you have to also imagine the honking of taxis, the smell of exhaust fumes, the whirring of air conditioning units and indiscriminate yelling from 22 floors below.

After a fabulous yoga session that had me sweating out all six cups of green tea I'd consumed while gazing at my new view, off to The Killers (again) at Madison Square Garden - the theatre, not the huge stadium. And this was the view from my seat, about four rows from the back-end of the auditorium, where the rows get all cramped and the ceiling gets lower and lower...a good place for hobbits.

So as you can see it was a bit different from last time. On the big plus side, at least there was no lunatic woman to start fights with this time.

I went by myself (first solo concert!) and got chatting to a lovely bubbly woman and her husband. He asked if 'The dingo ate my baby', to which I repeated that I was a New Zealander. He said: 'So, have you ever seen a Tasmanian Devil then?'. After some debate about where Tasmania was, we finally got onto safe ground with the Lord of the Rings. But he insisted we all call it L.O.T.R. instead.

A guy befriended me and told me he sang and played keyboard in a band. He left for a bit and when he came back he asked if I'd missed him. I said that I wondered where he'd gone. The audio in this theatre is not great, and The Killers are a band that need to be loud otherwise you can hear yourself and every other tone deaf person yelling out. And then, in the middle of a song, he starts yowling in my ear "She wondered where I had gone, she wooonderred where I had gooone." Now mate, you can call me Australian, but you're on dangerous ground when you interrupt a Killers song.....

It's just occured to me that maybe he knew the lunatic woman and saw that I didn't have back-up! Just as well the yoga made me all zen.

Scotland and Uganda

I went to see The Last King Of Scotland tonight, a movie about a young doctor who becomes personal physician and 'closest advisor' to Idi Amin, in the months following the coup in Uganda. Now this ain't a great film. The camera work is sporadic and distracting. The music has delusions of drama. But Forrest Whittikar is very good as Idi Amin, charming and lunatic yet very real and imminently dangerous. The film is supposedly inspired by true events, which by my Friend-From-Fox's definition, means it's 99% bollocks.

Some parts are pretty funny, and I like to think these are the bits based on actual events. Idi Amin, obsessed with Scotland, names his children MacKenzie and Campbell. His Ugandan choir in full native dress sings about the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

The film is set in 1970's Uganda...sun and mosquitos, dirt huts and women in colorful dresses. It is exactly the same as when I was there last year. Imagine the savings in setting a period piece in Africa! No need for sets or CGI.

This is a Ugandan taxi. And some Ugandan houses. When I was in the country, there were issues with the current administration, corruption, poverty and AIDs. And yet the people of Uganda were the most colourful and friendly of any of the African nations we visited.

And the sign on the border-crossing between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo - they still haven't changed the name. And yes I know the hair is pretty damn bad but this wasn't exactly a five-star tour...

But so quickly back to New York! I walked home though Chelsea, which is the suburb of beautiful gay men. I've never seen so many gay men in my life all clustered in one area - at 11pm on a Monday night I passed at least a dozen couples, and each member had a significant amount of facial hair. Of course, this also means there are all these really cute restaurants that do fabulous cocktails, and a lot of clubs that have been shut down in recent years due to bad behavior.

I came home to find my roommate lying on the couch in her pyjamas. Last week she was diagnosed with pneumonia, but went in to work for a few hours before giving in and coming home to rest. She thought she might have a fever, so rang the pharmacy and got them to deliver a thermometer. Take-out thermometers! Only in New York huh.

And what defines the Scottish, except their contempt for the English and incongruous musical instruments? ...The food! At one point the Doctor is asked if they have monkeys in Scotland, to which he replies "No, but if we did, we would deep fry them''.