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?