Cabin Fever

Wednesday, 14 December 2022
Still fascinated with royalty

A day of work, executed remotely, confined for the second day to my hotel room. A day trying to concentrate with a brain made of snot. A horrible day, albeit that by evening I was feeling a little more human. But confined for a second whole day in The Greatest City in the World that Never Sleeps (TM) I could not remain. In blatant defiance of current public health recommendations, when work finished at around 4pm (a bare hour before sunset in these winter days), I could take it no more, and I masked, and gloved, and went out, just out, anywhere. I kept my distance, New York, I promise you. I went in no shops. I walked.

Handy in an argument

All the way down 48th Street to Twelfth Avenue and my first view of the Hudson, and the USS Intrepid. Nobody told me that New York keeps an aircraft carrier moored there, in case New Jersey gets uppity, presumably. Tickets are $30 a pop. I must go back, when I am fit for company. Saturday, perhaps. Then back towards the heartland, social distancing complicated by the increasing crowds. I was asked for directions again, and explained that I was delighted to be so, as it hadn’t happened for a couple of days, but I was not a New Yorker and therefore could not assist. They explained that they were New Yorkers but that wasn’t helping them much either.

Finally to Fifth Avenue, again, and a real challenge to keep my distance, so I didn’t stick around. Also, a screen advised that it was 36 degrees, which I think means about 2 degrees to those of us born since the French Revolution, and my fingers were starting to go numb, even in the leather gloves. A videochat with Anna as I browsed a street stall selling headwear led to the purchase of a baseball cap for her, blazoned with the city’s initials, and a warmer hat for me, spelling the whole city’s name out in bright letters against a navy background. It thoroughly marked me as a tourist, but at least my ears would survive the evening.

The chill, though, continued to bite, and my newest problem was that carrying Anna’s cap meant that I could not keep both hands in my coat pockets, necessary despite the gloves. The solution hit upon was to put the cap on, and the beanie over the top, meaning that I now wore not one but two items of ludicrous souvenir headwear. I felt that I could not possibly look more like a tourist if I were wearing a snorkel and speedos and carrying a sign reading “clueless foreign doink”. Within 50 metres I got asked for directions, which should be the punchline but is not. The punchline is that I could actually provide the requested assistance.

QNYE1: Alright, already, I actually took a photo of the Empire State Building this time. Incidentally, I have never heard anyone say “alright, already” or any of the dozens of clichéd sayings attributed to N’Yorkers. I have also not yet been honked at by an impatient driver (though they certainly do that to each other) or shot. I’m beginning to think that film and television may not provide a wholly reliable guide to the realities of living in a diverse city of more than 10 million people.

QNYE2: Ate a taco from a food truck. OK, I’m not sure how New York that experience is, but it’s definitely Western Hemisphere, which will Have to Do. It was, incidentally, delicious, the salad filling fresh and crisp and containing a surprising amount of radish. Pulled chicken, wedge of lime, spicy salsa. Should have bought three and skipped the next bit.

QNYE3: Ate a pretzel. It’s salty, chewy, lukewarm bread. Actually, I ate two bites and threw it away. A sign I saw later suggested that I should probably have bought a bucket of cheesy fat to dunk the salt in, thus ensuring the presence of both major food groups.


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