What I will miss about New York City

So we’re finally leaving New York, tomorrow night to be exact. I thought I’d gather together some of my personal thoughts about the place, in particular the things I think I will miss most about it. Of course you’re not sure what they’ll be until you leave – I had no idea that chocolate would be such a big deal when I left the UK originally! So in no particular order, here they are…

My son playing baseball…cycling up the west side highway….cycling all the way around the perimeter of Manhattan…the walk to work (and subsequent walk back)…being able to walk to gigs at a lot of venues, especially to see those British bands before they got big here…in fact being able to walk to a lot of places people elsewhere only visit once in their lifetimes, if ever (but that we take for granted)….the YMCA and the chit chat among the old guys in the locker room about politics, sports (boxing a specialty)….the subway – it’s cheap, mostly efficient and just works, most of the time…the Mets and Shea Stadium (slightly less)…Cedar Tavern (though it’s been gone a while)… the seasons – living here you really know what summer and winter are all about….and the general tolerance for a higher level of craziness than most places would put up with; it makes for an interesting, if sometimes challenging life….did I mention baseball enough?

Many of these things we will be able to still do – baseball is surprisingly popular in the UK – but it won’t be New York.

But that’s OK. Life moves on, as we do, to a new chapter in our lives. And New York will always be here. It will always be one of my top two cities in the world, the place where I met my wife, got married and where both our children were born – they’re the real native New Yorkers after all, and always will be.

A girl called Sarah

Well, that’s what she wants to be called these days, which gets a bit confusing if you know anything about our household. And her brother? Jason, it seems.

So adamant is she about this – and she does adamant very well -that when asked today on the streets of NYC what her name was, ‘Sarah,’ was the reply.

And here she is in Apple’s SoHo store during a brief moment of computer-induced solitude & focus during an ill-advised trip down there with her Dad on the Saturday afternoon before the NY Marathon (click to enlarge).

‘Why act like a tourist in the town in which you live?’ somebody should have said to me before we set out.


After a few sessions a driving ranges in Erie PA, Maine, and most recently in Shawnee, PA, the lad expressed a preference for another ball-meets-swinging-thing sport; golf. His hand-eye coordination is great and he takes to all games where there’s a ball to be hit. So we booked him into Chelsea Piers’ junior golf program for one hour each Saturday, which started yesterday.

They let the kids have at it in terms of hitting the balls fo the first half hour or so (after cautioning them abut walking forward and falling off the top deck on to the one below, naturally) and gave them gentle coaching. Given it’s one of those Japanese systems where the next ball pops out of the ground as soon as you’ve hit one, he couldn’t beleive his luck in not having to reach down and place one on the tee each time.

Consequently he started hitting them as if he was in a baseball batting cage, with the club starting from behind his head (not easy to do but he managed it), before the coach stopped by and suggest some changes. The parents were strongly urged not to coach, merely to cheer lead, despite my temptation to point out this very basic facet of golf, i.e. it’s not basball. Oh well, I won parenting points from the coaches.

The results were two fold, he hit a lot of balls in one hour, 370 to be exact [Update: that can’t be right, that’s more than one a second! the next week he hit about 220, which is more like it, but still a helluva lot! The machine the first week must not have been set to zero.]:

Plus he ended up being able to finish his swing like this (he’s hitting balls towards New Jersey on the other side of the Hudson):

I think that’s one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken of him among the many thousands, despite its low quality due to it being with my phone. He’s a quick learner.

Boys around town

The boy came to my relatively new office the other day for the first time. It came time to go home and we started to walk when I realized it was getting a bit tight, time-wise for us to walk home. We saw a couple in a pedicab – New York’s equivalent of a rickshaw that have been around for a few years and are currently the subject of a licensing row. Anyway, we spotted one by the lights outside the Empire State Building at 34th & 5th and we jumped in.

The guy was Russian, having been in the country for about 9 months after living in San Francisco – not so good for cycling, too many hills and all that. Anyway he spotted the accent and us 2.5 Europeans were off through the streets at rush hour.

It was $15 plus tip to get home, about double a cab ride from the same spot, but more fun and a ride home he won’t forget for a long time.

Retail space available

It would be disingenuous for me to get nostalgic about the demise of CBGB‘s last year – I only went there three times in the past 11 years, as far as I can recall. But like so much in NYC, when you live here with young kids, you not so much go to all these places any more, as live vicariously through those that do. And just knowing that they’re there if and when you need them, all conveniently close by (a bit like a pharmacy if you live in the suburbs, but we have those too!) is some comfort.

Except when they disappear, of course.

And so walking up the largely-gentrified Bowery with the lad the other week, we passed this:

The graffiti says something like ’20 years ago we were all sedated….CBGBs forever!!’ because of the strong links with the Ramones. The corner of Bowery & 2nd St is now called ‘Joey Ramone Place’.

Not much of a fan of the Ramones either – always struck me as even more rehashed 50s rock n roll than the Sex Pistols, without the upfront anger and dark humor of the latter.

But again, knowing it was there was comforting, in an urban-vitality kind of way.

But interesting to note that about 9 months later, they haven’t rented it out to anyone else. Perhaps the cleaning took longer than expected?

UPDATE: I had no idea when I posted this that CBGB’s founder & owner Hilly Kristal had just died, in fact it was announced today more or less at the same time I posted it. I took the photo more than a month ago. Now there’s a coincidence. Or something.

Maximo Park & doin’ it for the kidz

I went to see Maximo Park last week – damn good live, the singer has bags of energy and uses it well. The keyboard player does too, but he ends up looking like as if he has no control over his movements. He bounded on stage (quite a small one at Webster Hall), ran around like a dervish and fell over. Mate, if you wanna move around on stage, take up the guitar. Anyway, I digress.

Like many people with kids now, my music is the same as my kids’ music. The boy’s most played song on iTunes is Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Funny Little Frog’ and he’s a big Maximo Park fan (as well as Kaiser Chiefs, his most favorite of his favorite bands). But not even being six yet, it’s hard for him to experience the gig atmosphere.

So it’s great to be able to go to YouTube the next morning and show him a song from the gig his Dad had been to less than 12 hours before to give him some idea. Since then someone has gone further and put a compilation up:

Meanwhile I had taken a picture of the outside of the venue with my camera that was so bad I can’t even use it here. OK well here it is anyway:

But the funny thing about it was that as soon as I took it, the guy was on the stepladder taking it down and replacing it with ‘Girl’s Night Out,’ which was happening straight after the gig.

You’d have been a bit confused if you’d come along to Webster Hall late for the gig that night, I can tell you.