As L1 and I watched the news last week, it occurred to us that we’d arrived in New York in the midst of the Roy Moore scandal and will leave it just as Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the supreme court. What grim bookends to our stay here. Two accused assaulters, one of them, to quote my friend L, “a beer guzzling frat boy creep” who lied repeatedly and behaved like a poisonous, partisan lunatic in a senate hearing, and somehow managed to persuade President Trump and most of the GOP that he, rather than Doctor Ford, was the one deserving of the country’s sympathy and support. In between these two events, the MeToo movement had been unceasingly vociferous, but to what end? So that a man like Kavanaugh can be allowed to shape the laws pertaining to sexual assault, gay marriage, abortion rights and more for the next forty some years? So that he can rule to protect Trump from being indicted?
It’s all very depressing, and I have an inbox full of emails telling me just how depressing it is. What is there to say except that I hope the Republican party gets a resounding ass- kicking in the upcoming mid-term elections, and that President Trump finally gets his come uppance at the hands of Robert Mueller.
But these bleak bookends to our New York year aren’t the only thing we’ve been contemplating. As our departure date drew near, we found ourselves reflecting on everything we’d loved about the year. One evening a few weeks ago, we were sitting on a bench in Central Park and I asked L1 what he thought he would miss about living here.
“Well, that view, for a start,” he said, pointing ahead.
Thus began a conversation that lasted until the day he left for London. Naturally, I made notes. What will we miss about living in New York? Let me tell you…
Being close to North American friends and family. This is definitely number one on the list. We’ve seen more of my sister and her family and my parents this year than in all of the three previous years combined, and enjoyed precious catch up time with friends from Rhode Island, Chicago, Colorado, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. What joy.
America (and Canada) on our doorstep. We’ve spent time in some exceedingly beautiful places this year – Maine, Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, Half Moon Bay, Napa Valley, Montreal, Wyoming, Florida. It was a bonus to be able to get to them without a transatlantic flight and the attendant jet lag.
Central Park. Especially the bit above 69thStreet. And the bits where you can go and sit on a rock overlooking a lake and imagine you’re in a remote forest location in British Columbia. Glorious.
Urban strolling: the fact that we walk virtually everywhere, and that there’s always something interesting to look at on the way. Walking to and from restaurants is a particular bonus. And being able to walk to the cinema means you’re more likely to go, and even go alone, as I did twice this past week.
Everything within reach. There’s everything we could possibly need within two blocks of our apartment – supermarkets, drug stores, wine, gin, coffee, Lulu Lemon, Nike, Occitane. It’s so damned convenient.
The package room boys, who receive all your deliveries from Amazon, UPS and Fedex and hold them till you call, then bring them up to your apartment. So, no schlepping down to the post office with one of those annoying little sorry we missed you cards, only to discover that the package has been returned to sender.
Sunshine and crisp blue skies. Also, hailing a bright yellow cab under a crisp blue sky, which makes you feel as if you’ve stepped straight off the set of Sex and the City.
Halloween done well. In the States, Halloween isn’t just a night, it’s a season. And they really go to town, starting on the 1stOctober, decorating their houses, gardens and shop windows with autumnal, harvest-festivally type features, including more types of pumpkin that you ever knew existed. When the actual day arrives, the streets are filled with joyful children in elaborately constructed costumes, and their equally joyful parents, some of them also in costumes. (We’ll be returning to the UK just in time to witness a Halloween that, in our neighbourhood at least, consists largely of teenage boys wearing ghost masks who throw your pumpkin against the door if you don’t give then enough candy.)
Great Californian wines. They save all the best ones for domestic consumption, apparently, whereas in the UK we get the dregs.
The Frick.I’ve mentioned this before. It’s a museum like no other. Intimate yet breathtaking. And those Holbeins – I could look at them a thousand times and not get bored.
The Michael Kors store opposite Barney’s on Madison. A store? you say. How crass. How superficial. But I’ve had some excellent times in this particular store – with my sister and a Montreal friend when my sister was in a spendy mood; with L2 when he decided he needed to replenish his wardrobe
and we became firm friends with the salesgirl; and with Toronto friends R and B, when B was obliged to do an impromptu catwalk show of everything he tried on, and we conspired to get him to buy much more than the single shirt he came in for.
Dallas and Clint at the SCK Salon. They’re ludicrously expensive, but they’re excellent hairdressers and even better company. Clint, I’m sorry I never made it back in for that last trim and to say goodbye.
Our favourite restaurants. The local and walkable August, Cognac, and Boathouse; the Drunken Munkey for Indian; Lupa for Italian; Balthazar for noisy, Soho fun.
Our only regret is not having tried Tony’s at Sixty Fourth and Third. It’s an old fashioned Italian trattoria – all red and white checked table cloths, candles in wine bottles, and white uniformed waiters with rococo moustaches. Groups of elated people are forever spilling out of its doors clutching balloons. We walked by it a hundred times and always said, we really should go there, but somehow we never did.
Our NY friends, new and old.You know who you are. We’ve enjoyed helping you to keep the waiters up past their bedtime.
Our apartment. It’s pretty and cosy and furnished just the way we would have furnished it ourselves. We love the wide open street and the gardens, and we love the Upper East Side location, which is like an oasis of civilised calm in what can sometimes be the abrasive rough and tumble of Manhattan.
Cooper, the terrier who lives on our floor, and with whom we had many a pleasant conversation in the lift.
The basement gym in our building. No question, having a gym just an elevator ride away ensures that you exercise more. There are no excuses.
Andy Grant. A few months ago, L1 decided that, despite having access to a basement gym, he wasn’t feeling motivated or working hard enough. So, he engaged Andy Grant as a personal trainer. A former marine and amateur heavyweight boxing champion, Andy is a trainer like no other. After L1’s first session he returned to the apartment with jelly legs and had to lie down for an hour. He soon got used to Andy’s take-no-prisoners, surprise-your-body approach, but the workouts are never less than overwhelmingly challenging.
I made sure to avoid being in the gym when L1 and Andy were in there because I was terrified I might also be lured into Andy land. Which, in the end, I was. During my last week in New York I did four sessions with Andy that transformed the way I think about fitness, strength and flexibility. It’s addictive. We’re now trying to work out how to keep Andy in our exercise lives via Sky
The Arthur Murray Dance School on Fifth.We’ve had so much fun learning to dance, and spending time with the Arthur Murray gang. They’re an awesome group of people and we’re going to miss them. Although, L1 is threatening to book himself in for lessons whenever he’s back in New York, and I will certainly do the same, so we won’t be entirely without our Arthur Murray fix.
Morning Joe, and the MSNBC news team in general. The handsome Ari Melber in particular. These people are a counter point to Trump’s craziness, a reassuring comfort zone of intelligence, reason and facts within the morality free maelstrom that is the Trump administration.
This list is all very well. (And apologies to L1, who dislikes listy sorts of articles). But putting the list aside, there’s something bigger that we’ll miss. It’s the experience of doing something new and endlessly interesting, and doing it as a couple, without much having to consider anyone else. It has reminded me of being new to London and newly married, living in the first flat that we could call our own. It also convinced me that L1 and I will be alright in our empty-nest years. We won’t be looking at one another across a table and wondering what to say to one another, or worse, wanting to throttle one another. Phew.
We expected to be sad when we actually closed the door on the apartment for the last time, and indeed we were. L1 left a week before I did due to business commitments back in Europe, so we both felt sad in different places. His early departure seemed to me to underline the poignant finality of our NY experience. I’m not going to lie – I had a day or so feeling very weepy and crying actual tears.
But I had to pull myself together because there was stuff to do – more stuff than I’d anticipated. Despite having moved into a furnished apartment, we’d managed to accumulate an awful lot of clobber – books, pictures, small appliances, clothes – that had to be organised and shipped back. Once that was done, I had a fitting send-off in the form of an Arthur Murray competitive dance evening, during which I was paired with world champion Gherman to dance the hustle. You’d have thought that dancing with a world champion would make things easier, what with all that expert leading, but in fact I felt all at sea. Gherman’s hustle style bore little resemblance to the one that L1 and I had developed, and his feet moved at three times the speed. I just about made it through with my dignity intact.
On my very last night in New York, our dear friends C and I took me out to the very swanky Standard Rooftop Bar, where we sipped martinis while watching a spectacular sunset. We then went to dinner with some people from their building (who, alarmingly, were all under the age of thirty-two) and stayed up far too late, which meant that I was decidedly below par as I prepared to leave the apartment the following morning.
After the doorman came up to collect my bags, I took one last look at the apartment, feeling wretched with heartache, then closed the door and went down to the lobby, whereupon I proceeded to dish out twenty-dollar bills to the various doormen who had played a role in getting my bags downstairs and into the taxi. At least I won’t have to do this anymore, I thought. I certainly won’t miss the constant tipping, and the constant wondering if you’ve tipped enough. Of course, the timing of our departure means that we will be spared the hemmorhaging of cash that is the Christmas tipping season. Perhaps we ought to have put a few thousand dollars into an envelope and given it to the building manager to put towards the Holiday Fund, but we skipped town instead. What would you have done?
So, this is it folks. The last L2 blog. The last time I’ll have the pleasure of sharing our New York experiences with you all. Thank you for reading, and for writing me back. It’s been a blast.