Monday, 23 November 2015

Brooklyn

We had cheap pancakes for breakfast in a little diner around the corner from our hotel which is up on Lexington and 48th. The Lexington Hotel is a pleasant enough place, even though the bath water is brown and the wifi is catastrophic. I haven't been able to check emails since arriving, and I can only post this blog by tethering myself to Nathan's iphone.

American-style pancakes are fluffy and fat and entirely unlike the pancakes the Brits eat on Shrove Tuesday, which I think the Yanks might be more likely to call crepes. I was slightly embarrassed to overhear another Brit, in this morning's diner, attempting to make a big deal out of the fact that the man behind the counter didn't have lemon and sugar for her pancake. He looked at her blankly and offered maple syrup. She wasn't impressed.

We took the subway from Grand Central station, which is surely one of the most beautiful stations in the world. Its most impressive feature is a gigantic Egyptian-style zodiac ceiling mural in the main concourse. The intricate shapes of lions and water carriers are painted onto a vibrant aquamarine backdrop. Some of the stars within the constellations are actually tiny lights which almost twinkle. I think I'm making it sound a little tacky. It's not in the slightest. It's breathtaking - a huge contrast to the murky, sepia-coloured, subterranean world lurking in the subway below.

We took the R train down to a quiet but very charming little district in the south of Brooklyn called Bay Ridge, which is where Sharon and Dan live with their son, Edsy. Sharon and I were at drama school together about 100 years ago and one of the huge draws of New York for me is being able to see her. It was the first time we'd clapped eyes on each other for five years, which is the longest period we've ever been separated.

We had pizza in a local restaurant with two other drama school buddies, Derek and Lesley, who met at the same drama school and have subsequently had two children, Charlie and London (named after the city where they met!) It was so so lovely to see them again.

Derek and Lesley trilled their way back to Manhattan after lunch leaving us at Sharon and Dan's to catch up and get to know Edsy, who is a brilliantly sparky kid. He has autism and it's extremely difficult to watch his parents struggling to communicate with him. Sharon is doing everything right, however. In fact, she refuses to allow his condition to beat either of them and is exploring all kinds of cutting-edge treatment methods including paying a great deal of attention to Edsy's diet. It is slow, slow process, but she will get there. He's plainly an incredibly bright kid, with a brilliant sense of humour, and if anyone can do it, Sharon can. As we left this evening I realised quite how much I've missed her.

A fabulous maroon and purple sunset descended on New York this evening. We could see it out of Sharon's window, brewing. She suddenly threw her house keys at us, pointed at the street below and said "you need to be out there right now taking photographs." And so we ran outside and took a few rather epic shots of the sky with the Statten Island bridge silhouetted in the foreground.

I've grown to associate Sharon with sunsets. Her wedding day five years ago generated the most spectacular sunset I've ever witnessed. She got married in Brooklyn in a venue with huge windows and views across to Midtown Manhattan. The sky literally turned a shade of scarlet. It was almost as though the city was on fire. Sharon, who is herself a very fine photographer, was utterly thrilled. I have pictures of her in her wedding dress wearing the most enormous smile, with the blood red sky glowing behind her.

What I love about the Americans is that they they don't replace or redecorate buildings for the sake of everything looking shiny and fancy. Everything in this city, apart from the glitzy skyscrapers down in the financial distinct, is a little rough around the edges, which makes it feel so much more atmospheric and authentic. Americans will only replace something when it actually starts to fall down which means a huge amount of this city hasn't really been altered since the 60s and 70s. I find it hugely alluring as a result. No wonder it's featured in more films than any other city. Another wonderful day.

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