How to Meet People in New York

Here it is – the key you’ve been waiting for: how to meet people in New York. The city has a reputation for being a huge, forbidding, isolating place, packed with people who, for the most part, seem to want nothing to do with each other. But we know that’s not true. People get lonely. They buy dogs. Men even buy dogs to attract women’s attention in Central Park. This is well known. In my (limited) experience, the people of New York are just like people everywhere else and maybe more so.

Of course, you can often succeed in starting conversations by having a cute animal on a leash. I discovered yesterday that you can also succeed without buying an animal or acting like one. I went for a walk wearing this:

 

I was one of the most popular people in New York City. Here’s how it went down.

I walked from my apartment building near West 59th Street and 9th Avenue to Columbus Circle, across the Circle and into Central Park. It was a glorious spring day with plenty of sun, a light breeze and temperatures in the mid-70s. Doesn’t get much better than that here. I wandered down toward the ball fields, hoping to catch a softball game in progress. I arrived, however, just as the “senior” pitcher was recording his 4th consecutive walk and losing the game. He came off the diamond furious, slamming his glove and screaming about the umpire cheating him on “perfect pitches!” His teammates tried to calm him down as the observers, myself among them, inched away from this guy who was taking a pickup softball game a bit too seriously.

At that moment a youngish man, one of a pair, spoke to me, smiling: “Ha, you wore the wrong shirt.”

“What?” I replied, also smiling. “Why is it the wrong shirt?”

“It should say “I love New York,” laughing. I laughed back and said I loved both Hawai’i and New York. We moved on.

Upon leaving the park back at Columbus Circle, I ventured into the basement of the Time Warner business complex to see if the Whole Foods located there had any smoked salmon for sale. While studying the options in the smoked salmon display, a voice penetrated my awareness: “Youngish fella, I agree which you.”

“What?” I am starting to repeat myself. It took me a second to translate “youngish fella” as related to me. I am looking into the face of a mid-30’s man who is ripping open a box of some kind of food product and obviously works for Whole Foods. “I agree which you. That place is sure better than here.”

Now I understood and smile, mumbling something about how I too agree with him. I departed empty-handed.

I walked back on West 58th toward my apartment and decide to continue on to 10th Avenue; it’s so nice out and the extra steps will do me good. As I approached the corner at 10th, I see an older (even than me) man walking toward me somewhat unsteadily, due to health, I think, and very slowly, carrying some plastic bags. His hair is snow white and bushes out chaotically, matched by a large and equally white beard. As the distance between us narrows, he starts pointing at me. I can’t exactly understand what he’s saying but it sounds like “you, with the red thing on your chest….” I elected not to engage, respond with a nod, a smile and a thumbs-up. As I rounded the corner, he was still hailing me. I ignored him and moved on.

Turning right on West 59th to return to my building, I passed the emergency entrances to Mt. Sinai West Hospital and the bays into which the ambulances deliver their charges at all hours of the day and night. A man in uniform emerged from one of the bays as I approached. He was moving quickly but saw me and spoke, “I love it too.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s great.” I kept moving and chose not to see where he was going.

So, I returned to home ground. The roundtrip took less than two hours, including time sitting on benches in the Park, and four people spoke to me about my shirt. It’s clear the shirt was the key because today I replicated most of that walk, wearing a plain heather colored tee shirt and not a single person spoke to me. What’s that old saying: the clothes make the man? What is not so well known is that Mark Twain said that, followed by “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” I suspect, however, that Twain never made it to the Big Apple. Naked people likely have a big influence here.

There’s a City Out There

The photo immediately above is out my office window. If conditions were normal, I would be able to see the Time Warner towers shown, at night, in the header photo.

The Weather Channel forecast for New York City for today looks like this (I am not making this up):

Now                 45

11 am               57 & Rain until 2:00

2 pm                Wind Advisory in effect until tomorrow

Sustained winds 20-25 mph; gusts to 50 (50 mph!)

6 pm                Full sun

Tomorrow      Full sun

Friday              60 & rain

Saturday         40 & SNOW (yes, 40 & snow at same time)

Sunday             44 Party sunny (partly cloudy if you prefer)

Monday           43 & cloudy

Tuesday           46 & rain

Wednesday     49 & partly cloudy/sunny

Thursday         53 & partly cloudy/sunny — if you believe in miracles

Can this be normal? It’s April 4. Can humans survive in such conditions? Apparently, they do.

Now, in fairness, these bizarro weather patterns are not unlike those in Northern Virginia from which we moved a few months ago. My former regular tennis partner and I always used to say that spring officially began on April 1 and we usually played that day each year. But it was no uncommon to see snow during the match. Conversely, we often were able to play on New Year’s Day because the temperatures were so warm. Ah, those were the days! And the current Weather Channel forecast for Alexandria over the next week shows two high wind days, TWO SNOW DAYS and daytime highs ranging from 67 to 42. How is this possible?

Anyway, the fog is beginning to clear and the Time Warner towers appear through the gloom like two monuments left by aliens. If you believe in that sort of thing. If you do, it’s probably ok in light of some of the truly weird stuff people believe is true these days. But I won’t go there. This blog is not political.

I am beginning to believe that the “snowbirds,” who live in the deep south during the winter and move north during the summer, are on to something. The expense and logistics of that are, however, too intimidating for someone who hates to move. I am exhausted just thinking about it. So, I won’t.

Deli Experiences in New York City

If you have been to New Orleans, you may have experienced Mother’s. It is an institution and a scene, but one that is easily grasped. You enter at what appears to be the back door. This is a photo of the front, or exit, door.

You get in line, if indeed you have not already been in line that often extends outside at busy times (i.e., whenever it’s time to eat, which in New Orleans is any time at all, a reality Mother’s accommodates by serving breakfast all day). Upon entering the door, you get a menu and start reading fast in an attempt to grasp the vast array of offerings.

You may be struck right away by the presence of Debris on the menu. Debris is defined by the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary as “broken or torn pieces left from the destruction of something larger,” giving as an example of use in a sentence: “After the tornado, debris from damaged trees and houses littered the town.”

That doesn’t sound too appetizing and clearly it must mean something else. Cambridge Press came close, but no cigar, probably because they’ve not been to New Orleans.

Anyway, Mother’s defines Debris on the menu, along with Black Ham that you simply have to try to appreciate:

Debris \ˈdā-ˈbrē\ n. The roast beef that falls into the au jus gravy in the pan while roasting in the oven. A Mother’s original. Black Ham \ˈblak ˈham\ n. The seasoned, caramelized crust sliced from the World’s Best Baked Ham. *Available in limited quantity, usually at breakfast.

You move through the line in a semi-orderly manner and when asked by the ladies behind the counter, you give your order. You pay up front, sit down and your order is delivered to your table.

But I digress. This post is not about New Orleans.

No, this is about Katz’s Delicatessen, established in 1888. Yes, that’s 1888. Katz’s sits at 205 E. Houston Street. By now most of you know that as Howston, not, never, absolutely not Hewston. Hewston is in Texas. Houston is in New York City. SoHo means “south of Houston,” which in Texas would mean the Gulf of Mexico or … oh fuhgeddaboudit.

So, we were talking about Katz’s. The place where the famous orgasm scene with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan was filmed.

We went for Sunday lunch. The line was out the door until suddenly everyone was admitted at once. Inside, bedlam. A “scene,” if you will. How to explain. Even pictures do not convey the full impact.

Immediately upon entering you are handed a ticket with a loud verbal warning that if you lose the ticket before checking out at the end of your meal, you will pay $50 per ticket. “DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET!!” OK, I got it. Lose the ticket and you will be financially ruined when you check out. Maybe, I think, they won’t even let you leave if your credit’s bad. At your table, halfway back in the large room, over the roar of the crowd, you can still hear the warning up front to entering customers: “DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET!! YOU MUST HAVE YOUR TICKET WHEN YOU LEAVE!! DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET!!”

The concept of this place is that you order food you want at individual stations lined up along the right wall as you look in.

If possible, you do not want to sit near the food stations.

The man at the table next to ours had a wife and three kids, each of whom wanted different foods. He came and went perhaps six times, procuring food at different serving stations. To his wife, he finally said “This is the most inefficient set up I have ever seen and I can assure you I will never see it again.” He was, however, still smiling.

I, however, who abhor lines, was not smiling.

At the end of meal, which was OK except that the soup was lukewarm by the time we got to eat it, we went to the front, turned in our tickets, which I DID NOT LOSE!!, and paid. Total for two bowls of soup, a platter that we wanted with corned beef but which in the chaos ended up being brisket, and two soft drinks came to $66.25! If you like a scene, this place is for you.

The next weekend we participated in the March for Our Lives. During a break from standing in an unmoving crowd of thousands, we sought refuge at Fine & Schapiro on West 72nd Street. F & S only dates back to 1927, a relative newcomer in the New York Jewish food scene.

It’s a really small place, shaped like a train car with small booths on each side and a few tables down the middle. The menu is extensive. The concept is like a regular restaurant. You sit, someone takes your order, you eat, you pay at the front and leave. No yelling.

Chastened by our experience at Katz’s, we shared a corned beef sandwich and a single, very large potato pancake with apple sauce. BUT the pickles and a large bowl of tangy coleslaw were on the house. All in all, a very filling meal. With two soft drinks, the bill came to $28.00..

F & S was also quiet. We could talk without shouting. I like that. I said I LIKE THAT!

Anyway, that’s the story. There is a clear choice to be made here, though, of course, there are many other such places in The City. Probably none like Katz’s. A real New York institution. The number of delicatessens and just plain “delis” is declining, however. More about that in a future post.

 

 

Rain, Wind and Fire in the Mountains of New York City

Winter continues its grip on New York City. Every break in the forecast is promptly followed by a reversal, including snow and, usually, wind. The thing about the wind in The City is that it ebbs and flows in bizarre patterns that are “controlled” by the unique “geography” of metropolis. The root of the problem is, I believe, that, like mountains, the skyscrapers of New York City “make their own weather.” Note: if you don’t believe this, visit the top of Haleakala on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Take a coat. Take two coats.

What happens is that the concrete canyons created by the rows of very tall buildings have the same effect on small amounts of normal wind as a small hose does on water from a faucet. In order to maintain the flow rate through a constriction, the speed must increase. As a younger person doing yard work, you used this principle by pressing your thumb partially over the hose end when watering the lawn. This is Bernoulli’s Equation and the Venturi Effect for those who survived high school physics and remember doing so.

Anyway, when the wind, normally pushed by the prevailing westerlies, hits New York City’s rows of skyscrapers, it has only two means of escape. One is vertical and the other is to move faster in the direction(s) the gaps between and among buildings allow. In the process the wind faces a narrowing passage, which results in higher wind speeds. There are other forces at work, of course, including friction, but that is far too technical for the point I am struggling to make.

Suffice to say, that you can be walking along in relatively still air, maybe even enjoying the lingering 40-degree day if the sun is showing, turn a corner and WHAM! Your eyelids are shoved back and your hair, if you have any, is rearranged. See the header photo at the top of this post. And this:

The effect is similar to walking into a freezer with a large exhaust fan blowing in your face. The effect may last for blocks.

I have not discovered whether New Yorkers have a name for this wind. At first, I thought of Mariah, inspired by that great song from Paint Your Wagon, but Mariah (misspelled everywhere as Maria) just seems so … not New York. My personal favorite is the one syllable word starting with ‘F’ that this blog is too polite to use. But, if asked, I am sure New Yorkers would tell you, as I am now doing, “do not walk with coffee with no top on the cup.” Wind has the same wave-creating effect on an open coffee cup as it does on the surface of a lake or on the ocean. Turn the corner into the wind without a lid and get a coffee bath. Who knew wind could be so troublesome?

Of course, when winter’s icy grip is finally dispatched by spring and then summer humidity arrives, the wind will be a welcome guest again. I am waiting. Any day now. Really.