I am having trouble remembering where I am sleeping. When I am out in London or Glasgow I have to think quite carefully about where I am going home to, once or twice, on rather drunken nights, I have nearly asked the cabbie to take me to 92nd and Lexington in the hope that I was going home to my amazing air mattress in Manhattan, but sadly not. The joy of being a rolling stone, of home being wherever I lay my hat, is that I can get to see these cities in a new light…so here are my best bits.
I may or may not have mentioned this once or twice, but I met the Muppets. I’ll repeat that, I met the MUPPETS! It was the best day of my life (so far) and I was 5. They were appearing at the Selfridges Christmas Grotto and our friend had designed it and so I went to the opening night and drank my own body weight in Orange Juice – from a wine glass… And met the Muppets. Anyway, because of this Selfridges became a happy place for me. A perfect day would involve going there to look at all the beautiful things, hang out in the food hall and imagine what it would be like to actually do shopping in there, in the posh bits. Then I would wander through the streets to wander across Hungerford Bridge to the Southbank with its views of St Paul’s, The Gherkin, the NFT and now The Shard. Across the river and past the skateboard graveyard below. After seeing a film at the BFI, I would head back across the bridge to Gordon’s wine bar for wine and cheese and warm memories.
Having only visited or studied in New York I suspect I saw it in a somewhat different light from a native New Yorker. However, hanging out in the New York Public Library every morning – giggling while writing scenes of inappropriate sex scenes for such a grand setting and then meeting friends in Milady’s, a classic dive bar on Prince, gave me a pretty good starting point. All restaurants in New York are required to display their Department of Health rating on their front door. Most places display their ‘A’ grade with pride or if they received anything lower than an ‘A’ would display a Grade Pending sign in the hope that next time round they’d get an ‘A’ but not Milady’s – they displayed their ‘B’ with pride. Loaded potato skins, mozzarella sticks, Bud Lights, pool, you could easily waste more than a couple of hours in there. For the first time in my life, while living in New York, I took up, and actively enjoyed, jogging. That’s down to the Jackie Onassis reservoir which has been seen in numerous films but when you’re a local (as I was for half a second) it becomes YOUR running track and you start screaming at the tourists running round the wrong way – ‘Wrong way! Can’t you read the sign, it’s right there! I’m running here!’ Ok, maybe my aspirations to become a real New Yorker were nearly realised.
This city has surprised me no end since ‘moving’ here several weeks ago. Aside from the numerous independent coffee shops, the bars focused around music, the £5 cab rides, the funny money, the aggressive friendliness and many more similarities with New York there are other reasons I am growing to love this city. The food here, and the restaurants I have been taken to have been phenomenal. Café Gandolfi is a Glasgow institution serving up Arbroath Smokies and Haggis, neeps and tatties as well as courgette flowers and smoked venison. Despite the fact it has been going since 1979, neither the food nor the décor feel tired and the enthusiastic staff certainly aren’t. Due to the proliferation of birthdays in September (New Year’s shag anyone?) I have spent a large portion of my lunch breaks shopping for presents. Luckily my office is near the wonderful Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where the have a pipe organist who plays every lunchtime (his standard is New York, New York ironically) and where they also house an amazing collection of art. When I was about 11 my mum took me there and she couldn’t pull me away from one painting in particular. It was Salvador Dali’s Christ and I was mesmerised by it – the only way she could get me to leave was by buying me a print which I still have. I haven’t been back to see this glorious painting yet (am worried I may not return to work and I am terribly busy) but just knowing it is there fills me with faith in the beauty of full circle, of being taken places for a reason, of life coming through for us. In a purely atheistic way of course.