They say that you can get anything 24/7 in New York City, and, what’s more, have most of it all delivered to your door.
It’s just not true. You can’t, for example, buy a decent bottle of wine (either in store or by delivery) after 10pm, when most of the liquor stores close and you have to be dependent on a supermarket’s Californian cooking wine (my wine consumption has inevitably dropped as a result. To every cloud and all that).
You can’t get the cable and phone service Verizon to answer the phone. Ever. And you certainly can’t get cleaners to swop their eco-friendly products that leave a tide of dirt on everything, for your politically incorrect chemicals that leave everything sparkling.
In my area of West Hollywood that I recently left, there is a wine store and delicatessen where you can buy a really great bottle of wine up until 2am; you can even drink it on the premises for a corkage fee. In LA though, drinks are whipped off every table on the dot of 2am because of the licensing laws, and, being a night person, the 4am closing hours of NYC suit me better, even if I have to be content with water as an alternative to ghastly Californian Pinot Grigio (NYC, bars, like those in LA, are incapable of grasping that there are wines other than this one; in most places, they can barely get their heads around white and red).
In Paris, where I lived for six years, you really can get decent wine 24/7, and if the idea of a champagne breakfast suddenly strikes, you are spoilt for choice even before the birds start chirping.
The drinking culture is the first thing one notices in looking for the differences between the two cities. I don’t drink cocktails, having once been the victim of a Vodka Martini in Nick’s Bar in LA’s Beverly Hills. Almost unconscious on the street after just one, I returned to the bar the next day, insisting that my drink had been spiked and demanding to know what proportion of Martini there was to vodka. They looked at me, incredulous, explaining that I had consumed pure vodka, with “a touch of Martini around the rim of the glass”. It must have been the equivalent of about 12 UK measures. Never again. Contrary to what people may think, I don’t drink to get drunk; that’s just an unfortunate by-product.
Cocktails, however, seem to be the drink of choice among most people in the more upmarket bars in both cities. In LA, the “mixologist” is now king of cocktails, and NYC is trying to match this by introducing a whole new concept I discovered this week – the “bar chef”. In Cardiff, where I am from, we still have barmaids, and a very good job they do, too.
I already have my favourite hangouts in NYC, just as I did in LA. They say that no matter where you go in the world, you quickly find your triangle: the place where you are staying and two other points of reference. I live on 45th St and 10th Avenue; my first point of reference is 43rd and 10th; the other, 46th and 7th – at a push 49th and 9th (ok, so it’s a triangle with a bit on the side). The generic name is Hell’s Kitchen and suits my personality down to the ground, even if I tend to be The Only Straight in the Village.
I’ve been to Brooklyn once, and I might as well have gone to Canada for all the effort it took me to get back to Midtown on a Sunday. I joined the Guggenheim but have yet to go there. I look at Google maps, print out the directions, but each time I get as far as Bed, Bath and Beyond at Columbus Circle on 59th, I can’t resist going in and buying $300 worth of stuff I don’t need because I have my 20% Off voucher on me.
Maybe all this will change when I sell my UK house and feel more settled. I am desperate to go to Coney Island because I love rides; I want to do more walking and gazing at what, to me, are exquisite buildings that, in their varying shapes and sizes, turn the very sky into a changing architectural sculpture of its own on a daily basis. I want to see more shows, listen to jazz.
There is, undoubtedly, a lot more to do here, and everything is a great deal more accessible than it is in LA where, if you don’t have a car, the no 4 bus that takes an hour from West Hollywood to Santa Monica, soon loses its charm.
On September 4th, my brilliant Welsh artist friend, Harry Holland, has an exhibition here; I am going to take Argentinian tango lessons; I am considering a photography course to make use of that smart Nikon D300 I bought when I thought I was going to be the next Robert Doisneau – and would have been, had the iPhone not improved its camera and made me think “Sod that Nikon palaver for a bunch of soldiers”.
I miss my LA friends but am making new ones; I don’t miss the LA weather yet, as NYC has been so much better than the rare humidity that hit LA when I was last there. I miss the show-business bollocks of Hollywood, especially yesterday, when I hadn’t been able to make it to LA for the Emmys.
Both cities are great places and I love the bi-coastal existence. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I will be able to afford it once more. Because, to be honest, winter in NYC does not beckon.
Not unless someone can deliver mulled wine to my door, 24/7.