Vantage point

Monday, November 06, 2006

Assorted Thoughts on the NYC trip

New York rocks. It absolutely rocks. It is already my most favourite city in the world where I eventually want to live. "Bombay of the World" is the term Satyen and I agreed describes it the best. There are so many parallels between NY and Bombay, it's freaky.

The most striking parallel is the almost hardwired desire to be on the move all the time. New Yorkers are always in a hurry, and don't like standing still, much like Bombayites. Wordsworth would not be happy in either of the two cities. This desire to stay on the move is amply evident in the way New Yorkers zigzag while walking on the pavements. They just automatically take the path of least resistance, i.e whichever crosing has a "walk" signal. They'll end up walking more distance, but save on time. It's almost like an optimization algorithm.

A bit about the food. Each meal was an orgasm for the tastebuds. First, the Ethiopian food at Meskerem. For the uninitiated, Ethiopian food is very Indianish. But it is also very different. There are a lot of curry-like thingies, sukhi-sabji-like thingies, gravylike thingies, and you have all those, laid out in a big plate, with a dosa-like thingy. I recommend the lega tib. There is also an appetizer called sambusa, which is quite like Samosa. I actually had sambusa twice. At the Meskerem in Upper West Side, it was like the samosas you get in cinema halls in India. At the Meskerem in the Village, it was like the samosas you get at any halwais. Found the difference very interesting.

Lunch next day was Chinese food and Japanese drink. A selection of dim sum with sake. Learning for the future - sake is very strong, and gets you high pretty pretty fast.

Next meal, again in the village, was kati rolls. For the first time I found myself really liking a desi restaurant in the US. The food was great of course. Nothing anodyne about it. The kati rolls were just as juicy, spicy and messy as back home. Even the decor of the restaurant reminded me of Bombay restaurants. Small seating area, small kitchen, measures necessitated due to exhorbitant real estate prices. A great touch was massive framed posters of hit hindi films. Later that night, after having downed several alcoholic drinks of several genres, and having hopped from bar to club to bar to comedy club, we went to the Kati Roll branch near Times Square.

Lunch the next day was at a small restaurant called Ariana, an Afghan place. As is mandated by Afghan law(!!), there was a picture of the yellow-eyed-Nat-Geo girl on the wall, and a picture of some pathans enjoying a leisurely relaxing game of buzakashi. Here too samosas were had, spelt samusa. Also had was a baingan(eggplant) appetizer whose name I now forget. And the Kabuli Palow with Lamb Kebab. Divine does not even begin to decribe the Afghan food. Washed down with the Taj Mahal beer which you don't get in India, and with good reason. It tastes like pigeon piss.

My last meal in New York, before I took the bus back to State College, was take-out from a place in Chinatown. The dish was modestly decribed as Chiken leg over rice. But gadzooks! What whicken! What rice! What spice! Enclosed in that white styrofoam box was the best Chinese food i have had all my life. I hope that the next time I go to Chinatown I am able to locate the exact place.

Anyway, enough about food. Did a little bit of the touristy thing. Walked around lower Manhattan, around Wall Street, marvelled at how Nariman-Point-like it seems. Laughed my ass off at tourists childishly posing with the Bull. Laughed particularly hard at a Chinese gent solemnly taking a photograph of the Bull's hindquarters. Walked to Ground Zero. Craned my neck to see the tall buildings around it, and then tried to imagine two towers which were more than twice as tall as even the tallest building around.

Walked around Central Park a whole lot. Central Park, especially early in the morning is like a dog show. Dogs of every breed, every colour, every size accompanied by their poop-collectors, could be seen everywhere. I could think of one particular dog-lover back home in India who would not leave Central Park for hours once she got there. She'd just admire every dog there. Even saw a little dachshund who was a spitting image of Hazel, not just in appearance but also in attitude.

Observed the marathon for a while. Lately it seems like whenever I go to a city, the folks there feel the need to run a marathon. Last weekend, there was a marathon in DC. This week NYC.

The subways were squalid in a very real way that I liked. Not spic-and-span high-maintenance like subway trains in some other trains. There was an air of earthiness around the NYC subway system, not unlike the calloused hands of a shop-floor worker.

Now on to the Village. The Village was the highlight of the trip. Won't go into the details, because as they say, what happens in the Village stays in the village (Yes, I know that's Vegas, but go along with it, will ya?). But anyone who goes to NYC without spending more than half the time in the Village better be at least under 18 years of age or over 88. No other excuse will do.

There's a lot of New-Yorking still to be done. Museums to be overturned, Empire State Buildings to be climbed, and more comedy clubs to be visited. If all goes well, I will return to the city next month.