Here I am into double figures already and we’ve only been travelling for less than two weeks. But New York speeds everything up. People walk fast, talk at chipmunk speed and pass money around as though it’s too hot to hold. When we stop in Orlando I hope things will slow down a bit. We are partly to blame, of course. We’re trying to fit it all in before the world blows up.
We broke our fast yesterday at downtown Sadelle’s, a place with a reputation for fish and then more fish. This was also our first attempt at using Uber. We called one but gave the wrong address. While we were trying to set that right we accidentally called another one but he was getting lost when three empty taxis came past and we decided to take one of those. As we reached for the door handle we felt guilty about the poor Uber men and let it go. The closest Uber man, or maybe the one we may have cancelled, but maybe not, took a wrong turn and did a huge loop of the city before finally picking us up. Uno Uber was not encouraging, but we’ll get better at it.
Sadelle’s was busy dealing with a Saturday morning rush of people desperate for fish. Good thing we booked. A well-rehearsed waited brought a menu which could have sent us bankrupt if we’d chosen the most expensive caviar and most expensive Vodka. They ran into thousands of dollars. However, we settled for a manageably priced but substantial serving of trout caviar with various bases on which to spread it. We’d never eaten caviar up to pussy’s bow before, but we did this time. Although it was delicious I will not look at caviar for at least another year.
If you are a fan of Law & Order SVU you would know the famous courthouse building where the forces for good are lampooned by the press and others for being stupid. I wanted to stand on those grand steps and pretend myself into an episode. In the flesh, or I should say in the masonry, the place is not all that grand. It is smaller than it should be, the steps are chipped and stained and the main doorway is a bit shabby. I came away a little disappointed that this shrine of courtrooms and crooks was not pristine.
Macy’s department store came next, with a walking tour inside and out. It was most absorbing, assisted by an excellent tour guide who could breathe in while talking so as not to disturb her machine-gun delivery. It gave me enough material to write my regular Ragtrader column. Here are some excerpts:
“It is a cold, wet Saturday afternoon in April in New York city, not the sort day that would bring people into town shopping. Yet inside Macy’s department store it is crazy-busy. Money is flying on every floor. But this is not because of a clearance promotion, nor is it an especially hectic day. Macy’s, with 2.2 million square feet of floor space on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, is the biggest department store in the US and the second biggest in the world, and on this un-special day, it is vacuuming in customers at a rate that Myer or David Jones would kill for.
“Granted, there are eight million customers within easy visiting distance of Macy’s as against our trickle, but there is more to it than that. Macy’s is making a fight of it – and winning. It is, and always has been, part of the social fabric outside its doors. For instance, it runs an annual Thanksgiving Day parade that closes off New York Streets and attracts four million people to line the route, and hundreds of millions more who find it compulsive viewing on television. Then there is the annual spring flower show that this year saw half a million flowers brought into the store, giving its customers blooms to see from all over the world in a specular two-week exhibition that attracted 25 million visitors.
“Clearly Macy’s most cherished brand is Louis Vuitton – a remarkable company to say the least. It controls a massive number of leading brands in addition to its own, including Celine, Mark Jacobs, Kenzo, Givenchy, Verve Clicquot, Nicholas Kirkwood, Fresh Cosmetics, Guerlain, Tag Heuer, Bulgari and Christian Dior perfume. The list goes on and on, topping out at about 70. Between them, they turn over more than US$38 billion a year. The Louis Vuitton brand alone is valued at US$26 billion. Current profit for the group is more than US$7 billion.
“But here’s a real shocker. Ninety-nine percent of goods sold throughout the world under the Louis Vuitton label are counterfeit. The genuine articles are sold only in its own stores or concessions such as those in Macy’s. Even then, the company serial numbers every item so that it can be proved genuine. Another of its policies is to destroy all raw materials in all of its factories at the end of each day so that illegal overruns are prevented.”
Down the street from Macy’s is a marvellous fabric shop called Mood. Many people go there to buy a few exotic yards and the pat the famous dog who goes by the name of Swatch. Michelle had the idea that I should buy some fabrics to be made into shirts in Hong Kong on the way home. I did not intend to do this, but my love of textiles got hold of me and I emerged with five outrageous patterns that will make me a marked man in Sydney.
Finally, we braved Grand Central Station, a huge art deco cavern that seems too indulgent for a railway station. Much of what goes on there is not railway business. Several wedding parties were posing up for photos and lots of other people, like us, simply stood and stared – without any thought of transportation. The place is also crammed with shops, along with the famous old oyster bar where they sell old oysters that John West rejected. What is most odd about Grand Central Station is its dull lighting, giving the impression of continual dusk, no matter what time of the day it is.