It’s goodbye Columbus tomorrow – the New York part, anyway. We fly to Orlando where I will attempt to crank up the internet again. Today we went downtown to make two last assaults on our digestive systems and a took a settling tour in between.
Russ & Daughters provided breakfast, at a cafe known for variations on herring, salmon and bagels. But foist da pickles. I’m told they are achieved with salt rather than vinegar and seem to find their way into every dish served in New York. After the pickle prelude came the restaurant’s signature herring plate in which five different versions of this fish temp you to keep going even after you’re herringed up to pussy’s bow. I kept going past pussy’s bow and, like the caviar experience previously, won’t be able to look a herring in the eye for some time to come. Russ and his lovely daughters, who may have been working there but did not identify themselves, then finished me off with my first taste of halva ice-cream.
We needed to escape herrings and come down to earth, achieved with a tour of the nearby tenement district which became the first place immigrants went when they landed in New York in the late 1880s and early 1900s. These five storey tenement buildings would each accommodate 20 or more families living in three room apartments. The families often had more than four kids. After 1905, the landlord had to provide inside toilets, one toilet per every two families. Washing was with water brought in from a communal supply at the rear of the building. The tour took us into a couple of the apartments as they had been more than 100 years ago – along with the history of the people who had lived there. The area became so popular that at one stage it was estimated to be the most densely populated place in the world. This was also the beginning of the garment industry in New York. Not only did families live in these tiny spaces, they ran sewing factories in them as well. We emerged from the tenement tour grateful for our cushy way of life.
Katz’s deli is famous in New York for pastrami. Although it began as a deli it is now a sizeable restaurant and, early Sunday evening, crowded with diners. You more or less have to order pastrami on rye if you want to boast that you’ve been there. We both did, and were hit will the full force of the famous gross serving sizes of New York. A quarter size serving each would have been plenty but pussy’s bow was again violated when we battled to the halfway mark. Like the caviar and herring episodes, I will probably not order pastrami again for some time – delicious as it was from the kitchen of Mr Katz.
On our way into the deli/restaurant we encountered a tall black man holding forth about being hungry and Michelle decided to test him on the way out with half our pastrami which we’d had doggy-bagged. We paid, went outside ready to hand it over but the man had gone. I lugged the food down into the subway, along with me on a noisy train trip and back up to street level again on 57th Street. Michelle spied a homeless man sitting against a rubbish tin and decided he needed to be fed with pastrami. I thought he’d tell us to piss off when we offered the bag, but he took it gratefully and we left him munching into Katz’s special.
Leaving New York has left me with a few random impressions along with the more obvious tourist must-sees. This city is crazy about metal plates that give access to an underground network of drains, sewers, steam making devices and maybe a whole community of white alligators. The pavements are alive with these steel plates, many of them open mesh, affording a vies into New York’s digestive system. The roads all have them too and the cars clank and boom over them as they pass, honking at anything and everything, while their lane changing looks like a motorists’ Morris dance.
Still on the steel theme, all the concrete curbs in New York are finished with a protective steel cap so that if you grind against them with your low profile tires, your rims will be virtually irreparable.
The cars are interesting too. There are plenty of Toyotas which go by different model names to those used in Australia. Nissan (pronounced ‘Neesarnn’) is popular. Of American cars, Cadillacs are everywhere, their design looking as though a kid had been let loose on a pound of butter with a sharp knife. Lincoln SUVs are massive, always come in black and look like hearses – that there are lots of those too. The city traffic cops get around in tiny Smart cars.
Fashion? A few people look elegant and quite stunning but most keep to casual, relatively shapeless dark clothing. Displayed in Bergdorf Goodman’s window was the worst dress I’ve ever seen. It was supposed to celebrate spring, but to me it looked as though the wearer had been mauled by the Blue Liquid Man who has a fetish for breasts.