The M train is the train that leaves from 100 meters down Broadway from our apartment. It’s one that runs on a platform above the street and goes to Manhattan across the Williamsburg Bridge before entering the tunnels and delivering us unto Downtown Manhattan in about 3 minutes. Today was our orientation.
We studied hard and decided not to try and buy a Metrocard at a station machine after reading a website (obviously designed to scare the crap out of tourists with an entire section devoted to how to avoid speaking to anyone on the subway with handy diagrams showing how you might rub your throat to indicate pain that would be best treated by remaining silent) and decided to make for a distant pharmacy, some 6 blocks north, where a card might be purchased without incurring the documented wrath of busy commuters. That worked – $30 each for a 7 day pass and a quick trip through a particularly latin-ish area. Now that’s an interesting thing – New York and language. We none of us were expecting a city so heavily invested in Spanish. Walk anywhere and you can hear a dozen different languages being spoken, but by far the most common is Spanish, and that’s right across the City, to the extent that we can make such an assertion after only 24 hours.
New cards slipped from their plastic packaging, we climbed four flights of stairs to the Marcy Ave/Broadway station down from our building – it’s on one of those elevated platforms you see cars chasing under in movies – covers a large section of our street. We hopped the M train vigorously rubbing our pretend sore throats to discourage any kind of vocal contact until we were deposited at Broadway-Lafayette where we set off in the Downtown direction instead of the Uptown one. This was fortuitous as this was the correct direction for Dean and Deluca, a gobsmackingly amazing cornucopia of anything yummy. Huge and brimming with everything from saucepans to $4800/lb white truffles; from gorgeous bread to a sizable proportion of all the cheese in France, and chocolate. There was coffee too, of the correct expresso variety and way cool staff to serve it.
We trooped on past never-ending rows of sneaker stores until the iPhone told us we were heading down not up and we headed for the nearest station to get ourselves back to TImes Square to continue our ‘How to work New York’ orientation. [insert about a half hour’s gratuitous tourist behaviour, complete with selfies and camera waving and pointing and spinning round and throwing our hats into the air Mary Tyler-Moore style]. All that malarkey made us hungry and after being sidetracked by the M&M Museum of Merchandising Opportunity, we slipped into Cafe Bene – yes a chain, but a very fine one – for a roll and a coffee.
Our post-prandial perambulating led to Central Park and to the classy Time-Warner Centre and the Stone Rose Lounge for a beer and a glass of wine – all part of the orientation tour and where we practiced our tipping technique. No one chased us out of the room screaming, “you forgot the tip”, or “whadya mean by that scumbags”, so I’m calling it a success. You know that “I’ve been walking for hours so I’ll stop for a beer and now it’s time to get up again and my feet are screaming” feeling? Pip and I had that. It was time to hobble homewards with no further distraction other than a bunch of extremely shiny things in the foyers of the hotels and apartments along Central Park South, and of course, a glimpse of the centre of the Apple universe in the form of the 5th Avenue Apple Store’s glass edifice. We had to descend in the circular glass lift to the nerdy mosh pit and the dreadnought of Genius Bars for at least long enough to check in and be greeted by by overenthusiastic blue shirted youths.
Only a few blocks further on – sidetracked by God at St Patrick’s Cathedral and sore feet at a drugstore larger than Coles – till Bryant Park and the subway, where a handy M train arove on queue to deliver us back unto Brooklyn (sorry, throat to sore to talk…) and home. I should also say that I find the number of urban Jewish young gents adorned with Homburgs, long black coats and white shirts, and sporting dashing forelocks quite intriguing – we don’t get that back home (and I mean by that that there are a lot).