Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Welcome to New York - do's, don'ts and dangers

“Ah, the summer time has come
And the streets are thick with tourists…”

So what’s a regular New Yorker to do? Well, accentuate the positive: after all, out-of-towners keep the cash flowing; besides, most of us were once blow-ins too.

With that hippy-dippy sentiment safely put to bed, herewith a couple of practical do’s and don’ts for visitors that will lower the blood pressure of an already over-stressed city.

First and foremost - don’t walk two abreast down narrow city sidewalks, especially if you like to shuffle along at the pace of an exhausted rhinoceros. New Yorkers are all a day late, a dollar short and will be less than complimentary to you and the horse you rode in on if they can’t get past.

Despite our gruff exteriors, however, we’re romantic to a fault. That being said we have zero tolerance for couples – of any sex or preference – holding hands while dawdling along our busy thoroughfares.

We have no problem whatsoever with them hastening into darkened doorways and committing all manner of unspeakable acts from Fifty Shades of Grey. We might even applaud discreetly – for, at least, they’ll be keeping the sidewalks clear.

Ever wonder why New Yorkers charge at you loudly exclaiming, “Excuse me?” It’s because you’re daydreaming on a corner and blocking the bloody way while the pedestrian light is blinking “don’t walk” - which to any self-respecting New Yorker means, “run like hell!”

And, puh-leeze, don’t wear earphones in this city! Many New Yorkers do, you counter. That’s their problem, pal, and a whack on the head will eventually wise them up. It may not be the Fort Apache 70’s but this is still a tough town.

And besides, do you think Walt Whitman, Stephen Foster, Miles Davis or Bob Dylan wore headphones? No way, Jose, that’s because they gleaned their inspiration from the rhythm and beats of this insomniac city, not some wimpy personalized soundtrack that your Great-Aunt Gerty wouldn’t be caught dead listening to.

Open up to the glory of the city; its white noise will rip your staid perceptions to shreds and give your jaded synapses a first class tuning-up. Bet your bottom dollar you’ll see your old hometown in a new light when - or rather if - you ever decide to go home.

Not much of a museum or gallery attendee but you want it on public record that you have more than a passing acquaintance with these joints? Try the Frick Collection at 1 East 70th Street, just off Central Park. There you’ll find Rembrandts, Renoirs, Turners and a couple of Vermeers that will knock your socks off, all in the every serene setting of Henry Clay Frick’s graceful mansion.

The Museum of Natural History is anything but soothing, but it’s an essential place to drag unpleasant adolescents, if only to wear them out. Take my word for it, an afternoon spent tramping these blistering halls and they’ll run for the comfort of their video games, leaving you free to head off for a couple of well earned libations.

Remember, Manhattan is only one fifth of New York City. Check out the other four boroughs and find out what really makes this city tick. Catch the Ikea Ferry to Red Hook and make a beeline for Rocky Sullivan’s. You’ll meet the real Brooklyn there - not the recently arrived Willyburg poseurs. Ask for George - tell him I sent you.

Hop the A train to the Republic of Rockaway. The peninsula is fighting its way back, as it always does, and you can’t beat that Queens ocean breeze.

Take the B, D or 4 trains to Bedford Park and stroll down the Boulevard to the Bronx Botanical Gardens; it’s a wonderland only awaiting discovery.

And whatever you do, board the Staten Island Ferry. You’ll see the greatest city in the world as your forefathers first did – from the harbor – and guess what, it’s free.

One last piece of advice, always look like you know where you’re going, even when you don’t; that’s one sure way of staying safe – and keeping the sidewalks open for the rest of us.

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