Four Days in The City
You may be reading this about the same moment I land in Paris having spent much of the week in New York. You may also recall that I took an Aer Lingus flight with pre-clearance at customs in Dublin — the first time trying it, and the fare was a big bargain at under $600 round trip.
The flight over was one of the best air experiences I’ve ever had, thanks to Aer Lingus, in all of its green friendly Irish self. So I highly recommend it next time you’re headed to or particularly FROM Europe. Everything about it was fast, easy, simple, pleasant. Arriving at JFK Terminal 5, walking out the door without having to go through customs was more than delightful, saving about an hour in time getting to my daughter’s apartment in the West Village. The U.S. customs officers in Dublin were a lot friendlier than the usual N.Y. bunch — one of whom was a fan of House Hunters International and recognized me from the shows! Even the food was pretty good, even though every dish was accompanied by potatoes (over which the flight attendant joked, “Of course it comes with potatoes. We’re Irish, aren’t we?”)
Four days in The City were filled with the event for which I went (my daughter’s book launch and exhibition of “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen“), a gathering of family and friends who came in support, business meetings and just taking in a bit of the The City itself. The weather was crispy cold, but manageable and the atmosphere friendly. It was noticeable that the taxi drivers are decidedly more pleasant since the advent of car services such as Uber, Gett and Lyft.
The book launch and exhibition at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery in the Lower East Side (a.k.a. LES) was what anyone would call a smashing success, with hundreds of attendees and dozens of books sold, signed and kissed. Friends from France who share their time with New York were in abundance. Seeing their friendly faces was a highlight of the evening for me personally and I send out a special thank you to all of you who came! Old friends from college days in The City also made the special effort bringing back lots of memories of youth and good times. Erica’s father, aunts, uncle and cousin came from upstate and across the country.
Celebrity in residence was actor Dean Winters, a close buddy of Erica’s — well known for his roles in Oz, Rescue Me, 30 Rock, and Law & Order, as well as the character “Mayhem” in a series of Allstate Insurance commercials. Fashionable show-stopper was Chad Holobetz, a student of FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology, where both Erica and I attended college) Erica met on a Subway and photographed for his incomparable style, dressed in an animal print coat, a fishnet shirt, bright orange pants, white patent leather platform shoes to match his white patent leather bag and what glittered in hot pink in a design on his head and on his chest. The gallery was filled to the brim with such fascinating and beautiful people over which we marveled. New York is the perfect environment for such creativity on display.
The next day, my sister and I made a brief visit to Ground Zero to see the memorial and new buildings. While it’s an undeniably beautiful addition to the New York landscape, visiting the memorial is an emotionally moving experience. Frightening actually — as I look down into the enormous square fountains that go into a big black hole. It brings back all the bad memories of 9-11 and creates images of someone accidentally falling or jumping on purpose into the manufactured watershed that leads to nowhere. Once is enough for me, but if you have an opportunity, don’t miss it.
New York is where I pig-out on Asian cuisine, particularly Japanese, where the sushi beats anything we can get in Paris. It was “de rigueur” for just about every meal…but traditionally I like to have lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant in where else?, but on the lower level of Grand Central Station, of course! If you’ve never taken the time to have oysters or a seafood meal there, do. It’s a New York experience much like having coffee in Paris at the Café Flore. (As of today, I’m back on my diet after an eating extravaganza in The City.)
Every time I’m in New York, I wonder if I could be happy living in The City again after all my years in Paris. It takes two seconds to answer no, not anymore.
Sure, it’s comfortable to be speaking English, not French. Yes, I am definitely an American and culturally understand these full-of-life denizens of what the world knows as “The City,” but there is still a separation between them, the city and who I have become living in France 21 years.
I don’t appreciate walking past piles of trash bags that invite rats, disease and pollute the landscape. (Why can’t they pick up daily??) The high noise level everywhere you go, whether on the streets or in the restaurants, is offensive and ultimately contributes to hearing loss. (Why do the tables have to be so big, the walls and floors so hard, and why do people speak so loudly??) The lack of a human-scale environment is hard for me to take now after living with Parisian architecture that lines the streets with commercial establishments on the ground level. Why is there so little eye-candy in shop windows to
attract you while walking down the long streets and avenues except in certain spots…like the West Village, or Fifth Avenue? There are no benches anymore
on which you can rest your weary bones or even tie your shoe laces…except in the parks. (Sure, then the homeless have nowhere to sleep, but why are we being punished?)
To all you New Yorkers and lovers of New York, I do not mean to offend you or see only the negative aspects of what
Americans think is the greatest city in the world. And no doubt, my daughter, Erica Simone could never have achieved what she has in so short a time anywhere else in the world…but there is another way to live. Fortunately I discovered it years ago.
It’s called PARIS. And I’m happy to be home.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
(at Erica’s opening)
P.S. We will be filming another House Hunters International this coming April on the Riviera! I am seeking properties in which we can film that are approximately 30 to 40 square meters, studio or one bedroom, value of about 300,000€ to 350,000€, located between Nice and Menton, with a balcony and preferably a great view. If you have a property fitting this description and would welcome it being filmed for TV (about 3-4 hours with a small crew), please email me immediately at [email protected]