This morning, having discovered that my epilator doesn’t travel well, I wound up at the concierge’s desk enquiring after the complimentary razors mentioned in their brochure. Of course I may have a razor, and would I like anything else?
“Oh, yes, actually, do you know of anywhere around here that has a swimming pool?” I ask. This is a mistake. “In Manhattan?” Says the member of staff to whom I didn’t address the question, as though I have announced my intention to locate a sheep abuse brothel in the Vatican. “Oh, anywhere easily accessible will do.” This requires more information. Do I mean a public pool? Do I expect not to pay for the use of said pool? I become increasingly aware that I’m being eccentric and foreign and should probably stop right away and give up any notions of exercise.
But seriously, where do Manhattanites swim? Surely they don’t simply refrain? There must, surely there must, be a pool, I think to myself as I scratch away at my legs with a razor so blunt most prisons would be happy to hand it out to their inmates, leaving me with as many incisions as I previously had hairs. A quick consultation with my dear friend Google sets me straight: in New York, public pools ARE free. And outdoor. And only open from 11am-7pm. Apparently the closest thing to what I have in mind is the YMCA. To be investigated tomorrow, I suppose.
Walking around this city is a joy, and I find myself extremely impressed with the local habit of having a pedestrian crossing on every street corner. I feel far safer crossing the roads than in London, which is odd, given the size of the roads in question and the quantity of traffic hurtling along them.
The four-minute walk to my office takes in the HQ of The New Yorker and no fewer than three branches of Dunkin Donuts. Since I am the only person on 8th Avenue without a litre of sweetened liquid in my dominant hand, I duck into one and order an iced coffee. “How sweet?” “Not sweet, please.” “Sweet?” “No, no sugar at all.” While I wait, I learn that the donuts on sale contain between 200 and 550 calories each. I order a coffee roll, which turns out not to be a roll at all but a snail-like donut drenched in icing, and wonder whether I have hit the calorie jackpot.
My office is in an impressive and old-for-the-location building governed over by a security guy who greets women with “Hello” and men with “Hey, brother!” The colleague who greets me shows me the coffee, the pretzels, the flavoured sugar syrup masquerading as hot chocolate and asks if I have any questions. “Do you…have any tea?” Oh, yes, we have tea. They get a large box in specially to accommodate the voracious appetite of London colleagues. I fall upon the little bags of sacred leaf and grab a cup, only to realise that there is no kettle and I will have to settle for that off-the-boil water that is considered acceptable in non-tea-drinking nations. I go back to my desk and consider buying the New York office a kettle as a gift.
The official agenda for our visit has yet to kick in, so I have lunchtime to myself. I have an exploratory wander in search of razors, goggles and lunch. KMart yields the former, swimwear and related accessories are notably absent from all the sports shops I pass, and for lunch I decide upon a 100 year-old diner offering burgers and sandwiches.
I order a Reuben, and because no-one can be hungry while they await their food, I am presented with two gherkins the size of the average British penis,
a bowl of coleslaw and a bowl of Russian dressing to keep me going before my food arrives. I have barely swallowed a mouthful of the coleslaw before my sandwich arrives. It is the size of my face, dwarfing the steak knife I am given to attack it with. I make a valiant effort, manage half, and take the rest back to the office with a vague hope that I will be hungry enough to finish it for dinner.
My Italian colleague, who is also in the office today, suggests we get together in the evening to visit the Empire State, but eventually changes her mind and we end up walking to Times Square for some obligatory photography before tiring of all the tourists and wandering the city looking for something delicious to eat.
At Bryant Park there is an outdoor cinema festival accompanied by a mini food festival with stalls from names like Daniel Boulud. Much of the best bites are sold out, but I secure some Thai chicken wings from a street vendor in Bryant Park and we walk back towards Madison Square Garden to get some Korean bibimbap and a mountain of kimchee, all delicious. I return to the hotel and stuff my unwanted half-Reuben into the bin.