An Irishwoman’s Diary: Yoga for kids, tiny portions, small cars – New York, my how you’ve changed!
It’s always interesting to revisit a place after a long absence. Returning to New York after 20 years was particularly instructive. Everything appeared to be smaller. Where were all the massive gas-guzzling cars? What, almost no Lincoln town cars or Dodge pick-ups with giant bull bars? Astonishingly, New Yorkers were driving around in normal-sized cars just like us. Toyotas, Hondas, neat little Nissans and an occasional pious Prius. All that was missing was a Honda 50 beetling up Lexington Avenue.
Gone too were the huge portions on enormous plates, at least in Manhattan. Now it was possible to eat a starter and a main course without having to lie down in a darkened room for an hour to recover. Even the people had shrunk. Twenty years ago Irish visitors to the US were struck by the whole new level of obesity on display. Not now.
Of course we have excelled in expanding our own girth sizes in the past two decades but it seems like most of our excess fat has been donated by our New York cousins. And it appears that they ran all the way back to America afterwards, judging by their fitness levels.
Another advertisement promoted “Healthy Halloween” parties. Having witnessed children immediately dismiss the lone satsuma when examining their Halloween haul, I’m not sure how warmly a healthy Halloween party would be greeted on this side of the ocean.
Back Stateside, the frantic queues in the Whole Foods store at 10pm on a Friday night were reminiscent of the queues at Supermacs in Eyre Square at 3am. And you couldn’t move in a restaurant without being hit in the eye by a menu offering kale and quinoa.
Nor could you move without bumping into a dog but you could happily spend a week in Manhattan without once dodging dog poo on the street. That’s because New Yorkers would run down the street after you and hurl abuse if you didn’t clean up after your dog, explained our New York friend. They take dog deposits very seriously. In her apartment block, if you wish to get a dog, you must first agree to have your dog’s turd DNA-tested. Then if a deposit is found on the grounds and it tests positive for your pooch’s poo, you face a hefty fine. Woof justice, you might say? I’m not rubbing your nose in it, but they’re definitely not barking up the wrong tree with that policy. It has also successfully eliminated the pooper scoopers at dawn stand-offs, where warring neighbours would blame doggy deposits on each other.
New Yorkers also have doggy daycare down to a fine art. A canine bus drives around collecting the dogs every morning and on they toddle with a little bag containing all their daily needs strapped to their backs.
What else has changed in the Big Apple? Well, it feels safer to take the subway from Brooklyn at 2am than to walk down Dublin’s O’Connell Street at teatime. And of course Brooklyn is now well-established as a hipster paradise. We went into a corner bar where the achingly-cool staff looked like they may have had small parts in Sex and the City. I casually threw my cardigan over a nearby banister and sensed a pair of eyes boring into my soul.
A bar worker came hurtling towards me with a panicked look in his eyes, nicely framed by his teeny, tiny hipster glasses. He carefully removed the offending cardigan and hung it discreetly under a ledge. “It was creating an aesthetic that was just weird, you know?” he explained. I’d like to see him trying that in Copper Face Jacks on a Saturday night.
But we didn’t need such help when we wandered into a diner for breakfast and spotted our very own home-grown celebrity.
There was Marty Morrissey, happily tucking into a fry-up like he was preparing for a hurling Minor B final in Semple Stadium. Sure, where would you get it but in New York?