Every day life, food & strangeness in a big city

A Tale of Two Bakeries: Lady M and Dominique Ansel

I have been to the famous Lady M Confectionery a grand total of one (1) times. That should be a singular, but that would make for a weird sentence, don’t you agree? Anyhow, Lady M has a super-high score of 29/30 on Zagat, the US rating and review system for restaurants and such places, and an overblown-reputation. It’s actually this tiny place up on E 78 Street, close enough to Central Park. And the location and the hype dictate its prices, which are rather steep – think $6 for a coffee. It’s also frequented only by Asians for some reason (for those of you living in the UK: that’s Chinese / Korean Asian, not Indian). And there’s this intriguing Cynthia Rowley shop next door. Anyhow, I had the recommended original Millecrepe which I unfortunately found nauseautingly rich and creamy so had to give up half way through… and tasted from my friend’s green tea one, which was marginally better. Most people seem to love it though – you’ll have to decide by yourself.




In contrast, the Dominique Ansel Bakery on Spring Street in Soho has become one of my haunts – I’ve been three times this week already.  The reason behind this is actually because I was trying to get my paws on their elusive new concoction – the Cronut – but more on that later. This is a very nice place with all sorts of delicious pastries and cakes – something for everyone. They also do wonderful salads and sandwhiches – I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve tried most things on their menu and I did find everything exquisite. Their DKAs (a sweetly glazed type of pastry) are out of this world. Also, they have cheap(ish) coffee for around $3 and a lot of tables – I especially like the winter garden and the back yard. It’s rather low-key though – no silver cutlery or proper plates here, all is plastic or paper and disposable – but the interior is pretty and fun. Bonus: they’re a very friendly bunch.






Glamourous Fashion at the MOCA

Today I visited the two mini-exhibitions on fashion at the Museum of Chinese in America in NYC. They are small, but as the saying goes, perfectly formed. Radiating elegance and style, the pair creates the sense of the old and the new, and also highlights a thread of sartorial sense Chinese-style across decades and continents.

Shanghai Glamour: New Women 1910s-40s takes a look at Shanghai fashion at the beginning of the 20th century, by presenting a selection of dresses, accessoires, printed media, and short clips from movies (including a Chinese version of Lady Windermere’s Fan). Through eloquent and to-the-point descriptions, the visitors comes to understand the world of these new women, from sparkling socialites to free-spirited students to actresses and hostesses. There are also intriguing glimpses into the changesin fashion introduced by some leaders of the set – such as the “trimming” of the qipao – as well as the glamorous life of the international set, and the influence of Western dress on the Chinese style, as well as the Western fascination with the allure of the Chinese dress.















Front Row  in contrast focuses on contemporary Chinese American designers living and working in New York – famous names such as Anna Suy, Derek Lam, Philip Lim and Vera Wang are present and accounted for. The display is eclectic and well-illuminated and set against a white background; there are also videos of catwalk shows, featuring some of the pieces on exhibit, and the experience is accompanied by the soundtrack of the designers’ interviews, who speak about their life in one of the most vibrantly artistic cities in the world.








Newsies: the Marxist Musical

Newsies is by no means a fresh addition to the Broadway repertoire. In fact, it started last year and already won numerous prizes and accolades, which might make my review a tad superfluous. Fact is, I knew very little about it before I decided to go tonight. I had not a clue that it was based on a moderately-rated movie starring a young Christian Bale (of all people). I had no idea that it was a Disney production. So, because of my complete lack of information, I had no expectations whatsoever. Or very low ones. It’s rather difficult to say, in hindsight.

But go I did, and I am mighty glad of it. Not to spoil it for everyone, this is Disney at its best (or worst, as some would have it): the coming of age of a young man, the overcoming of obstacles, a fight of good versus evil, a spunky heroine, a love story, and a happy end. There are songs, and dancing, and jokes, and cheer, and a few weepy moments. Even better, it’s upgraded Disney, with a nod to disability and race. The first, represented by the heart-warming character of Crutchy (Andy Richardson),  the second by the black bubbly theatre star Medda (LaVon Fisher-Wilson). Although in the latter case, points are substracted for not only pairing blackness / theatricality with the stereotype of promiscuity, but taking that a step too far (here’s looking at you, backseat joke!). One could argue that the only group lacking representation is the LGBT community, but I was personally satisfied by the beginning scene, where I felt the homosocial bordered strongly on the homoerotic. Plus, let’s face it, statistically speaking, among that many young boys, some are sort of bound to be gay.

Yet this, as interesting as it may be, is not what captivates the audience. There are two main reasons to see this show, and they are deeply interconnected: one is the brilliant, jaw-dropping choreography, and the other is its unashamedly marxist ideology. “Revolution” is the name of the game for Manhattan “papes” sellers who are forced to organize into a union by the unreasonable raising of prices by the media magnate Pulitzer (John Dossett). Led by charismatic Jack Kelley (Corey Cott), they go from coming up with a sketchy mission statement, to striking, fighting with the police, attracting new members, and receiving re-inforcements from Brooklyn and all other surrounding areas. The struggle against the patriarchal figure of Pulitzer is typical, and against all odds, this David wins against his Goliath.

A David who is unapologetically marxist – so much so that I swear you can hear old Karl happily humming “workers of the world unite” somewhere in the polyphony of it all. There are dance sequences almost conceived around the motif of the clenched fist, and the symbol’s poignancy is elevated to new levels by their uncontestable energy and grace. Yes, this is the underdog, but it is one who writes a manifesto – sorry, a “banner” – and bands together with all others of his kind, and beyond. It is the underdog with a raised fist who uses the capitalist’s tools and and gets his way.

It is perhaps significant that the villain of the piece turns not to be too bad after all.  In the end, Pulitzer even offers a (better) job to Jack – who seems to accept and re-integrates himself in a sort of rat-race, firmly placed under the big boss’s thumb. And capitalism, while briefly challenged, is never in real danger as a system. Yes, the “refuge” where children are abused gets closed down, and the newsies get better working conditions – but what about all the boot polishers and elevator attendants who went on strike? They have served their purpose, and are invited to crawl right back in their holes, one assumes.

If the ending of the show is so Disney it would’ve made Walt proud, the rest of it struck me as a departure from what the house stands for, which are typical American, not-exactly-socialist values. But the show’s popularity must have to do with more than its technical aplomb. Perhaps its undercurrents speak to current disenchantment with the system brought on by the US economic crisis; perhaps it resonates with the Occupy Wall Street movement – originating in NYC in 2011 – and fighting for the 99%; or even more indirectly brings to mind media scandals exposing the corruption and lack of morals of the top figures of the industry (see the British “Hackgate” of recent years). In that sense, Newsies is hitting all the right (sore) spots. Its message and solution to the can of worms it cracks open is that of a social impetus blended with a good dose of “we’ll stand our ground no matter what” New Yorker spirit, a pinch of love and pride in one’s city and  one’s job, and a solid sprinkling of “let’s all get along and make the system work”.

This is not necessarily a show for children, although they will enjoy the exhilarating singing and dancing as much as the adults. It’s also not a show that is too glamorous set-wise, although a lot of clever things are done with metal frames, and there’s a moment where drawing in real-time is made visible to the audience in an astonishing way. It is a show with a lot of talented young performers, and while Corey Cott as Jack dazzles, it is the cast working together that makes the whole thing work so well. Strength in numbers… pun intended.

NYC: 4 museums in a day

Yesterday I left home early and came home late. Apart from spending two to three hours in Central Park, I visited four museums along the NYC museum mile.


I started with the Frick Collection – which is situated in a ravishing building, former home of Henry Clay Frick. The mansion, built in 1913–14 by Thomas Hastings of Carrère and Hastings, has a delightful set of gardens – the one on Seventieth Street to the east of the Collection was designed by Russell Page, and can be spotted from the street. Unfortunately, no access to them is permitted – although they do have a charming inner sanctum filled with plants, stone benches, and fountains, complete with two little frogs spouting water. The rooms are beyond stately, they are gorgeous in a well-proportioned and impeccably decorated manner and the art collection is excellent, especially since it has a focus on French painting, which I adore. What I found particularly striking however were the Turners – simply exquisite capturing of the play of light on water. Needless to say, I relished every minute of the 90 I spent there. Sadly, no pictures allowed.

It rather went a bit downhill from there. I next went to the Museum of the City of New York, which has a rather catching installation at the entrance, and a few interesting exhibits.



The Stephen Burrows exhibit on fashion was actually good, but situated in a cavernous space that didn’t manage to do it much justice.




There was also a 20-minute film on the history of NYC narrated by Stanley Tucci which was highly enjoyable and contained a fascinating selection of period photos. The rest was a bit yawn-inducing, although the section on urban planning for the future – “Making Space in New York” is naturally a challenging topic and the micro-unit example was fun. Generally, it rather lacked panache though.



Next, I went to the Museo del Barrio, New York’s “leading Latino cultural institution”. Well, I was not impressed. The exhibition space was similarly dark – which I suposed could be explained by the need to protect the paintings and or / to create a better viewing experience for the video-viewing, of which there was quite a bit… but still. I felt like a mole. And it smelled rather weird inside, too. The works, somewhat unlovingly exhibited, were partly interesting, partly just so. More to the point, there were just not so many of them – I sometimes wished there had been more than one work from each artist, especially when I stumbled across something good and that was clearly part of a series. Representational, yes, but when I like something I am rather curious to see more from that person, and in this I was disappointed. What I liked best was a photograph of a plastic model of David’s Michelangelo, submerged in urine/blood/milk (unclear if all, I suspect yes). It was radiant and captivatingly beautiful, in quite a shocking manner.

Last but not least, I went to the Guggenheim, where I had to join a 1 1/2 block-long queue since it was “pay as you wish” Saturday evening. Suffice to say I was very glad I had decided to go at this time, as I think I’d have been rather mad if I had paid the full entrance fee. Contrary to expectations, there was little in the way of a permanent exhibition – with the exception of a few very nice Picassos, Van Goghs, Gauguins and the likes in the wonderful (yet small) Thannhauser collection. Instead, there were a couple smaller exhibitions – “No Country – Contemporary Art for South and South East Asia” eclectic and satisfying, “Danh Vo” plagued by an immense queue for what seemed like a rather self-indulgent project of collected items that anyone might find in their grandma’s attic or under their own bed. Can’t say for certain though, as I just glimpsed the room from outside.

But the “pièce de résistance” were a few gazillion levels on the Gutai movement. Now, I am a huge fan of most things Japanese, but this got pretty old pretty quick even for me. It was just… not very exciting. I understand concrete art, and am all in favour of the movement towards the conceptual; but this was frankly too much and too bland. That wasn’t the worst part of it though: no, it was that the impetus of the Gutai movement was apparently to facilitate contact, interaction, and a joint productivity of art between viewer and the objects; the viewer was supposed to become participant (hence the subtitle of the exhibition, “Splendid Playground”). Yet so many of the works which were designed to be touched, sat on, or interacted with, had a restricting cord / glass wall / barrier around asking the visitors to refrain from doing so. It wasn’t like that with all of the exhibit pieces, but I sensed a strong tendency – another case of art being created “for the people” and ending up in a museum behind a locked case.

As a person visiting the reknowned Guggenheim museum for the very first time, I was also struck by the inexplicability of the no-photo policy. Almost every second, I could hear a click or hear a flash near me, and also hear the reprimand of a guard yelling “No photos!” I found it sad and funny at the same time – obviously, photos were being taken non-stop, and people weren’t asked to delete them, so what was the point of the policy (besides probably managing to give the guards laryngitis?) It mainly created an unfriendly, prohibitive atmosphere for no clear purpose.





So there you go, my four museums in a day. All opinions entirely my own, and if I’ve stepped on any toes, I promise to buy you some band-aids.

Spring in Central Park





















How do people floss?

Today, as I was in the process of trying to pass my white minty mental floss through the gaps in my teeth and failed repeatedly, I realized how utterly rubbish I am at flossing. Until recently, I was a faithful user of those little tooth-pick like things with a semi-circle on top which holds a bit of string – like, say, a mini scythe / archery bow. They are practical and easy to employ, and my mom swears by them. You can’t really find them in good ol’ vampire land (or so she claims) so whenever I go home I take her a few packs containing a couple of hundred or so. Just so that she doesn’t re-use them (which she has confessed to doing in the past). Which is kinda gross.

When I came to New York City though, upon my inspection of the dental hygiene section in Duane Reade’s (local ubiquitous drugstore) I found out that the little floss-picks were very, very expensive. Well, no surprise there, everything in NYC is. But, determined not to get fleeced for the sake of my flossing, I decided to buy the slightly cheaper normal floss. I was taken a bit aback by the options – waxed versus unwaxed…(I still don’t know what that’s about) but figured that what’s nice for my legs can’t be all that terrible for my floss. Also, I was rather excited about the whole affair: on the one hand, because my mom insisted she could never use anything else than the picks, as normal floss is too impractical – so I really, really wanted to prove how much more technically gifted I was. On the other hand, this image of Dexter in the opening of the series was running through my head – all semi-sadistic yet precise floss-pulling until his fingers turn white… I wanted me some of that!

With me so far, right? so, all happy with my new dental floss which comes in a neat little packaging – I pull on it to get it out of its white box and cut it with my scissors… and then realized I might have cut too little to wrap around my fingers. Hmm. I cut more, wrap enough around my fingers, floss a gap between my front teeth – hey, this is easy, look mom, no hands!- when I realize something. I don’t want to continue flossing using the used part of the string. But in order to move it along, I would have to wrap a 1) used and 2) damp part of the floss around my finger. Yeew. I look, ponder… would scratch my head if my hands weren’t (literally) tied up. I see no other way. So I do it. And then repeat – and get more and more grossed out.

It’s not just that. It’s that the stupid floss gets slippery when wet. Also, some of my teeth (especially back ones) don’t seem to have any freaking gaps! it’s like some evil tooth fairy soldered them together when no one was paying attention one night. So I really, really need to try hard to get in there. Which involves a lot of bending and contorting, and weird hand and arm movements – but the worst of it is that my fingers tend to get in places they shouldn’t and end up scratching my gums or the roof of my mouth. And its counterpart. (Is that called the floor of the mouth?) Anyway. Also, because all this happens with my mouth wide open, saliva tends to trickle down my hands, to my wrists, and then slowly but surely down my arms to my elbows. (So that my main tip to anyone who attempts to floss is to wear short sleeves). After all this, I sometimes (rarely) manage to get that floss in. And then… yep. It won’t come out again. Seriously. For minutes. I pull, and pull, and pull, until I think I might pull a tooth or two, or break the floss and be left with just a little bit of string hanging seductively between a second and a third molar. At least it’s white, so no one will be able to tell but me, right?

Come to think of it, I have similar problems while brushing teeth. I tend to have problems keeping toothpaste on the toothbrush in the first place – the little bugger has a mind of its own and tends to tilt when I’m not looking and then fall down. And if you are wondering exactly where I would direct my attention in the second between placing toothpaste on the brush and actually beginning to brush, I am afraid I don’t have a very intelligent answer. Anyway, so more than half of the toothpaste has left the brush and is now in the sink, and before more of it can go on its jolly way, I start to brush in earnest. With my mouth open (although Mr. B keeps telling me that’s the wrong way to do it. But what does he know?) Not before long, the toothpaste is on my lips, on my wrist, and possibly on my leggings. I stop brushing. At which point Mr. B admonishes me that I hadn’t done it for long enough. But really, what’s the point?

There is one thing I do well however, and that is use mouthwater – the happy gurgling, the feeling of freshness afterwards – bliss! At least … I think I’m doing it well. Maybe someone should come and supervise me…

Moving platforms and Shabbat elevators

I could swear that I saw a “watch the gap” sign somewhere in an NYC subway station. Or was it a figment of my overactive imagination, a product of a mind so overwrought with the narrowness of the platforms, the stories of people being pushed down on the electrified rails, and the sight of rats cheerily running around everywhere it will just refuse to stare reality in the face while sending a perverse message urging me to do just that?  I had a whole speech prepared about cultural differences – musing on how the British say “mind the gap” and wondering why it may be so – is it that they have a fondness for the word “mind”? Mind your manners / I don’t really mind / why on earth would I mind / would you mind… why, no, I don’t mind at all! Is there an ingrained reluctance or absolutely terrifying fear to admit that one does mind something, so that when one is urged to mind an object, one is absolutely shocked and compelled into doing it?

And what about Americans and watching? true, the Brits have CCTV everywhere. But in the US you have to watch your kid / your dog / your cat that you might accidentally cook up in the microwave; watch it, buster, or I’ll… what? what could the incentive be to watch, when New Yorkers prefer to stroll rapidly, and give nothing more than short, furtive or impersonal glances? Alas, those questions are better left to minds on a more enlightened path than mine.

What I can offer you though is this:



Have you seen one before? It actually looks like this if you want a fuller picture – and yes, folks, there is a metalic grid / platform in some stations of the subway (14 St Union Square for example) that moves out to bridge the gawping abyss between the train and the itsy–bitsy platform. It’s kind of cool:


Another thing I have first laid my eyes on here in New York City is the Shabbat elevator. You are now in the process of scratching your head and wondering what that might be? Fear not, Baddie to the rescue. Listen, and listen well: the Shabbat elevator, as discovered in one of the NYU residential halls (which shall remain unnamed at this time) is an elevator programmed to stop at certain floors automatically from Friday evening to Saturday evening. It is involved in a “Shabbat cycle” meant to facilitate Jewish religious observance of the prohibition to actively use technology. I sincerely applaud this – because it’s probably a small change for the institution but a great thing for the religiously observant residents. And yet. I have SO many questions about how this actually works. I mean, I got it that when I got on it and pressed a button, it stopped on the 7th floor automatically (although there was no one there anyway and no one wanted to get off there). Alright. But what if you are on the 7th floor and can’t press the button. And there’s no one around who is not observant. How does the lift know to come? I mean, ok if you take it from downstairs it might have a weight sensor inside (don’t know if this is the case, just guessing it might be an idea). But if you’re outside it, then what? do you wait eternally just in case someone might come by with your elevator? it boggles my mind. Also, I hope that’s not true and that there isn’t someone, somewhere, still waiting for a Shabbat elevator to arrive. I really, really, hope not.


A tale told by an idiot – Alan Cumming on Broadway

Tonight, I went to see acclaimed Scottish actor Alan Cumming in the one-man show version of Macbeth currently at the Barrymore theatre on Broadway. The play itself premiered in 1985 in Glasgow, and was a smashing success at the Lincoln Center in New York last year. I had high expectations, to say the least.

I knew this would be an evening to remember from the moment I set foot in the (classical-looking) theatre. I was passed on from usher to usher like an unwanted old relative – and what was even more extraordinary was that said ushers were dispersed at 5-meter intervals from each other. Now, you’d think I would be passed along linearly – as in “yes miss, please proceed to my colleague.” While this phrase was indeed heard by me – and often – I was passed like a ping-pong ball along a string of four people, back and forth, for about ten minutes. Finally, as I was nearing the end of my tether and getting ready to snap, one of them decided to take mercy and allowed me to go up a certain path, pointing out it was the best way. Kind reader, that it was not. As it turned out, I had to literally jump up a very tall narrow platform which I was pretty sure is not supposed to be jumped on in order to reach my seat. There were steps at the other side of the row. But never mind all that. I was there. On the top of the world. Aka last row mezzanine.

My second little surprise came from when I opened up the playbill and started reading about the main (and sole) actor of the play. I quote: “Since he exploded on Broadway [he] has published a novel; directed a musical condom commercial; provided the animated voices for a Smurf, a goat, and Hitler; and released the fragrances Cumming and 2nd Cumming, along with the bar soap Cumming in a Bar and body lotion Cumming All Over.” Excuuuuuse me? I looked again, and there it was, white font on a green background – “released the fragrances”… oh. my. I swiftly made a mental note to a) be prepared for the unexpected and b) try to look into some sort of PG-rating for my blog just in case. According to my new precious oracle aka “the Playbill” Cumming is also “one of the three most fun people in show business.” Huh. At a loss about what that could possibly mean, precisely. So as the lights dimmed, my curiosity had reached a burning point.

Without giving too much away, there is a frame to the well known Scottish play – the setting is an asylum. Cumming – the only patient – is confined within a bare, clinical looking room with very little furniture – and is left mainly to his own devices by (we assume) his silent doctor and nurse. Apart from matter-of-fact interventions when the patient gets agitated, and some delivery of meals or injections, the duo seems happy to observe the patient from above through a glass window. This takes place in a highly disturbing manner which not only brings to mind Foucault’s thoughts on the institution of the asylum, and Deleuze’s further notions on the societies of discipline, but also uncannily mirrors the positions of the members of the audience found in the mezannine. My position, to be more exact.

Cumming is truly an incadescent actor. He can weave seemlessly through multiple characters and characteristics – although his transformations from one character to another are sometimes so rapid, that if you either blink, or if you don’t know the play very well indeed, you will have missed who is speaking. He does amazing work with limited props – just raising and dropping a sheet can signal – effectively – the change between Lady Macbeth and her husband. His mastery of accents, tones, and modulations, is admirable. He clothes the characters in vivid mantles. And yet there are notes of discrepancy. Lady Macbeth is played at times as a lush, enchanting woman, and at others as a stereotypical nag. Good King Duncan is so much of a charicature – of either an English toff, a somewhat backward fellow, or an utter fool, one is uncertain which  – that one is led to think Scotland is probably better off without him. Expansive gestures and drawn-out vowels cause laughs, and while far be it from me to suggest that laughter is out of place in a Shakespearean play, one is not quite sure what to make of this kind of laughter and mockery, which is that of the farce.

It is not the humour that stays with you though. It’s the poignancy of Macbeth realizing he has lost everything; of lady Macbeth descending into madness; and most of all, the utter vulnerability and darkness of the poor lithe madman in whose mind we are allowed to glimpse. The fits, the despair, the inexorability of the workings of an unhinged mind – and the realization that we, as the audience, knowing the story beforehand, especially without the frame, are as trapped in it as he is. For us, the story he plays out is more real than his reality of the asylum – despite what we see. There is no escape – and the experience becomes transcendent – we are completely immersed inside the mind of a madman.

The play starts with the patient posing a question to the doctor and his nurse. “When shall we three meet again?” he asks pitifully. As the two depart, the madman embarks on his enactment of the story of Macbeth. 140 minutes later, half dead after what looks like a purging bath or attempted suicide, he restores the doll which stands for Malcom to its wheel-chair throne, proclaiming it to be the King of Scotland. His caretakers rush to his wrap his shivering naked body in blankets, and as they make to leave, the same question leaves his lips, signalling the commencement of a new cycle: “When shall we three meet again?” Every night, I would like to say. I would be there every night, and each night I would revel exponentially in the entrapment.


The Brilliance of a British accent

For all of the three and a bit years I lived in London, all people could hear was my American accent. They picked up on it in an instant, and gave me slightly accusatory looks – or as accusatory as the British can get, in their aren’t-we-all-lovely-even-if-you-sound-American-let’s-have-a-cuppa-anyway manner. I gave my usual excuses – I had been brought up on American TV, and I did have a Peace Corps volunteer as a teacher in school at some point… my sheepish mumblings were accepted and the topic was never mentioned again, but I still felt as if my voice had committed a faux-pas to be frowned on. A bit like Mr. Darcy refusing to dance with Lizzie Bennet – it was all swept under a rug of smiles on the surface, but we all knew something was irretrievably wrong.

By contrast, almost since the first moment I set foot in New York, everyone – and I do mean everyone – has been asking me whether I’m British. Or commenting on the loveliness of my accent. Shop assistants, waiters, people at parties and social events, I swear even the ubiquitous rats perk up their ears and twitch their whiskers in appreciation. It’s incredibly flattering – and while I don’t think that I sound particularly British, I guess I do tend to go “aah” instead of “ehh” and throw in a flowery non-American phrase now and then – because… well, that’s how I speak.

I have yet to see any real effects of the British Accent™ here in the US, but I do suspect that its power might be real. I am also afraid that there are some out there who wouldn’t shy away from misusing that power for …(gasp)… their own wicked purposes! You snicker, beloved reader – but mind my words, they are among us. They are sneaky. And they are putting on outrageous accents!

I already have a suspect on my list, you see. It’s someone from my residence hall. As I was picking up a parcel (“you mean package?” ” no, I mean parcel”) from the mail room downstairs the other day, I heard this bloke behind me chatting with the girl at the desk. “Oh yesh, I live on the elevunth floor, my deaaaarh” he trumpeted, laying it on as thickly as vocally possible. “Would you sign here?” the innocent gal inquired. “I would love to!” came the enthusiastic reply. Love to? LOVE to? it’s a pen, you move along on paper, to scribble something as proof you picked up your stuff. What’s there to love? Unless a pen-fetish is involved (not judging here, really, if you’re in a serious relation with a pen, please move along, this is not addressed to you).

I cringed at this guy’s flamboyance, put it down as some lame effort to flirt, and went out. Ten seconds later, as I was waiting for the lift, guess who sidled up to me. You’ve got it. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that a) he was carrying a rather big box and b) he wasn’t ugly enough to need an accent; actually, he wasn’t bad looking at all. “Hmmm” he goes; and then sighs loudly. And then: “I really don’t want to wait for this elevator.” Oh really? don’t you just love waiting for it? goes the evil part of my brain. “Well, you could always take the stairs” I suggest snarkily. “I could … to the 11th floor?” I nod slightly, in a do-as-you-please-and-stop-bothering-me way. “With THIS box?” Oh for heaven’s sake. He obviously wants me to commiserate. “So what’s in the box? Is it a lamp?” I ask casually. “No, it’s an electric guitar” he proclaims, filled with pride. Hmm. There it goes. “Oh, do you play?” I continue, as non-committally as possible. “Yes” he beams with all his might. I am supposed to be impressed, I can tell. I stay as quiet as a church mouse.

“Say, where are you from?” is his next question. “Because I overheard you in the mail room… and I was wondering.” “I’m kind of… from all over Europe.” “But exactly?” he persists. “Born and raised in Romania, lived for many years in Germany, spent some time in the UK…” “Ah, I thought I heard some Eastern European accent!” Oh please. I highly doubt it. My accent sounds nothing like a Eastern European one. “And some British.” I shrug. “I’m half British myself. Born and raised in London.” Oh really. I nod, and say that I thought as much. Even with the obvious pains he was going through in order to hide it. No, I didn’t say that last bit. He looks crestfallen. How can anyone fail to swoon at his musical skills or his heritage? I can feel a palpable quivering of discontentment on my right but I look pointedly ahead and ignore it.

Because …what I would absolutely love is for accents to be enjoyed, appreciated, revelled in – and left completely agenda-free.

Musings on metropolises of the world

When the weather gets warm and spring-like, Paris starts smelling of wee. New York starts smelling of weed.