Getting from JFK airport to Manhattan is like trying to swim upstream against a river made of treacle. In theory it should only take about 15 minutes. But due to the amount of traffic, random lane and bridge closures, accidents etc. it's best to plan for an hour and a half. Even in Manhattan, traffic jams can spring up out of nowhere and on more than one occasion I've just gotten out of a cab with my suitcases and walked the last few blocks. Roads and pavements are not in the best state, making the British pothole winter of 2011 seem like a fuss over nothing. In Manhattan, actual sinkholes appear in roads, threatening to suck innocent pedestrians and cars into a dark hell below. One such hole appeared in the middle of the road by our apartment in Greenwich village on Tuesday, ironically, after the road had been closed off altogether on Monday. Car-drivers didn't notice it and there were horrible crunching sounds as they tried to drive over it. On Wednesday a cone had been placed inside it and by Thursday workmen were back to resolve the problem. But they mustn't have done a very good job because by Friday it was back again.
It's the first time I've been to New York in the summer in years - I've normally gone in winter, having convinced myself that August would be unbearable. It was hot but not too bad, and much preferable to January. The preference for little dogs as pets in Greenwich Village and lack of places to let them go to the toilet means that some of the sidewalks smell strongly of dog wee in summer though. If there is one thing that New York excels at, it is cinema. There is nowhere like it in the world for quantity and quality. The Film Forum were having a season of fantasy/horror/sci-fi so we spent far too long watching double bills of Alien/Aliens, Joan Crawford/Bette Davis and Harryhausen adventure. The only downside was sitting through the adverts each time - we must have seen this advert 10 times.
Bardot's voice always sounds off-key to me, and something must have been wrong with the sound quality of the print of the advert because people were wincing in pain all the way through. Audience members in America are oddly interactive - befitting the extroverted nature of the culture (an American person is like an equivalent British person after a large gin). They applaud a lot - and sometimes at weird non sequiter bits. They also talk to strangers who are sitting near them - and we saw one such exchange between two lone film-goers quickly descend into hostility over some trivia-based disagreement that only true nerds can care about. The best example of audience participation was during a screening of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls at the Anthology Film Archives. The audience was 90% gay male (a lone woman hurriedly left about the first 10 minutes), the film started late and the reel broke twice, plunging the theatre room into darkness. But nobody seemed to mind too much, and there was a lot of hand waving and camp chair-dancing during the musical numbers. Some devoted fans on the front row also shrieked out some of the silliest lines.
Other highlights of the trip: eating at an Ethipoian restaurant, walking the entirety of the high-line (the raised rail-track that's been converted into a garden walk over Manhatthan), meeting my friend Mark and hearing about his house-share in Fire Island (complete with fights over space in the fridge for needles) and playing the piano every day at the Greenwich House Music School, which was a couple of doors from where we were staying. Now back in the UK, I've put the heating on, and a jersey. Summer definitely seems over.