New York City Wrap

photo: cafe pastis, chelsea, manhattan

Le Pastis, one of Manhattan's newer bistros - in Chelsea.

Tours, Tours and Some Dubious Facts

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 7. January 2002:- The first thing I noticed yesterday after arriving at Roissy from New York - besides no rabbits - once I had found my way out of Terminal 2's maze to Paris daylight - was that the temperature was the same but the skies were two different colors.

For the past two weeks, New York's sky was steely blue. Yesterday's Paris sky was boringly grey. But part of today's has been sunny, so everything is okay except for the feeling that New York's near-zero temperatures are colder than Paris' near-zero temperatures. I guess the reason might be New York's neighborly Atlantic Ocean.

For these two weeks, New York's TV-weather news guy on station WB11 promised, hinted at, nearly begged for, snow. Dastardly highs and continental 'jet-streams' flirted with the US eastern seaboard, and some evening reports had multiple-choice weather scenarios.

Unless I misjudged the whole business, it appeared as if no holiday season in New York is complete without snow. I was rather hoping for some too, but the teasing was - teasing. Thephoto: brooklyn bridge, new york skyline other 'anchored' newspeople on WB11's TV-news teased the weatherguy's no-show snow forecasts, and I expect if he is still putting them out, he is scoring worse than the Mets.

On sale now! The one and only Brooklyn Bridge. Only $1.00 while winter sales last.

It wasn't baseball season anyway, but football was presented with the Jets team being shown as losing every night. I wasn't aware that football was a daily event, even for nominal 'New York' teams who prefer being domiciled in New Jersey.

Okay, I know it is illegal to sneak Sportsnews into the weather report, so I'll get back to Paris' outlook for the coming week without mentioning our own hapless PSG's lack of fortunes.

You can expect some mostly sunny days. The other parts of these days will be partly cloudy, while a great deal of them will also be nighttime. Daily highs will be 3, 4 and 5, with lows being in the zero to minus-one range. Winds, humidity, and other details like 'jetstreams' are an unknown feature here, so don't expect them.

Short Issue Notes

This issue was not planned to be slight but this is how it has worked out. Transatlantic flight days are whatever is available, and flight times are what one gets. Then there are little glitches that eat up time, and before you know it, a 'slim' issue is the result.

It is also possible that the '2000 bug' that passed unnoticed at the time has come back to confuse the server. Drats and heck!

Due to getting ready for, and spending two weeks in New York, emails from readers are also in arrears as far as replies go. Except for the ones 'lost' on account of my own fumbles, all of your emails should get replies within the 2002 time-frame. If this seems somewhat vague, try writing again.

And thanks for writing already.

New York 'Café Life'

Flying High

For a change, instead of taking an ocean liner to New York, I flew. This is a rapid way of getting places, but features a lot fewer copious multi-course meals, a lot of no-smoking, no dining at the captain's table, and hopeless movies shown on dinky screens.

For the six or seven-hour flight over the Atlantic, airline seats make poor beds and aren't even very good chairs. I flew both ways with American Airlines because they used to have really neat DC-3's. I had French folks sitting beside me both ways so 'America' didn't begin until landing at JFK airport.

Security checks were frequent at both Roissy and JFK, but not overly tiresome. I missed seeingphoto: mulberry street, empire state building the dude with the firecracker fuses hanging out of his sneakers on the way to New York on Friday, 21. December, because he had to wait over a day.

The Empire State Building puts in appearances all over Manhattan. Seen here from Mulberry Street.

I thought it was really civic on the part of his fellow passengers to lend their belts to help tie him up like a ball of string. Flying to Miami probably means there will be doctors handy with needle-kits on board. For flights to New York, you can count on enough lawyers being along - and all of these have heavy brief-cases or some other form of clout.

Otherwise, flying, from a passenger's point of view, is pretty viewless unless there is a nearby window and it is a clear night over Long Island.

Heading into JFK two weeks ago the lights on the ground looked like necklaces of Christmas lights, going on nearly forever. Even the non-New York City part of America is pretty big. It needs to be, for all the big cars.

Language-sandwich In Queens

For my stay in New York I was hosted in Queens by a very shy person who does not want to become one of this magazine's 'characters.' From experience I can say not being one of the magazine's 'characters' can have advantages, but I don't know what they are.

Queens is one of New York City's five boroughs. It is sort of a super arrondissement, where English can be spoken if you can't get along in Spanish. Languages from the Indian subcontinent and from the Chinese part of the world can also be useful in a pinch.

Queens does not have many high buildings. Instead it has a lot of post offices, many elevated 'subway' lines, aphoto: yellow cab price sign baseball stadium - slogan: 'Home of the Mets!' - if they are winning - some tennis thing at Flushing, I think, and two airports - plus a couple of bridges that cross the East River, making getting to Manhattan easy.

Actually, the hardest place to get to from Queens by subway is Brooklyn, which is another of New York's boroughs and is the only other one that can be reached overland from Queens. The JFK airport, which handles Queens' international flights, cannot be reached by subway or elevated trains either.

However, both Queens and Brooklyn have taxis which are not yellow, and many of them are very clean but older Lincolns. If their dispatcher radios are on, passengers can learn many useful number words in Spanish as well as how to pronounce many Queens and Brooklyn place names correctly.

Queens has much of historical interest in addition to the Delhi Palace restaurant on 74th Street and the Airline Diner in Astoria or the Gum Tong Gung dim sum palace in Flushing. There is also Esteban's El Greco on 37th Avenue and Tierra Colombianas on Roosevelt Avenue, under the elevated 'subway' line.

This last street, besides being noisy all year around, is notable for its red-hot latin music during warmer periods of the year. Its counterpart in Brooklyn is Brighton Beach Avenue, where Russian is the standard language and the music is not quite the same.

Another place I can recommend is the Queens Burger Restaurant on Queens Boulevard, in the Long Island City part of Queens - which is actually far closer to Manhattan than it is to Long Island itself. This Long Island place, by the way, seems to be considered by many who live in New York as a particularly obscure form of terra incognito.

Orientated In Manhattan

If Queens seems about as big as Holland, then Manhattan - from Battery Park up to West 220th Street - is sort of a super Amsterdam, surrounded by water instead of full of it.

Due to some unconventional street and avenue behavior below 14th Street, the centre of Manhattan from top to bottom is probably not Central Park North, but East or West 92nd Street, even if the map folds at 110th Street.

As soon as a visitor steps off a subway from Queens in Manhattan - at Lexington Avenue on the East Side for example - people in 'The City' will say there are 'about 20 short street blocks to a mile.'

Then they will say, "Of course, the avenues are bigger," as if this was decreed by some important natural history function.

I have good news for all readers. 'Miles' are a bit odd, but 'kilometres' are even - as in, there are exactly 13 streets in one. Again, this 'rule' does not apply to avenues. The exception is the distance from First to Fifth Avenue, being almost exactly 1.2 kilometres, avenue centre to avenue centre.

But a 'mile' from First will get you almost to Seventh Avenue. By taking this reckoning around 42nd Street, Manhattan is less than two miles wide.

All of these dubious facts are meant to reassure the visitor about Manhattan's walkability. The theoryphoto: joes shanghai, pell st is wonderful, but the MTA's 'Metrocard' is a better deal. These can be had from vending machines for various amounts of money, and if you buy a high-price card you get some 'bonus' rides.

Here's Joe's Shanghai in Pell Street. Ask for the dumplings. Stand in line for them if necessary.

The 'swipe' cards are also 'refillable,' so you can re-use the card over and over by simply topping one up. They are good on all subways, elevateds, buses and even the Long Island RR if you are adventurous. Transferring from buses to subways is also possible.

The reason for mentioning this is simple. Habit dies hard. I was no sooner on the ground than I embarked on a bewildering series of 'tours' - somewhat like my Paris excursions. The difference was that in Paris I might do one a week - in New York I probably did 12 over 14 days.

Despite this, I did not see 'everything.' If I did see the Lower East Side's Tenement Museum - from the outside - I never got close to the Museo del Barrio, and I still don't know where it is. The number of items crossed off the master list may account for only half of what was on it - and I'm not sure Gus' Pickles was worth the trip, considering the temperatures that day.

Like Paris, Manhattan is bigger than it looks.

'Paris' In New York

Finding this - Paris-like items in New York - turned out to be a poor idea. Being 'French' in New York is somewhat 'in' so there are a lot of signs around, indicating all sorts of 'French' things, including laundries.

In some areas of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, the problem was finding anything equivalent to a café, or an old-fashioned coffee shop.

In Brighton Beach on Christmas Day, I found a coffee place in a Russian cake shop - but was pretty surprised to find the shop's employees pretty surprised to see that I intended to drink the coffee I purchased, while inside the place.

This was after requesting to use the shop's toilet - and being directed to the outside cellar entrance in the sidewalk. At the bottom of the near vertical stairs I had to climb over a week's worth of garbage bags, say 'hello' in Spanish to a couple of startled underground workers and squeeze into a minuscule closet.

Therefore this 'tip of the week' - be sure the use the toilets at the Coney Island subway station, or any of the ones on the boardwalk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach. Also - try not to walk under any of the airborne seagulls.

During my whole stay it was about zero degrees outside, or lower if you count the 'wind-chill' factor. Drinking coffee outside - which is also practically the only 'smoking-zone' - was not practical in this season although I saw many New Yorkers doing it. New York needs a few more good cafés - like maybe 850 more.

Paris' Winter Sales 2002

If you have wisely chosen to skip the pre-Christmas mayhem, the 'Winter Sales' begin on Wednesday, 9. January and continue until Saturday, 16. February, when regular-price 'Spring Shopping' is likely to begin.

The sooner these sales can be gotten out the way, the sooner the 'Summer Sales' can start unloading the 'spring' stuff. The 'between sales' times can be used for normal sightseeing or hanging around in cafés.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Readers can catch up with the most recent club subjects by reading about the New York meeting. See this report concerning the nearly historic 'Big Apple of the Week' meeting.

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 10. January - because it is a Thursday again - and it will be held at the Café-Tabac La Corona.

This coming Thursday will be just another fairly ordinary Thursday-type day called Saint-Guillaume - or Saintphoto: subway musicians, manhattan Bill for short - which is not any kind of holiday in France.

The following day will be an ordinary Friday. If Fridays are a favorite of yours, make the most of what there is of it - even though there will be 48 more of them this year.

No extra charge on 'Metrocards' for subway jazz.

Metropole readers and those wishing to become club members can learn all about this free club by reading the large-sized fine-print on the 'About the Club' page, one more time.

It explains how to join, its meeting time and so on, and other true facts such as being free. This page also contains a location map for the club's café La Corona, which still shows the location of the club's back-up café, Le Café Lodi.

Metropole's Affiliates

The following product or service providers have chosen Metropole because their offers may be of value to you and I agree with them.

'Bookings' has a reservation service for a wide selection of Paris hotels. Check out their offers and make your choice long before your arrival in France. Or, if all the other hotel booking services are 'sold out,' try this one. Other Metropole readers have.

'HighwayToHealth' provides a 'city health profile' as well as travel insurance for potential Paris visitors. If you've signed up for these services before you need them suddenly you will benefit from them. I hope won't be the case, but 'Things Happen.'

'Petanque America' imports quality Obut boules from France and will ship them to you anywhere in the Americas - which will save you the effort of carrying them all the way from Paris. Be the first on your block to introduce the game of pétanque - or boules. Nearly everybody can play this game, nearly anywhere, nearly anytime.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 6.01 - 1. January 2001 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Hello! New Millennium!' The 'Au Bistro' news column was dropped for the usual reasons. This issue had one feature, titled 'Why I Moved Here.' This issue's update for the Café Metropole Club meeting on 4. January was called the "Happy 2002!" Report. Thephoto: euro cash ticket week's 'Scene' column was titled 'Not the Same Old Thing' and the Scene 2 column was headed, 'The New Years That Was.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, 'The Café of the Year.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 5.01 - 3. January 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Yippee! We Made It!' The 'Au Bistro' column was glumly titled, 'The Catastrophes Continue.' This issue had two features, titled '1999 - 'Bug' Hits Countdown Clock' and '2000 - Forty Tons of Fun.' The Café Metropole Club introduced tips for lost readers, titled, 'Directions To Your Club' and then was followed up by the club's 6. Januqry update 'report' which was presented as "If You Like Modern Art." There were no 'Scene' columns for the week's issue. The four new 'Posters of the Week' were on view and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the non-interactive caption of 'We Can't Hear You.'

Last Year's 'Count-Down' - Is Over

There are 358 days remaining in this year. This means the 'euro 3 signuro'photo: mta metrocard currency introduction day on Tuesday, 1. January 2002 at 00:01 has exceeded its 'good-until' date.

MTA's 'Metrocard' is not an ad for this magazine, but a handy item in New York.

Your online magazine about Paris is in the market again for another, new count-down subject. Any reader or club member who feels like it can suggest anything at all just so long as it doesn't start with 'euro 3 sign' and end with 'o.'

Finally. Happy New Year to everybody wherever you are!
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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