30 October 2009

Autumn in New York

My flight to New York this morning must have been my first ever transatlantic flight that arrived 40 minutes early. I was very happy--extra shopping time--and managed to get through immigration reasonably quickly and without too much surliness. Our taxi from JFK got stuck in the afternoon school run but I was still checked into my hotel before four and in J. Crew by 4.15.

It is so good to be back in Manhattan--the smells of pretzels and steam, the horns of frenetic taxi drivers, the crunch of autumn leaves in Central Park, the hustle, the bustle and the magic. My hotel, the WJ, is in Hells Kitchen. I've never stayed there before and while it's not the smartest area in town, it's not too bad a place to stay and at only three blocks from the Rockefeller Center and eight from Central Park, I really can't complain even if my single room (with an actual single bed) is almost small enough for me to touch all four walls at once. Of course, I don't plan to spend much time here and anyway, the wireless is free, there's a copy of Time Out New York and an iPod charger, so all is well.

I have a feeling this trip might not be a shopping success. Having visited three J. Crews this afternoon, I found about four items I wanted to buy including a short, pale brown tweed blazer and a long, grey merino wool cardigan, but none of them came in the right size. It's not that I'm being overly picky and demanding that every item be available in my specific size (although that would be nice)--all of the items I like come only in very large sizes, which just look silly on me. It's not even that I'm particularly tiny, either, so I do wonder how really thin people cope; layering, I guess.

In J. Crew, as in most American shops, the staff are all falling over themselves to help you, even at the expense of getting in your way and generally distracting you from the task at hand. When one of them cornered me and asked if I needed anything, I asked if they had the jacket in a two or a zero. No, they didn't, unfortunately, but if I really loved it, I could order it online and ask for express delivery. Except, if I could mail order J. Crew to England, I would have been doing it for years and wouldn't need to visit the New York stores. I suggested that they might need to order in more small sizes but of course, she told me, the demographics of each season's range are planned out months in advance and so The Powers That Be can only guess which items will be popular with which sized people. Given this happens every time I go to J. Crew, I think they need to work on their algorithms.

Not to be put off, I decided to go to Lululemon, where I knew I would be able to find some new running kit (grey leggings, grey shorts with lime green trim and a zipped pocket to stop me losing my bank card/hotel key when running, and a turquoise running vest). I walked back downtown through Central Park, which looks at its most gorgeous when the trees are turning brilliant shades of orange, red, yellow and brown.

I was feeling pretty knackered by seven, local time, when I met my parents and their friends for dinner. We went to the Trattoria dell'Arte, an old family favourite of ours. I ordered a buffalo mozzarella margherita pizza, which was about 18 inches by 12 inches although, as the waiter reassured me, it was as thin as the paper on which it was served. I managed about a fifth, feeling guilty about leaving so much uneaten, especially given that the waiter's charisma was clearly going to waste on a party of English people who had been awake for a long time.

In the morrow, I'm probably going to test my new running togs by subwaying down to Brooklyn, running over the Bridge, grabbing some coffee at Joe and then heading back uptown. More J. Crews will inevitably be visited in what will, no doubt, prove to be a fruitless search for the items I covet. I'll probably cover SoHo and/or Williamsburg tomorrow afternoon. Maybe. Time is so precious I should really make a proper plan but I'm very tired and sleep beckons...

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