I have recently returned from New York. The city that never sleeps. The biggest fucking apple since Steve Jobs or whatever. And yes, it’s a pretty sweet place. There are more roof top bars than you can shake a stick at, the subway is air-conditioned and you can eat yourself into obesity with such ease I’m surprised that most people aren’t shuffling around in XXL tracksuits, yamming burgers on their way to work. However, after two weeks I felt weirdly ready to return to the welcome embrace of the London. And before anyone starts accusing me of being a raging idiot, who clearly doesn’t know a good thing when they see it, let me just give you a quick run down of why London will beat New York every time.
They don’t have real dogs there. OK, they’re not pulling around soft toys on leads – which would be weird – but the majority of people I saw, seemed to own only those miniature canines. You know, the kind that you could easily mistake for a ferret or something. I guess they are more convenient if you are living in an apartment and it’s not exactly like gardens are easy to come by in New York, but still. Also they are far too overfamiliar with their pets. I can’t tell you how many adult men I saw murmuring sweet nothings to their tiny-rat dogs as they spooned them in their arms in the park. NOT normal.
New Yorkers hate smokers. You know all those aforementioned roof top bars? Non-smoking. And nothing spoils an early afternoon drink in the sun like having to traipse down seven flights of stairs to have a cigarette. Then there was the time we were queuing for a gallery (outside, may I just add), so I stepped a little away from the crowd and lit up a rolly. The man in front turned around, stared at me like I’d just shouted I wanted to murder his first born son, and then very deliberately slowly backed away, until he was flat against the wall, all the while continuing to glower like a sullen bull.
They city is full of people who need medical attention. I'm talking about people who definitely have mental health issues. I don’t talk about this lightly either - it’s a serious issue. These are casualties of the expensive and exclusive American health care system who are essentially abandoned and left to their own devices, which means they end up wandering around the subway system, half singing, half shouting at you until you give them some money.
The tipping thing is endlessly confusing. I understand the $1 a drink thing – that’s simple. But then what is the deal with taxi drivers? Or in restaurants? Is it 15%, or 17.5% or 20% - and even if it was any of these things, I can’t do that kind of maths in my head. It got so bad I began thinking maybe you were meant to tip in shops as well, like ‘Oh thank for putting that dress through the till, here’s a dollar’. Again, I am not trying to blame the American populace for my confusion, but what would be great is if they just raised the minimum wage so everyone could actually survive on their wages and tourists weren’t forced to do arithmetic after dinner.
People spend more time queuing for food than beer at festivals. This is a true story. We went to the Governors Ball music festival and I swear to God, there were about 25 people in the line for the chicken wing stand, but you could just waltz up to the bar at any time. Then there was the ‘welcoming committee’ of enthusiastic young people as you approached the entrance. As well as encouraging us all to cheer and give them high fives, these guys were wearing T-shirts telling us to tweet about our festival experience using the hash-tag ‘You’re doing great’. Needless to say, I think we were the only people in the festival who were on anything slightly stronger than the 4.2% Miller Lite beer they were serving.