Thursday, March 15, 2012



The island of Manhattan- New York City.
The name Manhattan derives from the Lenape Indian word Manna-hata .
The word Manhattan has been translated as "island of many hills"

Manhattan lies in the mouth of the Hudson River that forms the harbor of New York City. It is an island connected to the State  of New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens with several bridges and tunnels. Most of the high rises that makes up the skyline of the city ,is based on the island of  Manhattan.

The most southern part  of the island is the oldest and that his where we find the Old Dutch Ford and
  the Wall street area.The Twin Towers  were  also located here -before the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.

Washington Square Park- Greenwich Village- New York City.

As we move up north we come to the downtown area of Tribeca , Soho .China Town, Little Italy  and then Greenwich Village.The Village as it is know stretches north from Houston Street to 14th  street and from West Street on the Hudson River to Broadway on the east side.This where I have lived for almost 28 years.It is very different from the rest of Manhattan as it feels like one is living in a small town, far  away from all the city madness. I am woken up by birds singing in the trees in front of my bedroom window. The odd siren will remind me now and then that I am living  on one of the most populated islands in the world.

Avenue of the Americas with the Jefferson Library in Greenwich Village .

Perry Street. Greenwich Village.

St Luke's. Greenwich Village.

Manhattan covers a 23 square mile area  and has a population of 1.5 million people .The Metropolitan area of New York City counts 8 million people as it inhabitants, and over 800 languages are spoken here.

Photo taken on Fifth Ave. Greenwich Village.

When I arrived in New York in 1983 a woman told me that I will live in my neighborhood .
I did not understand what she meant until much later. In such a vast city with  so many people around one becomes almost invisible. Because if this one sticks to the neighborhood where your neighbors, the grocery guy, the postman, the dry cleaner, and the doormen on the block- know who you are- and greet you as you walk by. Americans are very friendly but not all New Yorkers are. They can be a tough bunch......

I have walked past neighbors for many years that will not greet me.Your chances are better if you are walking a dog. They will still ignore you but at least talk your pet! They will most likely stop if a dog is run over ,but as a human being you are taking your chances!

Me in Joe Jr's.

For 25 years we had a diner on the block where I lived. A real "greasy spoon "as they were called.
Joe Junior's on the corner of 12th Street and 6th Avenue  was our living room. We would meet our friends there and have breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Even for Thanksgiving it was packed .It was an extension of our  homes. I saw many celebrities like Meryl Streep, Cameron Dias , John Steward ,Isaac Mizrahi, Tony Randal and Tony  Bennett there .It was run by  a Greek family that became part of the neighborhood.

I remember the day after the attack on the World Trade Towers, I saw Louis ,one of the owners, standing outside .Tears where streaming down his cheeks. He told me "Every morning I watched those towers go up -floor by floor. Yesterday I saw it disappear in a puff of smoke."
A couple of month later I did not see Louis at the door greeting me .When I got back from work there was a mountain of flowers in front of the restaurant- a memorial to Louis who died of a heart attack the night before. It was a very  sad day for all of the neighborhood when Joe Junior closed.
The landlord's were greedy and we had all had  to pay the price for not having a diner on our block anymore.

Greenwich Village use to be the "Bohemia" of New York City. For many years artists, writers, actors and other creative people made it their home. During  the 70's and 80's this started to change when rents went up and these people who had more than one job to support themselves, could not afford living in the Village any more.

Winter and Spring in  Greenwich Village.

Today the brownstone houses are sold and being converted back to one family dwellings. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Hugh Jackman, Julienne Moore, Meryl Streep. Cameron Diaz , Susan Sarandon, Tom Cruise all live in this area filled with elegant apartment blocks, brownstones and private gardens.

Lower Fifth Avenue Apartments. Greenwich Village.

Midtown of Manhattan is the business section and the Broadway Theaters ,Carnegie Hall , Times Square as well as Rockefeller Center is situated here.

At 58th street we get to Central Park with the Upper East side and Upper West side on either side of the park. North of the Central Park at 125th street -we come to Harlem.

When I go to any of these other neighborhoods- I feel like a visitor .I think most New Yorkers live in their neighborhoods-that is where we feel safe. 

New York shopkeepers are not the most polite and service at even the best of stores, leave a lot to be desired .Banks and the Post Office are not much better. To walk into a store and expect to be greeted with a "Good morning can I help you" is very rare.....that is why New Yorkers walk in and say:-
 "Give me a cup of coffee lite" (that means with milk) .
That abrupt manner gets you noticed and served. I still can not get use to it!

When a take-out order is placed, they speak a language that nobody understand.
"Two sunny side up on a whiskey down"
means;- two eggs -not turned over- on toasted rye bread.

When I got to the USA I read an article "Bear Left". Being from South Africa where we drive on the left side of the road, we also keep left when walking on a side walk. In the article they said when one gets to America it is a good strategy to bear left and do everything opposite to what Americans do. When walking, bear left, and don't walk on the right side of the sidewalk .The left side is much less crowded . I found this to work very well in many other facets of life in the USA.

New York City Subway.

Me leaving the subway on the 12th street stop.

The subway is another trial of every day life in "the big apple".It is a very convenient and fast way to get around the city but the masses underground can be very intimidating. I prefer to go to work early in the morning and  get back home before the masses descend in to the bowels of the city for the journey home. I don't use  it after 8:00 pm at night. You can end up next to a celebrity or a hard edged is a toss up . Most passengers avoid any eye contact with their  fellow travelers and stare at their book or read the ads posted.

Scenes from the Subway.

Almost naked deranged man.

Subway fight.

I have seen a homeless guy with his pants around his ankles picking the lice from his pubic hair.
 Two women fighting -the one ripping the other earring out of her ear -and blood spurting all over.
About twenty teens getting into a fight as soon as the train moved out of the station. All of us stuck with this violence until the train pulled into he next station, where they got out and ran away.
A couple making out if they were in their own bed .A teen boy calling a elderly woman every name in the book because she asked him to stop screaming on the top of his lungs. When I confronted him I was the only one to do so in a subway car filled with people. Afterwards a guy told me I was crazy to get involved, as the kid could have pulled a knife on me. On the tragic day of  9/11 the best came out of most New Yorkers when all tried to help each other. So there is a positive side to even jaded New Yorkers.

New York has so much to offer when it comes to theaters , music and culture. Unlike  Europe where many museums are free we pay for everything in NY. One has to be very choosy where to spend your hard earned dollars.

Metropolitan Opera.

As I love opera most of my entertainment budget goes to the Metropolitan Opera and we see about 12 operas a season. It works out to about $50.00 a ticket. Not bad as you see the best singers in the world perform. I go with Jerry ,who comes in from Pennsylvania and we sit  in a box. It has a restricted view of the stage but the sound is great.

Carnegie Hall.

Second on the list for me  is Carnegie Hall .The cheaper tickets are not well placed and I find one has to spend more to get a good seat  but I have had some wonderful experiences there.

Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an amazing place to visit, and can be rather overwhelming. It is a privilege to live here so that one can concentrate on one exhibitions at a time and there is not need to try and see it all in one visit.

Broadway theaters.

Musical Theater is not my best as I prefer a classical trained voice and not a miked performances, but I have seen some wonderful shows on Broadway. Here the tickets can cost a lot, but if one visits TKTS  on 47th street on the day of the performance, some half priced tickets can be picked up here.

Radio City Music Hall.

However exciting a city like New York can be- one pays  a price not to live in the country of you birth.It is fortunate that Americans accept immigrants very easily and as soon as you become a citizen you are recognized  as an American .Wherever one lives it becomes routine. I have lived in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Milan ,Rome, London and now New York .....Get up in the morning- go to work -come home have dinner and go to bed. Over weekend there is a chance to enjoy what the city offers ,but that is about it. It is difficult to make friends in New York City. We are all so busy and  to make a date with a friend is getting your calendar out and at the end you might find a day that will work for everybody a few weeks in advance.When I visit South Africa I am always amazed how easy friends meet on short notice. A cup of coffee in an hour or a drink after work. Here nobody pops in for a visit .It is all arranged far in advance.It has it ups and downs like any other place, but I have been fortunate to live in this exciting city.If you can make it here you can make it anywhere- as the song goes.....!

Empire State Building.

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