Tales of the City

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 30 January 2012

Curtis Stiger is singing to me. I love his new album. He came onto the show on Sunday and he sung to me in the studio. I realised that I had my eyes shut for far too long, whilst listening, l could have stared at the gorgeous man and he would never have known. There's a lot of muted trumpet on his new album - my favourite sound.

I am back to work with a vengeance. One week in the city of bagels and I am revived. How long it will last - who knows?

Nick Funnel is a complete angel. He and his crew helped B and I out so that we were upgraded on the way to America. We had booked BA tickets but only found out, after it was too late, that we had booked with American Airlines. The food looked like leftovers left out in the rain, and tasted worse.

Well we weren't really upgraded, just given seats with leg room, two first class bags of eye-shades and creams and a plastic bag with a scarf and duvet, not to mention a bottle or two of champagne with a big bowl of ice-cream to cool down the fight.

We gave Pammie the bubbly.

Nan, our Air American hostess was delightful. The same cannot be said of Sammy on the way back. He looked at me like I was a British Tourist trying it on to get an upgrade just because I was a UK citizen....which was fairly accurate.

On January 17th we were collected from JFK by my friend of 38 years. She drove us, on the wrong side of the road, to a gig in Cornelious Streeet at the Cornelious cafe. Dan Cainer was over so we popped in for his set and a bowl of chips and calamari.

I had taken milk thistle and fish oil, on the hour, every hour, during the flight, the result NO JET-LAG. No jet-lag at all. I was given the little bedroom, B slept on the sofa, Pammie in her big bed. The first day was taken care of.

We had all manner of weather to look forward to. Snow, rain, bitter cold and New York cold, which is crisp and dry and the perfect weather to look up at the New York skyline, into the bluest of blue skies.

Thursday was meant to be Kevin Spacey at Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Old Vic giving of its 'Richard the Third' BUT the bride wanted me around so I left the tickets, and B with Pammies son who she's known since she was seven, whilst the bride and I went uptown. Three hours of Shakespeare may well have tested my body clock, although I would have loved to have been that cultured and say I'd seen The Bard in Brooklyn.

So it was into Manhatten on the 'R' train to Union Square and then line '6' to 51st street. But not before we were taken to 'Tommy's' to eat gargantuan pancakes with strawberry and cinnamon butter washed down with their complementary Eggnog, a drink that consists of chocolate milk, sugar and life threatening cream.

'I want to live here.' said my daughter with a mouthful.

The subways are dark, and dirty. The mice skuttle over the tracks, the turn-styles difficult to get through if you don't swipe your metro card quickly enough. I couldn't work out the right speed and kept missing the trains. Working out a route was a nightmare for me, not having the old git with me meant I had to take responsibility so I bought a subway map that I carried with me and still managed to work up a sweat. Getting horribly confused when we went to Franklyn Avenue to buy oils from a real Asian oil emporium. The owners, two guys from Bangladesh, were surrounded by shelves of bottles filled with garish couloured oils. I bought Patchouli, the smell of my youth whilst B bought all sorts. We went to a cheap supermarket to buy Hershey Bars and aunt Jemimas pancake mix and syrup ( gifts for Gawds sake not for us ), and the dawter got told off for taking photographs. of packets of sweets!! The journey back worked up another sweat I might as well have been in Utta Pradesh for all the sense the subway map made.

Pammie, who is a native new Yorker said she had just learnt the rules of geography for The Big Apple.

'East is Even and West is odd'.

Given that I don't know left from right or right from wrong It didn't make a blind bit of difference to me. l just followed her to wherever we were going. Today it was 53rd Street on the corner of Second Avenue. She told me something about how to remember avenues and streets but I'm too dumb to remember.

The Pepsi Cola sign on the Hudson River was to the left of the apartment on 53rd. A solid old place with more books than Waterstones and a fab line in Persian rugs. I slept in the back room after a meal in 'The Smith', a very noisy fish restaurant. I had flounder and greens and no pudding.

Their napkins were miniture cotton tea-towels which I asked to buy. My host said they were too expensive and offered to find some for me before we left. In the event B and I went to tea in 'Balthazars' in Soho. A French style restaurant with wooden floors and banquettes and a terrific selection of cakes and bread. Our waiter was a musician/DJ who asked how many of the napkins I would like, they were the same as in 'The Smith'.

'Two?' he drawled.

'No six.' I said in my best of British accent.

At the end of meal he presented me with a brown paper bag and told me to enjoy my bread. He had nicked half a dozen real cotton napkins for me saying, as he left us in the capable hands of a stand-up comedian who was taking over his shift;

'They can afford it.' and he waltzed out of the restaurant into the freezing cold air.

Friday was spent eating Japanse noodles and helping the bride with her dry cleaning, pastries and place names. The sun hung low, so low that it was impossible for me to look up my poor streaming eye doing its best to blind me.

We met up with some friends from Philly, who had shlepped all the way to new York to meet us, in 'Delicatessen' a trendy noshery. The waiters were very friendly and told us to tell the taxi drivers to take us over Manhattan Bridge not Brooklyn, to be sure that we went to the cross section near Prince station so that were were waiting in the right direction, to be sure to say Manhattan otherwise they would rip us off. It was pouring with icy rain so we cut our losses and took the 'R' train and miraculously got home.

Then Saturday was the wedding. We met up with other guests in a bar that was so low lit I couldn't see my cleavage. The ceremony was held in a book store that re-sells books for Aids charities and the Homeless. Condoms were in a basket at the door with the legend 'No glove no love'.

140 guests piled into the venue. 140 Americans, and us, who had come prepared for the snow which had fallen just to make it that little bit more romantic. 140 doctors and professors, children and relatives. 140 very happy people to see Pammie and her beau get married on the spiral staircase surrounded by books. Mayor Dinkin did the honours as Pammie and Paul exchanged rings on the third step up on their spiral stairway to heaven.

Two guitars played pefect background music and the speeches - mine included - were peppered through out the meal. Celeriac and squash soup, meat, surf and turf on a plate of vegetables and Manahattan sized french fires. Pudding was rice - interesting we did comfort food on this weeks show and 9 out of 10 people chose rice pudding as their favourite comfort food. I was lucky to be sitting next to the brides sister who had had too much wine, which was flowing like the Mississippi River, so I downed her rice pudding. In fact Roy, the grooms brother a very well respected geologist, and I went mining for any left overs, unfortunately the caterers had got the numbers right. Stealing whilst heads were turned was the only way to get thirds.

A taxi back to Brooklyn, and into bed to read Patti Smith's brilliant biography. Patti had kept me company from the get-go (an Americanism). At 2.00 a.m. I heard voices. Pammies parents and Pammies son were up eating crackers and biscuits and dissecting the wedding. I joined them. As the snow melted we picked apart outfits,speeches, the food and the happiness of the future Mrs. K.

God I love Curtis stiger's music, please buy his new album it is SOOOO cool.

Sunday we all met up in Manahattan, at the swanky apartment, for bagels and lox. Huge plates of fish. Huge plates of fresh bagels. Huge plates of moist pastries. Huge plates to put the huge food from the huge plates on. Juliet, the caterer, had a broad Brookyln accent and made the best cawfee in town.

By 3.00 p.m. I could not walk to the elevator.

That evening 21 of us gathered in Pammies apartment back in Brooklyn. Notice I say apartment. The elevator opened directly into the living room, just like in a movie.... sorry film. 21 of us met on Sunday night to watch the New York Giants beat San Franciso somethings at American football.

Taking the lift to the flat to watch American football just doest sound right does it?

Taking the elevator to the apartment gives you the picture of 21 Americans screaming for the Giants. High fiving and bellowing. I was taught the rules by Jessie a personal trainer who is pocketing all his money so he can open up a language school in Costa Rica I told B to flirt with him.

Jessie taught me enough to scream and bellow too. Nothing like a partisan game of football in Brooklyn with bagels on the go and the washing up done by 20 people which did not include me. In about ten days time I have to watch the superbowl final with The Giants and the Patriots. I am told its a needle match. I wonder whether watching US football in a cottage in East Sussex will be the same.

Monday was Chinese New Year. The dawter and I had lunch in Chinatown. And thats where the dragons came in. We heard drums, louder and louder, the door swung open, and a huge dragon entered our restaurant in Canal Street. The dragon danced. We ate sweeties, the dragon danced more and we ate more. welcome to the Year of the Dragon.

Tuesday we were invited to Grand Central Station. The little golden clock in the centre of the concourse read 4.00. At 4.30 Pammie arrived and led us to an underground Oyster restaurant. I had a beer from Colarado and we ate a dozen oysters. Chosen for, us by the waiter, from at least 40 difference types of oysters from 40 different locations throughout America. We had big ones, smaller ones, creamy ones and salty ones all served with fresh cole-slaw and little tubs of hot or tomato sauce. I ended my stay in New York with a slab of cheese cake that could have insulated my loft. We had to cut our shopping trip short as the cheese cake weighed me down.

Wednesday I made lunch, then we were driven to JFK, and our final hamburger.

The overnight trip was only 6 hours with the help of milk thistle and fish oil I had NO, and I really do mean NO jet-lag coming back either.

Onto the Piccadlly line, 8.17 train to TWells and there was the 'oosbind waiting for us.

Into the shower and my week in New York was washed away. One week on it's as if we haven't been away.

The Sunday show was really good fun with me interviewing the delightful Curtis, and the delicious Lee Mead, and I do mean delicious, that Denise Van Outen had better watch out.

Today Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton talked to me about their new production of 'Sweeny Todd' which is opening in March. You'll have to listen to the show this Sunday, they were lovely to interview.

I can feel my energy coming back, nipping at my heels.

I visited my mother, who I had talked to on Sykpe, from my phone, from my bed in Brooklyn, she didnt remember. My mother is declining. Having met 85 year olds who play tennis every day and are mobile and articulate it was hard seeing my poor old mum. I wonder whether having a great deal of money really does make getting older easier?

Bloody daft question.

This week I empty her flat of 25 years.

The end of an era.

Back to reality.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At January 31, 2012 5:33 PM LV wrote:

Well, that was a gastronomical bite of the apple. And it's making me very hungry. I could just go a nice hot fresh bagel and a plate of something, with some of that Cawfee.
It's getting icy cold and my appetite takes off.
Sounds like you had a great time Jeni.

I take the fish oil omega3 thing everyday, liquid form cold pressed with lemon and orange oil - no odour. And still i get jet lag without even flying! but that's another story.
I've just got to get in the kitchen and fill me boots! I need the fuel...
Love Light LV
...

2. At January 31, 2012 9:42 PM LV wrote:

I was so hungry before i forgot to mention. The Asian Oil Emporium sounds divine. I would have spent all my bucks in there, for my potions lotions and witches brew....heavenly!
All good wishes to your moma Jeni.
Love Light
...

3. At February 2, 2012 3:09 AM Nick Funnell wrote:

Hey Jeni. Your trip sounds like a fabulous whirlwind of fun.
I've seen some pictures and you both look like your having a brilliant time.
I am laying awake. It's 2.57am in London and I am wide awake.
I just worked home from Delhi yesterday.
My jet lag is all over the shot.
I need fish oil and milk thistle.
That's where i have been going wrong with the 20 years flying....
I shall try it. Thanks
Anything is better than being awake all night when you have an appointment in the morning. Argh!!!
You sounded happy and back to your old self on sunday, It's was a great show, although had to listen again later as you did compete with my sister over the Australian open final. And she pulled rank.
I played it through listen again on the Bbc website later.
Anyway lovely. Glad to have you home safely.
Sending love. Nick. Xx

4. At February 2, 2012 3:15 AM Nick Funnell wrote:

Ps Jeni. Try Rachel's divine rice pud.
Bloooooomin gorgeous. One of my favourites.
It's in the big supermarkets.
You'll love it.
I'm sure you would have tried it.
Get some chopped almonds on top.
Even better.
Love from the wide awake club.
Going to eat two crumpets and try again to SLEEP!!! Xxxx

5. At February 8, 2012 12:47 AM worldclock wrote:

Tales of the City [Jeni Barnett] - just great!

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.