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New York: An Assault on the Senses.


A look back on our first two weeks in New York; The sights, the smells, the tastes, plus the joy of dealing with the Social Security office.

Enough said.

We’ve been in New York for two weeks now, but, because we don’t technically have our own place, it doesn’t really feel like home yet. However, over the last fortnight we’ve experienced some strange occurrences involving all five senses. Here they are:

Sight:

  • One of the many transvestites/transsexuals I've encountered

    One of the many transvestites/transsexuals I’ve encountered

    Over the course of a regular day I see at least 2-3 transvestites or transsexuals. They are absolutely everywhere! In fact, we were served by one when we bought tickets to Bayside! The Musical!

  • When I was walking down Broadway there was a homeless African-American man waddling toward me with his pants down and his hand down the front of his underwear, staring me dead in the eyes and jerking off.

Other things of interest I have seen:

  • A US size 20 shoe in a shop.
  • A one-legged man on a roller blade
  • thalidomide victim in a wheelchair with gang tattoos on his neck
  • Two women with excessive facial hair fighting in a train
  • A woman sharing a donut with her dog, which was in a pram. She wasn’t breaking pieces off for it, but letting the dog take a bite and then she would take a bite.
  • A homeless man begging for change because, as his sign read, he had “Never tried deep-fried Mars Bars”.
  • A guy trying to impress a girl in a bar by doing push-ups.

These are the things I can remember off the top of my head, but if I put my mind to it and listed everything that was worth mentioning, this post would continue into perpetuity.

Hearing:
Besides constantly hearing sirens, I have also overheard some classic conversations here, usually either on the subway or in bars. These include:

– “Do you get many jumpers?” – Female British Tourist (talking to a bridge tour guide about Brooklyn Bridge)
– “I won’t say no, but generally if you want to do that  you go to the George Washington Bridge, it’s higher and the barrier is easier to climb over.” – Bridge Tour Guide

“Where’s yo’ hair grease at?!?” – Woman in hair care store

“Seventy five inches is like, big, right?” – Woman online shopping for a TV (see, this is why they need the metric system)

“Twenty-nine-hundred?!? If it was that cheap I’d get it for myself. Sorry, it’s two thousand, nine hundred.” – A not-so-bright estate agent when Anna told me the price of a property he took us to

“So, what’s living in China like?” – A man in a bar when I told him that I had lived in Singapore for the past seven years

“Taylor Swift is so amazing, she can sing AND play the guitar. That’s so cool.” – A fully-grown adult woman working in our building, talking to her friend 

  • We also overheard a man having a conversation about how his friend’s dog died so he got a tattoo of the dog with ink made from the dead dog’s ashes. Nobody thought this was weird, in fact the people listening thought this was extremely sweet and nobody brought up the issue of hygiene

It’s not just strangers that have been spewing these pearls of wisdom, either:

“I’ve got big shoes to look up to.” – Anna on her current workplace

“It’s a catch 21.” – Anna on trying to get an ID in the USA (and, no, I didn’t steal this from Trailer Park Boys, she really said it!)

“Two can play balls.” – Anna on exacting revenge

“Neil Harrison Ford.” – Anna referring to Neil Patrick Harris

Again, I can’t put everything, because this post wouldn’t end.

Taste
We’re currently staying in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, right near Wall Street, so it’s quite affluent and people in this part of town eat very well, ourselves included. Every second restaurant will have at least one of the following words or phrases displayed somewhere on their signage or in the window:

  1. “Organic”
  2. “Artisan” (remember my grilled cheese?)
  3. “Gourmet”
  4. “Cruelty-Free”
  5. “Cage-Free”
  6. “Free-Range”
  7. “Home made”, despite the fact it’s made and sold in an f’ing shop
  8. “Gluten-Free”, because allergies are cool (I love that these places sell beer, too).
  9. “Vegan”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to put good stuff in your body, but then there is just cashing in. When we were in Brooklyn we saw that this healthy eating craze had gone to a whole new level. I present to you gourmet pet food:

This leaves me with a lot of questions running through my head, the main one being when did dogs start eating blueberries?!? I always thought they were carnivorous and if they were carnivorous, they wouldn’t suffer from celiac disease, thus it wouldn’t matter if their food was wheat-free, because they wouldn’t be eating wheat, either!
There were a lot of different varieties of these pet foods, I just took photos of a couple. They weren’t cheap, either, the turkey stew for dogs was US$6.99 a can!
Anna wants to get a dog if our apartment is pet-friendly, but if we do get one I want it to be grounded and humble, not one of these spoilt, stuck-up, over-privileged douche-hounds I keep seeing. It will just be getting regular dog food and shitting on newspaper, just like all decent dogs do.

Smell

Enough said.

Enough said.

Touch
There are a lot of fat people here. Granted, not as many as I expected, but still a lot. Right now it’s the middle of summer and when fat people get hot, they get really sweaty and when it is crowded there really is no alternative but to rub against them. When we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge it was probably about 30°C (86°F) and I constantly had fat people, usually children, sliding past me, coating my arm with a film of their perspiration. By the end of the walk I was dripping with sweat, most of which wasn’t even mine! I was expecting to develop full-body tinea, or at least athlete’s foot on my arms (athlete’s arms?), but, luckily, no rashes for me thus far.

Now, the next one isn’t technically a sense, but it uses the word ‘sense’, plus I wanted to quickly write about our experience at the social security office. I bring you…

Common Sense
Trying to get an apartment here is a nightmare for many reasons, the main one being that Anna is not paid by the hospital she is working for here, but by her hospital back in Singapore. Due to this, she wasn’t granted a social security number when she started working here. The Social Security office is near where we’re staying and closes at 4:00pm, so I got down there early on Thursday to get a number so we could be seen that day and Anna was going to meet me there as soon as possible. The following are incidents that occurred during our hour or so in the office:
*Some of these fit under the umbrella of the other senses, so I’ll make note of them, too

  1. A number is required to determine the order of sequence and these come from an automated machine. I politely lined up behind the gentleman using the machine, only to be screamed at by the security guard that there was another machine around the corner that wasn’t being used, so I should go use that instead. (hearing, sight)
  2. When Anna arrived she was quite thirsty, so she pulled a bottle of water out of her bag and took a sip. She was immediately screamed at by the security guard that drinks aren’t allowed, but in hindsight I don’t think many terrorists would take a sip of their poison/explosive fuels to test them, but who really knows? (hearing, taste)
  3. Anna tried charge her phone, only to be told by the security guard that phones aren’t allowed. (hearing)
  4. When we were finally called up, the woman who served us couldn’t comprehend Anna’s name. With Chinese names, the surname comes first, in Anna’s case it is Tan. Plus, she has a Chinese name, Cheng Sim, and an English name, Anna. No matter how many times Anna explained this to her, the woman couldn’t figure out how to enter Anna’s name in the computer. There were other Chinese people waiting, too, so surely this isn’t the first time she’s encountered this problem. (hearing)
  5. The woman serving us did two really rancid farts while she was speaking to us. At least we think it was her. (smell and possibly taste)
  6. A social security number is a form of US identification. She went on to inform us that in order to get a social security number, one would require three forms of US identification. A driver’s licence, a birth certificate and…
  7. Anna informed her that she might already have a social security number, because she lived in the US when she was eleven. Anna was then asked how her father would have written her name on the forms. (hearing)
  8. Eventually, the woman found Anna’s social security number, printed out the details, asked Anna to confirm them and then took them back. When Anna asked if she could have a copy of her social security number, the woman got mad and screamed, “You just had the chance to write it down!”

Well, that’s it for now. Now we’ve got to get through the rest of this apartment-rental red tape!

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About Dr. Tan's Travels (102 Articles)
My name's Tim. I'm a freelance writer and former ESL teacher from Melbourne, Australia, who taught in Daejeon, Korea for six months in 2007 and, until February 2015, had taught in Singapore for seven years. My wife, Anna, is an ophthalmologist. Between March 2015 and July 2016 we spent a month in Pondicherry, India, three months in Bonn, Germany, and 12 months in New York before returning to Singapore, all for training and work placements for her. The reason I wanted to keep this blog is because I suffer from epilepsy and have a terrible memory, therefore this would be a great way to help me remember our travels. I will do my best to keep it updated and even continue writing now that we're back in Singapore, but there is one problem; I have a pretty severe phobia of anything medical.

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