Sunday, August 08, 2010

A New York Weekend

The rhythm of the weekend, with its birth, its planned gaieties, and its announced end, followed the rhythm of life and was a substitute for it. - "The Crack-Up", F. Scott Fitzgerald

Middle age is when you're sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it isn't for you. Ogden Nash

Children's Party,  East 93rd Street Manhattan
I'm reading The Slap. It's by Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas and I highly recommend it.

The Slap is set around the social lives and group dynamics of a group of Australians spanning three generations. The fact that it is set in an area where I spent much of my life - the inner suburbs of Melbourne - isn't the only aspect that leads me to identify with it's characters. They are so like the people I have known and know in Melbourne, that it is hard to keep the smile of recognition from my face as I read it on crowded New York buses on my commutes to and from work.

The "The Slap" people have firm, lifelong friendships. Solid friends that compose set groups of six to eight people who have been together since their formative years. Friends they are but in each group, whether it is the group of children, thirty-somethings, or aging Greek immigrants, there is conflict. Yet never enough conflict to completely tear the group apart. Until the slap. It is a great read and I recommend it highly.

Reading The Slap has made me wish that I was back in Australia, and at the same time to be thankful I am so far away. For as well as the close friendships, I remember the conflicts, the jealousies, the secret lunches and intrigues, the fights over child-rearing philosophies, the political disagreements of the left ...

Quite different than life in New York. Contrary to popular belief, New Yorkers are so "nice". Polite, honest and for the most part, hard-working.

Indigenous Australians - Beswick, Northern Territory
Take this weekend for example.

On Saturday morning a New York friend phoned to let me know there was an Australian movie on television. Another called to invite me for lunch on Sunday. Of course the person in question being my friend-person who rarely follows through, I didn't take the offer seriously - I accepted at the same time knowing it wouldn't happen. Still it was a nice thought and it meant I had a lunch date that would require no effort or expense ... A minimalist New York lunch.

A little after that a couple of friends dropped by. The male half played and sang Buddy Holly songs on his guitar. His wife consumed a bottle of shiraz and asked me about "the pygmies who live in Australia" and told me that white people had lived in Australia centuries longer than white people had lived in America. When I told her the facts she replied, "Oh well you should know Americans are geographically challenged!" Americans are so predictable.

Every now and both husband and wife went out in the hundred degree heat and smoked strange-smelling cigarettes on the balcony. By the time they left they were really quite vague and couldn't remember the way to the elevator.

It is now Sunday afternoon. As predicted, lunch date didn't call. New Yorkers are oh so predictable. I went to the store and when I got back listened to voice mail from my friend who'd called the day before about the Australian movie that had been on telly. She told me she hadn't watched the whole thing because it was so strange. Later I'll call her and leave a message that I thought it was strange too. We New Yorkers are so efficient.

Two Australians - Halls Gap, Victoria
I'd barely put my ten-yogurts-for-$5 (New York is so inexpensive) in the fridge, than the doorman buzzed me. Someone had handed my wallet in. Apparently I'd left it on a bench when I'd been shopping. It had all my credit cards and $200 in it. They were all still there when I picked it up from the lobby. New Yorkers are so honest.

I asked who had handed it in but the doorman didn't know the person. I thought about my friend who thought pigmies lived in Australia. She too had lost her wallet - earlier this year - and hers was handed in by a man called Ed Thundercloud who was a native American. Well that's what she told me at the time. After the pygmy remark I have my doubts.

A few weeks ago I had an email from a friend Paul, in Melbourne who said he'd been at a dinner party there and that I had been discussed, and that people had said how isolated I was in New York and how boring a life I lived there.

Yeah Paul! Are you reading this? BECAUSE, It just goes to show

A: that Christos Tsiolkas is oh so right in his novel The Slap about the Melbourne friendship scene and

B: how wrong you are about my life in the Big Apple!

My name is Kathleenwng and I approve this message.


nautiaussie said...

Just bought it - the opening paragraph had me hooked, and like you, I am often "part there, part here", but ultimately ever so happy in California. But it will be great to read about my Melbourne and some of those terrible interactions between different factions there. And at the same time feel the tug to be there, that will, perhaps, never go away.

Jaded NYer said...

THUNDERCLOUD. His name was Ed Thundercloud. The man who returned my pocketbook and wallet.

I'm glad someone turned yours in, it wasn't me but I'm so happy you got it back.

Also I did not drink the WHOLE bottle of wine, Buddy Holly helped.

Your friend and pygmy.

Jaded NYer said...


You forgot to mention, how happy I was when I arrived and told you I had pushed all the buttons in the elevator. Then you told me that all the elevators were broken and only one was working. Then I told you, gee I'm glad I only pushed all the ones above your floor.

Tee Hee

Post a Comment