Dogs, dogs and more dogs
East 17th Street and 3rd Avenue
My first mornings drawing taught me that New York is a city of dog owners; there must be thousands of them parading up and down day and night. 5th avenue is a pampered pooch dog/catwalk show and one soon realises that dog ownership means something far more than just owning a pet, you know what I mean, the regular ‘man’s best friend and feeble minded fetcher of sticks’ type thing.
No, in New York it genuinely says something about you, it’s communicating on more levels than a mere foreigner like myself can possibly understand. It is about status, mood, all sorts, a New York dog is one of those unconscious tools humans use to communicate to one other when there are far too many humans to communicate with. In the UK when strangers dare to interact the opening gambit for conversation is the weather. It is safe ground and it never fails. We know all know the rules and it eases the agonising path of awkward British social interaction.
For a New Yorker it’s their dogs. I spied them time and time again while drawing on street corners. The lights are red and dog two owners come to a halt at the kerb. A moment passes and one comments on how wonderful the others’ dog is. Kind appreciations are returned and they are off chatting and petting respective hounds. The Holy Grail of common ground in a metropolis is sealed and all is well.
There is no one dominant breed, they are all shapes and sizes although the most popular breeds are the smaller breeds presumably because of apartment living. Or as my New Yorker friend refers to them ‘Damn, pocket rats!’. These mini dogs are not just owned by elderly women either. You can often see giant muscled men towing the tiniest of dogs or as in one case the other way around. A wee little prancing pooch not 10 inches high trotting the lead to a behemothic gay man. The dog then quietly pausing at the door of a bar called ‘Boots and Saddle’ in West Village. They were regulars it seemed.
I am not a dog person myself though New York would not be the same without dogs and they naturally nuzzled, wet nosed into my work.
Yellow Cabs As in the movies there are great herds of heaving, yoke Yellow cabs driven by members of all nations. These cabs only have two gears. Stop and light speed. One second you are stationary at a red traffic light then it switches green, the space time continuum tips on its head and you are at the next traffic light chewing on one of your own lungs. This is how one moves across Manhattan. Stop-light speed-stop-light speed and so on. Interestingly this analogy seems to pervade the very culture of New York. On-off, love-hate, rich-poor, low rise-high rise. New York is no fan of the middle ground, it breathes deep and feeds at the extremes of existence.
New York is a place of extremes
Going out and having fun
As expected New York does this the best and would fill ten volumes if I went through them all. I have instead listed a few of the places I visited.
McSorley’s Old Ale House
15 East 7th Street New York, NY 10003 This is New York’s oldest saloon house and has been a radical political hot spot since its inception in 1854. Unless you are a woman that is, they were only allowed in from the 1970’s onwards. It reminds me of a country pub in the West of Ireland. Not one of the ‘Plastic Paddy’ Places you get in the UK, the real deal and delightfully incongruous amongst the cities ‘Brownstones’. Inside everything, and I mean everything is the colour of cigarettes though smoking has long since been banned and there is sawdust on the floor to soak the beer – though being drunk enough to spill anything is certainly frowned upon.
The walls are covered in ancient pub curiosities and the photographs of long dead alcoholics looking down upon what they can no longer partake of. A true Catholic purgatory to be sure. It has very good beer and a busy, lively atmosphere. All this is overseen by the very large man that runs the place. Him being in his fifties with steel grey hair worn long at the collar. He has the look of one of my tough uncles. A hard man as they used to say, always watching. Watching for what I cannot imagine, the place is full of doe-eyed tourists queuing up to buy the memorabilia, and I would say I was the most Irish person in the whole place.