Over breakfast Boys asks if I’d put the sign up on the refrigerator. I reply “no”, then breath a sigh of relief – husband has written “OBAMA”. Nice way to wake up. We evaded election nerves by spending the day with dear friends, also in town for theatre work and with whom we had spent many wonderful evenings in their LA bungalow whilst touring three years back.
We huddle in their bijoux upper west side apartment that costs them a small fortune, slipping effortlessly back into our friendship. The second hand piano taking up most of the space revealing a set of values that chimes deeply with ours. A cello hangs on the wall next to a mandolin and a bicycle dangles from a hefty hook on the ceiling. In the tiny strip of kitchen a row of twenty knives also on the wall, held by a magnetic strip – always, always eat in a house that has this many good knives. Above the stove hangs a row of huge metal pans. In tiny New York apartments storage moves upwards it seems.
Strolling New York City, I’m either half imagining that it’s 1963 (I’ve recently developed an uncontrollable obsession with Mad Men) or the early thirties (my childhood was filled with black and white movies of the era set in the city). It’s why I draw particular pleasure from this family, unable to shake my fantasy of being reunited with gypsies from Vaudeville days – fantastic feeling of connection when seeing eye-to-eye with people in the profession.
Different story on the 1 train as the children and I begin a commute uptown. We sardine into the carriage. A 6ft man behind me beneath his magnificent dreadlock mane turns his head and demands people (me) to take their backpacks off, “This is what we do in New York! We take them off in the subway!” In the near oxygen free silence I notice people roll their eyes and shake their heads. I must be learning the ways of the city, because, in a most un-British way, I summon up an answer (though he’s three times my size in every direction) and calmly reply that I will not remove the load on my back on account of carrying a baby load on my front. He looks down towards my head. I suddenly second guess my reaction. Not the wisest thing to spark an argument, inches from your opponents face smushed between strangers. Then he takes a breath and loudly requests for “someone to stand up and give the lady with a baby a seat!” Five people jump up like they’ve just sat on a pin. I suppose it’s not only five foot females that feel a little intimidated. As I sit down, he begins a rally against the selfishness of New Yorkers in the wake of Sandy relief efforts, almost under his breath.
Uptown a tangible relaxation about the parents who, during the post Sandy week long school closure, meandered the area with despair across their faces. It’s disconcerting to live in our bubble whilst but a few miles away there is complete devastation to so many people’s lives. Boy’s school participates in the relief effort with donations accepted daily for the Red Cross. Meanwhile in our little cave, Junior frantically kicks his quadriceps into shape, James Taylor sings out about raining fire in the sky and that sign on the fridge….fills me with hope.
Sara Alexander and her husband Cory English (formerly of Walworth NY) are actors, who met in the London acting community. They live in London, with their two children, but are currently living in New York, while Cory performs in the Broadway show “Chicago”.