Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Still chewing the Big Apple...

On our second week in New York The Teenager, The American and I get tickets for the Yankees Red Sox game for a sum that could clear third world debt. We take a packed subway out to The Bronx and buy baseball caps and $8 hot dogs and get lost in the sea of navy and white. The American shakes his head at how touristy we are. I tell him he's Californian, so technically originates from just as far away.

Once inside we discover there's more entertainment in the stands than on the pitch. Goaded by the crowd, the NY cops throw a succession of Boston fans out for no other reason than supporting the wrong side. Aside from the woman who punches a female cop, she kinda had it coming.

The Teenager is revelling in this gladatorial pit and joins in with the crowds yelling ''Assssssshhhhhhhooooooooole.'' at a lone Red Sox fan. I join in with an ''Arsehole!'' but it's impossible to do in a British accent. You have to yell assssssssss-hole in a Janice from Friends voice.

''Can we get popcorn to chuck it at him Mum? The teenager's eyes are bright with excitement.

I tell her I think he's good for food as a cup of Labatts and a handful of peanuts land on his head.

The Yankees lose that night.

Later that week I manage to convince The Teenager to take a trip out to Long Island, despite the limited shopping opportunities. She wants The Hamptons but I convince her it's less S.A.T.C and more W.A.S.P

Instead we head to a place called Fire Island that involves two trains, a taxi and a ferry. When we arrive and hit the near deserted white sands and clear sea it's more than worth the the trek. We lay out in the 80 degree heat and marvel at how a place just 50 miles away from Manhattan can seem like a million.

The Teenager gets me to take pictures of her in something that possibly started life as a bikini. I make her promise she won't put them on her BeBo.

''No one does BEBO anymore mother''
''Oh right.''
''It's Facebook now.''
''I thought Facebook was for old people?''
''Old-der. I'm 14 now.'' she sighs theatrically while holding the camera aloft and pouting into the lens.

On our last day in New York we head to Manhattan and emerge from the Union Square Subway to something that looks like a Monsoon. New Yorkers, never phased by extreme weather are donning wellies, brollies and waterproofs. The Teenager and I are wearing sundresses and flip flops. The American plays the hero and runs to the nearest Duane Reed to buy us umbrellas.

''He needn't have bothered,'' I tell The Teenager ''any minute now there'll be a crazy guy selling them'' She raises a suspicious eyebrow but watches out nevertheless. 30 seconds later a hunched figure with a coat fashioned from bin bags comes around the corner.

''UM-ber-rellas. Fiiiiiive dollar!'

On the way home the next day at JFK a minor miracle occurs. Despite it being 6 a.m. and my face scrubbed of make-up we get a free upgrade to Premium Economy. A show of rare excitement from The Teenager is short lived until she sees the cabin and realises there are no lie down beds or beauty therapists. Her mood returns to Mariah Carey when she discovers her water's not room temperature.

''So what was your favourite part of the trip?'' I ask her as we eat food from real china with real cutlery at 35,000 feet.
She sighs wearily ''You asked me this already.''
''I'm asking again.''
She rolls her eyes.''THE SHOP-PING.'' she enunciates as if I am a monkey with brain damage. I was hoping the answer might have changed. She sips the white wine she has acquired without me noticing.

''So is like, the food, like... any different in Premium economy?''
''No, but you get real cutlery and china!''
''But we get like...the same food?''

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Teenager takes a bite out of the Big Apple-part 1

The Teenager and I have returned from New York City after two weeks with The American. Despite having turned apathy into an art, even she could not fail to be impressed by the city that never sleeps. She could, however, try and sleep as much as possible in it. I would bound into her room at 11 a.m. to try and rouse her.
Sometimes it worked well:
''Hey let's go to Chinatown and buy fake Chanel!''
Sometimes,not so much: ''Hey let's go and see the Jeff Koon exhibition at the Met!''

I manage to get her to the MoMa but she is still asking ''Do I have to?'' as I'm paying for the tickets to which I reply that yes, at least one art museum is probably a good idea as she wants to go to art college. The Teenager is spectacularly unimpressed with the stream of Picassos and Pollacks and so we enjoy some mother daughter bonding flicking the finger at such great works as a blank canvas and a piece of pink plastic leaning against a wall.

The Teenager resumes her default NY setting of thinking she's Paris Hilton. When we first visited in 2006 all she wanted to do was shop, get manicures and take yellow cabs everywhere. This year replace the taxis with a subway card (mysteriously she was always feeling ill when actually on one) and add in trying to get served cocktails at dinner. Is it actually irresponsible to let your 14 year old sip a Flirtini at dinner? Probably not if the waitress is stupid enough to think she's 21.

New York is a dangerous place for a teenager who looks like an adult. There is not only her burgeoning interest in the opposite sex to but also their interest in her. And we're not talking boys here, we are talking grown men with stubble and jobs and trendy lofts downtown. Looking at her like they want to take her back to their apartment and show her how to press the buttons on their Bang and Olfusen.

My scowls at the men went largely unnoticed. My scowls that said ''Go away Perv before I attack you with my $1 hot dog!'' I considered a placard with 'She's only 14!' and an arrow pointing in her direction. The American unhelpfully suggested a burkha.

On one our many pitstops at an the inescapable Starbucks for iced drinks to fight the 80 degree heat the Teenager considers our age difference

''So you know that I, like, look older and stuff?''


''And you look like, a bit younger and stuff?''

''Oww do I? Thank you!

''Yeah, I wasn't like paying you a compliment.''


''Yeah, so I was just thinking that either people will think we're sisters or they will think we're mates. They wouldn't think we're mother and daughter, cos then you look like you had me at 13 or something.''

''You don't really think that people will think we're mates?'' I was suddenly worried about how weird I'd look having friend so much younger than me.

''Probably...'' she shrugged sipping on an overpriced strawberry and vanilla frappacino ''and they probably think you're a freak.''

At least in New York being 'a freak' simply makes me fit in.

The Teenager and I beat a retreat back to The Americans super untrendy nothing-like-a-loft apartment in Queens and watch the Tyra Show and eat Oreos till he come home from a typical NY 14 hour working day.

''So what's been your favourite part of New York so far?'' I ask The Teenager

''Shopping.'' she replies without a pause.

''What about the the art and culture? Central Park? The architecture? The amazing vibe? The Food? The people''

''Nope'' she sighs, accompanied by a classic teen eyeball rolling ''It's definitely the shopping.''