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Empire State O' Mind

by Amrita Tripathi
Friday , July 13, 2012 at 15 : 50

Like all good desis, the foreign trip starts with the packing. The over-packing, to be precise. Gone are the days when we'd sit on suitcases to make them shut, but the same principle applies. Then the 18 hour trip to the Home of the Brave, Land of the Free... and thud! thump! you're stuck in the longest line of your life. It took a little less than 2 hours to clear immigration. I thought of bolting a couple of times, but figured that wouldn't stand me in good stead. The actual process itself was painless and hassle-free (sorry about that, Shah Rukh) but it's the waiting, the lines, that could possibly kill you. If you're planning a trip this summer to the US, well budget that in to your travel time. No one does, do they now!

Word of advice, it's not the ideal summer destination we'll come to the heat, below.

Having said that, once you're through, the world is your oyster.

It may initially feel like an assault on the senses, it may feel slightly overwhelming, but that's just until you open up and tune in. Pretty fabulous and heady. Also, the famed New York hostility? So far, nada. But ever the sociological hound, I'll keep looking.

This I'm told is a New York thing - make of it what you will!

Shoes On A Wire

And of course I hit Times Square and of course it's a tourist trap, but who can resist? Neon signs promising constant instant gratification, massive billboards advertising the latest must-watch: It's a temple to our times. It's been said that if you stand here long enough, you'll see the whole world go by. I don't doubt it for a second.

Then there are the mimes, the sketch artists, the Smurfs all decked out, along with Hello Kitty and Mickey and Minnie mouse! I'm amazed kids know them, but they do, and there's a lot of photo-clicking and some tipping. Not enough, apparently. Hello kitty looks aghast at a donation of just 50 some cents, but the perpetrator is blase... In another corner, a Smurfette is being sworn at quite loudly by a mom, for even asking for money. Oh, America!

Speaking of tourist traps, I'd been pointed out the F.R.I.E.N.D.S cafe on an earlier trip, and this time round, the outside of the Seinfeld diner! Gimmick or no, it works! A bonafide tourist attraction, right up there with Broadway and off-Broadway, the New York Philharmonic, the Met, the Guggenheim, MoMa, the Empire State, Central Park and - I kid you not - the Apple store. Over various trips I've done different combinations of that list...but apparently I'm in for a treat. Summer in New York, I'm told, is a total blast. (Shakespeare in the park, anyone?)

The Grey Dog

It's a culinary trip too, but I just can't get the hang of portion sizes, despite the Mayor's best efforts, it seems. What sort of cuisine does New York not have? That's the shorter list! We've done the bona fide all-American and I have made my offerings to the hipster chic (see The Grey Dog picture), the organic goodness, the junk food pantheon, the gods and godesses of multi-spangled chocolate, cheese, chips, fries any way you like 'em, not to mention the chili dogs, grilled salmon, burritos, gyro rolls, Thai curry, croissants and multi-grain turkey sandwiches for those in-between days.

Portobello sandwich, remnants

Fat burrito, stabbed

I'm yet to try the Ethiopian, which seems to be a huge draw. For "Indian", it seems "Curry Hill" is the place to go. (I didn't make that up. It's what they call Murray hill, because of all the desi eating joints. Mainly Indian or Bangladeshi, I have to do a spot check, clearly!). I did see a Saravana Bhavan as we raced on by, so there you go. Obviously Authentic!

For the moment, though every hour to me feels like time for dessert. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. This one at Crumbs totally passes muster. Fabulous cup-cakes too, as you can see! Speaking of, a couple of visits ago, I hit Magnolia, where people supposedly line up round the block for their cup-cakes.

Dessert, squandered

So far, so gushy, but there's a lot to process, and lots of changes that we'll be tracking, too. It's not all Food and Fun and Fashion, I'll have you know! No matter how seriously New Yorkers take all three.   

It's just been a week or so, and I have not yet come to the insane heat - knowing as I do, how those of you sitting in Delhi and Mumbai will laugh at me. Enjoy the monsoon! Till next time!

Tweet me your favourite NY moments @amritat and the team @ibnlive with your feedback.



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More about Amrita Tripathi

Amrita Tripathi is a news anchor with CNN-IBN, and also doubles up as Health and Books Editor. An MA in Philosophy from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, she has also taught a few undergraduate classes at her alma mater, informally! When she is not tracking health issues, Amrita is busy chasing the literary dream. Her debut novel Broken News was published in 2010. Before joining CNN-IBN, Amrita worked with The Indian Express.

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