Hi! I’m Ana

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uptown midtown downtown crosstown

Day 77 Midtown, Lincoln Centre, the High Line

The Lufthansa pilots are flying today but striking tomorrow. We're off but sans three jars of Parisian terrine. Heathrow confiscates it from our carry-on, deeming it a paste, liable to be used as a type of deadly but delicious meat bomb. The guy is apologetic. Rob is sweet. "Don't worry. You're saving us from heart disease," he says, as if it's the guy sliding our meat paste into the bin that needs consoling. My mum admonishes me later on. "You packed it in your carry on?!" she cries. Read between the lines, she means, Beginner's mistake.

We land late at night in JFK. The terminal looks tired and old. So do we. It takes us an hour and a half to clear border security and customs. We're questioned about our dog food. I have to describe it as "French cupcakes for dogs". The guy just waves us through, mildly irritated.

CNN flashes images of a protests in Manhattan over the decision of a grand jury to not indict a policeman who kills an African-American guy via an ill-judged chokehold. There's video footage. Eric Garner dies a truly tragic and unceremonious death on a dirty sidewalk. 

Strangely but not inappropriately, I think of The Bachelorette. I do. Marquel, the only African-American among the contestants, hears through gossip that someone whispered, disbelievingly, that he can't believe the Bachelorette picked "a blackie". In an interview, he's choked up on camera, emotional. "It's crazy to think that the first thing people are going to recognise about me is 'he's the black guy'." In my head, an episode of the Bachelorette and the Eric Garner case aren't so far apart.

We're staying with family in Fourth Avenue. The building has a uniformed doorman. This is exciting for no one else but us. We're welcomed with a little coffee table picnic; cheese, salami, chicken, bread, fruit. Outside, Manhattan is strangely still but during the night, the police sirens are wailing . Just down the hall, there's an NYPD sticker on a door. A man was dead in his apartment for three days before being found. 

The next morning, we're out the door at 8.30 am. That's how excited we are to see New York. Union Square is at our door step and so is a diner. Big Daddy's Diner to be exact. It comes complete with a perky waitress called Kiki (not making this up), bottomless coffee, and pancakes. Rob starts chanting, "USA! USA! USA!" like we're at an Olympic event and downs Tater Tots. Gimme some of yer 'tots.

Our Uncle takes us on a running tour of Midtown, finally letting us catch our breath in Lincoln Centre. He's not fazed. "Manhattan's a walking town!" he declares. "When you get cold, find a building like this, use the bathroom, warm up."

On the way, we passed about twenty Santas outside Macy's, waving signs about Santa needing Bacon. We pass Santa Number 12. He's coaching Santa Number 11. "Don't let the Yarmulke put you off," he says.

We hit some classic sights; Flat Iron, Times Square, Broadway. There's yellow cabs everywhere. The sidewalks are broad, leaving lots of room for a slow lane (for tourists looking up and around) and a fast lane, for the New Yorkers and repeat visitors. Rob describes everything we see as iconic. I think this explains why everything is new but so familiar. I've seen it all on tv before. Just the night before on the plane, Scarlett Johanssen in Lucy was using 100 percent of her brain power in Times Square to scan back through time.

The subway cards are flimsy pieces of plastic, easily lost and bent. It's claustrophobic down there and your ability to find your way around depends entirely on your knowledge of how the city above you is laid out. Uptown, Midtown, Downtown, Crosstown. Count your streets. East or West.

New York looks like a perfect little toy town up on the High Line. It's like someone from the Lego City series division designed this stretch from the Meatpacking District to the Rail Yards. By the time we make it home, we've walked four hours.

the most wonderful time of the year

submerged pumpkins in canal water