Tag Archives: Padma Lakshmi

A cultural loss

In a classic ‘the dog ate my homework’ style, can I apologize for the lack of the last segment of the 200 Things You Simply Have To Know About New York list? I may or may not have written the vast majority of the final 50 points on a series of Post It notes, which were stuffed into my jeans pockets and subsequently thrown into the washing machine this weekend. I’d like to think that Charles Dickens, William Golding, Joseph Heller, Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy had similar domestic appliance-related woes at various points during their writing careers. I know for a fact that the first draft of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ was almost entirely destroyed when his wife accidentally spilled hot water from the kettle as she attempted to make a cup of instant soup. These are the issues that face all writers at some point, I know.

So as you wait eagerly under your Google Reader feed for the final installment to drop merrily into view, I thought I should mention another writer – and one far better than I could ever dream of being. Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington bureau news chief and host of ‘Meet The Press’, passed away on Friday after suffering a heart attack at work. The outpouring of tributes and emotion – whether from journalistic luminaries, politicians or the man on the street – suggests that this was a man whose ability to ask the difficult question and provide insight made him loved by all. Clearly Russert’s death has impacted a huge number of people.

It’s at times like this that I really notice that I’ve only been in the US for ten months. For while I know of Russert’s work, he hasn’t formed part of my cultural and journalistic upbringing for the last thirty five years in the way that, say, Michael Buerke, Sue Lawley or Kate Adie have. If Sir Trevor McDonald dropped dead tomorrow, there would (in the UK) be a tidal wave of tributes and sorrow which I would be able to understand given that Trevor’s news reports (not to mention his surprise Tiswas appearances) were a constant presence in my life from the age of about six. There is a very clear emotional attachment to these people that you invite into your house every night, and one that only time and repeated exposure can bring. But that’s a long way from happening for me with American newscasters, meaning that I can’t quite relate to the grief in the way that I might otherwise hope to.

In fact, such is the limited amount of TV that I watch at the moment given a move of country and job as well as the acquisition of a ready-made family, the only television stars that I might mourn the loss of would be Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colichio. ‘Top Chef’ is hardly ‘Meet The Press’, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

School papers

I’ve blogged before about the impossibility of doing anything in this country without some form of ID, and rarely a day goes by without me thinking that I should muster the will to go get a driving license. Not so that I can drive, you understand, but just so that I can spend more than $75 on a credit card at Virgin Megastores without facing a full cavity search by over-zealous staff.

To be honest though, lack of ID can be a benefit as well as a burden on occasion. I’ve managed to use it as an excuse to get out of doing something I can’t quite summon up the energy to do. Go to the bar to get a drink, you say? Sorry, I don’t carry photo ID on me, and you know what they’re like in this place. You want me to pick up that package you ordered? Erk, no photo ID so I’ll probably just have to go home and watch Padma Lakshmi on Top Chef I’m afraid. Do the washing up, you say? I seem to need photo ID to get into the kitchen unfortunately.

In the UK, ID is something that you see as often as Heather Mills at a Justice For Fathers demo. There’s plenty of talk of introducing a national identity card, but at the moment people have to rely on their good looks and charm as their sole identifier. Is it just that the British are more trusting? Or perhaps it’s merely that we don’t insist on using a 220 year old document to justify carrying a sub-machine gun in our back pockets, so there’s less to worry about from a security perspective.

Whatever the case, it’s not just moaning newcomers who suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous admin. The Special One took The Youngest to a middle school this morning, to be interrogatedinterviewed about her ability to give a good wedgieacademic record with a view to being given a place in the school later this year. Given that the interview was at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, The Special One just grabbed her phone and some cash, and then made her way to the subway. Having returned a few moments later after forgetting The Youngest, the two of them trekked into the city.

In retrospect, the sound of an SMS arriving early in the morning was never going to be a good sign, and I could feel the seething resentment from five miles away as I picked up the phone and read ‘we don’t have photo ID, they won’t let us in’. Early morning humour isn’t a key attribute for The Special One at the best of times, and if the poor unfortunate security guard on duty isn’t this evening looking for a new job where he has to take less abuse, I’ll eat my Manchester United bobble hat.

Don’t get me wrong, I know all about Columbine, Virginia Tech and Dunblane, and how utterly terrible those events were. I understand the need for security to protect people in large establishments. But to my knowledge, Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho and Thomas Hamilton didn’t turn up at school with a written appointment for an admission interview and with a ten year old child in tow. And with nothing other than a phone and a scowl in their possession.

I’m sure that the school prinicipal was delighted to be dragged down from his 5th floor ivory tower to pick up two (by now) irritable individuals. Fortunately the interview went well, but it didn’t exactly get The Youngest’s relationship with the school off to a flying start.

Come on people, just because we’ve got rules doesn’t mean that we leave good sense at home. Unlike our ID cards, that is.