Tag Archives: Sandra Bullock

A need for speed – electorally speaking

For a relatively relaxed person like myself, everything in New York is just slightly too fast-paced. Easing yourself into a day is a practical impossibility. Everywhere you look there are people acting as if they’re starring in a bus-less version of the movie Speed, and that if they slow down below 50 mph, they’ll spontaneously combust. Rather like Sandra Bullock’s marriage and Keanu Reeves’ career, to be honest.

Everything has to be done at high pace. Order coffee, and you’ve got bitter black liquid in your mouth before you can spit out the words “…and don’t put any of that whipped cream crap in there”. Push your accelerator even half a second after the green light has flicked on, and you’ll be greeted with the kind of felicitations offered to John TerryTiki Barber at the World Feminist Council’s Annual General Meeting. And don’t even think about walking down the street with anything less than industrial springs in your step, unless being trampled to death is what butters your proverbial crumpet.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. The subway to Coney Island, for instance, is required to take at least three times longer than federal authorities have deemed ‘strictly necessary’. Post office staff are not allowed to serve any customers whatsoever until there are more than 19 people in the queueline. And the immigration procedure in the US was recently the winner of the Ballon D’Or at the International Festival of Snail-Like Slow, held annually in Luxembourg.

If you really want slow though, then the UK is the place for you. British Sunday drivers go so slowly that it took a £3.2m study to determine whether they were actually moving at all. We cut the crusts off cucumber sandwiches, as otherwise we have to move our teeth too quickly. And the newspapers regularly feature stories about how a postcard sent by a woman in Falmouth in 1932 has just turned up in Birmingham. That’s not an anomaly, by the way, that’s just second-class mail UK-style.

One place where the UK bucks the trend though is the election process to find a new government. On April 6, Gordon Brown (or, as Americans call him, ‘Who?”) announced that he was calling an election. Twenty nine days later, and Britain is currently going to the polls. Like the young lady who gave into the smooth-talking charms of the well-groomed man from the Home Counties (only to wake up the next day and find herself in bed with an ill-mannered oik who holds her head under the covers as he farts), the country is almost certainly going to make a frankly regrettable decision and not even be able to blame it on too many shots of Jagermeister. But you can’t say fairer than an election campaign that lasts less than a month.

Here in the US, the election campaign for president appears to kick off two months before the previous election is completed. Given that Americans have eschewed the ‘put a cross in a box’ method of voting in favour of a complicated series of buttons, pulleys, levers and chads, it can take almost four years for that vote to be registered. If I ever get to vote in an election, it’ll be unclear whether I’m voting to bring Obama’s successor into office, or to try to keep Nixon out of office.

This is my first UK election living in the US, and the brilliance of it is that I can watch the whole thing unfold in primetime. No more waiting up until 5am to see the smile wiped off the face of this year’s Michael Portillo, and no poking myself in the eye in a bid to stay awake during John Prescott’s ramblings.

Still, it does mean that I will need to explain the Sunderland South phenomena to The Special One. After all, sometimes speed really is of the essence.

The permanent marker

I’ve never really understood tattoos. I find it hard enough to commit to a month long metrocard, so the thought of being permanently branded with the kind of illustration that most people gave up drawing when they were sixteen fills me with fear and dread. The fact that you pay through the nose for it, it hurts like hell, and you can only get rid of it by having your flesh roasted like a nice piece of pork belly is neither here nor there.

For some reason, however, it appears that my deeply-held opinion is of little interest to the vast majority of Americans. Hard though that is to believe. Federal legislation passed shortly after MC Hammer’s brief flirtation with success demand that anybody wishing to have a hit is required to have at least one strap tattoo in order to be eligible for chart entry. And if you’re in the grip of a midlife crisis, but can’t afford a Ferrari (or the child support payments when your wife finds out about your affair with Mindy, the pneumatic blonde from the local hardware store), a tattoo is the choice du jour. Because, as we all know, tattoos look really great the older you get.

One thing I’ve noticed though is that women have tattoos in vastly greater numbers in New York than they do in London.

I’m not talking about the tiny pictures of hearts, snakes or stars that some women pick to decorate their lower back, shoulder or posterior. These are, after all, the bank charges of the body decoration world – mostly kept hidden until it’s way too late to avoid them. I’m not sure why these people don’t just buy a nice new piece of jewellery instead, thereby avoiding spending an hour in the company of a Hell’s Angel named Barry. But each to their own. I’m sure Barry’s actually a really nice guy who genuinely loves his mummom.

No, I’m talking the full-on murals that probably took a team of seasoned painters and decorators six days working around the clock to pull off. The kind of design that would make Sandra Bullock start sharpening her newly-bought collection of kitchen knives. No piffling stars or hearts here – just increasingly elaborate designs that suggest the work of a troubled youth who had run out of space to doodle and picked on the next available material that came to hand.

Favorite designs that I’ve seen on the ladies of New York include the complicated tattoo necklace (I presume she had alternative skin available for the times that the necklace didn’t accessorise properly with her outfit), and a frankly inexplicable design on the back of both knees. Although nothing really beats the trailing ivy that sloped from one woman’s foot, all the way up her leg. The fact that the shrubbery appeared to emerge from between two toes, implicitly suggesting that the ivy had incubated in some kind of fungal growth, clearly was of no concern to her.

Thankfully, some New York women take a much more practical view of tattoos. Taking the subway home last night, I witnessed a woman whose back of her hand featured three tattooed boxes, each a quarter inch in size. I pondered deeply on the strange simplicity of the design. Could it be some reaffirmation of the power of three, or a symbolic representation of the father, the son and the holy ghost? Or maybe she was simply halfway through the eventual design, with the initials of a loved one soon to appear within the boxes, maybe in an unnecessarily elaborate brush script?

Then ten minutes into the journey, she took out a pen and scribbled ‘pick up dry cleaning’ next to one of the boxes. In New York, it would appear that romances come and go, but checklists are truly forever.

Don’t stop me now

It’s good to be back in New York, although the sweltering heat and humid atmosphere means that I have as much desire to be outside as an agoraphobic slug who has been told that the only way for him to get back inside his garden shed is to slither through an industrial-size outdoor salt store.

The heat does nothing for people’s temper as they make their way around the city. Simple missions such as walking up the stairs from the subway to the exit are turned into Indiana Jones-style fights to the finish, as sweat-soaked crazies kick and punch their way to the top. And that’s just the women.

Earlier today, I saw a cyclist who had clearly determined that the worst possible thing that he could do in this weather would be to stand still. Of course, given the number of pedestrians and traffic lights in the city, that’s pretty much an impossible task. Not unless you take your life into your own hands.

Or in this case, take a whistle into your mouth.

Paying no particular heed for traffic lights, and a healthy disregard for the public, this cyclist simply put a small silver whistle between his lips, blasted out as shrill a note as he could possibly manage, and trusted in his ability to put the pedal to the metal to do the rest. I watched him for about a block and a half as he peeped and parped his way across the city at high speed to avoid slowing down, unsuspecting pedestrians scattering in his path as he frightened the living bejeesus out of anyone within a twenty yard radius.

And you wonder why some people accuse New Yorkers of impatience?

Unless I’m doing him a disservice. Perhaps he had a medical emergency, or he’d realised that he’d left the oven on? Or maybe he had Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in his panniers, and he was having to keep up a constant 50mph for fear of untold damage to his spokes and handlebars?

With New York, you just never know.